When I went to Mrs. Shapiro’s room, I saw that once again, Mrs. Shapiro’s class was not in the classroom. I thought that they might be in Mrs. Veerman’s room this time, but I entered Mrs. Veerman’s room only to find that she was not in there. I wondered again—where could they be?—only to realize that they could be in Ms. Birdson’s room with their reading buddies. I went to Ms. Birdson’s room to find out that I was right—Mrs. Shapiro was there, and so was Joan McCurdy, Brittany’s mother, who was volunteering as the parent helper that day.
Joan and I have known each other for a year—she’s a swimming teacher at the JCC, and took her daughter to the Daycare center last year. We are now friends, and she has an older son with sensory dysfunction disorder, a condition similar to autism. She was highly supportive of my work at the Daycare center and a strong advocate while I worked there even after I committed a terrible indiscretion in front of her in January 2006 (she knew of my autism and understood that that was the reason for it). She forgave me, and was happy to see me working in Mrs. Shapiro’s room this year. She has one rule, however, that she requires me to follow—unlike most other parents, she is offended if I call her Mrs. McCurdy, and so I must always call her Joan—even in the classroom.
When I had entered the room, Ms. Birdson’s students were showing Mrs. Shapiro’s students various animals in the classroom. I recognized one of them as Tex the Turtle, a turtle that had lived in Ms. Birdson’s room for years, whom I had learned when I did a newspaper assignment for the school newspaper as a fifth-grader in March 2000.
Five minutes later, it was time for Mrs. Shapiro’s class to leave, so the students lined up and went back to Mrs. Shapiro’s room. Mrs. Shapiro seated the students in their rows and started to teach them a lesson about Thanksgiving.
Mrs. Shapiro had caught a cold that day, and her voice showed it—she was suffering from laryngitis and was having trouble talking. But she still taught her lesson anyway—about the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. She explained that the Church of England wanted the Pilgrims to worship one way, and they refused, so they came to America so they could worship their way.
She read them a book about the Mayflower, the Pilgrims who reached Massachusetts, and their interactions with the Wampanoag Indians which resulted in the First Thanksgiving. She was quite accurate in her portrayal of the Indians, and did not mention that they lived in tepees (because the Wampanoag Indians never lived in tepees).
After telling her story, Mrs. Shapiro informed the class that each table would be making pictures of Mayflower boats with construction paper. Each table would have to work as a team, and she would help if needed. I worked at a center table, with Michael, Brittany, Erika, David, and Roger. Joan was helping at that table as well.
Mrs. Shapiro announced to the class that one person at each table, to start, would have to draw the outline of the boat. Joan informed the table that she was a terrible artist, but would try her best. She drew the bottom of the boat. I enhanced it with a slanted edge on one side, based on the picture of the Mayflower that Mrs. Shapiro had hung up on the dry erase board. Joan was thankful that I was able to enhance our drawing, and then I went off and drew the outlines of the three sail poles on the boat.
Roger wanted something to draw. Mrs. Shapiro had mentioned that someone should draw sails, someone should draw people, and someone should draw boxes. I told Roger that he should draw boxes. Then Erika wanted something to draw, and I decided I would create something for her. I asked her to cut a square from a sheet of paper, and then I showed her how to draw the flag for the ship—the Pilgrim flag, which would have been placed on the top of the Mayflower. The Pilgrim flag is the flag of England—white with a red cross. Joan announced to the table that it would be obvious that I would know that, having taught the kids at the JCC the flags of various countries. Erika wanted to draw another flag, so I showed her to draw another Pilgrim flag—the flag of Scotland—which is blue with a white “X.” After drawing the Scottish flag, she asked to draw a flag of her own, and I told her she could.
After the flags were done, I cut sails for the students to color. While cutting sails, I mentioned some things about Thanksgiving that Mrs. Shapiro had not mentioned. I explained how Thanksgiving was a holiday that had been celebrated by the Indians long before the Pilgrims came to America, and by the Pilgrims in England, and that the First Thanskgiving referred to the feast that the Pilgrims had with the Indians when they settled to America. I also explained that during the First Thanksgiving, the Native Americans did not just eat turkey—they ate deer and eels as well.
Once I cut out the sails, each student got to color them if they wanted to. I went to work cutting out the hats for the Pilgrim people that were cut out, and explained that in colonial times, a Pilgrim woman never was seen without her head covered with a hat. Once the sails, people, and flags were ready, they were glued onto the sailboat, and our boat was done. With Computer Lab time cancelled due to the shortened week, Free Time began for any student who had completed their boat project.
Now that it has become a regular activity to provide access to my laptop during Free Time, I took my computer out and asked any student if they wanted to be on it. (Students often compete to go on the class computers during free time, so students who cannot go on the class computers are given permission to go on my computer. Since the one program that is offered on the computer is a drawing program, I allow for pictures to be drawn on my computer. But I go further and make slide shows of all the pictures that are made.
Today, Patrick, Alex, and Robert expressed an interest in going on my computer. They wanted to animate a bat. I gave them two choices—they could animate a bat, or animate Batman. Patrick wanted to animate Batman, so we animated Batman by drawing the Batman symbol—a yellow mouth with teeth, and a black center. Once we were done drawing Batman, Free Time was over. I took the pictures and put it through the animation software, creating a slide show to a synthesized version of Mrs. Nelson’s “Ghosts and Goblins” Halloween song. Patrick liked it because he recognized the song from preschool. Then I showed it to the class, who were equally interested. This served a useful purpose—I was located near the chalkboard, and with the slide show running, I got the kids near their rows where Mrs. Shapiro needed them to be for their next lesson.
Once the students were seated and Clean-Up Time was over, Mrs. Shapiro assigned them to complete another series of “Rhyming Houses.” A Rhyming House consisted of three words that rhymed because they had the same letter endings. The students were to identify three words that rhymed with the vowel “e” followed by a consonant from a list of words, and then to glue strips of paper with those words printed below a picture of a “house” that had the two letters on the “roof” of the “house.” This time, they were to mach three words with the endings “et,” “en,” and “ed.”
It was also Snack Time. Following the success of my lesson on food allergies on Day 14, I decided to provide the snack for the class. The snack consisted of pretzels that were gluten-free. I called them “rice pretzels,” even though the pretzels were not made out of rice, but of potatoes, soy, and other non-wheat flours, to simplify it for the students. I explained that they were for people like me who had food allergies, and gave each table a plateful of pretzels so they could try it. Some of the students did not like the pretzels, and Mrs. Shapiro brought animal crackers for those students.
After giving the snack to Rosie, the snack person that day, Brittany asked me to help her with her rhyming houses. She did not have a clue as to what to do. She showed me each word, and asked me where it went. I thought I was helping her, but I soon realized that she was not trying to learn, but rather was just passively acting me where they went so she wouldn’t have to do the work. Seeing what was going on, I did not just tell her where the words went. I sounded out the ends of the word and the letter endings, and asked her where she thought they went. She was unable to get it, and could not see how the words rhymed. After two failed attempts, I told her where each word went, and then explained to her why each word went where it went, hoping she would learn.
It was time for Gym, and Brittany was still not done with her work. I stayed to help Brittany finish, and then escorted her to Gym four minutes later. Brittany does not know her way around the school alone, so I must always escort her whenever she is late for a class (and she has been quite a few times).
Due to Mrs. Shapiro’s cold, she looked for a video to show the class until Kindergarten was over of an Eric Carle story after they returned from Gym. I informed her that I wanted to give a survey of who liked or did not like the rice pretzels I had given the class. She approved, since she informed me that she was only showing the video because she was unable to read a story due to her laryngitis.
When the students had returned from Gym, she seated them into their rows. I sat in the teacher’s chair with a paper where I wrote the names of the students who liked the rice pretzels or who did not. Then I had the students raise their hand if they liked rice pretzels or if they did not like them. Students who had not tried my pretzels were counted as if they had not liked them.
After writing down each name of each student and the survey was complete, Kindergarten was over, and the students were dismissed.