Wednesday, November 29
I entered the classroom today to find the students busy with an activity at their tables. They had all been given sheets of paper with handwriting lines on them, and were to write a sentence explaining why they thought their father was special. Already written on the paper were the words “My father is special because”. The students were to complete the sentence.
Upon entering the classroom, Brittany asked me if I could help her spell her sentence. Right after she did, Mrs. Shapiro asked me if I could help the students with their assignments, for they would need help spelling words they would need to write. I told her I would and that I had gotten my first request.
Brittany’s story is much different than other kids. She’s asked me how to write her name even though I’ve seen her write it before at the JCC, and even in the classroom on one occasion, and has acted as if she did not know the letters for it (even though she has recognized it before). While I had suspected oppositional-defiant behavior before, today was the day I knew it for certain. She asked me how to write almost every letter lower-case, including the letter “a,” which I’ve seen her write before at the JCC. I asked her why it was she was unable to write the letter “a.” She explained that she had written A’s in capitals at the JCC, not lower-case. While that was true, I had already seen her write an “a” in the classroom, so it was not a legitimate excuse.
Mrs. Shapiro has a strict rule about spelling help: I am not allowed to spell out words for the students directly. Instead, I must give out the sound of each letter of the word, and the students must figure out what letter I am hinting to. Example: If I must spell “school,” I cannot say “s-c-h-o-o-l.” Rather, I say, “suh” “kuh” “huh” “oh” oh” “luh,” and only proceed to the next letter when the student has figured out what letter I am talking about. However, since she was having trouble writing other letters I had not seen her write before, even at the Daycare center (so I couldn’t say for certain she was lying this time), I decided to bend Mrs. Shapiro’s spelling rule and tell her how to spell the words she needed to write, since my focus was on getting her to get her paper done. Brittany’s response was: “My father is special because he takes me to school.” And she’s right—I have seen her father take her and pick her up to school on many occasions.
After Brittany finally finished her assignment, Zoe asked me to help her. Zoe, unlike Brittany, knows how to write her letters, so I followed Mrs. Shapiro’s spelling rule when she asked me to spell out the words for her response: “My father is special because he drives me to Shay School.” Unlike other situations where students will copy their work, Brittany and Zoe are far enough apart so I knew that this was not a case of copying. There was just enough room for those words on the page, however, so I showed her how to write as neatly as possible.
Once Zoe was done, all of the students had completed their assignments. Grace, having seen the animation I had done with Erika for her birthday, asked me if I could do the same for her.
I took out my computer and created an another distinct show. This time, I put on Windows Media Player 9, a program that creates 30 very distinct “laser light” displays to any music that is played. When you hit the “Print Screen” button, you can capture a picture from the flashing lasers and then paste it into MS Paint, where you can draw on it. I put on the laser, and then instructed Grace to stop the laser any time she wanted to by hitting “Print Screen.” When she did, I pasted the laser picture into MS Paint, and then Grace typed the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRACE” in the picture as white capital letters. She picked a color she wanted to fill the letters in (the color brown), and then she filled in each letter with the “paint can” button. The animation would consist of the special effects the computer inserted as each letter changed from white to brown, with a backdrop of red and blue flames from Windows Media Player 9’s “laser light” displays. Erika and Ellie also helped with the project.
Once she was done filling in her letters, Free Time was over, and the students were lined up to go to the Library.
I lined up with the students and Mrs. Shapiro, and we all went together. After the students had gotten to the Library, I went to the Computer Lab to pick up the pictures the students had made during Free Time that had been printed to the lab. After picking up the pictures, I returned to the classroom. While the students were gone, I put the slides through Roxio Photo Relay, and put them to a synthesized version of the school song.
When Library time was over Mrs. Shapiro and I went to pick up the students, and help them get their books checked out. I made sure every child had gotten through the line, and then we were off to the classroom.
When we returned to the classroom, Mrs. Shapiro seated the students in rows. I sat in the teacher’s chair and showed the students the animation I had made with Grace, Erika, and Ellie. The students recognized the song the animation was put to—the school song—and sang along with it. This was the first time the students sang to any music I had shown during an animation.
After the animation was over I moved to the back of the classroom to create the CD that Grace would be taking home with her for her birthday, as well as create a sheet of instructions that would explain how to run the program on the computer at Grace’s house.
While I was getting the animation ready, Mrs. Shapiro read the students the story “The Empty Pot.”
The Empty Pot is a classic children’s story that I read in 2nd grade and enjoyed, and has also been featured in the PBS show “Between the Lions,” designed to help teach kids reading skills. A Chinese folk tale, it is a story about a Chinese emperor who had no heirs to his throne. So he called all the boys in China to his palace and gave them all seeds. He announced that the child who was able to grow the most beautiful flower in a year’s time would be crowned successor to the throne. A Chinese boy who loved flowers wanted his flower to be the best. But when he cared for his seed, he noticed that it would not sprout, no matter how hard he tried. When a year passed and he had no flower, he felt disgraced, but he decided to go to the emperor and tell him he tried his best. The emperor saw him amongst all the other kids who had beautiful flowers to show the emperor, and revealed that all the seeds he had given the boys had been cooked. Thus, they would never have sprouted, and since Ping was honest enough to use the emperor’s seed, he was worthy of being Emperor.
After finishing the story, Mrs. Shapiro showed the students how this showed a valuable lesson in being honest and trustworthy. She asked the students what trustworthy meant, and showed them examples of being truthful versus lying. I contributed to the lesson, pointing out that there are two types of lies—true lies and mistakes. A mistake is when you say something wrong and you think you are telling the truth. A lie is when you say something that is not true and you already know it is not. I then gave an example of what I meant. Mrs. Shapiro took a few more examples from the students, and then it was time for Gym. I positioned myself at the back of the line to help the students maintain their place—one of my regular jobs in the classroom.
During Gym, Mrs. Shapiro told me that the students would be going to their tables to practice writing lower-case “l’s” in their handwriting packets. I had planned on teaching the students how Mr. L’s name is spelled, since it begins with L and it is a tradition at Shay School to address the music teacher not by his full last name, but as Mr. L. This tradition started due to the difficulty some children have of pronouncing his name (Mr. Liederlassen). I reminded her, and we agreed that I would show the students how his name is spelled and show them how to write the lower-case “l” so they could go and practice writing it in their packets.
I taught this lesson after the students returned to Gym and had been seated in their rows. After the students were done with their “l” packets, writing their “l’s,” the students were seated back to their rows for a story. While the students read the story, I looked inside each student’s packet to see if they had done their assignment properly. Some students do not always finish the work they have been assigned to do, or do not understand the assignment, and I decided I would see if any student had not done it this time or had not understood it.
Two students—Ken and Alex—had not done the assignment properly. Alex had written capital “L’s” when he should have written lower-case “l’s,” and while Peter had written two lower-case “l’s,” he had not finished writing his letter “l’s” across the line he was supposed to complete. I called their names and asked them to complete their assignments properly. Once they did, they could be seated.
When Kindergarten ended, I gave Grace her CD and a sheet of instructions for her birthday. After that, the students were dismissed, and I went home.