After that day, Meredith suffered a fall and my mother, needing me to help her look after her mother, I was forced to take another leave of absence from the internship and from school to help my mother.
While at my grandmother’s house, Meredith, my mother, and I contracted the flu and was absent for an additional week due to my illness. Finally, on this day, I was able to return to Mrs. Shapiro’s room ready for another day of teaching.
I walked into the room to find two trays of apples in the classroom, as well as a place where apples were being cut. Mrs. Shapiro informed me that the students were cutting apples today for applesauce. Before cutting apples for applesauce, the students were required to do a counting assignment—to cut ten pictures of apples, each with a number from 1 to 10 on it, and to glue it on a sheet of construction paper in numerical order.
Students started asking me for help to count their numbers. This is a fine line that I am constantly discussing how to approach with Mrs. Shapiro—what level do I help the student and what level am I required to expect the students to solve the assignment by themselves? This time I decided to help a child glue the pictures on, but only give hints to the next number while counting from 1 to 10.
After a student was done with their project, they were asked to go to the table where a parent volunteer was supervising kids who were cutting apples. The apples were cut into rings with a hand-powered apple cutter, and then the kids took plastic knives and cut the apples into pieces, that Mrs. Shapiro then put into an electric slow-cooker to heat and make applesauce. Meanwhile, Mrs. Shapiro asked me to take each child’s finished counting project and put it into their backpack. After I was finished, the classroom was split up into students working on cutting their apples and completing their free time, if they were done with their counting project and had cut their apple.
I spent my time at the apple table with the parent who was operating the apple cutter. I myself, like the other students, took an apple from one of the trays full of apples and took it to the cutter, and cut it the way the students were asked to in order to show a good example to the students. After each student was done cutting their apples, I went back to the tables to find some kids who were having a hard time with their counting projects. I assisted them and took their pictures to their backpacks. Mrs. Shapiro showed all the students all the apples they had cut, and how it was going to be made into applesauce, and then poured cinnamon on the applesauce and started the cooker.
With the start of free time, I took the sheet music I had created for the “Shay Halloween” song over the weekend and showed it to a child interested in playing it on the vibraphone. Shortly after the child was done playing as much of the song as she could, the bell rang and it was time to line up for Art class. Because Mrs. Shapiro was going to allow for more free time between Art and Music class, she did not ask the students to clean up at this time.
After helping Mrs. Shapiro shepherd the class from the classroom to the Art room, and supervised the students who were in the very back of the line. Because of the short attention span of the students, the time lag between the announcement of line-up time and when the students are lined up and ready to leave the classroom is long enough to cause kids to be distracted and get out of line. I have been given the job of shepherding the kids who have been left behind because of such distractions.
In the hallway Mrs. Shapiro holds up a cotton ball as a metaphor for being quiet. Her objective is to get her students to have a “quiet cotton” line, to be as quiet as a dropping cotton ball. This is a problem for some of the students—and when I was in Mrs. Shapiro’s class, I was never able to control myself. I never allowed my class to be quiet—and always talked in line, no matter how many times I was asked to be quiet. This was in part because, as a person with autism, I did not have the sense of duty that other kids that age have that would compel me to obey Mrs. Shapiro the way other students did, and thus did not understand why I had to follow Mrs. Shapiro’s rule, and did not. The true irony of my work here is that I am required to enforce rules I myself at that age was incapable of doing because of my disability.
Working on the cutting and apple project made a large mess in the classroom, of dropped apple pieces and strips of cut paper that the students had dropped on the floor. I spent art time helping Mrs. Shapiro clean up the strips of paper from the classroom, and threw away the scrap pieces of apple on the floor. I also checked in with Mrs. Shapiro and discussed upcoming projects. We decided that I would dress up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween on the 31st of October, and that I would also dress as him on October 25th in order to give a lesson about Abraham Lincoln, and to write a picture book about my own experience in kindergarten room for Grandparents Day. I also learned that the alphabet collages that the students presented each week for a certain letter were not made in class, but were actually a form of homework required by the students.
After art class was over, I went to help shepherd the students from art to the kindergarten room.
With the applesauce ready, Mrs. Shapiro gave me a cup of applesauce before the students. The applesauce was extremely hot—too hot for the students, and she wanted me to judge when it was ready for the students. She gave the students extra free time and extra time to finish their counting projects. After each student had finished their counting project, she rang the bell for clean-up time.
Two students, Peter and Jack, continued playing, even after clean-up time. They would not stop and clean up after Mrs. Shapiro told them to, so they were informed that as punishment, they would have to stop free time early the next day. (More information will be mentioned about this on my discipline essay.)
After clean-up time was over Mrs. Shapiro seated the students in their rows, and then gave them all a cup of applesauce, which was now cold enough for the students to eat. Then she asked them to raise their hand if they liked or did not like applesauce. To remain a positive role model I raised my hand to state that I liked applesauce. All but two of the students said they did. Mrs. Shapiro, however, asked each student if they had tried it before they voted, because if they had not tried the applesauce, they were not allowed to vote.
Once each student had stated whether they had liked or disliked the applesauce, Mrs. Shapiro lined her students up for music. Brittany needed to use the restroom even though her class had left, so I waited in the classroom for her and then escorted her to the music room.
During music, Mrs. Michaels, an occupational therapist, came to the room to discuss with Mrs. Shapiro the state of Roger’s handwriting. Apparently Roger is able to write properly with a grip but refuses to do so when he is forced. And unlike the situation I was in when I was his age (writing with an improper grip but quite beautifully), he not only wrote with a bad grip but wrote poorly.
What also deepened the problem was that not only was he unwilling to write, but because of his intelligence, he did not qualify for special services or an IEP at the school (he lacked a 504). I informed Mrs. Shapiro and Mrs. Michaels that I had done a free time handwriting project with him, but since I did not force him, he was willing to comply and wrote quite well.
My project consisted of asking him to write his name in two styles—block letters and typewriter (serif) letters. I was going to write bubble letters next but did not due to lack of time. However, since that did not consist of the handwriting they required for a “valid” handwriting evaluation, those sheets were not valid, but I was still given recognition for my effort. It’s truly sad that, due to bureaucratic rules, they can only take a formal evaluation sheet as a record of a student’s performance, even though my “fun activity” had already shown that the problem was more likely the evaluation sheet than his actual writing ability.
Music class was over, and I was off to pick up Mrs. Shapiro’s class with her.
After music class Mrs. Shapiro sat her class back into their rows and read to them the story “Animals Black and White,” a story in which the narrator describes an animal that is black and white and asks the students to figure out who it is. The author described zebras, cows, and other related animals. After the story was over, Mrs. Shapiro asked the students to identify two unnamed counting projects.
After the projects were identified, kindergarten was over, the dismissal song was sung, and the students were dismissed.