Thursday, March 10, 2011

here miss, we baked these brownies for you...

Which means, School day!


I'm finding that I'm learning so much, and I'm so grateful that this school is totally accommodating in having me visit them, letting me join whichever classes I want. The teachers are always glad of an extra pair of hands and eyes.
During the day, or when I finish, I find there is so much swirling around in my head- the things I've seen and done, the things I've noticed about students, about myself, and I can never get to a computer or a piece of paper fast enough to write it all down.
Today I joined the year 1/2 class (so that's a mixed class of grade 1 and 2 kids, not grade half). I had been looking forward to Thursday all week after how much fun Prep had been (they call it 'transition' at this school.. I like it.), I wanted the fun, but I also wanted the next step up.
As I sat on the big red couches that dominate the centre of their classroom, all 15 kids with their feet just hanging off the cushions, a girl with pale blonde hair came and sat next to me shyly. I gave her a grin.
As they all peeled off to do their tasks, I went to check on this girl, and she says to me:
"You helped me the other day when I dropped my hotdog."
I hadn't realized it, but the first wednesday when I was just having a look around, a young girl had, infact, dropped her hotdog - it rolled off her plate as she was en route to her classroom. She had looked at me with such shock, as if to say: "What just happened?" And I took her hand, and together we went and got her a new hotdog. She remembered, even if I didn't remember it was her.
More educational ramblings to follow.  It's quite wordy. You have been warned.

I helped a boy with his maths- they were playing mathletics again, which seems to be the-way-to-do-maths these days. They're basically games and questions with pictures, on the computer, which teach maths. The questions get harder as they progress, and the 'units', I suppose, are set for the student by their teacher. I worry that this is taking the place of 'teaching' maths, and I worry that the project the year 1/2 kids are doing doesn't incorporate enough 'stuff'. I can see a bit of literacy, and a bit of social studies (they're doing projects on 'people who help us' - teachers, nurses, vets, firemen, etc.) but I don't sort of see numeracy worked in- not yet. So I sat with this boy, who can't read. The teacher later tells me that she's in a difficult place because most of the kids are reading at a prep level (where they tend to just learn the alphabet, basic words, start on books etc), so although they're doing grade 1/2 work, she has to find, or write the information at a prep level. Which doesn't always work. So this kid somehow works out the answers to maths questions- though he can't explain how he does it to me, and I suspect sometimes he's guessing wildly- but can't read the questions themselves. This frustrates him terribly and makes him feel like he can't do it. I try and encourage him- get him to sound out the letters with me. Later we try and write on his work a line about firemen, and he can only guess what letters come next by sounding them out loooooong, and then assigning a character to them, like "ssssssss... SAMMY SNAKE!" but he'd guessed Z first, because the longer you say "ssss", the more it sounds like "zzzz"....
Another girl at some point took a real liking to me, which meant that then, whenever she saw me, it was time for hugs. Whenever I sat on the couch for a meeting or whatever, she would be there, wanting to link arms with me, or put my arm around her shoulders. And this is all gorgeous and I love that they are so open to it, but when does it stop? You know, when can you tell a kid to stop hugging and sometimes there are too many hugs? Do you need to do this? At least in primary you're allowed. Hugging the girls I'd really gotten to know in rounds last year- year 9 girls (so, 15 years old) - I felt like people would be watching, and would later give me a lecture. In primary, hugs are ok!
I found that I learned the names of ALL the girls much quicker than the boys. I found that I talked to the girls much more than the boys. I missed some of the boys- they were the invisible ones to me. the quiet boys who didn't make a racket or draw attention to themselves. I found that one girl, a bit of a bossy-boots and a know-it-all annoyed me. Which is terrible, but it did. She cut off the other children when they were talking, and she wanted everything to be her way. I don't know how I would 'deal' with her if she were in my own class - surely letting her do this, giving her what she demands only feeds that behaviour, but what will ignoring her do instead??
I worry, constantly, that I'm going to somehow ruin these kids. That I come in for one day and help a girl (the hotdog girl) with her mathletics where she's struggling with this problem:
What numbers come next?
12, [ ], [ ]. 
And I look at that and go: well, duh. But she knows how to count, insofar as she can recite the words... but ask her to fill in blanks after she tells me how to count all the way up to 20, and she can't do it. What comes next?
"Um.... a one, and a seven?"
"No... can you count from here, what's this one... twe---..."
"Um... one... two.... three..."
And I'm trying and trying to get her to get this, and they have a number board, so I'm using it... but we haven't learned this stuff. Not yet. And I have to stop worrying. I can't ruin a child's whole education by my presence being there for one day, and possibly using the 'wrong method' once.
But the vibe in this classroom was much more what I was looking for. It really was all smiles and fun and awesome. They had a meeting, people brought up issues, then 3 people got to do a show-and-tell.
We did another Auslan lesson- YES! Today was about colours. They played a game. I loved watching them learn through games. This is so up my alley. But it was a competitive game and although there was no prize, they went crazy. They were in 2 teams, kids were screaming at the person whose turn it was, they were jumping, shaking themselves into a frenzy. One boy- the Sammy Snake boy- was on the floor at the back of the library with his hands over his ears in tears- he hated all the yelling and the noise. We took him outside. He played in the sandpit. I love that in this school, kids can come and go to the toilets as they please. If they need to laminate something, they go to the office on their own. If they need to go to another classroom for some reason... they go! This kid, who couldn't deal with the noise was allowed to go, unsupervised, outside until the lesson finished. This is more than I can say for the public highschool where I did my first practicum and I had to escort a thirteen year old girl to the toilets. How lame.
During lunch, a girl told me the story about how a fox had eaten her chickens. We fixed it with a hug. Everything can be solved with hugs.
There's a grade 6 boy who seems mature beyond his years (usually), but who has special learning classes on thursday at lunchtime. He acts like a big brother to all the young kids, who seem to look up to him and trust him. I want to ask what his 'deal is', but haven't found the way to ask yet.
In the morning, 4 students and a parent (an ex-chef) cooked the class brownies.
Brownies. At work.
Fresh from the oven.
Yeah, I can deal with that as a job perk.
In the afternoon, we made boxes into vehicles for the 'helper people', which involved making a winch out of some rope and an empty toilet roll, cutting holes in the bottom of boxes for legs to go through, and assembling a whole briefcase full of veterinary supplies cut out of paper, including a 'mouth-opening-thing', and an 'ear-listening-device' (as in, the torch they shine in ears). If this is work, at primary school, I'm all for it. I also got to read another 2 stories, which is awesome, and I love it.
And my head, my brain, is toast. In fact, I think I'm about to have a nap, but I had a great day.
This semester, we don't have rounds, but others in our classes do - once for 5 days straight, and once for 2 weeks straight. I was thinking I'd more or less jump in full time myself during that time and do my own 'rounds'. I'd be willing to bet that even though they weren't 'formal rounds', the teachers would let me take the classes and 'be in charge'. Which would be awesome.

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