Sunday, December 21, 2008

December stories

My students have recently found out that I don't have a TV. (At least, not one that shows television programs). They cannot understand this; it does not fit into their world view.

"But what do you do for entertainment?" they ask. "How do you get your news?"

I talk about books, the radio, the newspaper, the internet. They are still mystified.

Later, I am sitting in the hallway with a few kids, sorting minerals. Julio looks thoughtful. Finally, he says, "You know, Ms. Swamp, we have two TVs at my house. You could have one if you want."

I know he is offering me something very big, even though it is something I really don't want.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jarad and I haven't been getting along too well. He looks bored, spaced-out, and annoyed almost all the time. He rolls his eyes at me on a regular basis, and mutters rude things under his breath. Then he is rude to Ms. Annie at recess. I call him over to talk.

"What is going on, Jarad?" I ask. "It seems like you don't like school much anymore."

"I don't!" he answers emphatically. "It's so boring!"

I ask if he liked it last year. Yes, he did. We make a list of what feels different this year. I realize that our latest math units, on data and geometry, are not challenging enough. I am good at making the units on numbers and operation more challenging, but the geometry and data units for second grade are new to me, and I've been teaching them mostly as they are written. It is kind of boring for him.

We make some plans for the new year, so that school feels better to him. We agree that I will ask him to do things in a more friendly way, if he will respond more politely. I promise that both math and writing are going to be harder and more exciting in January.

The next day, he gets to go see the Celtics practice as part of a local reading program. "Bring me something back!" I joke as he leaves.

When he returns later in the afternoon, he rushes into the room where I am meeting with other teachers.

"Ms. Swamp," he says, "I brought you something!"

He hands me a paperback book. "It's about bikes!" he announces proudly. He has chosen a children's chapter book about Lance Armstrong for me. He knows I love to ride my bike.

If I doubted it before, I am sure now that we've made up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December Survival Guide

How to survive the last week before vacation.

By Ms. Swamp

1. Copious quantities of red wine (No, not at school)

2. Crazy dancing, as often as possible

to be continued

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Boys Group

I recently started a group for 4 boys from my class. On Thursdays, we play games together for half of recess (Jenga or Twister, so far), then eat lunch together. Ostensibly, the group is for having fun. Really, I started the group to help my on-the-spectrum student gain better social skills and friends. But actually, the group is serving the purpose of teaching all of them social skills, including how to win and lose and take turns and encourage each other, and how to not all talk at the same time while eating lunch. (Really, it is amazing the way they seem to think there is nothing wrong with speaking at the same time that everyone else is talking.)

Last week we had the group on Wednesday because I was out of town Thursday and Friday. This week, every day one of them asks me when we're having the group: Wednesday or Thursday?

Today Ms. Annie poked her head in my classroom at lunchtime to ask if I was free for a meeting tomorrow at lunch. My kids were eating quietly and listening to hippie folkie acoustic music I was playing for them.

"Sure," I said. "I can meet at lunch, I don't have anything going on."

She nodded and left. Tyshaun looked up.

"When are we having our lunch group?" he asked off-handedly. He looked so casual, but I could see immediately what he was thinking.

I told him we'd have it on Thursday, not tomorrow. He was right, I had almost forgotten about it. Sometimes it amazes me the things kids can keep in the forefront of their minds (while so many other things seem to disappear...). And I like it that he likes the boys group so much. They are so different in that small group. Careful of each other, thoughtful, calmer. If only I could always have them in little groups!

PS. If you haven't listened yet, you need to check out the podcast of This American Life from Sept. 26th. You can stream it here, or buy it through the website also. It's about Geoffrey Canada and his work in Harlem, and what he is doing is spot on. Highly recommended.