Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Student Teacher

            The best thing a new year brings is new people.  New teachers are fun, new students are fun, but best of all are new student teachers.  Watching a student teacher is like seeing into your past.  When you were a student teacher, you dressed impeccably every day; you worked hard to present a professional appearance.  You labored over your lesson plans.  You loved the kids with an open heart that had never been stomped on yet.  Students pick up on the enthusiasm a student teacher brings to the school.  Kids love having the young, nice, and usually very good looking teacher.  Our student teacher this year brings all these good qualities to the table in spades.  

            I first noticed our student teacher a few days before school started.  He was walking around the building with Mr. Collins, the drama teacher.  Mr. Collins is 55 years old, has salt and pepper hair, and carries about 50 extra pounds.  Walking with him was a tall, athletic looking, blond haired young man.   I thought he was Mr. Collins’ son.  When I passed him in the hall later that day, he smiled, said “Hello,” and continued on to tell me what a great school he thought we had.  I stopped, visited, and learned that even though he had attended a large university, he grew up in a small town and had attended a 1A school. 

            As he described his past, I was struck by how much he reminded me of my youngest son who has just completed college.  They not only share many of the same high school experiences and played the same sports, but they also bear a striking resemblance to each other.  It was even more surprising when I discovered they shared the same name – David.  

            I wished student-teacher-David well for the year, and guessed that a very successful teaching career was in his future.  He exhibits a confidence beyond his years.  It will be very easy for him to strike up good relationships with the students.  The middle school girls will fall in love with him.  The middle school boys will look up to him, will want him as a friend, and will want to be just like him.   David is exactly the kind of young man we want to enter the teaching profession.

            I discovered how much David is appreciated today.  In the first weeks of school, teachers are very visible in the halls and around the lockers helping students find their way through everything.  Few teachers get into their classes on time because there are so many stragglers having trouble opening their locker or finding room numbers.  

First period this morning, after the halls had cleared, several teachers were still standing in the hall chatting.  I assumed they had already noticed a problem with some students and moved over to find out what was going on.

            “This is going to be a really cool semester.”

            “Yeah, he’s a dream all right.”

            “Oooo.  A reason to dress up each day.”

            “Hey guys,” I said.  “What’s up?”

            “Ah, we’re just talking about our new guy,” one of the teachers offered.

            “Who’s that?” I asked.

            “You know.  David.  Collins’ student teacher.”

            “Yeah, he is cute,” I offered.

            “Cute?  He is so hot!”

            I was standing with four women I considered peers in teaching, when suddenly I had this vortex-type of sensation.  They suddenly morphed 20 years younger and I morphed 20 years older!  I started laughing.

            “Dang you guys make me feel 100 years old!” I exclaimed.  Four puzzled faces grinned back.

            I had been feeling such motherly pride in seeing David walk our halls, soon to enter our most noble of professions.  It sure wasn’t motherly pride I saw in the wide-eyed grins looking back at me.  Yeah, David is going to have a great semester here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Just How Old Are You?

This morning I had Naomi alone for Study Aid class because Kaitlyn was out sick.  It was the first time I’d had a one-on-one conversation with her.  I had planned on giving her some math calculation probes so I could get a better idea of her abilities in math.  I showed her the paper and my timer and told her I wanted to see how many of the problems she could answer correctly in three minutes.  I emphasized it was important that she do her best, but that it wasn’t really a test that she should worry about.  I then asked if she had any questions before we began.  She did.
            “Do you have any babies?” Naomi asked.  My last “baby” is 20 years old, so a goofy part of me felt flattered.
            “Yes, Naomi.  I have three boys.”
            “Are any of them named Naomi?” she asked.
            I wasn’t quite sure if she was serious, but she was totally focused on me, waiting for my answer.  “No.  Naomi is a girl’s name.  I only have boys.”
            “Oh,” was all she said, staring back as she processed this information.  She didn’t ask any more questions and began doing her math paper.  I wondered how she had gotten to the sixth grade not knowing that Naomi was just a girl’s name.
            Later that afternoon in the general education English class, the students had 20 minutes of class time when they were supposed to be reading the rest of their story silently.  I took Naomi and another student to the Resource Room so I could hear them read out loud.  As we were settling in, Naomi announced loudly, “I have a question.”
            “What’s that, Naomi?”
            “How long have you been teaching?”
            I wondered where this came from.  It was a new way to avoid reading.  “Fifteen years,” I said.
            Naomi stared back and began to grin.  “No.  Really.  How long have you been teaching?”
            “Fifteen years,” I said again.
            Naomi narrowed her eyes, puzzling over this information.  “So. . .you started when you were twenty?”
            I worked hard to keep from smiling.  I like to think I’ve kept my looks up, but come on . . .35?  I thought I’d have some fun.  “No,” I said, “I started when I was . . . 25.”
            Naomi stared long and hard at me.  She was doing the calculation in her head.  Finally, “Oh.”  She had calculated my age.   
            I just knocked ten years off my age and she still bought it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My New Students

I am a middle school resource room teacher in a large suburban district.  We rotate through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade with our students.  I just started 6th grade this year with students who just entered middle school.  My caseload is comprised of students who are mainstreamed into all the classes.  Most of them have mild learning disabilities and I supervise the assistance and modifications they need in their classes.  Sixth grade is an exciting year because I meet new students who are exciting, fun, and amazing.  Some are challenges – but that’s what makes my job so interesting.
From day one Naomi was a difficult student.  She had pale porcelain skin and thick wiry brown hair.  But it was her deep, blue eyes that I first noticed.  In the general education classrooms Naomi rarely watches the teacher, but just stares around at other students and their papers.  The initial impression of all her teachers was that she had mild cognitive deficits.  Her background information was sketchy, and I did not know where her real abilities lay.  In the classroom when I would give her direct cues of what to do, or would repeat instructions the teacher had given, Naomi only stared back at me with a blank look.
            In the Learning Center, however, Naomi is a completely different person.  She constantly interrupts my instruction by loudly announcing, “I have a question.”  When I call on her, she waits until all eyes are on her before she asks something that rarely has anything to do with the lesson.  After three or four questions, she eventually gets out of her seat, comes up to me and whispers loudly that she needs to use the restroom or go see the nurse.  Since this is almost a daily occurrence, I always ask if it is an emergency.  Her eyes widen, and she hisses, “I have to see the nurse,” or “I really have to go to the bathroom.”  Two weeks into school she has figured out that she can go talk to the counselor, so if the nurse or bathroom doesn’t work, she really has to go talk to the counselor.
            Naomi has been obsessed with finding a best friend.  One day last week she decided she was going to sit next to Cathy on the second row.  Cathy was coming off of a first hour where she had arrived late and had to sit through a scolding by her teacher for not having her homework finished from two days earlier.  Naomi put her face up close to Cathy and asked her what house she lived in.  Cathy narrowed her eyes, pouted her lips, and scowled back at Naomi.  Naomi leaned in closer, apparently thinking Cathy hadn’t heard her (because Naomi herself, rarely heard questions the first time), and said loudly, “Do you live in a house?”  Cathy darkened her scowl and slipped into her signature “stare down” look. 
Where kids sit in the room is a critical component of classroom management for me, and I had already assigned Naomi a seat on the front row.  “Naomi, come sit in your seat up here,” I directed pointing to her seat.
            “I’m sitting back here,” Naomi responded.
            “No.  You need to sit in your assigned seat.”
            “This is my seat back here,” Naomi countered.
            “Naomi, your seat is up here on the front row next to Ramon.  I gave you this seat last week.”
            “No.  You never gave me a seat,” Naomi insisted.
            “Yes I did.  Come sit in your seat up here.”  I stood next to Naomi’s seat waiting for her.  Naomi looked at me, looked at Cathy who was scowling back at her, looked back to me, and decided the old seat might be better.  She walked up to her seat, put her binder under the desk, and got out her workbook for the class.
            I began my lesson on words that have the short “i” and short “a” sounds.  Three minutes into the lesson I glanced at Naomi.  She had leaned over towards Ramon.  Ramon was watching me, but Naomi’s face was about three inches from him.  She had a wide, closed-mouth smile plastered on her face, and I wondered if she was going to lean in and kiss Ramon on his check.  About this time Ramon turned his head to see what I was looking at and met Naomi’s face closing in on him.  His eyes widened, and he instinctively leaned his body away from Naomi as a strangled moan escaped.  Naomi’s eyes sparkled and her grin widened even more as she realized -- she had been noticed!
            I’ll tell you more about Naomi later.  She is going to be fun!