There are days when you accomplish absolutely nothing. You have a schedule and material. You have lessons. But nothing gets done. It happens when you’re not prepared, or the kids are wound up about something, or it’s a Friday. Some days it’s a perfect storm of all three.
I got to school late. I got into my room late because I had hall duty. The bell had already rung and the kids were in the room. I hadn’t opened up the attendance program on my computer yet. I also needed to open up the lesson for the Smartboard. I also needed to turn the projector on. While I was scrambling to do all these things, the kids were milling around talking to each other. Being prepared and ready to start the lesson is rule number one for teachers. The first five minutes of class set the tone for the whole period. My room was shouting, “Teacher’s not ready, so just play.”
I was irritated with myself for not being ready. As I was frantically trying to get everything open on the computer, I kept looking up at the kids and telling them to sit down, open up their workbooks, and turn to the correct page. No one was listening. To make matters worse, it was a Friday. Kids aren’t any different from adults. Sometimes only their bodies are there on Fridays.
“OK kids,” I said as I finally got the attendance into the system, “I guess Carl’s not here today.” For some reason the projector was coming on really slowly. If the kids’ eyes were up front, all they were looking at was “Panasonic”. “Naomi, please sit down.” For some reason Naomi was across the room, standing in front of Maddie’s desk, staring down at Maddie’s pencil pack. “Naomi.” No response. “Naomi!” I got a head turn on that one. “Naomi, go back to your desk and sit down.” Robert was still standing over by Cassie’s desk. “Robert, please sit down and open your workbook to page 218.” Naomi still hadn’t moved. I walked over to Naomi and touched her shoulder. “Naomi. Go sit down.” She slowly walked across the room, but kept staring back at the pencil pack. I never knew what would catch Naomi’s attention on any given day. Today it was a pencil pack.
She finally got to her desk, sat down, and opened her workbook. The Smartboard had come on, and today’s lesson was displayed on the screen up front. Just then the door flew open and Carl burst in, grinning ear to ear. “I’m here!” he yelled. “My mom couldn’t find the keys and made me late.” I walked back over to my computer and called up the attendance program. If I didn’t change it now, I’d forget. I’d forgotten to freeze the Smartboard screen. Everything on my computer was now displayed up on the screen.
“I can see your grade Carl,” shouted Robert. “You’ve got an F.” Everyone began laughing and searching the screen for Carl’s “F”. No one’s grades were visible. Just names with boxes. I removed the check in the box next to Carl’s name. “See, you do have an ‘F’” said Robert. Everyone was still studying the screen intently. It was so exciting to see private teacher information on the big screen up front.
“He does not have an ‘F’,” I said. “He is present today and that’s all you can see.” Naomi had gotten up again and was back over at Maddie’s desk staring at the pencil pack. “Naomi! Get back to your desk and sit down.” I didn’t even wait for her. I walked over and led her back to her desk. I walked back to my computer and switched from the attendance to the lesson page.
The page in the workbook that the kids were working on was displayed on the Smartboard. I called on Marcia to read the directions. She was my best reader and I wanted to get this day started. There were several pairs of sentences. The second sentence had a pronoun in it. The kids were to find the antecedent of the pronoun in the first sentence, circle it, and draw an arrow from the pronoun back to its antecedent. Fortunately it was a task the kids had done before. I asked if everyone remembered pronouns and antecedents. I heard a chorus of “Yes, I know how to do this. This is easy. I can do this. This is boring.”
I told them to finish the sentences then raise their hand when they were done. I always let the kids go up and put their work on the Smartboard. It is a great tool to keep them engaged in the lesson. Everyone was bent over their work except Naomi. “Naomi, do you remember how to do this?”
She just stared down at her workbook. “Naomi, do you need help?”
She turned slowly and looked up at me. “No. I can do this.”
“Go ahead and do number one,” I said. If it’s correct, I’ll have you put it up on the board.”
She looked longingly at the Smartboard. She loved writing her answers up there. She looked back at Maddie’s desk. “I need a pencil,” she said. I knew she wanted a pencil from Maddie. I also knew Maddie would not give her one. Naomi never gave pencils back.
“Get a pencil from my desk.” I motioned to the cup of pencils that was always available up front. Naomi walked up to my desk, all the while staring back at Maddie as she walked. She got a pencil and slowly walked back to her own desk.
“I’m done,” announced Robert.
“I’m done too!” shouted Marcia.
“Raise your hand when you’re done,” I reminded them. Naomi just kept looking at her pencil and then back at Maddie’s desk.
“I have to sharpen my pencil,” Naomi suddenly declared. I walked over to her desk. She had picked up the one pencil in the cup that had a broken point.
“OK Naomi, go sharpen your pencil.” Let’s get started, I thought. “Robert put the answer to number one on the board.” Robert jumped up, delighted that he got to write first on the Smartboard.
“Why does he get to go first?” Marcia whined.
Naomi just sat looking back at Maddie’s desk. “Naomi, go sharpen your pencil,” I reminded her again. Are we ever going to get anything done today, I wondered.
Naomi got up, but was immediately distracted by the box of tissues on the table by the pencil sharpener. She set down her pencil, pulled out some tissues, and began blowing her nose, continuing to stare back at Maddie’s desk. I watched Naomi and wondered how long it would take her to sharpen her pencil. She was always good for making a two act play out of this task. Blow your nose first. Then sharpen the pencil.
“Do you have any hand sanitizer?” Naomi asked.
OK. We’re going for three acts today. I walked over to my desk and picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer. Naomi held out her hands and I squirted a few drops into her palms. She began rubbing her hands together, looking back at me with a huge closed mouth smile. How she loved sanitizing her hands!
Suddenly everyone else began laughing. I looked at the Smartboard where Robert was writing. One of the mysteries of a Smartboard is that every so often someone pokes something and the board loses its calibration. Robert was writing, but the writing was appearing about twelve inches above where he was moving the marker. This was extremely cool to the rest of the class.
“OK Robert. Sit down so I can fix it.” I walked over, restarted the board, and began touching the “x’s” to calibrate it. In the meantime Naomi had taken a detour past Maddie’s desk on her way back to her own desk. She stopped again in front of Maddie.
“Naomi. Did you get your pencil sharpened?” I inquired. She turned around and held up a second pencil she had picked up from my desk. It had a nice point on it. “OK. Go back to your desk and sit down,” I told her. Maddie was hunching over her desk. Her arms were wrapped protectively around her pencil pack, and she was glaring up at Naomi. Naomi took her time making the sad journey back to her desk.
“Robert, put your answer to number one on the board please.” Robert strutted up front and wrote his answer in, but it was not nearly as fun when the board was functioning the way it’s supposed to. Just then the intercom came on.
“Mrs. Jones, is Marcia Keys in your room?”
“Yes she is,” I answered.
“Could you send her to the office? Her mom’s here to pick her up for her appointment.” Marcia slowly stood, relishing her moment. She turned and gave everyone a big grin as she packed up her books.”
“She’s so lucky,” Cassie said. “Where you going Marcia?”
“It’s private,” Marcia shot back.
“Class, it’s not polite to always ask things like that,” I announced. Everyone, even Naomi, watched Marcia walk out of the room. Their faces clearly displayed their longing to also begin the weekend early. Even I was jealous. “OK guys. Let’s finish up this page,” I said walking past their desks. Naomi still had not written a single thing in her workbook yet. I began sending kids up to the board to put their answers in. I bent down and whispered to Naomi that she could go up and write the answer to number four. She had just finished marking her workbook when the bell jolted all of us. Everyone jumped up. Class was over already? Boy had I blown it today! The sad truth was that I wanted it over too.
“OK kids. See you Monday,” I said wearily. I walked to the front, thankful my students didn’t carry too many tales home. I shut off the projector and went over to my computer to close out the workbook program. Naomi followed me over to my desk.
“You really must love kids to do this job,” she said, then turned and walked out.