Friday, August 17, 2007

The teacher in me

This afternoon, Max and I went up to Western Hills Elementary to spend some time checking out my sister Carol's new classroom. She's having a lot of fun pulling things together and has been working incredibly hard getting things cleaned up. She had to empty all of the cupboards and get things reorganized for her own sanity. Piles of 'stuff' everywhere is difficult to deal with. She's got color up on the bulletin boards and has begun decorating in 'theme': "At the Movies". There are a lot of bare walls in there - it's time for me to get creative with some fun movie posters and stuff for her and her kids.

Carol is teaching 6th grade. Her partner teacher is a 30 year veteran that seems to be amazing. Carol's grateful for that. She's completely and totally overwhelmed right now. As I looked through the content standards and the teaching requirements, etc., etc., etc., so was I! How in the world is she ever supposed to teach all of this stuff ... well! I'm sure she'll get through it, but yikes!

I've been designing posters and charts and nameplates (for the desks), activity sheets, and other pieces that she wants to have so that things look good. I sat at her desk this afternoon and began looking through the social studies book. I got excited! This is my kind of stuff! So, the plan (in my head) is to start finding supplemental activities for her with regards to the lessons she is teaching. It's great! I can't wait.

I don't think that I've been in an elementary classroom since I was in elementary school. Goodness, but that's been ... well ... many years ago. I left 6th grade in 1971. I know that Western Hills is not a brand new school, but I do have to say that it all looked just the same. The coolest thing? Some of the parts of the classroom were demystified for me. I saw these weird cupboards under the front blackboards and I remembered them from my childhood. I always wondered what was in them, but no one ever opened them for me and I never had the courage to do it myself. I opened them. Nothing terribly exciting, but it was cool to make the connection in my mind.

Silly little things like that. It's fun to be back in an elementary school as an adult. It all makes so much more sense now! We just accepted things as they were. We went where we were told to go, did what we were told to do and did very little over-the-top exploration. It's fun to actually look up and see all of the strange things that are so very normal.

As we sat at dinner tonight, I began thinking and talking about some experiences that I had in elementary school. I had a couple of teachers that taught me how to teach. Because I was a fast learner (I learned the way that curriculum was taught) and an incredibly fast reader, I was always at the top of the class. (I promise, I'm not being arrogant ... it was a bit difficult to live that way). But, when I was bored, I was allowed to help the slower kids read. I sat with them while they processed on the pages in front of them. I helped them learn how to comprehend what they were reading. My personality was very gentle back then and the teacher knew I would never hold it over anyone ... so, she allowed me to help her (remember, this was the 60s in small-town Iowa). I was terribly honored and didn't want to screw it up, so I worked hard at doing whatever she asked me to do.

That's where I learned to love teaching! I'm so glad that Carol also loves teaching. I hope to have plenty of time to spend in her classroom helping her out. As she described the kids in her class, I recognize that she is going to need a lot of assistance. She'll do it very well ... all on her own, and with the help of the staff around her, but anything I can give her will only encourage those kids. She has a hearing impaired child, 2 autistic children, 2 kids that are very low on the learning scale. On top of that, she has 4 children that barely speak English. There are a couple of teachers that assist her during the day working with these children individually, but still!!! 9 kids out of 23 that require a lot of extra effort.

One of the coolest things for her is that she did her Student Teaching at Western Hills last year ... in 5th grade. She knows these kids already. She's experienced some of their 'stuff' and was successful in her student teaching. I'm looking forward to this year for her.


Jacqniel said...

Carol will do wonderfully. How fun for you to be able to assist her. I know she appreciates your help, too. Being a teacher is very rewarding - not monitarily of course - but emotionally it certainly is - or can be. Prayers for a year of fun and learning for all involved.

Jacqniel said...
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