Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Can You Say "Grateful" Enough?

This week has been incredibly exhausting. But now it's Saturday and I was only in my classroom for four hours today. I was able to reflect as I was trying to sort through the madness that happened this week with parties and field trips (yes, we had more than one of each this week).

The biggest realization that hit me was the one thing that has altered the culture of my classroom more than anything is the gift of books. A locally-owned small business generously donated enough money for me to purchase probably 400 books. Truthfully, I didn't keep track of how many books I bought and they wouldn't want me to announce how much they gave. Most of the books were purchased on, so some were used, but my kids didn't care one lick.

The point is: my kids have become avid readers. They read in their free time. They are not afraid to announce to their classmates when they love a book or when they don't. They are quick to share the authors and characters they love and they give book recommendations in a split second. They unanimously highly recommend The One and Only Ivan and Wonder. They search for books and engage in them like I honestly can't believe! They fight over new arrivals. They LOVE book trailers.

Before the school year began, I had requested and was turned down for a grant to purchase books. I was so discouraged. But these two guys who own a local business came through (it was a total surprise to me) and because of their generosity my kids are fans of wonderful authors like Jenni Holm, R. J. Palacio, Kate Messner, Stephen McCranie, Barbara O'Conner, Tom Angleberger, Louis Sachar, Cynthia Rylant, Jerry Spinelli, Annie Barrows, Kurtis Scaletta, Lois Lowry, Brian Selznick, Jacqueline Davies, Sara Pennypacker, Linda Urban, Kirby Larson, and sooooo many more. I didn't even know most of these authors existed a year ago. Now, thanks to Bruce and Mike (and Lisa), along with Colby and his circle of friends who have given me lots of great recommendations, I am no longer a strictly-non-fiction-reader; I, too, am an avid reader of great fiction. This is what paved the way for my kids to be avid readers as well.

I have really smart kids in my class. They know what they like and they won't read just anything. They are loving what is great and putting back what is not-so-great. Good for them! And thanks to the wonderful authors who give them that can't-put-it-down literature.

So in my exhausted and reflective state, I am more grateful than words can express to the ones who have made this possible for me and my fourth-graders. Thank you, Colby. Thank you, Bruce and Mike and Lisa. Thank you, authors. You have brought joy into my kids' lives and into mine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Do You Remember Fourth Grade?

When I was in fourth grade I had never heard of the word "blog." Had you? Or "skype," "YouTube," or "Prezi," either, for that matter. As a matter of fact, a computer was kind of like science fiction, with the clunky Commodores being amazingly more technologically advanced than our fancy self-correcting electric typewriters. But those didn't come out until after high school.

When I was in fourth grade I remember my classroom being in the "lower level" (AKA basement) of our school. Our windows were above our heads and we could watch the grass growing along the edge of the panes of glass when we peered out. In a heavy snow, those windows were covered by it, blocking our view of the back playground. My teacher, Mrs. Winfrey, was the only non-white person in the building and yet it fortunately didn't seem strange. She was just like the rest of our teachers: well-respected and a loving authority figure from whom we would learn what we needed to know.  We had paper, pencils, rulers, all-metal scissors, wooden-topped desks with grooves for our pencils, and pink erasers with a smell I loved. We had a blackboard. Not green, certainly not white. A true black blackboard. If you were one of the lucky student-helpers, you got to take the blackboard erasers to the big vacuum once a week by the east entrance to suck out the week's chalk dust. It was an honor to be chosen for that very important task and I remember being envious of students who were chosen. I was never one of them. The other important task in the classroom was washing the blackboard. Only the teachers did this, and it made the board shine a beautiful, almost patent leather shine.

I don't remember anything in particular about fourth grade, except that our classroom was calm. I remember the sunshine and the calendar in kindergarten, the tiered classroom layout in first, second grade's reading circle, practicing cursive and multiplication in third, consoling my distraught long-term substitute teacher and leading the national anthem in fifth, and having my first boyfriend and a not-very-effective teacher in sixth whose lack of control led to some antics from the boys that made some of us girls cringe. Oh, and that was the year I first wore a pair of pants to school: brown paisley corduroy with a back zipper and bell bottoms  Did we learn about decimals in fourth grade? I KNOW we didn't blog or make presentations. I do remember walking across the street during my lunch once a week for my piano and voice lessons, but other than that....nope, not much.

Many of my fourth graders were my first graders three years ago. I can truly say I love them. Often, I'll ask about something from first grade and they'll chime in that they remember it well, and then typically go on to prove it by adding more facts. Sometimes it's something academic, sometimes it's about classroom procedures, and sometimes it's an event we shared. It brings me profound joy that they remember those times. 

Knowing they remember those things also brings me great hope that they will remember fourth grade as a time they learned to love reading. I hope they remember the friends they made through books. I hope they will remember this year as the year they began their first (but not last!) blog to share their learning and their ideas. I hope they will remember this year is when they learned to "choose kind" over winning an argument. Maybe they'll also remember this is the year they learned a particular thing in math or social studies or reading or writing, but more than that, I hope this year they will remember feeling important and capable and eager to learn. And loved and cared for by their teacher.

That is what I hope they will always remember from fourth grade.