I don’t often take the time or trouble to defend my words or explain my actions over and over. However, I have read a few comments lately that lead me to believe that some readers have misinterpreted what goes on in my classroom because 1. They don’t really know me. 2. They haven’t read enough of my posts. 3. They apparently teach in a perfect place that I’m not privileged to inhabit.
So…a few of my own comments on this and that.
First of all, yes I’m trained in early childhood practices. I taught in pre-k for six years without a copy machine or textbooks or pencils. I believe in the value of play and my room is set up with both large activity centers (home, blocks, art, etc.) and table centers (puzzles, games, matching cards, magnetic letters, etc.). However, I must also adhere to the state guidelines and teach the curriculum adopted by my district and my building. I hardly think that my students are going to “play and explore” enough to accidently discover the following required writing conventions on their own, without my instruction or without paper and pencils:
Standard 3: Grammar/Usage and Mechanics - The student will demonstrate appropriate practices in writing by applying Standard English conventions.
Grammar/Usage: Begin to recognize appropriate use of nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
Mechanics: Demonstrate appropriate language mechanics in writing.
Capitalize the first word of a sentence.
Capitalize all proper nouns.
Punctuation: Begin to use correct terminal (ending) punctuation.
Sentence Structure: Demonstrate, with teacher assistance, appropriate sentence structure in writing a complete sentence.
Spelling: Demonstrate the process of representing language by means of a writing system.
Understand that letters have different sounds.
Understand and record some beginning and ending sounds in words.
Generates inventive spelling representing initial and ending sounds.
Handwriting: Demonstrate appropriate handwriting in the writing process.
Print using left to right progression moving from the top to the bottom of the page
Begin using upper and lower case letters.
Begin printing legibly using correct spacing between letters and words.
Trace, copy and generate letters although children may still be reversing some letters.
Print his/her first and last name.
In order to provide some of the above instruction and for students to do the required writing, they must stop talking, stop playing with their erasers, stop poking their neighbor, and get their work done. So, yes, we have some “quiet” desk time built into our daily schedule. Yes, I actually expect them to sit down and do some work.
I believe in and use “logical consequences” when I can. But the reality of school and of life is that consequences aren’t always logical. I have a child who “plays” in the bathroom: slams doors, splashes water, hits other students, blows bubbles with the soap, draws on the mirror, and seldom comes back to the room without a reminder from me. It would seem that the most logical consequence would be “you can’t use our bathroom”. Well…that’s not possible or practical. So here is our deal- if I have to leave my room to walk across the hall and remind him of the rules (I can hear him from my desk) and I have to waste my time telling him to return (all the other students return without prompting) then he has to give up ten minutes of play time (he has already played in the bathroom) and he has to write an apology for wasting my time (I know the rules. I can make better choices. I will not play in the bathroom.) He KNOWS all of this BEFORE walking out of my door, so it is HIS choice to make, AND he has made good choices often enough, so I know that he understands his actions.
The way I handle discipline in my classroom works for me, for my students, and for most of my parents. I say “most” because I have parents who think I am too strict and parents who think I’m too lenient. It will always be so. However, I must also remind you that policy and procedures are also set by the district and my building. There are certain behaviors that require specific discipline procedures and those must be followed by everyone. And parents always have their own choices based on their beliefs. They have options and are made aware of them. They sign releases and are called to the campus whenever necessary. They have a say in everything that happens. Even the aforementioned written apology is sent home in a communication folder and signed by the parent.
We teach in an educational environment that has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. The students I have in my classroom are NOT coming in from their homes. They are coming to me from pre-k where they have spent one to three years playing and exploring. Expectations of what they can and will do in my classroom and in the next three grades are higher than ever and will change again in 2014 as Common CoreState Standards are fully implemented in 48 states. I must promise the state, my district, and my parents that I will do my best to make sure each student meets the standards set for them.
Many of my students are in their second or third school, their second or third home, and their second or third family. They can, and do, tell me sad stories about drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, and violence. Some have learning disabilities known to be caused by drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Many students live in homes that are filled with noise, stress, and even danger. They talk openly about lice, cockroaches, and rats. But they also have electronic gadgets for entertainment. They know more about Call to Duty, vampires, and Justin Bieber than the alphabet. They think “we” is spelled “Wii”. They eat a diet composed of junk food, energy drinks, and candy. Forget Norman Rockwell dinner scenes; most meals are eaten in the car on the way to dance lessons, softball practice, games, or meetings. Of course there is little time for homework or reading. I live and teach in the real world.
Many students cling to school as their refuge from the realities of life. I did. So I do what I can to make them feel safe and secure. I teach them as much as I can before they move on to first grade. I do the best I can, where I am, with what I have. And I have to believe that for most of my students I am the best teacher for them, or God would not have placed them in my class.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my former students:
“Mrs. Maurer, I miss kindergarten so much! At least we got to play in centers sometime!”
Children surprise me each day with their perspective on life.
Yesterday I arranged some Valentine words and student names on our pocket chart so we can spend the next week writing names and making cards and talking about friendships. Our pocket chart usually contains the twelve “sight” (know them when you see them) words we are currently endeavoring to memorize.
After I completed my task I sat down at my desk to grade some papers.
Suddenly I sensed a flurry of excited whispers in the room.
Finally one of the boys jumped up, turned around to face me, and shouted for joy, “Mrs. Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, look- I’m a sight word!”