Friday, November 09, 2007

Day Off

I get to stay home today! I don't have to deal with kids! I'm not really happy about it as all that, but I've been feeling depleted lately. Being in the classroom three mornings a week in a place where energy levels encroach upon frenetic, all of this after my large morning coffee is a heady combination.

The kids in OC's class are sweet. They are also unfocused. There is good reason for that second thing.

The teacher is basically a good teacher, but I have some criticisms. For instance, I watch the kids wiggle and squirm as she talks. And talks. And talks and talks. She will give them instructions consisting of 48 steps and expects them to not only sit still and listen, but also remember back to Step One after she's gone through the other 47, and every imaginable corresponding exception. They have five stations where they can work independently while individual reading groups are assembled. At the beginning of the day, she goes through the numerous options of what they can do if they complete their work early. Listening to her describe the options makes you want to pull your hair out. It sounds something like, "If you get done early put your work in the basket. Then you can either go to the word wall or read the room. If you read the room, do it two people at a time. Or four. Four is okay unless you get too loud. If it gets loud I'm going to have to reduce it to two. You can go read the word wall, but same thing. At the listening station, you can listen to the tape but be careful. I've asked the PTO to order us some cd's so if they do then it'll correspond to our literacy stations and you can listen to those. But we don't have those now, so use the cassettes. But be careful. And don't press the red button! That records."

I am not making this up. She talks about what she's thinking, what the PTO might do, blah blah blah. All the while the kids look around for something, anything that might help them make sense of this strange world of too much unnecessary information.

Most do not so much complete their work early as fail to do much work at all. They'll start out doing something, get to talking, get bored, wander around, disturb other tables. Oy.

Another example: I asked the teacher if she would mention to the class that they should sit at their tables and wait for me to come around. When they do their writing, I go around the room and help kids with words they can't spell, and for many I will write out their entire sentences and then have them copy them in the proper place, going over capital letters, lowercase letters, etc. and I was having any number of children get up from their seat, incessantly tapping on my shoulder asking for help. It created a mass of kids around me at any given time and contributed to the classroom noise rather than productivity. I thought it better that the teacher say something like, "Hey kiddos, stay seated and wait patiently for our lovely classroom assistant who will be there to help you ASAP. Raise your hand, but stay seated. Keep writing, do your best, and I or (me) will be there to help. Capisce?" Instead, she took TWELVE MINUTES (I know, because I watched the clock) to talk about what they should do and why and what that means in the whole scheme of life and new world order and such. This left only 18 minutes for actual work.

It's all I can do NOT to roll my eyes in front of the kids when she launches into one of her spiels. I'm an adult and I get lost in all her talking, I don't see how the kids can absorb any useful information which may be hidden in all that speech after being bombarded by so much of it without a break. That's complaint number one.

Complaint number two is that this room full of first graders - mostly 6 year olds - are expected to make up sentences and write them on their own. They don't know what a sentence is! They don't know what words are or how they're spelled, some don't understand capital letters vs. lowercase letters, much less vowel and consonant sounds, and yet they are expected to - gag - be creative. Existential bullshit!

It's such a waste of time to have them sit there and think of a sentence and then muddle through an effort at writing. Most of them sit there, stumped. I go around to help and come up with most of their sentences, and I would do it for the whole class but for lack of time. They should be copying sentences from the chalkboard that the teacher wants them to write, and those sentences should include the week's spelling words and easy nouns. THIS IS CALLED LEARNING. Creativity is for second graders! Seriously, I don't get this.

Third complaint: All the kids in the school - including Kindergarteners - go to what is known as computer lab, but which would be more appropriately named Porthole to Time Suckage, or, Room For Young Underachivers, or no! Better yet: I Can't Decipher Letter Sounds, But I Can Point, Click and Fill In Shapes With Color. Kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, and even third graders do NOT NEED TO USE A COMPUTER, in my opinion. They need to know how to READ, they need to know how to WRITE, they need to learn parts of speech and basic math so that by the time they get to fourth or fifth grade, they will have surpassed those basic hurdles. They will learn technological things in a flash. It's what kids do. If they can't read by fourth or fifth grade, what then? Wal-Mart is always on the lookout for greeters. Several kids in OC's class do not know their letter sounds, but boy howdy, can they fill in a shape with a nice shade of blue! Useful.

The classroom is full of bright children, some of whom are labeled "advanced" while others are "normal" and others as "lagging behind". I can already see the "advanced" kids float down like sand while the laggers make scant, marginal progress. The entire class could ALL be elevated but for inane techniques which get in the way of actual learning.

The most sad part of all of this is the lost potential. The kids are capable - all of them - but they need clear, straightforward instruction and repetition of facts. That's exactly what they're not getting.


Live on the Fly said...

I really feel for those kids! The sad thing is, when it comes to conference time, the teacher will say, "Little Billy has a hard time paying attention." And she won't even get that she is the reason why. You absolutely need to talk with the Principal. Then she/he can sit in the classroom to observe and see for him/her self. Principals don't know if something is wrong if parents don't talk with them. Someone needs to be the advocate for those kids. And I'm sure the teacher doesn't realize how she sounds.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's too bad. The poor kids! At the meeting I had with the teacher this week, she said, "Well, Maia has no problem coming up with content! These are great sentences. But, there's no punctuation!" Uh, how about you teach her punctuation? Then we can have this conversation? Maybe? Sigh.

Jenny said...

Oh dear. That sounds awful!

I feel so badly for those kids. School is supposed to be fun at that age! They have plenty of time in life to learn about people who speak just to hear their own voice. She is LAME.