Sunday, January 29, 2012

Playing Cards on a Tuesday Just Because

10:45 on a Tuesday.  We’re leaving the computer lab and a student asks, “Is it time to go home yet?”  Now, at the beginning of the year, I get asked that question, literally, all day long.  But it’s January now.  Our daily routine is well established and the kids know, for better or for worse, they’re stuck with me until 2:35 each and every day.  (Don’t get me wrong, they’re still 6-year olds, and I do still occasionally get the “Is it time to go home yet?” question, but it’s typically toward the end of the day, not the beginning.)

I looked at the student who asked me this, giggled politely, and said, “Buddy, we haven’t even had lunch yet.  Sorry, but it’s not time to go home.”  He sighed the sigh of a weary 6-year old, smiled, and waited as the rest of his classmates lined up behind him to go back to class.  While we were waiting, I inquired, “Are you tired, or do you just want to go home?”  He looked at me, and with complete and total sincerity said, “I just want to go home.” 

I like to think of myself as being pretty entertaining, well to 6-year olds at least, so when one of my students wants to go home early, well, I want to know why, and so I asked  him. He smiled and replied, “Well, I want it to be time to go home because my mom said she’d play a card game with me today after school.”  Ah, ha.  So it’s not that he wants to leave me; it’s that he wants to spend time with his mom.  Fair enough.  Actually, more than fair enough.  And for the record, I don’t blame him one single bit.  In fact, it’s moments like this that make me love my job as a First Grade teacher so much. 

I love that this kid can't wait to go home and play cards with his mom.  It’s a small thing, isn’t it? A simple, little card game.  But to a child it can be the highlight of a day and something to look forward to all day long.  In a way, I’m envious.  I have teenagers now, and I must confess to being more than a little bit jealous of the mom who gets to spend time today playing cards with her little boy.  I’m also envious of the child, who is ticking off the moments of his school day so he can get home to his mom and play cards.   

More than anything else, though, I’m excited.  I’m excited that, amid all of our modern technology, there are kids out there who still enjoy the simple things.  I’m excited that, amid all of our modern technology, there are moms out there who still enjoy doing these simple things with their children.  And, most of all, I’m excited to hear all about this little boy’s special time with his mom tomorrow because, almost as fun as the event itself, First Graders love sharing their adventures, both large and small, and so I know that during our Share Out time tomorrow, his hand will go up and he’ll tell us all about the fun he had playing cards with his mom.  I can’t wait! 

It's moments like this that make me stop and remember how important it is that we parents never underestimate these simple times with our kids.  It seems the world is spinning faster and faster these days; we're all in a rush and sometimes it's all we can do to keep up with the bare necessities, like making sure everyone is fed and clothed.  Who has time for games?  

Well, we all should.  Because guess what, folks?  Blink, and your kids are standing in line waiting to take their driver's tests, or they're walking out the door for a  babysitting gig, or they're off to see an R-rated movie because, well, they are now old enough to do so.  

I forget a lot these days, just ask my poor husband.  But I will never, ever, ever forget the time, a few years back, when the father of one of my students just randomly showed up one day to have lunch with his child.  The look on that little boy's face was one of pure joy and wonder.  The term "over the moon" comes to mind, though in reality, his expression was even beyond over the moon.  Way beyond.  The way he proudly walked with his dad to the lunch line is a moment I will cherish forever.  

I had tears in my eyes as I walked back to my room and I thought, "This is what it's all about."  It's not about fancy trips (though those are nice) and it's not about buying our kids the latest, greatest gadgets (though those are fun).  No, it's about creating these small moments with our children, moments that, when placed one on top of another, day after day and year after year, form the foundation of a blessed childhood. 

So let me ask you, what are you doing next Tuesday after school? Because if it's not playing cards with your kids just because, well, it should be.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Found Money

I've said it before and I'll say it again…one of the best parts of my day is reading what the kids have written, be it in their journals or for a formal writing assignment.  Buried in the pile of papers is always a gem or two that makes me LOL.

The other day, our writing center prompt was "Write about what you would do if you found $5.00 on the way to school."  Interesting to note (and I'm still not sure quite how I feel about it) is the fact that not a single student said that he'd try to find the owner of the money.  Perhaps expecting altruism from a  6-year old is a bit of a stretch.  Oh well…

I am pleased to report, though, that most of my students understood that $5.00 isn't a whole lot of money, and what they wrote about corresponded to that understanding.  Some of the kids said they'd spend their found money on ice-cream, some said toys, and yet others said they'd save it.  One girl said she'd give $3.00 to her dad and keep $2.00 for herself.  Of course, when my husband heard about that one he said, "Can we adopt her?" 

A couple of girls wrote about how they'd buy their little brothers a toy, which I thought was very sweet.  One of those girls, however, said she'd buy her brother a Lego and then herself a skirt.  (Clearly, she's not one of the students mentioned above who understands the value of a dollar, because even though she said she'd buy the items at Target, even on sale she'd never be able to buy both things!  Oh well, the sentiment was there and that's all that really matters, right?)

My all-time favorite from this $5.00 prompt was:

"If I found $5.00 I would save it and yous it for colij. Then I can go to colij so I can lrn.  And maby be a techr.  I houp I fyd $5.00 in rell lif."  Not surprising, my husband wanted to adopt this student, too!  Let's see…how much interest would she have to earn to turn that $5.00 into college tuition in 12 years?  Oh brother, don't ask me…one of the main reasons I teach First Grade is that I am only required to count up to 100!

So, friends, what would you do if you found $5.00 on the way to work?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brotherly Love

Lunch line conversations are the best!  The lunch lady often comments how nice she thinks it is that I stay with my class, but really, my motives are purely selfish…some of my best material comes from the lunch line.  Lunch line topics are quite varied, but one of the kids' favorites is bad words.  (There's something to be said for working with a segment of the population for whom "stupid" and "shut up" are bad words.  Too bad most adults don't agree.)  Anyway…

We're in the lunch line the other day and the kids start talking about bad words and one kid says, "We have a jar at our house, and anytime someone says a bad word they have to put money in the jar."  Ah, the old swear jar.  I smile and he continues, "But my grandpa says a lot of bad words and he never puts any money in the jar."  

"Oh goodness," I say, "Grandpa says a lot of bad words, huh?"  

"Yeah," he replies, "but only when he's on the phone."  

In my mind I'm cheering grandpa for giving those pesky telemarketers the what-for, when he continues, "He says a lot of bad words when he talks to his brother."

Hee, hee, hee.  Man, I love my job!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Pencil Pilferer

Pencils…they can be the bane of any teacher's existence.  Long ago, I decided I would not be the pencil police.  Instead, I have a very simple "Pencil Policy."  On the first day of school, each child is given a brand-new, perfectly-sharpened pencil.  Once the lead of that pencil becomes dull, or once the lead of that pencil breaks (or once a student pulls the lead of that pencil out - sometimes on purpose, sometimes not) that student is required to take the "old" pencil, walk it over to the "To Be Sharpened" container, place the pencil, led side down, into the container, and then pick up a new pencil from the "Freshly Sharpened" container.  Easy, peasy, right?  For some kids, yes; for others, no.

I'm a stickler for making the kids bring their old pencil because, guess what?  A kid will drop a pencil, make no attempt to look for it, and then get up and get a new pencil, and then before you know it, we're all out of pencils!  (I can't tell you how many times I will hear the tell-tale ping of a dropped pencil, watch it roll two chairs over, and for the kid who dropped it, it literally doesn't exist anymore.  He'll shout out, "I don't have a pencil."  My response is always the same, "Well, kid, you had one, like, two seconds ago, what happened?"  And the kid will be like, "I don't know."  And truly, he doesn't know because it doesn't even occur to him (or her) to check the floor.  Cracks me up…and frustrates me to no end sometimes.)

So, if I see a kid walking over to the pencil cans with no pencil, I'm all over it, "Hey, where's your pencil?"  "Um, I don't know.  I don't have one."  "Well, you're not getting a new one until you find the old one so I suggest you find it…pronto."  (I know, I know, so much for not being the pencil police.)  One quick glance to the floor typically reveals that this child's pencil is underneath his seat partner's chair.  I'll tell the student this and I swear he'll look at his seat partner like he had something to do with it.  

If you haven't figured it out by now, and I'm sure you have, the pencil policy exists so that we always have 23 pencils.  Occasionally, I'll throw a pencil away, like when it's been chewed to within inches of its life, or when it becomes too short from too much sharpening.  And every now and then, really and truly, a pencil does just disappear.  But, for the most part, we always have a pretty healthy supply, thanks to my handy-dandy, easy-to-follow pencil policy.

And then one day, we didn't have such a healthy supply anymore.  I puzzled over it a bit, but then quickly blew it off because, despite the fact that I am devoting an entire blog post to this (and my first one of the new year, at that) I really am far too busy to spend too much time on disappearing pencils.  So I let it go…

Until one day when another class is in my room (we do weekly rotations with the class next door) and a student from this other class reaches into the desk she is sitting at to get a pencil and exclaims, "Oh my gosh, whose desk is this?  Look at all these pencils!"  I walk over and, oh my gosh, it appears I have a pencil hoarder in my class!  Seriously, in all my years, I have never seen this many pencils in one kid's desk.  Occasionally, a kid will have two, maybe three, but this kid had, like, 20 pencils, at least.  And I'm not exaggerating!  (All those times I saw that kid out of her desk now made perfect sense!)

Now I have to figure out how to handle this.  Clearly, I want her to understand that she is in, like, major violation of the pencil policy; however, I don't want to embarrass her in front of everyone by calling her out.  So when we finish our rotations and my class is back in their seats and working away, I quietly go over to her desk, take her basket out, point to the plethora of pencils, give her the teacher look, and point to the pencil cans on the other side of the room (as in, you better return all those pencils missy).  Thankfully, she gets the message loud and clear.  Only here's the deal…she has hoarded so many pencils that her little hands can't manage the load and she has to make two trips!  When she returns from returning all those pencils, I quietly remind her of our pencil policy…and make a mental note to keep a better eye on that little pencil pilferer!