This is the first year I’ll have a student that won’t be promoted to first grade next year. I was devastated that I wasn’t enough for him. If structures in my community had been in place he would have been identified as needing extra help and placed a special needs pre-school class. I was angry at his parents for not doing more, his older brothers are both in special education. I was angry at the school system for fighting me on every step to get him extra help. I was even told he might have to wait until next year to be evaluated. I was mad that our community doesn’t have good parent education and support programs. Most of all I was mad at myself for not being enough for him.
He should have been in preschool last year, his parents should have done more, but I can’t go back and change those things. I can change his path though. Last week he did something amazing which made me forget about the anger and understand that I gave him just what he needed. He was drawing on the iPad during naptime. I was scoring some writing samples next to him occasionally giving him a reassuring smile when I saw him do something unbelievable. He was drawing a person with some funny lines coming from the arms. I wasn’t sure what he was doing until I saw him count the fingers on his own hand then double check that he drew the correct number of fingers on his drawing.
I wanted to stop everything and take him around the school to show everyone. Instead I gave him a quiet high five, but inside I was doing the most ecstatic touchdown dance imaginable. He made the connection that what he puts on paper means something, he demonstrated 1-1 correspondence, and most of all he concentrated on a task until completion.
Sometimes the amazing stories of students making years of progress to graduate on time or go to college can be difficult to hear when you are an early childhood teacher. Our students are 13 or more years away from these milestones and being promoted to first grade is an achievement most people take for granted. The areas in which they are farthest behind, social/emotional skills and vocabulary, aren’t measured by standardized tests and their importance to long-term academic success are just now being recognized. Even my mom occasionally asks if I would be happier teaching high school.
As I looked at that student’s 10-fingered drawing I realized that, while he doesn’t know all of his letters, his name is shaky at best, and his people don’t always have bodies, I still know he will be ready for kindergarten next year. I know that his year with me was important.
Step into any classroom for any age at any time of day, and teachers are likely to report that transitions between activities are when they lose the most instructional time with their students.
Luckily, you can read a lot more about how to run effective transitions in a million great instructional books out there. Some our favorites over at Together Teacher: Teach Like A Champion, Guiding Readers and Writers, and The First Days of School.
In the meantime, we’ll revisit Jenny C.’s Kindergarten classroom to see how she organizes herself, her co-teacher, and her students for efficient transitions. While this post may mostly appeal to lower elementary teachers, secondary folks can easily modify for inquiry groups with one group of students on computers researching, another group drafting, and yet another editing with the teacher.
The Facts: Jenny’s classroom has three 25-minute guided reading rotations. There are 30 students in total, split across five different groups.
Here’s a guide for reading Jenny’s awesome Guided Reading Chart:
Left side: Group name and color
Top: Numbered rotation
Stations: Pictures of Jenny and co-teacher, computers, red, yellow, or purple table.
Follow the Purple Parrots on the chart: they see Jenny for guided reading in rotation #1, the computers for rotation #2, and then they go back to the purple table for independent work time for rotation #3.
I asked Jenny about the benefits of setting up the chart with this level of detail and pictorial representation. She noted how her young students have learned to independently use this chart as a visual tool:
Depression can be hard to understand if you haven’t personally experienced it. In fact, even if you have experienced it, it can be hard to know and accept that your thoughts and feelings are the result of a real condition. Understanding depression is important. A lack of understanding can hinder individuals from seeking help and can contribute to the type of stigma around mental illness that we addressed in our previous post.
This blog post from Hyperbole and a Half does a great job of depicting depression. (Warning: The post does include some curse words.) Despite the serious nature of the post, the author is able to put a spin on the topic that will make you think and laugh. Also, if you find yourself relating to a number of the thoughts and feelings presented in the post, reaching out to seek the help of a mental health professional is always an option to talk about your concerns and learn other coping strategies. See our previous post about how to find a clinician.
Most of my students want to be professional athletes. I know that the odds are slim that they will fulfill that dream. However, I try not to deter them with my rational point of view. I simply say that even a professional football player needs to be able to read his contract and manage his money.
When I was their age, I was going to be a dancer and an actor and live in a house on the beach. Since then, I’ve made more practical choices for my future. Maybe I have a hard time seeing their dreams as possible because I don’t see mine as being possible anymore.