Friday, April 29, 2011

THE Wedding Through the Eyes of a 6 Year Old

photo by Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

I like to give my kids exposure to things that they might not see on their own. People they'll remember, events that they'll probably never attend, places that they'll likely never see. Our laptops have made the world smaller, our world view larger, and our understanding of others deeper. My classes have attended rocket launches, festivals of color, tomatoes, elephants, and visited some of the worlds great museums and zoos just to name a few.

I wasn't sure how my first graders would react to today's Royal Wedding though. Appreciating the concept of a wedding is a bit far off for the age group. Sure, some of them might have been ring bearers or flower girls, but I really couldn't picture them being too interested for very long. Once again I was reminded that I should never under estimate a six year old.

I set aside the normal morning routines this morning and just put a simple message on the morning welcome board, "Have a seat, enjoy the Royal Wedding!" I remembered Charles and Diana's wedding and I thought this might be something these kids might remember as well. We watched some of the wedding live (when they walked out onto the balcony) and some of events ( their service, vows and processional) on replay later on in the day.

Predictably the girls identified with the princess and a few of them relayed the fact that they were up with their moms watching the Prince and Princess in the dark hours of early morning. A number of the boys, including me, were taken with the horses and the pageantry. All of us were impressed with the 'bigness' of the whole affair. During one of the overhead shots of the processional, Justin shouted out with his singular vocal frequency that cuts through even the loudest of crowds, "Are those ants?" I replied, "No Justin, those are people", which resulted in a chorus of "ooohs", and we were off. The comments were coming so fast that I grabbed a stack of post-it notes and tried to keep up and focus through the tears of laughter.

Here's a glimpse at The Royal Wedding through the prism of a first grader."Mr Johnson, start at the beginning where she graduates"

At the church
  • As the couple met at the front of the church "This is going to be a complete disaster"
  • A response to one of the vows "For richer or poorer?!?, look at all that gold!" (my personal favorite)
  • Scanning the church crowd during one of the songs "Where's Oprah?"
  • "There's that old man again...no wait, they're all old men"
  • "No one's smiling!"
  • After the vows, "How come he didn't kiss her?" "Aren't they married now?"
  • "How come they're walking so slow?"
During the Processional
  • "I want a horse!"
  • "That's a lot of people" "Do they know all of them?"
  • What's up with the hats?" (Beefeaters)
  • "I thought she (Kate) was 85?"
On the balcony
  • "Just kiss her already, this is taking forever!"
  • "That was the best thing I've ever seen"(flyovers)
  • "Is she still a princess?"
A great day, a terrific experience. The wedding wasn't too bad either.



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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teach Me Something I've Never Seen

Sometimes the best part of my job are the little moments that occur almost exclusively random and unexpected. Affirming moments when you realize that you have made a difference in a child's life and the moment comes back and makes a difference in you.

I've always tried to be conscious of situations where a overreaction or an improper reaction might create a life moment for one of my students. In other words, kids are sometimes messy, frequently noisy, and sometimes lose their minds for brief periods of time, but those situations don't need to remembered for the rest of their life. Some of them get enough of that at home, like the child that came to school with bruises for spilling juice on the carpet, or the child that was forced to wear the same soiled clothes everyday because she didn't do her chores. I'm not about to intentionally create a life moment in my room for anything that is negative. I try to make my room a safe and reliable  place where kids feel comfortable to explore and take responsibility for their own learning.

The life moments that am not aware of are  the ones of which the kids create themselves. The moments when they make a connection to what I've presented or exposed them too, something they have never seen, knew existed, or how to do.The only thing that I can control in that equation of learning is by trying to present content that makes meaningful life connections in a fun and interesting  way and maybe inspire them to learn more. We recently used the Iditarod Sled Dog race in Alaska to teach measuring, graphing, observing, teamwork, prediction, and distance.  We also viewed photos from around the world during the recent Carnivale. The reactions and the occasional silence while looking at the selected photos (MSNBC Carnival From Around the World) were indications that I was sharing something that the kids hadn't seen before. Silence, when unleashed from amazement and wonderment is a pretty terrific sound.

Unfortunately, I don't always know if I made a connection or inspired a student to look further into a topic that might have excited or inspired them. Those moments may come long after they have walked out of Room116 for the last time, but I do know that when a student wants more learning to come their way, it makes my day.

The other day I was behind in some of my correspondence and non-teaching stuff, not like I ever seem to be caught up. Anyways, I decided to take my laptop down to dismissal and get some items ticked off my list as the kids names come over the loudspeaker and head through the gym door for home. My job is pretty simple during dismissal, I just make sure that when my kids names are called, they get their things and go. A perfect time to perform some mindless tasks. Miguel saw that I was working on my laptop and came over to sit down next to me. He asked me what I was up to and quickly learned that the task was nothing important. He had a better idea on how to spend our last moments of the day together and asked "Mr. Johnson, will you teach me something I've never seen before?" I looked at him, opened a new tab in my my browser and replied, "Yes Miguel, where do you want to go?"

Miguel had just created a life moment for me, one that he'll never recognize as more than a casual question. The moment helps to illustrate just how big of an impact my role as a child's teacher can be and helped me to understand that no interaction between student and teacher should be regarded as a cast off moment. All the interactions have the potential to mean something, have an impact. Even to a six year old while he was waiting to go home.



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