Monday, March 06, 2006

A Day in the Life of a Reading Teacher

It's Monday morning. The alarm clock rings at 6:15. I'm showered, dressed, and ready to leave by 7:15 - coffee in the cup-holder and bagel on the seat beside me. It's a forty minute drive. During that time, I listen to talk radio, eat my bagel, sip my coffee, and enjoy the mostly scenic drive.

7:55 Arrive at school. I put my lunch in my little classroom refrigerator, put on name tag, check to make sure things are ready for my first reading group. Then I head to the gym.

8:10 I'm in the gym for morning bus duty. I remark to the other monitor that the kids are unusually quiet this morning. Each day seems to take on its own personality. Mondays are often calm with the children getting more rambunctious as the week progresses. One little girl in kindergarten who has had a difficult time in getting along with the other children, is calm and well-behaved this morning. I give her a "high flyer" card to hopefully encourage the good behavior (Alfie Cohn would disapprove).

8:35 A.M. Immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance and the daily announcements, five fourth graders came to my room for a reading group. Full of energy except for S. She seems a little quiet. I decide to ignore it for now and see how things go. We get started on our lesson. They ASK to write in their journals, and that's the first thing on our agenda. As the other children start writing, I see that S is just sitting there - staring off into space. "What's wrong?" I ask. "Do you feel ok?" Her reply: "I'm bored." Quite honestly, I think "burned out" would be a better description. She goes to school all day, comes to me for reading, and then three days a week she stays after school for a 90-minute reading clinic. I don't blame her. I'd feel like a zombie at times, too. I work with her for a few minutes and she gets involved in writing in her journal and doesn't seem so "bored" anymore. She is probably still bored and is just putting on show to keep from hurting my feelings. Elementary children still care about such things.

9:45 A.M. My third grade group bursts into the room. One child, K, is coughing. A lot. I pass hand sanitizer around to everyone - a fairly regular practice of mine. I believe it cuts down on the number of colds and viruses I get. K tells me that it's his birthday, he doesn't feel good, and he has to go to the dentist this afternoon. I sympathize, and then I ask the children to share about their weekend. I get the usual responses: "I went to WalMart and got a new game for my PS2." "My friend came over and we played." "My uncle took us for a ride on his four-wheeler." Then it is K's turn. I will give you an exact quote:
"I was coughing really bad and I drank a Dr. Pepper and it turned into an ooze - a goo - and clogged up my throat. And that's why I'm coughing so much."
Okay, that explains that!

10:30 My second grade group. My biggest challenge when it comes to behavior. I feel guilty writing that because there are only four children in the group. However, L and B are in that group, and they're a handful. Sweet as can be, but mischievous and loud. They ask for hand sanitizer, and I pass it around. As the children tell me about what they have done since we met last Friday, B listens to the others. Then he says: (another exact quote)
"I went to the animal store and got three dogs. My mom said to get something for my sister. So I got her a raccoon and when she saw it, she yelled. So I had to put it back in its cage and I got her a rabbit."
THREE dogs? A raccoon? A rabbit? Is he serious? I look at him, and it seems obvious from his expression that he is lying. But there is also a look in his eyes that begs for acceptance. I see no benefit in calling him on it. I smile, comment on the number of animals he got and we go into our lesson.

11:15 My student from the Ukraine. We've come a long way, and I see real progress today. He reads on grade level for the first time. Yes, it is painfully slow and tedious. The material is too difficult for him. However, it is a text he wants to read because he is interested in it (animals with poisonous venom), and he actually figures out most of the unfamiliar words on his own. Painstaking, but definite progress.

11:45 Here come my kindergarteners. This is a group of high-achieving girls - an absolutely delightful group. They're just a little older than Sweet Stuff, and everytime I look at them, I think of Sweet Stuff. Today we read two Level C books, and they do a great job. I give them Dr. Seuss stickers (Yes, I know Alfie Cohn would disapprove again) and high fives, and they are thrilled. It ends my morning on a high note.

12:30 Lunch is a bowl of chili - leftover from dinner last night and heated up in the microwave in my classroom. Quick trip to the restroom, and some work on a book order I must complete and send to the central office by Wednesday.

1:15 My first grade group. I hear one little boy before he even gets inside the classroom - cute as can be but with a shrill voice. As he walks in he announces loudly: "I have to go to the bathroom. It's an emergency!" I'm sure all the classrooms in our hall hear his proclamation and are relieved when I give him my blessings for a trip down the hall to the bathroom. He walked past two bathrooms to get from his classroom to mine but felt he had to get my permission before going. And that's a good thing since I DO have to know where they are at all times.

2:00 Another quick walk down the hallway to the ladies room, and then back to the classroom for some paperwork.

2:30 My fifth grade group. I love all the children I work with, but this fifth grade group has five boys who each have an enjoyable sense of humor. The only girl in the group (also with a funny sense of humor) is absent today. The fifth graders keep me on my toes because they're so full of energy and all that pre-puberty exuberance. They're FUNNY, and we have a good time together. They love to read aloud to the group and ask to do it each time they come to my room - their choice of material. Of course I encourage it. So we all listen as one reads some jokes, another reads a page from The Stupids Step Out (fifth grade humor, without a doubt!), and another reads a couple pages from a book about helicopters. Then we work on some test-taking skills - reading a passage and answering questions about the text. They read the text perfectly, but all five of them bomb in answering the multiple-choice questions - questions dealing with main idea and details. Except for the main idea question, the questions are just simple "right there" questions. We talk about each question and how to find the answers. It is a struggle, and it is obvious what we need to work on during our next class.

3:20 The fifth graders go back to their homerooms and afternoon announcements are made over the intercom

3:30 The bell rings and the children are walked to either the bus line or the car line. I don't have afternoon duty, and so my work with the children is finished for the day. I complete some paperwork and finish writing comments in some of the children's journals.

3:45 The official end of the day for me. I gather my things, turn out the lights, lock the door, and head home. Another day of school finished. It has been a good one.

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Time for a coffee transfusion Excerpt: ...Weblog: third world county
Tracked: 03.07.06 - 3:30 am

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