1st graders are amazing. What Happens?

I wandered my school on Monday.  It is not something I usually do during prep but my mom was in town and requested a tour.  I am lucky enough to be at a k-8 school with a generally amazing staff.  The school is only 6 years old so the teachers tend to be young and energetic. (Or older and still energetic)  I am a big believer in being part of the community of a school.  I do my best to know as many students as possible.  As far as middle school goes that’s close to the entire 7th & 8th grades.  Where the tiny people are concerned it is less so but still I would say I know a large number of the k-6th graders.  Although we are a k-8 school we spend a lot of time in grade level teams so I have to make it a point to see the k-5 teachers and I do.  They are amazing.  I have easily learned as much from them as from many of the middle school teachers.  I have certainly gotten as many resources from the 4 & 5 teachers as anyone else.

Anyways, my mom and I were wandering and we cruised in to a friend of mine’s 1st grade classroom.  She was sitting in the back meeting with students individually and Mom and I wandered the room.  One of the students I knew from the talent show (my adjunct duty) called me over.

Hi Ms. G!

Hey Jenny, what are you working on?

Well we had to read a story and then draw a picture and write one sentence saying what happened.  Then we had to relate it another book we had read and tell why.

Okay, what did you read?

I read [insert children’s book title with some D alliteration I can’t remember at all here] and related it to [this book] they were both about people who were in performances.

As I looked over her paper there are two pictures and probably a total of 9 sentences.  It is all amazingly impressive.  She is amazing impressive.  Then I realize it’s not just her, every kid in the room is focused and on task.  The boy sitting next to her is finished so he’s reading.  The first thing my mother said upon leaving the room, “I can’t tell you the last time I saw a middle school classroom where every kid in the room was on task.”

After this we went to another first grade teacher’s room.  Again, every kid focused and working.  No students appeared frustrated or stuck.  No student appeared to have lost interest in the activity which looked strikingly similar to a worksheet my 8th graders were doing that week in English. There were certainly differences in the two classrooms (one kids were silent in the other the kids talked as they worked) but one thing was glaring these students were all working at an appropriate level in an environment that was unbelievely condusive to learning.

So besides this being a love letter to the amazing elementary teachers at my school I left with a lot of thoughts:

What is the advandge to students having the same teacher all day?

Is there an advantage to students staying in the same room?  Maybe having a sense of belonging?

Where between 1rst and 8th grade to we squash all the confidence out of them?

When do they start regarding learning as though it is not the best possible thing they can do?

Is it possible that it is all developmental (this middle school distaste for school)?  REALLY?

And finally, when do I get to be as good a teacher as these women? damn.

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2 thoughts on “1st graders are amazing. What Happens?

  1. Later the same day I went to an 8th grade Language Arts class. A good number of below grade level kids, I would say. The assignment was to do a rough draft of an essay about the book they had just read. A pretty structured assignment (at least to my math teacher eyes); a first sentence was on the board, a graphic showing that there should be three quotes from the book relating to the topic, …
    The teacher was good! She was circulating, helping, prompting, and I was doing some prodding as well. But it took about 20 minutes before the majority (not all) of students were on task.
    Why? Is it easier to motivate little students? Was it the difference between the beginning and the end of the day? Are middle schoolers just naturally reluctant/defiant/difficult? Is that developmentally natural – after all most of them succeed in high school?
    So many questions?????

  2. We kill them softly, with every stated and unstated, “no, you are wrong” “you are not thinking how you are supposed to me” “you are not thinking like me” “actually, I’d really prefer to not even hear what you think, let alone have to say”

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