Marion: "Miss Brave, today you look like a ballerina."
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I have so many priceless stories to share that I'm just going to make a list!
1. The Flat Stanley Project is going amazingly well. For those of you unfamiliar, Flat Stanley is a book about a boy who is flattened by a bulletin board and gets to have all kinds of flat adventures; for example, his parents mail him to California in an envelope. Ages ago, some genius of a teacher dreamed up the "Flat Stanley Project," in which kids create their own Flat Stanleys (or flat selves, as the case may be) and mail them around the world. There's a picture of Clint Eastwood holding Flat Stanley on the Oscar red carpet and pictures of Flat Stanley's visit to the White House (notice that Flat Stanley and President Bush share remarkably similar vacant expressions!).
Anyway, my second graders have finished creating their own "flat selves" and are composing letters to Miss Brave's friends around the world, who have promised to take our flat selves on an adventure in their city and write back. I accidentally asked the copy aides in my school to give me 5-page booklets, and some of my students -- in one class period -- filled up all five pages! (One of them, bless her heart, wrote volumes, but spectacularly failed to use any punctuation whatsoever. Sigh.) This is definitely the most enthused they've been about anything I've done with them, and it's great. I've already arranged to borrow another cluster teacher's bulletin board space for the month of February so that when our flat selves come back to us, they can go on display! (Their letters are too cute. One of Miss Brave's friends works in a zoo, and so someone wrote: "Please take my flat self to the zoo and let it see the monkeys.") Planned header for the bulletin board: Life in the Flat Lane. Meet the newest students at our school: The flat second grade!
2. In my special ed kindergarten, there's really only one student who's capable of producing a focused 3-page narrative on the same level as the rest of the kindergarteners. (We won't even get into the fact that we're now expecting kindergarteners to produce a focused 3-page narrative in the first place.) The other day, as usual, he came bouncing up to me: "Miss Brave! I want to tell you my story!"
OK, Jamie, I said; go right ahead. And so he did. Page 1: "First the taxi came to take me and Mommy and Grandma to the airport." Great! Page 2: "Then we were waiting on line to get on the plane." Wonderful! Page 3: "Last the police came to take my daddy to jail."
Er. What? Hmm. Could you maybe...repeat that last part again?
"He's in trouble," he elaborated, drawing out the second syllable the way only a little kid can when they're describing someone else's misdeed. "He did something bad."
Hmm. Hmmm. "Well, is Daddy home now?" asked the para. Jamie said he was. So...OK then?
3. Here's a scenario that happens constantly in my kindergarten classes, and it's why I love the littlest kids the most: I walk into the room. Before I can even give directions, Gloria's hand is up. "Miss Brave! Miss Brave!" I know I shouldn't call on her and open the floodgates, but she seems so urgent, so frankly desperate to tell me something, that I do."You're beautiful," she blurts out.
"Thank you," I say, flattered. Of course, the other kids aren't stupid; if Gloria tells me I'm beautiful, they'll up the ante and tell me that they love my shoes, my hair, my markers, they love everything about me!
"You are all beautiful too, and I love you all too," I told them, "but now it's time to talk about writing."
4. Just when you thought Darryl couldn't get any cuter, he swings for the fences! First of all, he started off the day by saying to me, "Yesterday we was laughing!" Clearly he enjoyed our impromptu giggle-fest as much as I did. Then I encouraged him to add sentences to his story, which he did with great enthusiasm. "Darryl," I said, "do you know what this means?"
"What?" he asked, unnerved.
"It means you're a real writer!"
He looked nonplussed. "I am?"
"Yes! Look at what you're doing! You're working on adding sentences to your story, and that's what real writers do!"
I could actually see the realization dawning on his face. "I'm a real writer," he repeated, clearly warming to the idea. "I'm a real writer! Mrs. C, I'm a real writer! Ms. M, I'm a real writer!" (Possibly I would have melted into a puddle of goo right then and there if not for the fact that at least three tantrums followed this announcement.)
5. My third graders decided to amuse themselves on line by singing "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." Then Joshua added this priceless and bizarre coda: "My grandma got a tattoo on her booty!" It was the emphatic pronouncement of the word booty that nudged it right over the edge, and I couldn't help it: I laughed. "What did he say? What did he say?" the other kids clamored eagerly. I had to recover my stern face and announce that we weren't going to repeat it, because it wasn't polite, and Joshua's face assembled itself into an expression of remorse as he clarified, "She doesn't really have one, I was just saying it."
Externally, I said, "There is a time and a place to say those kinds of things, and now is neither the time nor the place." Internally, I said: "HAHAHA!" The day after that, Joshua revealed that he has a 13-year-old girlfriend ("I try not to think about it," his teacher said), and the day after that, he pulled a "Talk to the hand 'cause you ain't got a man!"
6. In my ESL first grade, there was a new student who speaks very little English. When it was time to pack up, some of the kids were yelling at him: "Go! Pack up!" Which, naturally, was not very effective. Phillip, who's always literally falling all over himself to be a good helper, leapt to his feet: "I will show him what to do!" And he did, quite beautifully. The new student made his way over to the door, where I heard a loud gasp from Jesus. And once again, against my better judgment, I called out: "What's the problem?"
Most of the time, my kids are really not potty mouths. They're always telling me that so-and-so said a bad word, which more often than not turns out to be "stupid." Which is why I was sort of scandalized when Jesus called out, quite clearly -- with the hallway full of kids lined up for dismissal and my whole class sitting there on the rug: "He said SHIT!"
I actually, literally, clapped my hand over my mouth. "Well, you don't repeat it!" I exclaimed.
7. Mark is a first-grader I haven't written about before now because there's no way to accurately capture the sheer WHIRLWIND OF MADNESS that is his behavior (and most of the time, after I deal with him, I'd rather not even try). Well, today he did something that sums it up: While my back was turned for two seconds, he took a scissors and cut a chunk right out of the front of his bowl haircut. (Then he denied doing it, but (a) there was hair on the table and (b) there was a chunk cut out of the front of his hair!)
So...I took all the scissors off the table. I banished him to a different spot in the room. I carefully crafted a note to his mother. And then I crossed my fingers that the wheels that are in motion to get Mark tested for special services turn a little bit faster, please.