Today I was working with a first grader whose teacher unsuccessfully argued that he should repeat first grade next year. The administration decided to pass him onto second grade because he had already been held back in kindergarten. If I stay next year, he'll definitely be one of my reading kids.
Anyway, Will danced over to his seat and sang out, "I'm almost finished!" I looked down at his paper; it was blank.
"Will," I said, "you didn't write anything on your paper yet."
He looked up at me and blinked. "Oh. Right," he said.
In the same classroom, some incident sparked a fellow teacher to say, "You know what we should be teaching them? Problem solving skills. Like, what do you do when you spill juice all over the floor, or your pencil breaks?" I got so excited at hearing this, I can't even tell you; it's exactly the sort of thing, along with social skills, that I think our kids desperately need to learn. Because right now they don't know what to do when they spill juice all over the floor or when their pencil breaks. I can't tell you how many times I've happened upon a student staring blankly into space, ten minutes after everyone else has been scribbling away. "Student," I'll say, "why aren't you writing?" Student will look up at me helplessly and shrug. "I don't have a pencil." I will sigh hopelessly, and then patiently say, "Student...how can you solve this problem?" Thoughtful face. "I could...ask my neighbor for a pencil?" Or how many times I've been on one side of the classroom only to hear a student on the other side repeating a singsong refrain: "I need help...I need help...I need help..." without raising his hand or making any other effort to actually get my attention. And these are second graders I'm referring to.
That's what we should be using our extra 37.5 minutes after school for; when everyone's brain is shot from all the academics, that would be the perfect time to work on this kind of stuff. Hmmm.