Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If anyone asks, we're working like dogs in here

Today I was, if it's possible, even more nervous than yesterday. You know what it's like to imagine something going wrong...and then it goes wrong? It's not even that yesterday was such a miserable day. It's just that, this being the first week, I have been wound extremely tight, and anything that goes the slightest bit awry is causing me massive internal panic. (Which is why teaching is possibly the wrong profession for me. But I digress.)

At any rate, I was extremely nervous for my first class of the day. Then I realized that it was a self-contained special needs kindergarten class and, as you can imagine, this made me even more nervous. I got to the class, and whoosh! That's the sound of all my frantic lesson planning going right out the window. As their teacher wryly put it: "They're special." Pause. "They're very, very special...I'm not sure what you want to do with them...coloring would be great!"

Well, in Writers' Workshop parlance, coloring = writing, right? So I did a modified version of my original vision, which consisted of reading Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and having them "write" a story about how they got ready for kindergarten. And with at least a few of them (there were only five in the class), I think something clicked. They told me the story of their picture ("Mommy and Daddy took me to school"), and I transcribed it. At the end of the lesson, one boy waved his paper in the air and said, "I wrote a story!" Mission. Accomplished. On my way out, their teacher told me, "You were so good with them." Who knows if she was just being polite, but as I have zero experience with special needs kindergarteners, let alone a self-contained class of special needs kindergarteners, it was really, really nice to hear.

Interestingly, my favorite time of the day so far has been the 50 minutes at the end of the day when some kids go home and the rest of the students are broken up into smaller groups. My room assignment is in a first-grade class with a teacher whom I first found intimidating in that she seems rather old school, been around the block, not having any of this newfangled accountable talk, you get my drift. The idea of the 50 minutes is that she has one group of kids and I have another, and we work in small groups on...something, it's never been made exactly clear because apparently there are union rules that govern how we can spend our time blah blah blah. But they're all kids from her class, and it's a small room, and she opined that it didn't make sense for each of our groups to squeeze into a corner and work on different things, so we're throwing caution to the wind and co-teaching. It's all a little weirdly covert and illicit, like apparently last year her co-teacher during that period was in graduate school and would work on her papers during that time. Today she gave me a sideways look of sorts and I had to reassure her that I wasn't going to rat her out to the administration; she's a funny lady, I'm just learning the ins and outs of the school bureaucracy, and I'm not going to rock the boat by declaring, "I shall take my eight students, squeeze them into this corner of the room and teach the life out of them!" So now we're on the same page, but the funny business continues: "Of course if anyone asks," she told me, "we're working like dogs in here."

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