Friday, September 28, 2012

Classrooms

I have been volunteering in Aiden's kindergarten classroom each Friday. (Now you know why Friday posts are spotty.) It's been a fascinating experience in many ways.  I now know that Kindergarten teachers deserve way more money; some people are already jerks by age 5, and that the old saying about our kids being reflections of their parents is absolutely true.

From my observations, there is a phenomenal amount of planning that goes into that class.  The rug on the floor not only cushions the ground, but is neatly divided into squares to provide easy counting of students and teach children to respect personal space.  Each part of the lesson flows seamlessly from idea to idea, and kindergartners are learning an amazing amount of stuff that isn't quantifies on the curriculum.  They are learning to use the language of temporal orientation (yesterday, today, tomorrow, now, then, later...), they are also acquiring knowledge of the calender (Today's date is...). Children are learning to cooperate ("Help your partner") and how to mediate conflict (the school has a whole script for dealing with apologies that requires both children to actively participate).  They are learning the fundamentals of science and art and fine motor skills. Songs and rhymes help them remember everything from the alphabet to how to deal with not getting their favorite color scissors ("You get what you get and don't throw a fit").  It's no wonder that after 3 1/2 hours, they need to go rest.  In the midst of all of this, there is the teacher running the show with almost military precision and complete calm. How she does it, I will never understand.

I've also noticed that some kids are already pretty nasty people.  There are five in this class that I doubt will ever grow out of stirring up trouble or demanding special treatment.  One little girl spent the entire time at my table last week harassing a little boy who was struggling to ignore her (he is a bit of a wild child, but makes an effort to behave most of the time in spite of it being difficult). This isn't the first time, and I could see why he was ready to lash out at her.  Another little girl cries, everyday, because she doesn't want to be told what to do.  Not little sniffles, no, she wails for twenty minutes.  It's so bad that she has to be sent to a corner to calm down.  Another little girl spent the entire time at my table one day doing a horrifying impression of her mother's rant about not having enough money to remodel the house (the tone and phrasing were too adult and too specific not to have come from home) while she refused to do her math assignment; last week, she pointed out what everyone else was doing wrong with their work, while not doing hers properly.  There's the boy who argues about everything- last week it was a steady stream of demands for different scissors and paper that we not "girl" colors because girls are bad and their colors aren't good for him.  Of course, the majority of children in the class are normal children. They have their good days and their bad. They like certain tasks, and loathe others, but most kids do their work, don't harass people and have fun.

Having described some of the kids, I can tell you those nasty ones are reflections of what I've seen from their parents.  There are some positive examples of kids reflecting their parents, too.  The little boys whose mom works for an environmental protection group always reminds me to recycle the paper scraps very politely.  The shy little boy who is learning English watches everything just as carefully as his mom (she helps out on Fridays, too) does and then cheerfully jumps in and does his job.  The little girl whose mom stops to help people open doors and tie shoes always helps put things away when I'm clearing the table.  If I forget to give someone a needed item, she politely points it out.  One little girl dresses in the same color as her mom each day, making them literal reflections of each other.

I'm learning in the classroom, too.  I'm relearning patience, but I'm also gaining new appreciation for how quick those little brains and fingers are. I'm also appreciating how different these children are from each other, and understanding where Aiden's skills fit into the grand scheme.  I'm learning about myself by watching Aiden interact with other people.  He has my habit of tilting  the head when I listen intently and my temper (slow burn, big explosion, then done). He feels a bit lost at school, and yet, he loves to learn. I see his father in him, too.  Quick fingers take things apart and put them back together again. He'll give anyone a chance to be his friend, but he doesn't initiate. He's also hard to tear away from an unfinished task.  These are things I rarely noted at home with him.  It's been good for both of us.


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