It’s the last slice of March. I’m looking back on a month of words, over 25,000 (I counted yesterday as a way of procrastinating…and perhaps as a way of congratulating myself). I’ve written a lot about my distant past, and some about my more recent past, but the entries I like the most are the ones about this year’s class, so I think I’ll end with another one of those recollections.
The last two days I’ve had recess moments that made me smile. On Thursday, just after math, when everyone scurries to get ready for that burst from the doorway into the cool freshness of recess, I asked, “Would anyone be willing to stay in today to help me plan for our new student?” This was probably not the best way to angle it, but I needn’t have worried. Twelve hands flew into the air. That was actually too many. I wasn’t anticipating that problem. I decided to take the “I’m thinking of a number” approach, and was able to narrow it to four helpers. We headed out with the rest of the class and then walked back via the art room.
The whole time we walked, these four kids were sharing ideas about what needed to be done to prepare. I would have to take care of the myriad supplies, like journals, folders, assignment book, etc., but they noted the things around the room that would need adjusting. “He has to be on the lunch count,” “You should put him on the bathroom sign out,” “He needs a reading bin,” and “Did you make a sticker for one of the chairs?”
“This is exactly why I wanted your help,” I said. I took note of all of the details.
When we got to the room, one of the kids said, “I’ve been thinking about the tables, and I don’t think we need to use a fifth table.” This intrigued me. We have four main tables in our room. Each one seats six, which is great when you have 24 students. We would now have 25, so it looked like we would need to expand. But Mary had a better idea. Since our tables are hexagons, made by pushing two trapezoids together, she suggested pulling apart one hexagon so that one trapezoid could hold four people and the other could accommodate the usual three. At first I couldn’t understand her idea. This was higher spatial relations work than my little head could follow. She proceeded to show me the new arrangement. We all agreed that it would be really nice to not have to use up our work table.
We used the rest of the time to sketch out the sign. They decided it would be nice to say “Welcome to the HIvE,” and then have bees flying all around. They laid out the words, found a template for the bees, ran off copies, and headed for lunch.
Later that night I got an email. It was Mary. She had two more thoughts about the welcome. “I was thinking that we should tell him about fire drills and lockdowns. He might not know about that. Also, I think we should probably wear name tags for a few days.”
I am blessed this year that I have several students who could competently stand in for me if I were absent.
The second recess moment happened the next day. Doing things at the last minute, as usual, four other teachers and I decided we needed to meet with the potential Student Slice of Lifers at recess. This was the day after our students’ first performance of their big musical. That was Thursday’s school assembly. On this night (Friday), they’d perform for their families in the evening. They were not exactly tuned in to the school time that stood in between. I can’t say that I blame them. Still, since Monday would be April first, we really needed to get our kids set up on the school’s blog so that they could post. We had some nitty gritty explaining to do as well. I worried that the timing was going to be hard. The kids were tired after months of rehearsing for the play. The idea of entering a new marathon, and one with considerably less glory at the end, seemed like it would not appeal to many kids.
I asked my class how many people thought they would like to try the Slice of Life Challenge. We had been preparing for several weeks, making lists and doing morning quick writes, but I had also assured them that this was voluntary. Now, in the moment of truth, I wasn’t sure how many would still find the challenge appealing. Sixteen kids raised their hands! Last year I had five. I made sure they understood that our meeting would take place during recess. Still, sixteen hands stayed up.
An hour later, after math, when we stood on the doorstep of recess, I wondered if some would reconsider. A few did, but 13 came with me to the computer lab, and joined another 25 from other classes. My colleagues and I gave our introduction, complete with warnings about the difficulties and assurances of the personal rewards. We mentioned how important it would be to comment on other people’s writing, and how much each writer would value the comments they received on their own writing. The excitement warmed my heart on an otherwise low-energy day.
So, this is my last entry in the March marathon, but it also marks the start of another march into the April challenge. I’m going to do everything I can to support these kids who sacrifice recess for the opportunity to write their stories.