Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Everything I should know I learn from my Kindergartners

Today this morning was crazy.  I found out yesterday that I have a new student coming from an English-speaking classroom.  The poor peanut is going to be confused until we get everything straightened out with her.  You might wonder, "Well, don't you just put her in the English speaking classroom at your school then?"  She has had a good solid 6 years of learning since womb-exit in Spanish, and only 7 months of English learning. Luckily, she is sweet as can be and we are happy to have her.

During centers I have been running the reading center at the rainbow table. My co-teacher has been running the writing center and the other student rotate between free-choice, free-choice reading, and a math activity.  Today one of our students got a nose bleed and my co-teacher threw on the rubber gloves to take care of her.  The 5 students at her center were still "working." One student is very impulsive and likes to get things done very quickly. When he saw that Miss O was busy he just started writing random letter.  The boy next to him in group, who is a solid student and nice to everyone saw what he was doing and asked him to read his sentence aloud to him.  Miss O later recounted to me to what she had heard while squeezing the girl's nose... A boy who I will call Manuel (not his real name) had the boy randomly writing letter read what he wrote. This was his response translated from Spanish
          "Read it to me. No, it doesn't say "gym." For "gym" you need the "g" like guitar."
This is what teachers live for. Kids who learn better when the teacher doesn't have to be pulling them along, and BETTER a student who has learned it well enough and is confident enough to teach it to a peer.

Manuel taught me something today.  Sometimes the best time to help someone is when you see that they need it, but they don't ask for it.  They may resent you for it momentarily, but will thank you for it in the end through returned kinship.  His peer, "Israel" was writing random letters all over the place, and Manuel helped him by redirecting him into doing something more productive, but also showing him the purpose.   One of the major premises in teaching elementary school is, "All children have gifts. It is our job to tap them and use them to facilitate their learning."  Manuel has some definite academic skills... His friend has other qualities, like persuasion and humor, that he doesn't have. Both Manuel and Israel are valued in my class as equals.

I have recently been on the other end of that equation. In the last year or so I have received help from people who care about me and I care about them.  I don't usually solicit it because I believe that I should be independent and earn what I have.  I sometimes lack the time, skill or patience to get done what I need to get done, because just like my Kindergartners I am learning as I go.  More so I lack the humility to realize I do have many things to learn sometimes.  

As a teacher, I am used to being the one with the answers and the "fixits." But now I have met someone who knows more than me about many things. He sees when I struggle and he helps, even when I don't ask. And I made the mistake of being resentful, not because I can't do what he does, but I simply haven't yet. In watching Manuel and Israel I have been reminded of why, as human beings, we like to help.  We help for personal satisfaction in knowing that we know how, we help because we care about each other, and we want others to do well.  

I hope, that just like Manuel, he can be content with showing me on occasion and not always doing for me, so that someday I will learn and do for myself the things he already does so well. I have misconstrued his help for his desire to want to be "better" than me or unequal, rather than what is his genuine attempt to try to make life easier.  I have been praying for a easier row to hoe, and instead of God giving me a new row, I now have cute chicken farmer with a hoe in my row too. His row is already hoed (especially since all his chickens are dead), and he won't leave me out there with the soil untilled. I wanted to say I hoed that row by myself, but I would probably never get there if it weren't for him.  I am profoundly grateful and sorry. 

I hope someday I will catch up on this steep learning curve and be the helper and the teacher sometimes too. It's amazing how much Kindergartners love to be the helper or the teacher. I am learning that it isn't so much what we do right now, but that we value each other as equals (almost like the U.S. currency). I hope someday I get to have the satisfaction knowing that I can help him too and show him that I care and want him to do well. And maybe teach him how to cook without recipes.

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