Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 01 2011

I love my kids.

Seriously, they rock. Even when they’re being bad, like when they aren’t paying perfect attention during our semi-scripted reading program, or when they are totally rambunctious during science, they have so much personality and joy, it’s impossible not to love them. Snapshots of my classroom:

To learn how to read a recipe and understand written directions (which they need to be able to do for a test), I made up a (pretty lame) folding paper activity called Recipe for a Fox where each kid folded a paper fox face. They LOVED it and had a ball picking different colors for their fox eyes, folding them perfectly, even making extra foxes during indoor recess (because they decided they would rather stay in and make foxes than go out and play). Adorable.

Also during indoor recess, three kids decided that they would devote their time to making me presents. One was a fox face decorated in my favorite colors. Another was a pencil sketch of a flower to rival any artist’s. The last: a handmade card saying, in cursive, “Ms. Kemper is the best teacher in the whole school she is alsome and nice.” And on the back, my favorite, “I hope you have  a grate life.”

One of my kids is SO hard on himself, and gets really upset when he has to edit his writing because he hates that it wasn’t already perfect the first time. Yesterday he burst into tears because he thought I was making fun of his writing with my gentle suggestion that maybe his page-long story should have more than one period. I desperately backtracked and talked forever about how much I love his ideas and what great details he thinks of. He wasn’t buying it and didn’t do his homework last night for the first time all week. But today he added periods and even added extra details ON HIS OWN, without any prompting, so his narrative tells a fascinating, exciting story. The look on his face when I, obviously overjoyed, told him how great it was…priceless.

Same kid, different story. A lot of my kids really love spelling tests because it’s an opportunity to see immediate return on their effort into their spelling homework, and it’s a chance to be completely successful. This particular kid who hates to be anything less than perfect got 100% last week and has been telling me all week how much he wants to get 100% again. He’s got 3 older brothers, is always the baby who gets picked on, and desperately wants to prove himself to his family and the world. His dad came to our open house tonight, and I got to tell both of them about his spelling test grade: 100%.

Last one, I swear. I have  two really struggling readers in my class, and we’ve been working on phonics and phonemic awareness all week. One of the two is my little pal, because he’s the only one who doesn’t ride the bus so we usually have 10 minutes to hang out chatting and waiting for Mom to come. He also reads at a first grade level, writes painfully slowly, and, I am almost positive, has dyslexia (but has never been referred to testing, put on an extra-academic-support plan, or really helped at all…more on that another time because this is a happy post). But anyway, one thing he struggles with is reading whole words instead of guessing, and he almost never sounds out words because his grasp of phonics is so shaky. His brother was 20 minutes late picking him up, so we worked on spelling homework. First of all, he wanted to do the makeup spelling homework that he forgot last night, even though he already took the spelling test today, which is pretty dedicated. And second of all, when he came to words he didn’t know in the reading part, about half the time, he SOUNDED THEM OUT! So he could READ THEM! I adore this child, because he is always giving 150% of his effort even though his processing issues make reading, writing, and even speaking three times more difficult for him. Hearing him sound out words just like we practiced made me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we might have taken a baby step towards literacy together.

Don’t you love my kids? I totally love my kids.

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    In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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