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Sarah's Notes


25 in the collection  

    First Day

    January 10, 2007

    Never think you know how a day is going to go with children.

    A teacher learns they are all "A Day in the Life," unknown, unscripted, often unplanned, pulled together by the artist weaving her way toward meaning making. At least this is so in my 24-year career. And this first day teaching in 2007, returning from the holidays, was, as ever, "quixotic," "enigmatic," and "unplanned."

    It had to be; I was running on empty. These were actually my three challenge words for my 1st graders who always greet these words of the morning with a giggle. I do this word play more for me than for them, but I've done it so long now. . . just choosing three words from the air and spending time to "sound out" and define, really before the bell rings as I open my day at least a half hour early. A little oral air. (I'd say they can put this non authorized Sarah activity in their pipes and smoke them in District test land where all you can do must be "approved" by the "state."

    But it might be fairer to say this activity is not "Proscribed," and I have to keep a smile on my face and a child handy to start handing out the texts if an inspection looms. I really have to consider this a time when my joking will be taken as something that has to be "corrected." It's a ridiculous time in my life.)

    So this started my morning as a very quiet and angelic crew cozied up on my apple carpet to eye the New Year and a thinner teacher.

    I lost 21 pounds with the flu, and today ate the first semi-solid food in ten long rather trying days. Yogurt. Remind me why we like this stuff? And that in my opinion did not "Go well." So applying the logic of first grade, ALL children reported a terrific holiday. The contrary nature of this may be lost on the world. Had I reported the greatest holiday ever, I really do wonder what I might have heard. But this was not so good in our teaching staff, where moms were hard hit. Two of my friends with catastrophic news about their momma's. One teacher friend lost her mom after years of caring for her after a stroke, much like I'm doing, and the other friend having an eighty plus frail mom found with brain tumor after a stroke that has to today be operated on, and on top of this of the few I could visit with stories of broken limbs and father's passing and the death of the Interim Superintendent of long ago day that promoted my husband, rather frightened me back to my room. I did extremely poorly with the flu but I realized things were tougher, myself needing days rest and I suppose the ultimate insult shots to the tush, but still unable to walk a mile of my five, too weak. Lost much ground. I swayed today. And not just during the singing. My class was fairly kind. I have to remember that sometime.

    I decided to make learning more creative, inventive and to ditch some superfluous notion that I'm going to make it through this year doing their "script" alone. So we went ahead full steam into my own vision. I had to invent it in the moment. I kind of live there anyway. I gave the children sheets of nice thick $8.00 paper I bought 24x36 inches that is bigger than they are, huge sheets…and the thing we are doing is making ocean floors - a coral reef- although we will venture around to the waters near us and beyond and make that too. I had a lovely Caribbean CD I was wanting to play and another CD Jack recorded for me too, wanting to sing his version of Here Comes the Sun, Three Little Birds and his wonderful Caracol, a snail song written for my daughter Sylvia who we call the Four-eyed Snail.

    I had the lyrics for us to read, so it all sort of fit. You would be surprised how much text you teach with music. Teach your child a song a day, repeat them all month, teach them the world of metaphor by six, start with Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash. You'll never go wrong learning "illuminated' in that context, or "fiery gems." We drew, water colored, printed out "ideas" from "research on our web and scooted around in lots of water and paint. It was squishy, warm, mellow, and pretty neat 'cause I got these nice Tropical Cooler snack drinks and plastic cups so we cracked open a few and put in some mango which, in the morning, let me tell, you I was TIRED getting that all in place.

    REFRESH IT, we said. And it was a nice return to Coconut Heaven once I remembered I had this lovely coconut lotion in the cabinet, and we all put a little on. Tomorrow I'm going back to our island and watching Our Little Island on Reading Rainbow and we are going to see if we can get these pictures into some reasonable shape. Gabriela painted hers with the passion of a large-scale watercolorist. I actually think there is a bit of Elaine De Kooning in this baby. Wow. Kind of looked like first graders with a guest artist in the room. Who knew if you changed the scale you got masterpieces from a child not so successful small? Well, I didn't know. . . now I do.

    Tomorrow we are working on poems. I suppose of the South Sea. I'll let it blow in and announce itself in the morning when I crawl over. Anyway it started off the morning. A day in the life by Sarah. By recess I felt like crawling under the desk. And dying. This flu blew my whole system to another level; I haven't felt like this in a while. I'm really just there. . . at the edge. Again.

    After lunch it was about 96 degrees in the room. A heat wave upon us. Right now, it's about nine p. m. and I'm in short sleeves. It's warm. So envy this, world, but you know it's January and I was raised back east and I come from a line of tradition in teaching. . . so guess what we did. . . . If you're guessing calculus, guess again.

    I got out white crayons; blue paper and we did the oldest teacher project in the history of life. Yes, January snowmen. I made this a bit more ludicrous, which will be one of tomorrow's ripe words by giving everyone an ice cube that was a lot of fun as we explored "melting." Guess what. . . ice melts in Southern CA really fast in January and you know what you get. . . water. At least they acted surprised but I know it was "acting."

    We spent a lot of time today on water. This month is water cycle, weather water, stuff of life, H2O, wet; wonderful water gets to swim into my world. I'm in January re-finding the meaning for these children. I thought I'd start with the liquid splash of all the things of enjoying luscious water, this being among the top things for making me happy. After 10 days, five of them unable to even take a drink I'm plenty happy with this kind of "focus." I suspect it'll get out I'm "off page" with scripted instruction when the big fish murals go by. . . oh well. . . swim on. Big fish eat little fish, and right now I'm an ocean.

    But anyway, it was time to make snowmen. Oh that was fun to see. I asked, "How many of you have been to the snow?" Every hand went up. So I said, "How many went last Friday?" Every hand went up. So I said, "Well isn't that interesting because I thought I saw all of you at Popeye's Chicken on Saturday." To this my Gabriela said, "No, yous did not sees us at Popeye's, teacher, because you was so sick in the hospital being shot in the butt with your shots."

    This of course destroyed my search for truth. "Thank you, Gabriela, the word I used was tush which I find is much nicer when talking about my derriere if you do not mind."

    This just sent them all to giggle-dom. Here I was having a serious discussion of snow with kids who have never seen it on a day so hot I took off one of my shirts to sweat while doing the traditional January snowman pictures so they could LEARN ABOUT THE SEASONS in a way they have never experienced. These kinds of important things are the jobs I take on in my quest for instructional integrity daily. So after swearing them to truth, again right hands on their noses, "I promise to my nose to tell my truth to my forehead." We started again. And this time two said they have seen snow. That's cool. My kids haven't. And so we had two snowmen colored in tropical colors that looked frankly more like snow cones. Juicy ones.

    During the last part of the day as they were grinding away on workbook pages or what I will not call "work" and I do call " mandates," so they call "mandates," I got out a tape recorder and asked them to tell me what they thought was the reason we make art and secondly what is a poem. I'll be transcribing these surprisingly wonderful replies over the next day or so. But here are a few:

    "Art is the way I see inside of my head when I am looking to see into other people's minds."

    "I, I, I think art was probably for the people to feel better about the way they were making and the thing about art is that children do it and they like it."

    " Art is showing your idea inside a feeling."

    "If I was art I would be so free, Mrs. Puglisi, like the balloons in the sky."

    "Art is not a words thing."

    And on poetry which I also am starting to now explore with my children…

    "Poetry is words that are sitting on pages."

    "Poetry is free."

    "Poetry isn't all the inner words just the long and very real ones."

    Or my favorite…

    "Poetries is nots for all the peoples, it is for the ones that listens."

    From my Gabriela who was a welcome sight to me this first day teaching in a great big New Year.

    (And the homework was to make your own snail shell, really.)

    And as an addendum my District sent out a flyer to offer a Stress Reduction Workshop

    If they allowed us the joy of teaching free of the joke of mandating and scripting, the poetry that we would write with our children would, believe me, do more to salve the stress than any kind of "training."

    2007-01-10 08:09:23


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