Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer School Reflections

I was tempted to title this blog post: How I Survived Kindergarten Summer School. It seemed a bit too dramatic... although, there wasn't a lack of drama during my 20 days as a kindergarten teacher.

I've been a second grade teacher for 6 years. I student taught in second grade. I'm used to teaching second graders. It's my comfort zone. And although I've taught Sunday school with little kids, am around my friend's children and also children at my school, I wasn't quite prepared for the complexity and required level of patience that I needed to have for 10 six year olds. Here are some highlights:

If you know me, I am not the most animated person. To teach kindergarten, in my opinion, you must sing. Sing everything if possible. When I was talking, it was like I wasn't there. "Clean up," I would say. No response. Then I would start singing Barney's Clean Up song, and they would all sing with me and actually clean up! To be fair, this happened in the beginning of summer school. By the end, they learned to listen to just my words and cleaned up or stopped talking. Oh, and they LOVED all the nursery rhymes we learned. I mean, they sang it while they worked, at recess, or during breakfast. They even sang on the steps after school. Randomly. Like they were on a playlist in their mind.

Ms. J:
My sweet second graders called my name. All the time. I probably heard my name over 100 times a day (I tried to count one day, and gave up). It was to a point that our computer teacher would put me in time out and the kids could not come up to me for ten glorious minutes. It was only ten, because eventually one kid would crack and come up to me. Which I cannot be annoyed with, because it was always to tell me how well they did on their spelling, or how many facts they mastered in XtraMath. So here are these adorable kindergarteners, who are calling me all sorts of things: teacher (a classic), Ms. K (they can't quite get the -ang out), and one sweet boy who constantly called me Ms. J. The first time it happened, I thought, 'Oh, just a slip of the tongue.' Then he kept saying it. And no matter how many times I corrected him, spelled it on the board, and even though the other kids said no, it's Ms. KANG, to him, I was Ms. J. Did he have a teacher named Ms J? Nope. Know anyone by that name? No. I even did a whole mini lesson on the letter 'K'. At least I tried.

Bathroom and Tattling:
They go to the bathroom a lot. They tattle a lot. I finally got used to that by the second week, but man, I was shocked.

Funny Moments:
Every time someone did something (accidentally, like break a crayon, or tear a paper), they thought they were in trouble. There would be "Oooo's" or "You're in trouble! I'm telling!"
They also say the funniest things. Like a girl tripped and she said to me, "Ms. Kang, I need to practice more walking." Or a boy said he had something important to ask me, and it was during a lesson, so I said he could ask me after lunch. I forgot about it, and then at the end of lunch, he said, "Ms. Kang, you forgot my question I was going to tell you." And I said, "Oh, what is it?" He said, "I am growing up." :)

I think the most frustrating part was trying to teach so much in such a short amount of time, and just hoping I made some difference and taught them something. Some days I was discouraged, especially when they just didn't get it, or just wanted to play. I felt the burden of teaching them their abcs, phonic skills, and ability to read and comprehend a story. I kept thinking if they weren't on grade level, I had failed.
But people around me encouraged me and my friend said something that really stuck out to me:
They are getting more at school than they probably do at home. 
That gave me some encouragement. And although I cannot say they are on level for first grade, ones that didn't know their letters, do. They can memorize rhymes, and identify rhyming words. They can write a full sentence and punctuate (sometimes). They can read high frequency words and paint and retell and play with others. They definitely learned manners (I made them say 'thank you' and 'your'e welcome' for doors, papers, to the lunch ladies, etc.). On the last day, a mom picked up her daughter and I was telling her what a hard worker she was and how I was going to miss her. I told her that I hoped she learned something in summer school to help her in first grade. And her mom said, "Yes, I noticed she improved a lot in her reading." And I almost cried on the spot. Just knowing that at least one student improved, makes me happy.
Yes, it was hard waking up at 5:30 when it should be my summer break. These past 20 days felt like 90. But it was worth it if I helped them. And I worked with some amazing people that kept me going and kept me sane. Like my friends said, I experienced it.

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