This morning I was all set up for my first graders to come in for science. Their science journals on their tables, the Smart board showing the right page of the right PowerPoint, my teaching bin of supplies, book, and attendance sheet on the front desk, and six table bins on the materials table, loaded with their materials for the lab.
I look up at motion in the doorway and instead of 27 first graders lining the hall I see almost 27 adults, along with two strollers and a few babes in arms and toddlers, gathering. Ah, maybe I missed the memo, I think. Obviously a school tour for prospective parents. I tell the guide-parent that a class will be here momentarily, but come on in , do come in, welcome, welcome, as the group streams in. I find myself impatient when they dally in the hall; I want to tell them come ON, you only have a few minutes! But I do not say that out loud.
Of course right behind them comes my first grade class. They are good as gold, lining up quietly outside the door of the science room. I cheerily greet them, explain the tour group, and ask if I can start the lesson out here? All eyes are on me and they listen attentively as I review what we did last time and introduce what we will be doing.
As the adults start to file out, the first grade teacher tells me with a forced smile on her face, “I’m not feeling well. I don’t think I can stay (we are supposed to co-teach this lesson.) I’m trying to hold out until lunch, but it may be Polly picking them up. Don’t be surprised.” I encourage her to go!
I give the first graders a big compliment for their flexibility and cooperation when our guests were here. They look at me with big eyes.
After my lesson on the rug, off they go to tables to do the investigation. It requires four children to work together and take turns- measuring water, pouring, dumping, placing materials in cups…. Lots of jobs. They are young, but I have started to take it for granted that they can handle all these negotiations. Ah yes, all except for one child. You know, the one with the behavior plan on the clipboard? His reward for a day filled with checks is a chocolate-chip dog-bone-shaped cookie, sitting in a zip loc baggie clamped in the same clipboard. (He loves dogs, wants to have a dog, wants to be a dog, pretends to be a dog… Three-quarters into the school year the team has figured out this plan and it actually works. If not for the clipboard and the awaiting cookie he would probably be standing on the table.)
So this friend decides he is oldest at his table (much heated discussion ensues.). Therefore he is most responsible, so he should do all the jobs he wants to do. Another friend (also with a behavior plan, second sheet on the clipboard- why did I put them at the same table?) takes umbrage. Doggy-friend is now clutching other friend from behind and lifting him up.
And on it goes- I attend to groups, picking up soaking materials as they finish, giving them the next item as they are ready, keeping my eye on those two. I talk with each quietly, trying not to let the situation escalate. I consider texting for help but put it off- let’s see if we can turn this around.
Our social worker comes in to observe (Yay!) and I brief her, so glad she can defuse and supervise our doggie-friend.
The class does a great job, circling answers on their data sheet, taking a few extra notes. They clean up nicely (I have to take the sponges away or they would wipe tables until pick-up time. You know first graders- they clean up a table that has a few drops of water by soaking a sponge and getting the whole table really wet, then swiping it around for as long as they are allowed. Others see the fun and find every sponge in the room and run to the sinks to join in on the “helping.”)
Indeed it is Polly, the aide on the team, who comes for the class, so the teacher mush have gone home sick. Polly is great, but as the children are lining up she suddenly looks at me little stricken and asks me if I have a nurse’s pass. Marly is throwing up in the trash can. I tell Polly I will take Marly to the nurse- I have a planning period next so I am free. She shoots me a grateful look as the whole ensemble starts out the door and up the stairs.
Lesson #1- Wash your hands, people.
Lesson #2- Sorry to use a cliché, but keep calm and carry on.
You want to know the funniest part? It didn’t feel like a terribly tough morning. Just part of the job. But let me reflect honestly-
Lesson #3- Be grateful for sufficient staffing. Having behavior plans developed and followed consistently, having an aide who could be available, AND a social worker AND a school nurse, made this morning work.
And wonderful first graders ❤