Ever since my junior year of college, I’ve been pretty much convinced that I am not meant to be a classroom teacher. I spent a semester that year with the declared major of elementary education, and I realized that I was going to become one of those grumpy teachers who yell at kids all the time. So I moved on from teaching. Over the course of many years I meandered my way back to education, but in the form of church-based education. I love to teach about God to all age groups. That’s why I became a DCE.
And the irony of ironies is that I am spending this summer teaching in a classroom. We have a Lutheran school with our church, and it operates in the summer too. It’s kind of a school/preschool/daycare sort of set up. I’m not sure all the nuances of that, but basically for the summer the program is semi-school and semi-day camp. We have gym and library and recess times, snacks and lunch and computer lab. But the curriculum centers around a Bible story each week, and since they were short of teachers for the summer I agreed to teach elementary level, which is basically 1st & 2nd grade with a couple of 3rd graders thrown in. And there are only 10 kids.
It’s a challenge, to say the least. Finding ways to engage the children with a variety of activities, keeping some semblance of discipline in the classroom, and struggling to hear what they are asking me. Between the children who can’t seem to stay quiet no matter what and the ones who are soft spoken or have lisps, I have trouble understanding at times. I actually haven’t gotten mean or grumpy with them. Truth is, I genuinely want to reach these kids but I don’t always know how to keep order in the classroom. Part of it is that my preferred teaching style is leading a discussion, but at their age they don’t have the skills to either participate or allow others to speak. A part of me is tempted to re-read Miss Nelson is Missing for ideas, but I don’t think scaring the kids into submission is a good idea.
Here’s the amazing part – they are most attentive when I read to them. So I’m definitely going to do more of that. Singing seems to help some, so I’m trying to put together a list of all the fun and/or silly songs I remember from Sunday school, VBS, and camp growing up. I know that centers are popular with the kids, they love to read, play games, and work on puzzles. I’m also discovering the challenge of reaching them as individuals. One boy is quite prone to crying and isolating himself. A girl (the oldest in the class) gets bored easily. Two or three of them (different ones each day) will be into everything or running around the room. I have yet to have all 10 students in the classroom at once. Each day at least one has been gone, and I realize that probably is related to the particular work schedules of the parents.
I know one area that I am not quite up to speed is art. Truthfully I hate messy art projects. The idea of paint, glue, glitter, or whatever else getting all over hands and desks and floor just does not appeal to me. So I’ve been avoiding those kinds of projects so far. Granted, I’ve only taught for four days at this point. But I know I’m avoiding them just the same. And I guess I’m just not sure what other kinds of projects to do, partly because it seems to be mostly those kinds of supplies available to me.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying working in the mornings and having my afternoons free. I’m up and moving instead of lazing in bed, and then in the afternoon I alternate between watching tv and working on the house. The house is coming along. One more day of help with trim painting and we can move all the furniture back in the dining room. Then I can really get to unpacking stuff, because nothing will be holding me back on it. And I’m supposed to get my new cell phone today in the mail. We had to switch carriers because our coverage stinks here (plus our old phones are through the old church in Ohio, which will be shut off sometime soon). So I’m going back to a non-smart phone, but that’s ok. I really don’t need to have all the bells and whistles on my phone anyway. I hate typing on it so I rarely respond to emails or post to facebook. It gave me the ability to lurk on the web without participating. And checking email, facebook, and blogs from the laptop will enable me to remember to blog more often, too!