26 February 2012

earth wind and...FIRE!

While I was observing a pre-school class yesterday, a little girl ran out of the room suddenly. A few seconds later, we heard the unmistakable sound of vomiting coming from the hallway. The girl came back to class a few minutes later to wait until her mom came to pick her up, and the whole incident got me thinking about a similar episode from my second year of teaching...

I was a Teach For America corps member at the time, so a staff member from the regional office was coming to observe me that fateful day. It had been unusually cold for south Texas--amazingly, although it was towards the end of the second winter I had spent down there, it was the first time I had ever had to turn on my classroom heater. As I did so, it started making weird, rackety, banging sounds. I was sort of alarmed, but I kept on teaching.

All of a sudden, smoke started coming out of the heater vent and a horrible stench filled the room. The heater was on fire! But, wait! It wasn't the heater that was on fire; it was the dead creature shacked up inside it that was burning. Ick. In response to the rancid odor, several of my students promptly vomited. All this just a short while before I was going to be observed.

We dealt with the odiferous situation by shutting off the heater, spraying tons of Febreze in the air, opening the windows to let fresh air come in, and chilling in the abandoned teachers' lounge at the end of the hall until the room was habitable again. Luckily the stink cleared out quickly, and we were able to go back in the room by the time my program director arrived to observe my class. I've always wondered if he noticed a funky smell, though...

25 February 2012

science quotes

I taught a bunch of different subjects during my six years in the classroom, and people often ask me what was my favorite thing to teach. I think it would have to be 5th grade science. Personally, I love to read, but my students never got quite as excited about reading as they did about science.

For example, they got really into using science lingo in everyday conversations:
"Miss, your earrings are so lustrous."
"Miss, my hypothesis is that science class will rule today."

And a snippet from what might be one of my personal favorite convos of all time:
Hace Leche Kid: Miss, I don't like Mondays.
Me: I know it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after having fun all weekend, but I'm always glad to see you guys.
HLK: No, I mean I don't like Mondays because we have to go to computers and can't do any experiments.

Awww! HLK was an...unwilling student a lot of the time, so it was especially great to hear that coming from him.

23 February 2012

milk...it does a body good

Over the past few weeks, I've been going through old photos, and I stumbled across this one, taken at school last year when Vaca Lula, the Dos Pinos mascot, came to town. As you might be able to tell, she really got down with some good jams, and the kids just loved her. She also gave out some really cool prizes! All of those Vaca Lula memories reminded me of another cow-related memory from my third year of teaching...

It was my first year teaching the same subject for an entire year (my placement was switched 11 times during my first two years, so I was super excited to teach something consistent for a change). I was teaching 5th grade science, and we were learning about sound energy. I explained that sound travels as vibrations, and taught them a great song about it and everything.

At one point, one of my girls raised her hand and said: "Miss! Did you know that some farmers play sad songs for their cows to make them give more milk? They hear the sounds and they think it's their babies crying, so they make a lot of milk." After that, a boy jumped up and exclaimed, "Oooooh yeah! Hace leche, hace lecheeeeeee!" [make milk, make milk] while making milking motions in the air.

We all just stared at him for a minute before bursting out laughing!

22 February 2012

in the library

As you may remember, last year I had a student named Iggy, who has Asperger's Syndrome. Due to all of the social interaction and noise involved with snack and recess, Iggy typically spent these times reading in the library. One day during recess, I went to the library to check out a personal reading book, and saw a middle-schooler talking to Iggy in the beanbag reading area at the front of the library. Instantly, I felt defensive of Iggy and moved closer to eavesdrop on what the older student was telling him. Overall, the other fourth graders were usually very nice to Iggy, but you never can tell with other kids, so my mama bear instincts were kicking in a little bit. As I moved closer to their convo, the older student went into the restroom, so I became even more suspicious, and asked Iggy what the other student had told him.

Me: What was that boy saying to you, Iggy?
Iggy: He told me he thinks it's very nice that I read all the time. He said he's proud of me.
Me: Wow, that's...so nice. Did that make you feel proud, too?
Iggy: [nod]

Say whaaaaa?!?!

How great is that?! (And how judgmental was it of me to assume that the other kid was being rude to Iggy?) I was so touched by this incident that I decided to do a little digging: Who was this mysterious kind person? A card-carrying member of the "random acts of kindness" club, evidently. After digging around and discovering more about this boy's background, I was even more amazed. I discovered that his family has been through more heartache over the past few years than anyone should have to deal with in a lifetime...and he's still out there, spreading joy. Maybe I seem a little too gung-ho about this episode, but I find that middle school is often such an awkward time. Kids are growing up like crazy, and they don't like themselves all that much, and those negative feelings are often turned outwards towards other people, particularly those who can't defend themselves as well as others might. I mean, if this kid is this nice now...he's going to be one awesome person someday! (Or actually, I guess he already is!) Natch, I tracked him down to thank him for being so friendly to Iggy, and he was just as sweet as you might imagine.

So that's the story of how my faith in humanity was restored...in the library.