Posted tagged ‘School recess’

Alphabet Sighs

December 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 14, 2016

                                         

The fourth grade class I had been assigned to be the tutor for was walking back to the classroom from recess. One of the students walked beside me and said, “Your last name is Wolfe. Mine is Woods! I wish they didn’t go in alphabetical order so much of the time. I guess we’re mostly last, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I suppose we are,” I replied. I could tell that she saw me as an end-of-the-alphabet kindred spirit.

“I wish they would go by first names, because mine starts with a “C”… Colleen!”

“And I’m a “B”…Bill! There aren’t too many first names before me, just “A’s” like Adam or Angela and then some of the “B’s” like Bob and Bonnie.”

“Bob and Bonnie would actually come after Bill.”

“Oh, you’re right! My bad!” She gave me some grace, probably figuring that, with my age, I sometimes got confused when it came to vowels and such.

She was ready to continue about her last name woes. “It just seems that when anything gets handed out I’m always the last one to receive mine. We have no X, Y, or Z’s in our class. Last week in music class the teacher was handing out instruments to people…alphabetically! Guess who got stuck with two sticks to hit together? Lame!”

“And when I order lunch that gets delivered to our classroom I’m always the last one to receive it.”

“There’s got to be something good about being at the end of the alphabet. Like if someone brings cookies to class and they get handed out, but there are extras when it comes to the end of the alphabet!”

“Well, first of all, we’re a healthy snack school so you can forget about the cookies! And second, it’s more likely that there wouldn’t be ENOUGH of whatever snack it is instead of too many! Thus…another slap in the face to a W!”

“Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

“He wasn’t thinking about fourth graders when he said it, though!”

“Think about all the people through the years whose last name started with a W!” Woodrow Wilson, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Webster, George Washington…”

“John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abraham, Alexander the Great!”

She had me stumped and speechless, plus I was somewhat taken back by the fact that she knew who Alexander the Great was.

“Think of it this way. A “W” is a strong letter, a good letter. When the Chicago Cubs win a game they fly a flag with a big “W” on it. “W” is a letter of celebration. It indicates a winner, and you, Colleen, are a winner!”

She looked up at me as we were just about to enter the classroom. “I guess you’re right, Mr. Wolfe. I mean I know it’s your job to make me feel good about myself and all that, but I think you might be right. “W” could stand for a lot of good things, like “Wow” and “Willy Wonka.”

“And you know, Colleen, when there is some kind of processional march it is always the most important people who march in last!”

She stopped for a moment to let another student pass her, and also in order to be the last one to enter back into class. “Thanks, Mr. Wolfe! I think you are another “W”…wise!”

A Substitute Teacher’s Notes To Self

May 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 18, 2016

                              “A Substitute Teacher’s Notes to Self”

April 20

        Assignment: 1st Grade

Today I learned that first grade boys have bad balance. Most of them fell out of their chairs sometime, or several times, during the day. Girls, on the other hand, are well-balanced and make good ballerinas. Not a single girl fell out of her chair.

April 22

        Assignment: Kindergarten

       If the snack crumbles it will end up on the floor. Cheese crackers and tortilla chips are destined for the carpet. On the other hand, grapes, celery, and raisins seem to be able to stay glued to the desks they are on.

April 25

        Assignment: 5th Grade

Fifth graders are into nicknames. My class had an assortment of nicknames, and characters…Taco Bell, Beaner, Hot Dog, Squeezie, Ant Man, and The Whiz…it seemed that everyone had an extra label of distinction.

April 27

        Assignment: Junior High Physical Education

Note to future self! When the teacher joins in on the games of dodgeball, especially the substitute teacher, he becomes the target! Nothing gives junior high boys more pleasure than lawfully pelting the sub! Stopped on the way home at the optometrist to get my glasses repaired!

April 29

       Assignment: 3rd Grade

         Give third graders the possibility of extra recess and they will follow you anywhere.

May 3

      Assignment: 1st Grade

Met my match! He…no names please…was the first student I ever sent to the office…and he was also the second person I ever sent to the office. He was unfazed by either visit, and, I found out later, that the office was on a first name basis with him. They had considered giving him his own room there.

May 6

     Assignment: High School Study Hall Monitor

The best!!! Four hours of reading in a room of students who all want to study…and getting paid for it!

May 9

     Assignment: Third Grade

       Third graders are completely amused by farting sounds! There always seems to be one boy who wants attention, either by farting or falling out of his chair like a Hollywood stunt man.

    May 11

      Assignment: 7th Grade Geography

Identify right away the student who has discovered his gift for being a royal pain in the butt! Keep your eye on him, because he has spent more time preparing to be a distraction than he has on doing his homework.

May 12

      Assignment: Latin

Never ever ever take a sub job teaching a foreign language that you can not speak. The students will be saying things about you in THAT foreign language that they would never say in English.

Give Them More Recess!

May 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         May 13, 2016

                                 

In recent weeks I’ve been substitute teaching in several elementary classrooms. I’ve observed tendencies and oddities that make me ponder the methods of educating kids. Last week I had a kindergarten class where multiple boys fell out of their seats numerous times during the day, but not a single girl took a spill. Why would that be?

One of my former college classmates, Cyndi Faur, had given me an idea that I had put into practice that hit upon the epidemic of chair-clumsy boys. It concerned recess. She suggested that I write the word “R-E-C-E-S-S” on the board and tell them that if their actions and focus were excellent that each of the letters would mean an extra two minutes of recess. Inappropriate behavior took letters off the board.

I tried that a couple of times, and then I switched to writing a letter on the board every fifteen minutes when there was good behavior and focused work.

If you want to help elementary kids stay focused give them the possibility of more recess. This past week I was back in the same building where I had subbed for first grade a couple of weeks ago. A few of the students saw me and ran up to give me hugs. “Mr. Wolfe!” they shouted as they saw me on the playground. They remembered me, not for my math prowess, but rather for the fact that I gave them a few extra minutes of recess.

“Recess” means “retreat” or “withdraw”. Growing up, youth retreats were the ultimate. Going away for a weekend with our youth group, retreating from the busyness of Ironton, Ohio for two days…those experiences were the mountaintops of my high school years! Retreats readied us for the weeks of school, the struggles of being teenagers in the midst of a world that was sending us all kinds of mixed messages.

Kids need retreats! They need breaks from the classroom. They need five extra minutes of getting that energy out. Five extra minutes of being let loose from the bridle of the daily phonogram lesson.

And here’s the thing! It doesn’t stop with elementary school students. All of us need more recesses…a few more minutes to retreat…even to let loose.

God created us that way. All work and no play makes Billy a very somber boy! All work and no retreat gives us a grayness that hangs over us like a Charlie Brown rain cloud.

I saw a picture of a church that has a kid’s play area in the sanctuary. I’ve got to think a little more about that one…like will we have to keep the adult kids out of there?… but perhaps churches should think about adult play areas, places of recess. Those youth retreats I referenced…some of the best times during those weekends revolved around just being together for a few moments of laughter and conversation. We draw close to God as faith journeyers as we walk through crises together, but also as we laugh, talk, learn, and play together. Shallow relationships focus on one aspect, instead of all the parts of the journey.

The small church in the small rural community that I travel to two Sundays a month to speak concludes each service with about 30 minutes of cake and coffee. Since there’s only about 20 people it is informal, punctuated with laughter, and blessed with awesome cakes from a lady named Betty (Crocker). In many ways it is the recess from the week for the farmers and hard-working people of that congregation. No one leaves right the benediction. Everyone stays. Everyone recesses.

There’s something sacred about that.

Back to school! I was the sub for a third grade class this week. They earned extra time at both recesses, but what may have stuck in the minds of several of the boys was the fact that I joined in with them each recess with the games of “Four Square.” Some of them looked at me differently after recess…like “Wow! Even teachers like recess!”

Yes, most of us do! And not just because I knew we had to do science when we got back to class!