Sasha Post #3: Green Table Stop Talking!
It is Dr. Seuss’ birthday and I walked into the first grade classroom right when they were about to finish reading Dr. Seuss’ classic: The Cat in the Hat. I walk in and sit where I usually do, at this small table on the side and wait for the teacher to finish reading. Ones the book is done, Mrs. B hands out a worksheet for classwork. The sheet had a picture of a red box and the students were to write sentences of what would be in their own red box (in light of the book they just read). That week, Mrs. B was teaching the students on description, and how to use descriptive words when describing objects. For this activity not only did the students have to say what would be in their box, they had to describe the items as well. Seeing that Mrs. B did not have any specific plans for me, I thought it would be productive for me to sit at a table and assist the students writing and making sure they remembered to describe things.
So I sat at the table closest to me, the green table. I introduced myself to the kids (since the teacher has yet to introduce me to the classroom). I went around the table asking the students for their names, and I went around until I remember them (this did not take more that two minutes to do). After getting the names down pat, I immediately proceeded to have them start their classwork. I went around the table and ask each of them to tell me what would be in their box, before they wrote it down. Once they told me, and after they wrote it down. I began to ask them questions to have them start thinking about ways to describe them. For example, one girl told me she would put her baby sister and brother inside, so I asked her questions like “how old are they, are they big or small, do they cry a lot or not, do they laugh a lot, do they walk, do they talk” and so on. These were the type of conversations that were taking place at the table, the kids were really engaged and kept talking about what they would put in the box as they wrote about it. During this exercise, something I thought was going pretty productive, the teacher yells “I hear a lot of talking … green table?!” The green table was where I was sitting. At this point, I felt a bit awkward and embarrassed (even though I am pretty sure the students did not think much of it since they are use to it, which brings me to my question I will mention later on). After this happened, I found myself shushing the students a lot. They would try to speak to me, but I was so embarrassed still, that I would just tell them they are talking a lot.
This incident raises a number of questions/institutional issues for me. It makes me wonder the power these students have on what they do and how they do it. Maybe my expectations are too high since this is a first grade classroom, but I wonder why the students never stand up to the teacher when she tells them to be quiet, when they are in fact completing the assignment for classwork. In this case for example, the students could have easily said “Mrs. B, we are talking about the worksheet” but no one did. Children are so conditioned to adultism, they simply listen without reflecting on whether or not it was appropriate for the teacher to simply tell them to be quiet without realizing that they are in fact speaking about something relevant and talking through it actually helped them work better – which leads me into my next issue/question.
This incident also makes me think about the fact that there is this “standard” way of doing things. The teacher is under the impression that the only way for students to complete work and to think is if they do so quietly. This idea that there is a standard or right way to do things completely dismisses the fact that there are different ways of learning and that classrooms are never homogeneous because every student is different. This creates a huge challenge for me, because now I am not sure what the teacher expects from me. My first day in the classroom we established that I would probably we walking around helping students, but when I put it into practice she deemed it as being disruptive and did not recognize it as being classwork. Now I have to re-visit our agreement with her somehow.