My complaints are usually aimed at my school's administration or at the "system" itself, but recently, I have found myself very frustrated with my class. As a teacher I feel that I am doing more than ever to meet their needs, but I'm not getting the results I used to in years past. As I mentioned in a previous post, Backflips and Sirens, I feel like I need to sound sirens and do backflips to get some of the children's attention.
Halloween was a perfect example of this. In the morning, we did shared reading all about Halloween. We read "The Ghost And The Sausage," "Five Little Pumpkins" (complete with lights out at the appropriate time). Then we all gathered on a circle on the floor for the long awaited pumpkin carving (November is our writing unit for "How-tos" so pumpkin carving is the perfect seasonal introduction to this type of procedural writing). The children directed me as I carved off the top and passed it around the circle for all to touch and smell. Then we sketched shapes for the face. I scooped out the insides to loosen them and we passed the pumpkin around the circle so everyone got to scoop out some of the fruit and seeds. Then they watched as I carved out the eyes popping each one out as as the OOOOOOed and AWWWWWed. For most of my kids this is the only place where they will see something like this. We talked a lot about how the pumpkin looked, smelled, felt, etc.
Finally I finished carving the mouth complete with two teeth and we put a light inside. We closed all of the curtains and marveled at our jack-o-lantern. Then I took out my big book "A Dark Dark Wood" and I read it once through completely scaring the crap out of the kids at the end. They laughed and giggled and demanded "again, again!!" So we read it several times through, with the kids raising their voices at the end to scream "A Ghost!" It was so much fun. But, I couldn't help but notice that several kids were not interacting at all with our shared reading. They were startled and even laughed at the end, but they were not able to read along the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th time we read it. One was pulling at the elastic on his sock. Another had his body turned away, and yet another was tugging at shoe laces. Everyone else had their eyes on the book wanting so badly to read it themselves.
After the story, we had a few minutes before lunch. I told the kids that at the end of the day, we would have a raffle for the jack-o-lantern that we made. We talked about how we would put all of their names into a basket and pick one lucky kid to take it home. I showed them the shopping bag that they would carry it in. I asked the kids if they would take it back to school on Monday, and they all replied "Nooooo, you keep it at home." Then we talked about how three of my pumpkins that I had had for the past couple of weeks had rotted and I had to throw them away. We talked about how the pumpkin came from a plant and could rot just like other fruits and vegetables. We concluded that they could enjoy the jack-o-lantern at home for a few days and then whoever won it would have to eventually throw it out. The conversation was very interactive and elaborate.
Finally the end of the day came and it was time to raffle the jack-o-lantern. The kids watched as I folded cards with each of their names on them and placed them into a basket. I mixed up the names and closed my eyes. Kids had their fingers crossed and excited looks on their faces. Some even whispered, "I hope it's me." I pulled out the name and showed it to the kids. They called "Kevin!" and cheered and clapped for Kevin. Kevin, who is one of my sock-pullers, and is generally checked out at all times looked confused and didn't have ANY idea what was happening. Kids were saying "Kevin, go get your pumpkin." I motioned to him and he stood up, still looking completely bewildered. I said, "Congratulations Kevin," and gave him the bag. I told him how lucky he was to take the jack-o-lantern home. He put it on the hook with his bookbag and all the kids congratulated him. I couldn't help but thinking "I should have chosen someone else." He didn't seem understand what was happening at all.
I was trying to figure out what it was. He is a native English speaker (one of the few in the class). He is generally bright and capable, but doesn't work up to his capacity. He is often distracted. He sometimes says comments that do not make much sense or are not applicable. It seems that he speaks before thinking it over. The year I had his brother in my class, we had a costume party for Halloween that year and he wore a ninja costume, so I know there is no objection to Halloween on the part of the family.
Anyway, to sum it up, I felt disappointed. All of this effort to make a really special day for the kids and Kevin had no idea what was happening. I wished that I had rigged the drawing to give the jack-o-lantern to a more deserving kid. My disappointment was emphasized today when Kevin came back to school with the jack-o-lantern still in the bag. He handed it to me with his homework. When I asked him why he didn't leave it at home, he said that he had left it in the cafeteria on Friday while at his after school program. He walked off to change his book after I checked his homework and never inquired about the pumpkin again. I threw it away after school today. What a waste!