I spent much of yesterday leaning over the shoulders of my third-graders, trying to telepathically remind them that sentences need capital letters at the beginning and periods at the end. They didn't notice me, though. They were too deeply ensconced in the state-mandated writing assessment, which requires students to read a brief prompt and then respond with their own perspective in five correctly-spelled, appropriately-punctuated paragraphs.
The test was miserable. It was two and a half hours of nervous mumbling and restless shifting and hovering teachers trying to prevent computer glitches. I'll say this for my little troopers: they hung in. For two and a half long, grueling hours, they scribbled, erased, typed, backspaced, searched for commas, searched their souls, and filled up computer screens. I am ashamed to say I wasn't sure they had it in them.
Their teacher, on the other hand, had to pee. Which made two and a half hours seem like five.
Eventually, my little group completed their tests and I was permitted to release them onto the playground, where fingers that only moments ago were "about to fall off" became recharged with spring air and gripped swing chains. Birds sang and pebbles flew from under scuffing sneakers. The kids were once again permitted to be kids. For fifteen minutes, anyway.
And their teacher was permitted to run to the bathroom.
Afterward, I picked up one of my younger, as-yet-un-writing-assessed children and got him ready for inclusion. One of my inclusion periods is a P.E. class in which I provide behavior support, which means I get to watch nineteen first-graders circle the gym at high speeds and bounce basketballs off each other's heads. I'm not exactly sure some days whose behavior I'm supposed to be supporting, but we've all come through it alive and well so far.
Because of make-up picture day in the gym, though, today we were supposed to be going to the art classroom instead. I had my charge next to me and the other eighteen P.E. students behind him in a line. We made it halfway to the art room when their regular ed teacher popped out of her classroom and announced, "The gym's free. They're supposed to be going there now."
"Oh. Okay." So I turned the line around and walked them back up the hall to the gym (which is, of course, at the furthest point possible from the art room). Sneakers squeaked on linoleum and little voices whispered. My own charge walked next to me because he so doesn't do lines.
But there was no gym teacher in the gym.
So I turned the nineteen restless children around and headed them back down the hall. This time, there was a lot more whispering and muttering -- bad, since a few students from another group were still finishing up the writing assessment. I worked on getting the children quiet without raising my own voice -- quite a feat, to telepathically tell nineteen children to quiet down, but it seemed to work -- and took them back toward the art room.
Halfway there, their regular ed teacher met us in the hall again. "The gym teacher's on her way."
Oh. So back up the hallway we went toward the gym. The whispers grew like wind in the trees. My telepathy failed me and I had to clear my throat several times, but we managed to stay quiet, and my own little charge handled this string of changed plans quite well. He was still calm and seemed to think the whole thing was rather funny.
The gym teacher met us in the gym and announced, "I'm so glad everyone's finished testing!"
I broke the news to her, gently, that there were still a few students testing, and she informed me that we weren't supposed to be in the gym if there was testing going on in the building because we make too much noise. So we lined them all back up and we walked them back down the hallway toward the art room. By this time, half the class period was over.
The gym teacher walked at the beginning of the line and I brought up the rear with my little charge. Just as we at the caboose passed the computer lab, the exhausted computer teacher burst into the hallway and announced:
"DONE! Thank God!"
Oh, Lord Jesus.
I signaled the gym teacher and we stopped our line, turned them around again, and marched them back to the gym. The gym teacher permitted them to skip their exercises and just play a well-earned game of duck-duck-goose, since they'd already gotten their workout marching up and down the hallway.
Ten short minutes later, gym class ended and I returned the first-graders to their teacher. My little charge and I retreated to our classroom.
"That was a fun gym class," he said, kicking off his gym sneakers and pulling on his street shoes. "I liked that gym class."
I gave him a smile and sat him down with a phonics box, more than a little tired. At least he enjoyed the confusion! I guess it's a matter of perspective.
My little positive-thinker worked on the phonics box silently for a while, matching plastic objects to the pictures they rhyme with. Then I heard a small, worried giggle, and I approached him.
"Everything going all right?"
He held up a plastic plum and a plastic pear. "What rhymes with mango?"
I don't think I even knew what a mango was till I was twenty, but here this child thought both the plum and the pear were mangoes. Worn out as I was, this struck me as beautiful.
I nudged the plastic ants off of the card with the picture of two people dancing. "Tango," I told him. "Tango rhymes with mango." Because we can work on fruit tomorrow. Today, I'm going to try to see things the way he does.