Tag Archives: elementary school

Some days require flowers

I spent a lot of time last week pondering the situation at Columbia–the teachers are tired, the kids are traumatized. Thursday would be open house, a longer than usual day for the staff. What could I do to make it any better? The idea of flowers popped into my head. I had done that a few years ago, taking flowers to the teachers in their classroom, and the kids enjoyed them as much as the adults. Perhaps I could do that again. Fortunately, Whole Foods had enough of their little bouquets that come in their own vase.

While picking up the flowers, I had to step aside for a moment and let another customer choose ahead of me. She saw me getting flowers and thought it was a good idea for her plans, but then found out I was taking seven of the bouquets. I told her to choose hers first and I would take the others. We talked about what I was doing with so many bouquets, and she was pleased to know that there were people looking out for teachers.  Or at least trying to. “Teachers need more appreciation.”

The teachers were quite pleased with the flowers, as were some of the students. A few of the kids thanked me during lunch time for bringing THEM flowers. Knowing these teachers, they are sharing the pleasure of getting flowers with these little ones. One of the teachers nearly cried when I handed the flowers to her. “No one has ever done this before.”

The long-term sub who seemed to be at the end of her rope the day before couldn’t quite figure out why I was delivering a bunch of flowers. She was almost hesitant to accept them. I could she was wondering what this was all about.

“I want you to know how much you are appreciated for doing this hard work.”

She was able to stammer a “thank you,” and I disappeared out the door. I just hope it made her feel a bit better about where she is working. Some days require flowers.

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The inability to meet all requests

While standing in the office at Columbia yesterday, waiting for my agreed-upon time to go read to the second graders, I talked with a fifth grade boy who was also waiting, waiting to cool down and regain his composure before returning to class. The current fifth graders are the first group of kids I read to, when they were first graders.

Boy:  (after telling me why he was in the office) Who are you reading to today?

Me:  One first grade class and one second grade class. I’m going to be able to read to all the second graders this year because there are only three first grade classes. When you were in first grade there were five first grade classes.

Boy:  How come you don’t come read to the fifth graders?

Me.  Because I’m old.

The end of another school year

When I walked out the door of that large, inner-city high school eight years ago, with no misgivings, no qualms, just joy to be done with a long career in education, I had NO intentions of going back to any school building. God sat back, chuckled, and said, “We’ll see about that.”

MY plans were to be done with the classroom. I didn’t want to be retired, just refitted for another career, but not one in education. I could see myself working for a nonprofit, doing marketing work like events and social media. Contacting potential donors and working with current supporters. Those were areas where I wanted to put my talents to work. Once more, God chuckled.

On Thursday I again walked out of a school, this time an inner city elementary school, finishing four years of work as the school chaplain, but with every intention of returning to that school in September. Eight years ago I didn’t even know there was such a thing as school chaplain. I certainly didn’t plan to ever work with elementary students. My plans were for the big city with big people.

Those small children have won my heart. They need me and what I bring to their school each week. A story, a hug, a smile, a sticker, a reassurance that they are special. It’s small stuff, but I believe it’s making a big difference. There are now 34 school chaplains, spread out over the city. We all have these amazing stories of small children, and even some of the adults, finding meaning in what we do each week. As I’ve often said for myself, and I believe the other chaplains would agree, we put on the uniform and show up and let God do the heavy lifting.

Next school year, my fifth as chaplain, the first class of first graders I saw will be fifth graders. I would very much like to reconnect in some way with those kids. Although they occasionally see me on the school grounds and say hi and give me a hug or ask for a sticker, I would like to do more for them. Remind them of some of those lessons learned long ago in first grade, and reinforce the resiliency they will need as they head to middle school.

People and their money

There is a small piece in today’s newspaper about a paper cup allegedly used by Elvis Presley six decades ago in Oklahoma that is up for auction, and bids have surpassed $1,200. The things people will spend their money on.

Today’s paper also reports a banquet at the current president’s Florida estate that will cost $100,000 per couple to attend. I would almost like to see who these foolish people are, but not enough to check into it. I could do so much with $100,000, and it wouldn’t be for this event.

At the beginning of the school year I purchased packages of socks and underwear for Columbia to have on hand for kids who had accidents. They could quickly change and go back to class rather than wait for a parent to bring a change of clothing, many of whom never arrive. I also brought in many pairs of pants for the same reason.

Yesterday I checked with the home liaison about the supply of these provisions and learned that the girl’s underwear and pants were all gone. Could I bring some more? I stopped at Target on the way home and found a variety of sizes of underwear in the clearance section. No luck with pants that were really inexpensive for my retired teacher’s budget, so next week I will go to Salvation Army and look for more. I can get a señior discount on Tuesdays.

So, that $1,200 for a cup once used by Elvis? I’d use it to buy clothing and supplies for kids. That $100,000 for a ticket to supp with the current president? I’d use it to update the school library’s books and make sure every teacher had books in their classroom.

Another tale of two classes

On Wednesdays I read to two classes right after lunch at Columbia. The first class was antsy as they lined up to go back to class. One little girl was a puddle of tears so I had her stand by me until the teacher arrived to escort the kids to their room. Although this class is usually rambunctious, the teacher gets them calmed down once back in the room and gets them ready for Mrs. Zody’s story. Today, they were having none of it.

One boy complained, over and over, that he had forgotten his sack lunch in the room, the teacher wasn’t there when he tried to get it, and he had to eat the school lunch which he didn’t like. He wanted his lunch from home. NOOOOOWWWW.

Another boy had not used lunch recess to use the restroom and so made a big issue about having to use the restroom NOOOOOWWWWW.

One of the more troublesome girls said she didn’t want to hear a story. That got a few others saying the same thing. When they wouldn’t be quiet, I told them I didn’t have to read a story and would leave. Which I did. I follow through on what I say I will do.

Since I am usually arriving at the second classroom around 12:30, the teacher was a bit surprised to see me at 12:15, but she welcomed me in, finished up her lesson, got the students seated on the floor, and they loved the story, Tacky the Penguin. There are lots of silly parts, which they laughingly joined in on. They were so well behaved that they got two stars on their star chart and are almost ready for another prize, their fourth one this school year. A couple of other classes have only gotten one prize thus far.

Although I did little to exert myself, I am home, sitting on the couch, weary of such turmoil in the school. As I departed through the front office, one of the first graders in a class I will see tomorrow, was sitting there, in timeout. Two pre kindergartners were brought in for fighting. PRE kindergarten, mind you! I can only surmise that the home life of these little ones is chaotic and disruptive, thus causing them to bring the same chaos and disruption to school.

Another way to handle discipline

This post is a continuation from yesterday’s when I ranted about seeing too many students in the office at Columbia Elementary.

The principal and I had been having a chat about a grant that Southwest Fresno is getting (that’s where Columbia is located) and she had asked me to sit in on some meetings to discuss how the monies would be used. As I step out of her office, there sits a small boy whom I recognize from my travels around the campus. When he sees me, he looks away, hoping to be invisible. I go over, sit down next to him, and start chatting. It’s a kindergartner and he’s “in trouble.”

“What did you do?”

“I punched Philip in the stomach.”

“Oh, dear. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to do.”

“He called me @&($#.” I won’t say the word and am not even going to type it. 

“So, you punched him?” He nods his head.

“You know, there are better ways to handle that. He shouldn’t be calling you such bad names, but hitting him is not the answer. You need to tell Philip that you don’t allow people to talk to you like that. I don’t allow anyone to say things like that to me. I stand up to them and tell them not to say that. If they continue, I walk away. You need to walk away and tell a teacher.”

Mrs. Brown, the principal is listening to this, nodding. She walks back in her office and I continue this chat with the little guy. I’m thinking the whole time, why didn’t the adults in charge have this talk with the two boys? How did it end up with one in the office and other one no where to be seen? Both boys should be there to work this out.

By now it’s time for me to go to lunch with the first graders so I tell this little guy he will have to wait for Mrs. Brown to bail him out. I don’t know what she did after I left, but I’m sure she was like me, this should never have made it to the office but rather been handled right where the “crime” took place. I don’t think the other boy, who fired the first “shot,” will be changing his ways any time soon, and the hostilities will just be simmering.

 

Seeking sunshine & better days

The weather here has matched my mood–gloomy. We’ve had more rain this month than ever in Januarys past.

Although we need the water, the cold and gloomy days have not made me happy. Every time a storm front blows in or out, and the air pressure changes, the migraines hit. I’ve used more imitex this month than ever in Januarys past.

The third graders at Columbia have been asking me to come have lunch with them. The only way that is possible is to add an extra day to my schedule. On Tuesday this week, and hopefully for the next few weeks, i’m making a point of getting to Columbia for lunch with the bigger kids. Wednesday and Thursday are set aside for the first graders.

So many of the third graders (who were the first students I read to when I started as school chaplain two years ago) want to sit with me at lunch. We run out of room at the table. I took lots of stickers and puzzle pages but ran out before lunch was over. I will have to get more for next week. The cafeteria manager told me that there were more kids in attendance on Tuesday than any other day this year. She could only attribute it to the sunshine.

Next week is the 100th day of school. I have a special book to read and special stickers for the children to wear stating they are 100 days smarter. We celebrate all kinds of things in first grade!  But I find the fifth and sixth graders like this stuff, too.

Here is some elementary school fashion to make you smile. These shoes sure brightened my day: