Get thee to a first grade classroom!

Thursday/Friday was my last Advisee Outing & Service Day at Carolina Friends School (CFS). The staff had decided last year at our end of year meetings that it made more since to combine the advisee outing and service day in the spring since we did service with advisee groups anyways. Plus, many of us overnighted on trips that required us to travel to far off places -- trips that usually meant leaving school at noon to make sure that traveling all of that way seemed a worthwhile event.

My group was slated to go camping. Eight advisee outings I've now done and I've never taken my own group camping -- wanted to knock that out on this one. But, we couldn't get our act together -- and I guessed that it just wasn't in the cards.

We ended up overnighting at the school, along with three other groups who had decided that traveling a ways away was for the birds. We had a grand time Thursday afternoon and evening. We went to see Monsters vs. Aliens 3D (believe it or not, it was worth the $8 tickets...), went out to eat at Red Robin, got to play Bear and dodgeball with other groups, and even got to stargaze a bit on the soccer field.

The talk of the middle school Thursday night, however, was Nick and Crispin's hammocks. My group slept in one room, but the boys wanted to sleep in their hammocks -- and low and behold -- they figure out how to string them up in the hallway of the middle school and slept there! I'll get a picture of them and get it up here soon.

I woke up groggy and a bit grumpy when my alarm went off at 6:30a on Friday morning. I hadn't slept well (I don't normally sleep well when I overnight with kids and sleeping on the floor?!) and wasn't looking forward to the lukewarm shower in the Guys Lockerroom up at the gym. But by the time I was flipping bacon in the pan and waking up the rest of the group (and seeing how groggy and grumpy they were) the more and more I perked up. I even recall saying to one of my kids, "Come on! If you have to be up anyways -- why not be happy and cheery and a morning person, ya know?!"

If it weren't for the help of my advisee parents, the outing would never have happened. I neglected to request a bus in time, which meant that we relied solely on the wheels of parents to move us around from point A to point B. This meant Coleman (Crispin's mom) got us to the movie, Ginger (Carrie's mom) got us to dinner, and Camille (Anthony's mom) took us to Burlington and back on Friday.

Camille and I loaded up the groggy, grumpy kids into our cars and headed to Burlington. On the last service day (back in the fall) I arranged it so that my kids could visit and work with my mom's first graders. It is something I love to do -- connect older kids with younger kids -- because I think it does them both a world of good. The younger ones get some good heroes and people to look up to (and can hopefully realize that they will, indeed, one day become as big and as old as those middle schoolers). The middle schoolers get relive their first grade years, and get to show and use some of that education we've been trusting they've been getting. :)

My kids actually asked if we could go back and work with my mom's first graders for this service day! And a sidenote -- my mom teaches at my old elementary school... in the room that I had second grade in! Ha! It's SO weird going back!

We got to Elon Elementary around 9:30 on Friday -- and worked solid until we left at 2:15. We read with the first graders, we played PE with another class of young ones, we unpacked and organized the school book fair, we ate lunch with them, we played during playground time, we supported them in their math lesson and finally helped them in their science time. And even after all of this -- my kids were asking me if we could stay longer!

What I most want to convey in this post is the magic that I saw happening in my mom's first grade classroom. The magic of the first grade... the magic of my kids with the first grade... It is incredibly humbling to stand back and watch a skilled first grade teacher work with a class. We think we've got it hard in the middle school! And to top it all off -- the day we came to visit my mom's class was her student teacher's last full day of teaching the kids. She was very, very good - and she is going to be a fantastic teacher.

But back to the magic. I think that everyone, after about the age of 9 or 10 all the way up through adulthood, should have to go and spend a day every year in a kindergarten or first grade classroom. Go back and feel what's like. Go back and relive how you learned your social cues and how to follow directions. Go and feel what it's like to struggle to read. To REALLY struggle! Help the children sound out their words... watch as they see a word and recognize what it is. You can see the fireworks go off in their brains in their eyes!

I wonder... do any adults remember learning how to read? I have no idea. I guess I was just born knowing how! (HA!)

It was in watching my kids work with these first graders as they learned I think maybe the most important skill we can teach them that I realized I love learning. I just love it. I love watching it, hearing it, being around it, doing it, reading about it, learning about it... find another verb and follow it with "it." I love technology and how you can use it to help learning. I watched these children find the joy in learning... a joy I've forgotten and I think my own middle schoolers had forgotten as well.

I think that's why my kids asked to come back. I think that's why they wanted to stay longer. The joy that the kids bring to life and to learning.

So, get thee to a first grade classroom! Find the joy! What are you going to learn today??

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