Monday, March 2, 2009

kid stuff

Because the major thrust [she said 'thrust'!] of the public speaking class I teach is to get seniors ready & comfortable to present their culminating projects to community members, I've tried to plan more fun (less stressful & threatening) assignments to fill the rest of the time.

They have done the ever-lovable Introductions, some simple impromptus (cleverly disguised as games that require them to stand in front of the class and talk), and a Show & Tell involving something important to them [I'm kind of over snowboards, can I just say? But I'm pleased that they participated at all]. During the past week, they practiced storytelling techniques by reading picture books to each other. Then I arranged for them to visit the nearby elementary school and show their stuff.

Today, in honor of Read Across America Day, we were welcomed by two kindergarten classes and a third grade class. This was not only an opportunity for my students to improve their skills, it was a chance to remind our community that these kids are still hanging in there despite various roadblocks in their lives and that they're capable of doing good, smart things regardless of baggy pants and funky hair and piercings [I even wore a sweater revealing a significant portion of my tattoo as a sign of Renegade solidarity].

My students didn't quite believe me last week when I announced we would be in elementary classrooms today - I know this because 1) everyone showed up and 2) there were a few serious cases of nerves as I explained how they were divided and reviewed the No Hats and No Cussing rules. One boy was so furious with me for insisting he go that he stomped all the way over AND back, even though I watched him connect with the kids in his group during the reading. I continued to thank him throughout the day for going and each time he glared at me again, though I imagine him secretly enjoying the memory of his time in that class.

Another of our guys who likes to cultivate the Whatever attitude was utterly phenomenal in his dramatic, interactive reading of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig; one of our frequently ditsy girls stunned me by explaining how she started her time with the kindergartners by making sure they knew what an 'enemy' was before she started reading Enemy Pie. Everyone read to and chatted with their new biggest fans for 30+ minutes, even though most were sure at the beginning that it would be impossible, boring, and/or awful.

I barely avoided the dreaded Crying Teacher moment when I wrapped up our class by thanking them all for making the effort despite feeling embarrassed or nervous; I told them that their presence in those classrooms made a positive impression on the kids and their teachers, and for me to witness others being impressed & feeling proud of them was a blessing to me.

I want them to know that feeling every day. Every. Day.