Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Grade Philosophies of Life

As many of you know, while getting my second degree I am working as a Special Ed Para-educator. This year I have the privilege of working in a mainstream first grade class room. Because of the needs of the student I work with I am at lunch and all recesses with all 3 first grade classes and I am completely smitten with them. At first I missed the classroom I worked in last year, but now I couldn't imagine myself being anywhere else. Every day I receive hugs, stories, spontaneous performances and get to struggle opening 400 different "easy-open" lunch containers. (I'm fairly certain this skill alone qualifies me for grad school.)  During this time I have discovered that first graders are pretty much the most delightful people around and have decided to share their life philosophies with you.

1. Why walk when you can skip, run, twirl and bounce? It is impossible for a first grader to go into a hallway, cafeteria, gym, or playground at anything less than full speed. Even getting up from a desk chair to walk the 10 feet to the bathroom involves some kind of skipping...or at least a few gallops along the way.  It seems cruel to tell them to walk. It would be like stomping on their enthusiasm. It is not possible to skip, gallop or twirl without feeling happy. The other day I decided to embrace this joyful mode of transportation and galloped around the kitchen. My daughter Kristen was watching me from the couch. "Wow, Mom. How's it going?" "Good!" I said. She watched me for another few minutes as I galloped from place to place making dinner, and then said, "You're going to be a really fun grandma someday." (Okay...confession time: It is just possible that this is not the first time that I have galloped around the kitchen. It may happen on a regular basis and occasionally branches out to the living room and hallway. And yes, I am mentally stable.) You should try it - especially if you're feeling a little grumpy. The embarrassment you'll feel as you gallop around your house will bubble up into actual happiness....after all, have you ever seen a grumpy skipping child? (Plus, think of the calories you'll burn!)

2. Share your talents with everyone....all the time. Hardly a recess goes by without some kind of performance. Today, 3 girls came up to me and announced they had written a play and wanted to perform for me. Awesome. Here is the play in its entirety:

Girl 1: (Said VERY dramatically) It's a beautiful day today.
Girl 2: (Said VERY loudly...volume=good acting) Yes, a good day for a picnic.
Girl 3: (Stretches out arms) Yes, a very good day for a picnic.

This is the whole play. I applauded enthusiastically. Don't be fooled by its simplicity. I plan to spend some time delving into its' deeper meaning. I think there's something there.

Another boy told me about his hip hop class and invited me to attend class with him. I told him his teacher may not want any grown up students, but I'm sure he has cool moves. "Do you want to see my moves?" he asked. "Absolutely!" I exclaimed. He then busted out a pretty sweet hip hop routine. After clapping, I said, "That was amazing." "I know," he said, "I'm pretty good." (More of us should feel this way about what we do.)

There is frequent singing of original compositions, demonstrations of cub scout skills, cheer leading, even a lesson in archery. (Minus the bow and arrows...more of a hypothetical archery lesson.) I would find great joy in one of my friends walking up to me and asking if they could show me their moves. I myself have no moves, but I would attempt to come up with some kind of rap...or maybe a quick cooking demonstration... or talk about my love of the oxford comma. I'm going to have to work on this one.

3. Trust your instincts. First graders do things with absolute confidence. Case in point: The other day we were having a language arts test in class. The students' papers only contained the multiple choice answers and the teacher would read the questions. As I looked over at one boy's test I saw that he had gone ahead and filled in an answer for a question we hadn't gotten to yet. I told him he needed to erase it and wait until the teacher read that question. He then explained that he had a feeling that the letter "g" would be the answer to that question and wanted to leave it. I again told him to erase it and wait. He said, "Michelle, you've got to trust me....this is going to be the answer." The teacher than asked the students, "What letter makes the last sound in the word 'big?'" The boy turned to me with a huge smile on his face and I burst out laughing...he was right!

4. Tell people when you need a friend. Today during recess a student came and quietly stood next to me. I greeted him and asked if he needed anything. "I just needed to be near you." he said. (Pretty much the best compliment ever.) "You can hang out with me anytime." I said. "Sometimes, you just need a friend." he told me. So, we stood there, side by side, not talking. After a few minutes he said, "I think I'm ready to play again." I patted him on the back and he skipped away. This is a philosophy adults (and teens) should adopt. We all try to act like we have everything under control and can take care of things ourselves, as if there is shame in needing. Many years ago my sister and I were talking (giggling) on the phone and decided we should write a song entitled "How Dare You Try and Help Me Out." I think people would totally relate.

5. Eat dessert first. I wasn't sure I should let the cat out of the bag on this one. I feel like I'm breaking some unspoken agreement with the kids...but they all eat their desserts first. Those carefully peeled and sliced up apples and baby carrots often end up in the trash with a half eaten sandwich...but dessert is never wasted. Somehow these children keep up their skipping and running regimen fueled only by cookies and chocolate milk. The only item in lunch to be discussed or envied is the dessert. At the beginning of lunch all of the kids unpack their lunchboxes and check out what everyone is having. Is your child having trouble making friends...dessert is the answer. Your child will soar to "cool" status if you have tossed a frighteningly preserved Hostess, or Little Debbie treat into their lunch. Really want to make an impression? A pastry or leftover birthday cake can't be beat. Unfortunately, I don't think I can adopt this philosophy...I wouldn't remain so joyful fueled on by sugar alone...but I wish I felt this excited about my lunch. Can't you picture the faculty in the teacher's lounge eagerly comparing salads? Oooooo...croutons and bleu cheese?! Your mom's the best.