By Adriana Randolph. 4th Grade Math. Published at Thursday, November 12th, 2020 - 06:32:13 AM.
As our children grow, their school situation continues to change. In addition to moving and changing schools we are also faced with in town school changes. We have found that by visiting the schools before school starts a lot of stress can be alleviated. Prior to kindergarten we not only did the whole visit with the teachers that the school asks you to do, we also walked around on a few weekends so that the school, playground and even the parking lot were really comfortable to my daughters. A few times, after school hours, we played in the playground which helped make even the playground a bit more comfortable when school began.
Holding On Its 11am and Im in my pajamas in my home office, trusty dog by my side, eating last nights Chinese off a wilted paper plate, baring my soul to thousands of strangers Im never going to meet on my mental health blog, strangers who are never going to think of leaving a comment despite all my soul-bearing posts. Still, writing is what Ive dreamed of doing for a living since the 4th grade. Its all thanks to my 4th grade teacher, Ellen Hillman (I include her whole name in case shes reading, you never know). She saw merit in my 4th grade stories and asked if she could read them to the class during our Friday reading circle. I recall my first thought like it was yesterday: but what if the class doesnt like them? To my amazement my friends enjoyed my unpolished efforts, and applauded my work. The class gasped when Mrs. Hillman revealed I had written the story-gasped! My little soul ablaze with hope. Maybe I was onto something here, something I could actually succeed at! Thanks to one teachers encouragement, Ive been writing, completely unschooled and rouge for a very long time. While working from home in your comfy p.j.s while being your most expressive, creative self may not sound like heaven to others, it is for me. Pure heaven on earth. Had I not continued to fiercely hold onto that dream over the years (the dream of making readers gasp), I might have found myself working in a high-rise, rat-maze cubical office, bitching about the watered-down coffee and impossible copy machine. Instead, Im my own boss, eating Chinese at 11am in my jammies-cozy and comfortable at home, doing what I do best, which is baring my soul. I believe holding onto your dreams is crucial to achieving deep contentment in life. What was it you wanted to be or do in 4th grade? How about when you were a teen or young adult, just getting a start in the world? What did you know you could be and do before the world told you you couldnt? The majority of people who love what they do, who relish every minute of their workday and who are living their passion will tell you they held onto their dreams for a long time before they succeeded the way they first envisioned. Success doesnt just happen, and it certainly doesnt happen overnight. Gone are the days where you could go to a corner soda shop in Hollywood, hang out and be "discovered." Due to the internet, the world is much larger nowadays, and competitions much steeper. However, your competition may be lacking in one crucial ingredient that you have, the one element that can set you apart from the rabid pack, and that is a prevailing persistence, complimented by a sprinkling of patience. Success will require that you master the art of determination.
Whatever the case may be, Im sad in a way that Ive checked that one off my list. Not because I didnt want to fix things with Elizabeth, but because I feel slightly older and like Im at the end of a magnificent book with only a few chapters left. I know that is not really true and that fifty is the new thirty, whatever that means. But maybe what it means is its time to make a new list, a more fun list. Maybe there are two life lists. The first part of your life and the first list you are cleaning up old issues and the second part of your life and second list are meant to have unencumbered fun. That thought makes me smile.
Have you seen that TV show, "Are you Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" The adult contestants compete to win dollars if they can answer typical 1st through 5th grade questions, and they get help from some 5th grade classmates. Rarely do the adult contestants win, and the questions include areas that most of us have long forgotten as we watch the energetic 5th grade classmates get the right answers almost every time. When the adult contestant misses a question it prompts the defensive shameful behavior that we learn along the way in life. In the rare instance that a 5th grader misses, they look reflective, perhaps disappointed, but move along to do better on the next question. My 4th grade girls have yet to learn how uncool it is to show your vulnerability or to be ashamed of how you might be different from others. They just are who they are, excited about life, and learning and full of curiosity and bright energy. I was reminded by the school counselor that just about all of that will change by the time they reach 6th grade. Im sure she is right. My hope is they will remember just a few things about being happy and staying curious to take into adulthood and for some, into meaningful leadership roles.
Moving to first grade meant moving away from the very secluded kindergarten classrooms and playgrounds. We spent a few different afternoons walking around the classrooms and visiting the new playground. When we discovered which classroom my child was in, we went there two or three times to make it comfortable to find and remember. Our school offers kindergartners the opportunity to buy hot lunch the very last two weeks of the school year so that the kids are comfortable with the cafeteria and lunch lines before they enter first grade. I made sure my daughters bought lunch several times in those two weeks so they could experience the new routine.
I was an inner-city classroom teacher in a new, open-space school, part of a 4th grade team consisting of 4 teachers and 100 students. Sixteen of our students could not read even at the 1st grade level. They were all boys, and of course, these students were the behavior problems. Within the first two weeks of school, many of them were spending more time in the office for behavioral referrals than in their classrooms. The instruction was not differentiated according to reading levels, so these students were learning very little in materials geared toward a 4th grade reading level. My background was Alternative Education, and my passion was working with students who were slipping through the cracks. I suggested to the other three teachers on the team, that if they were willing to increase their class sizes, I would take the 16 non-readers. The other teachers jumped at the opportunity, and the administrator approved. By the third week of school, I had been relocated to a small, self-contained room with the 16 non-readers.
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