Notes from a Teacher | Kids often the ones teaching the lessons

July 21, 2013 

Archie was sitting at my reading center writing words on the white board from the ever popular “at” family. He was working intently and then stopped to look at me. “Ms. Marsh, I know I told you the udder day that I was Asian American, but I was just kidding. I’m not really Asian American, I’m really vegan.”

“Oh!” I said, looking at him with wide eyes, anticipating his next move.

“Do you know what vegan is? Well, that’s OK, I’ll teach you. Vegan means that you don’t eat meat. So, I don’t eat meat. Well, ’cept hot dogs. I love hot dogs.”

“Of course you do,” I said matter-of-factly. “All vegans love hot dogs. And thanks for teaching me about vegans!”

As a teacher, I am a walking billboard extolling the virtues of lifelong learning. On a personal note, I find myself in situations daily that teach me one thing or another. While many of these lessons might be a tad painful now and then, most of them come wrapped in love and laughter. Regardless of their delivery, however, each lesson is a chance to learn and grow, even when you’re a seasoned veteran.

I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to teach summer reading camp this year and was so delighted to find myself right back in kindergarten. The children are all eager, delightful and very hard workers. I try hard to teach them strategies that will strengthen their reading, but I work even harder to make it fun. They, in turn, reward me with a nice amount of laughter and love each and every day.

And so, in keeping with the one important rule we all remember from kindergarten that “sharing is everything,” I share with you what I have learned this summer. (And by now I hope you’ve all learned to swallow that coffee before you continue.)

If you swim at the pool for two hours, your feet will get totally “pruny” and you will have boo boo’s all over your toes.

Firty plus firty is one hundred!

Some kids can read “without even looking at the words!”

Rubber bands are apparently important to top-secret science experiments. (Even if they accidentally go off and hit the teacher in the head.)

Apparently the Secret Spy Department recruits 6-year-old boys to be top-secret spies. Then, they send them to school with sunglasses that shoot deadly lasers at people. (A note to the Secret Spy Department: The teacher might force Agent Wild to keep said secret weapon in his backpack. We wouldn’t want him to accidentally blow anyone up at recess.)

Sometimes if you don’t know what to write in your journal, you can scribble and scribble and scribble and scribble. Those are called “freak out” pages. (“Everyone knows that, Miss Marsh!”)

Kids’ eyes turn very green when they work on science experiments at home; especially when it involves a powerful eye-regenerator. (Who needs to read when you’re working on that?)

If your teacher says, “I know you can hear me” while you’re still playing legos, you should probably not reply, “No, I can’t hear you!”

So, even though I’m teaching summer reading camp and attending various seminars on upcoming educational trends, strategies for differentiated instruction, peer coaching and literacy instruction, I still find that the most valuable learning comes from sitting on the carpet exchanging ideas and thoughts with an eager and wide-eyed child named Archie.

It’s Archie who reminds me of the greatest lesson of all: that what I do really does make a difference.

And it doesn’t ever get better than that.

Debbie Marsh is a first-grade teacher at Easterly Parkway Elementary School. She has loved getting to know her fabulous students in summer reading camp. She can be reached at drp11@scasd.org.

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