Purple Barns 101

Yesterday we were doing a lesson on visualizing during reading. Good readers visualize, don't you know?

A lesson I have used for the last 2 years uses a paragraph from the book Charlotte's Web. It involves a barn and a great description of the smell and look of the barn - including some words/items in the text that the students may not have ever seen or experienced. I typically either leave out some of the harder items (harness dressing), but still use it as it creates a great visual.

The one thing that I didn't count on was made clear in our discussion of their drawings of their "mind movie."

One of the students went into great detail about this magnificent barn:
He started with:
"It was huge, I'm imagining the size of our quad (our building), and it has a top that is rounded like this." He showed his image. He was on a roll, but I wanted more. I started asking questions about his barn that he hadn't included.

"Wow - a huge barn with a rounded top! I'm starting to see one in my head now, too! What color is your barn?"


Purple. Suddenly I became very aware at what I was missing. These kids don't know barns. They know fictional barns painted in bright colors in various books. They know underwater barns on SpongeBob or some other show they stare at. However, they probably have not ever seen a real barn. Perhaps some of them remember a field trip way back in Kindergarten. Most not. Most weren't even in our country in Kindergarten.

Shame on me for forgetting my audience.

So, adding to the curriculum (a common occurrence in my classroom) - Barn 101. (Not to include cartoon barns).


Bug Lover

I have not seen my class for 2 weeks. Actually, I haven't even seen my classroom in that time. We have been on Spring break and Intersession during the past couple of weeks. So, most of my students started back last Monday with Intersession (optional) classes - while I have continued to nurse my sanity and mentally prepare for a very long fourth quarter.

Bug Lover, the student I have spent so much time in the office with (for various reasons) - the student I have gotten to know so well - the student I have monitored so closely in social situations because of his impulsive urge for inappropriate behavior...

has moved. Out of our school district. In the midst of a school year. For the 2nd time in his school career.

His parents threatened this when they found out about some of their son's behaviors in school. They told us (admin, counselor, and myself) that his behavior was the result of our Nation's culture. His inappropriate touching and (perfect) use of words FAR out of his age-range was, to his parents, caused by television, peers, and the general environment.

When the behaviors escalated, they (unknowingly to me) told Bug Lover that if he continued, they (his family) would not love him any more. Would not LOVE HIM ANYMORE. So, after another incident, when I was walking & talking on our way to the office and he realized where I was taking him - he began sobbing and had tremors so bad I thought he was seizing or something awful.

If the threat of your parents not loving you, which clearly was significant for him (as it would be for anybody), could not control your impulses - then guess what - maybe your impulses have a deeper root and you can not actually control them.

The parents didn't believe this. We suggested counseling. We gave contact information. We pleaded. Pleaded. I adore this student, and it was breaking my heart that he needed this help and we could not give it to him. We couldn't force his parents to get him the help either.

And then it came out.

The parents next threat. Not only did they tell Bug Lover they would not love him... but they told him that if the behaviors continued that they would send him (alone, by himself, without his family) back to Ethiopia to stay with strangers (family that he has never met).

That was 2 months ago.

Previously the parents had moved Bug Lover out of another school for similar behaviors, which is why he ended up in ours. That was in 3rd grade.

Our admin, counselors, myself, and other teachers have put so much effort into turning this into a success for Bug Lover. Something he can learn from, something he can learn to express in appropriate ways. He is so smart, and his addition to my classroom is imperative for us to function. We are all a team, and he plays a very important part. His classmates were accepting and trying to help (after many class discussions), and were being amazingly supportive - and quite frankly - pretty amazing friends to Bug Lover.

Then, last night, I received an email from one of my students. It was simple, and it said :

Bug Lover moved away on Friday.

They moved him. They pulled him out of a school that was working so hard to make it happen for him, a school that surrounded him with support... and they didn't even get his stuff. There is a full desk waiting for me when I get back.

I'm already plotting how that full desk will result in me finding out where he went - so that, you know, I can return that stuff. Because I'm oh-so-concerned about getting him his math notebook.

Or maybe because I want closure. Or follow up. Or for him not to fall through the cracks and to not get the help he desperately needs.

Moving will not change the behavior or the root of it. I wish the parents would have understood that when we spoke those words in every meeting.

They have moved their son. For the same reason that they moved him last year.

I think I'm just shocked. Sudden movement... so strange.


When in Rome...

No, I'm not in Rome. But I do live within a relative driving distance of the Nation's Capital. So, well, while I have grown up here, I have NEVER really explored DC. I have been to the Capitol Building once, when I was young... and had only ever been to a Smithsonian Museum in my early 20's (besides the Air & Space). So, my DC exploration was very limited.

I have never been inside of the White House. OR the Washington Monument, for that reason.

Well, on Friday I am going to use the last day of my vacation to go on a guided tour of the White House and the Capitol. I am psyched, and have spent a good portion of my day reading up on the history of both locations.

In all of my excitement, there is only one thing I keep thinking....

how starry-eyed my students would be if they were there.

The responsibilities of teaching includes sharing experiences that most of my students have not had or may never have in their lifetime. I can't wait to tell them all about this.