occupy the classroom

Since the start of this year, I have been spending 2 mornings a week in H’s classroom. Two other parents of children in the class have been ‘occupying’ as well, so that every morning, someone else is in the classroom. I had thought I’d be reading books to the kids, helping them with writing, and bringing some fun activities into the classroom. I quickly realized that more than academic support, they need emotional support.

The morning agenda appears consistent — Morning Meeting followed by Readers Workshop. In this f’d-up world, “meeting” means we listen to the teacher reprimand this one and that one for not sitting still, talking to whoever their sitting next to, getting distracted by the block shelf, and other typical 5-6 year old behaviors. This lasts anywhere from 20-45 minutes, depending on how many children she put into time outs or if she needed to take someone into the hall.

Readers Workshop is also a joke. This lasts more than an hour, until lunch, with absolutely no learning happening in the room at all. They separate into 5 groups, and each group is supposed to do some sort of lame writing or letter recognition activity. The children either finish their projects or get bored pretty quickly, if not immediately, and then what I call the “free for all” part of the morning begins. Having 5 groups and 3 adults means 2 groups are unsupervised, so the children slowly peel off their activities to make their own entertainment. It is impossible to contain them all.

I break up fights. I take kids for walks in the hall to cool off. I listen to things they tried to tell the teacher but she didn’t take time to understand. I tell them I love the pictures they drew of themselves instead of playing their 5th round of Alphabet Bingo. I praise them for trying to write “scooby doo” on their own. I mediate disagreements about who gets to use the red marker. I read books while they sit as close to me as they can. I talk to them about what they like and don’t like. I often have someone sitting in my lap.

We need to do better than this in our classrooms. Occupy!

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