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September 2013 | Volume 55 | Number 9
Beyond the Open-Door Policy
Spending a full day with K–2 students gave Larry Fliegelman, principal of Wolcott Elementary School in Vermont, an even greater appreciation for his dedicated and (literally) tireless staff. Here's his firsthand account.
My day started with a few minutes in my office to put my things down, then off I went.
Some students were at breakfast; some were still filtering in. I tried to engage [a student] to no avail until the teacher suggested that we use the blocks. Things took off from there. We built towers that hardly stood long enough to admire. When some other boys arrived, I refereed the use of the blocks.
Once everyone arrived, the teacher reviewed the calendar before singing the good morning song. From there we moved on to a "Fundations" lesson introducing three letters. I was in awe of the teacher's ability to work with 15 squirmy 5-year-olds.
School was only 75-minutes old, and I was already a bit tired.
The 1st grade class was wrapping up a math lesson, and I wandered from kid to kid helping them write number sentences and turnaround equations. It was exciting to watch one student (whom I know in a disciplinary sort of way) work on the math and really get it.
At that point, the teacher asked me to participate in the next lesson as a student, not an educator. She asked me to sit between two kids that struggle with letters. We began the lesson by reviewing the letters covered the day before. The teacher brought out Baby Echo (an owl hand puppet) to help kids practice the sound of certain letters. Then, we all became skywriters: tracing the letters in the air to help us learn the shapes.
Two hours and 45 minutes into the day, I was really tired.
The 2nd grade teacher had asked me a few days earlier to teach a lesson so that she could finish some assessments with students. I entered the room armed with a National Geographic magazine from May about butterflies, my iPad, and three different worksheets from the magazine's teacher's guide. Just then, a student and the teacher looked at a book about bugs and declared that it was wrong. There was an error in a book! The teacher grabbed the moment and told kids that they would need to write to the publisher to point out the error.
So, I scrapped half of my lesson, fired up the iPad, and searched for info about monarch caterpillars to double-check the error. We found tons of fantastic images and information and still the book looked wrong. We also found some really "ugly" caterpillars.
Forty minutes, many butterfly facts, and tons of informational-text features later, I was pooped.
I admit that I cheated slightly here. I spent about 15 minutes at my desk before joining the kids for lunch.
After lunch and recess, I hung out with the 2nd grade again and listened to the teacher read to the class. I love to be read to.
My original schedule from this point on was PE and music with the 1st grade, then PE with the 2nd grade. Instead, the librarian was out, so I covered three, 30-minute read-aloud sessions in the library. It turns out that kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students can get a little wiggly toward the end of the day. Who knew? While managing the group, I was able to read a few pages of a book to each class. They tested my patience, and I passed the test!
Source: Adapted with permission from "Office Closed—K-2 for the Day. #NoOfficeDay," by Larry Fliegelman, 2011, Principal's Point of View. Retrieved from http://principalspov.blogspot.com/2011/09/office-closed-k-2-for-day-noofficeday.html. Copyright 2011 by Larry Fliegelman.
Copyright © 2013 by ASCD
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