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May 9, 2017 / sharoncopy

Wonderful students


That’s what I wrote on the whiteboard after half a day in Mrs. W’s 5th grade class at a Livonia school today. They were attentive, responsive, respectful, and kind, and they did their work as told. I got to teach them their math lesson and give them some background and side information that I thought might help their understanding of why we need and use graphs. I got to joke with them a bit. I taught reading and Social Studies – and I LOVE having a microphone. 🙂  A lot of classes have microphones for the teachers and students to use as necessary. As I read to them or gave directions, I hammed it up – using low bass voices, sound effects, high pitched tones and my “Best Actress” reading. It was FUN! When not enough students were volunteering to read, I started calling on the ones who were not volunteering. Passing the mic around helped a lot with the quieter students. No one balked at reading out loud. A few stumbled on a word or two and I helped them.

Then I worked in another 5th grade in the afternoon, and that went very well too. I monitored a Social Studies class for yet another 5th grade, and managed to remember the “info bag” when we had a surprise fire drill. We had five minutes to kill at the end of the day before we were allowed to get in line for the buses, so I asked if they wanted to learn – you guessed it – the “Pizza Hut Song”. 🙂 I have only done it with this age group once before, but they said “Yes” so – in five minutes we sang thru 3 stanzas twice (a little quickly the second time.) Out of the 26 10- & 11-year olds, I’d say that about half were enthusiastic, another 5 were mildly amused, and the others “wouldn’t be caught dead singing that.”

I am wondering. I worked at this school last year a lot. The fifth grades were always wonderful, but the sixth grades were so awful that I quit going there. So – I assumed that THIS year the sixth grades – being that they were awesome last year – would be awesome this year too. Not so! I worked with sixth graders a week or two ago, and they had a number of kids who were a real pain. But the fifth graders are great. So – I find myself wondering now – if there’s something about how the sixth grade TEACHERS conduct their classes that leads to the kids being sassier and more rebellious – or is it just that they are one year older – and the older kids in a 5th-6th grade only upper elementary?

I met another sub who is doing his doctorate on the Detroit Public School system and the reforms that are underway or on the way. I started telling him about my good education in the DPS, and about the earliest segregation – which I was there for – until my parents joined the white flight to a different area of Detroit. Another teacher in the lunchroom told about her education in the DPS system and also about her teaching experience, including at Noble School (where my brother Dennis and I started) and at Lessinger Jr. High (where my brother Dennis attended). She had a lot of stories to tell. We both gave him our contact info in case he wants to hear more – and I told about another friend of mine who just retired from teaching in the DPS a few years ago.

Something I learned: the schedule for our day at Dixon Elementary (Auburn and Tireman in Detroit – now a boarded up vandalized mess 😦  )  was called the Platform Method (or program?).  We had “homeroom” for half of the day, which included reading, writing, and social studies. During the other half, another class had “homeroom” with that teacher, and we would have four classes, passing from one to the next throughout the school. We had math and science every day, and we switched off gym, art, drama (called auditorium class), and music.        I asked the other teacher if she thought that system was better, and she said each has its benefits.  A big benefit was that there were dedicated math and science teachers for all of the kids grades 3-7.  Nowadays, in many schools, the teacher handles those and just sends the kids out for gym, music, art, and computer lab (although sometimes he/she teaches the latter also). There are some schools that do not have music or do not have art.    In the Livonia schools, there isn’t a Platform method, but most of the teachers swap with another teacher – usually Science for Social Studies, but sometimes also Math for Reading/Writing.   It lets people teach in their strongest areas.

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