Yesterday, I got to do something I have wanted to do for a long time: go to my sister's First Grade classroom, and read to her kids.
She teaches in the same Elementary School we both attended in our own childhood, so it was really funny to see the original building, with it's multi-purpose cafeteria/auditorium (there was a huge addition done over 15 years ago, so they no longer have to use it as the school gym), the water fountains so low to the ground, the familiar walk down the corridor to what used to be the 5th & 6th grade wing but is now used for 1st & 2nd graders.
My sister is teaching 1st grade in MY old 6th grade classroom! She and her kids got a big kick out of that when we discovered it, as did I. I loved my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Janon. Here's a picture of me in my 6th grade class. Can you guess which one is me? (Hint: I think I was having a Wednesday Addams moment.) And OH MY GOD I just noticed the date this was taken: 1973. FORTY YEARS AGO! Holy time travel.
Let me just say that school teachers? Are HEROES. And that they should be pulling in 6-figure salaries for caring for and educating other people's kids all day long, 5 days a week, for 10 months out of the year. This bunch of 6-year olds was adorable and my sister has a very good class this year, but still -- they are 6! And she is outnumbered 22 to 1! And it's the week before Christmas! They are very excited! About EVERYTHING! And these kids have so much that they want to say to a visitor! "My birthday is Christmas Eve!" "I can say Merry Christmas in Spanish!" And yes, they talk in exclamation points! All! The! Time!
When I walked in, my sister had prepared them that I was coming and she had mentioned that I now live in France. So, I entered the room, and she had all the kids say hello to Miss Lisa. One sweet and très bien élevé girl even said, "How do you do, Miss Lisa?" I was floored by that, as I replied, "I am very well, thank you, honey." Who teaches their kids that caliber of good manners any more? THAT little girl's parents, apparently. I told my sister that next time she speaks to that child's mother, to tell her how impressed I was with her daughter's manners. Another little girl turned out to be the granddaughter of some neighbors who live around the corner from my mother, and the girl (and her parents of course) live in my sister's old house! (Yeah. It's a small town.)
To avoid a stampede onto the "reading rug", my sister called the kids over there in small groups. I noticed her voice gets a few notes higher in pitch around the kids, and I'm guessing that's to let herself be heard over their loud 6-year-old voices without having to yell. She picked out two Christmas-themed story books for me to read, both of which involved bears and one of which involved a pack of pesky trolls, which I actually quite liked (click the photo or text link if you want info on that book). I did a good job at reading to them, having (a) been coached in advanced by my sister about what NOT to do ("Don't give them any excuse to start talking in between pages or they will be off on some tangent!" which was excellent advice, as a few of them did try it), (b) I've read to many children, although not in a big group like this, and (c) I've had the excellent example to follow, of Georges reading to the Little Guy since he was only 6. It was a blast.
What really took me off guard was that they APPLAUDED after each book. That made me feel really good: What could be better than applause from a room full of 6-year-olds?
We also talked to them a little about France, brought out the globe to show them where France is locaed and where New Jersey is -- one boy had asked me if I took a plane to come to NJ, or did I drive (hee hee) -- and I taught them how to say Bonjour, Au Revoir and Merci (a few of them even knew how to say these words in French already!) Then I asked them if any of them knew any other languages. Of course there were a number of students who speak Spanish, but there was also a little boy who knew a few words in an African language; he was so shy, however, that he got up to whisper in my sister's ear instead of saying the words out loud to the class. So sweet, these little ones!
My sister was very creative in asking the kids questions after I read the books, to see if they retained anything at all from the stories, and they did pretty well, considering this was just before lunch and they were pretty keyed up.
I wish I could have taken a few photos from inside the building for posterity's sake, and to get a shot of my own old classroom, but there were children everywhere having lunch and walking the halls in their pajamas (it was school Pajama Day, and no one told me, and I felt embarrassingly overdressed in my jeans and sweater) so I wouldn't want to photograph other people's children without permission and I'm sure the school would never permit it anyway, and rightly so.
It was a short visit, but very, very gratifying. I hope I can do it again on some future trip. And a note to school boards everywhere: PAY THESE TEACHERS MORE MONEY, PLEASE! They ought to get combat pay for what they have to go through every single day.
What a lovely way to spend an hour on a Friday morning. Loved it!