Over the past several weeks, Lower School and Preschool teachers have “walked as a child” from morning carpool until afternoon pick-up. Last Friday, Mrs. Sue Rittenberg, Preschool and Lower School Learning Specialist, spent the day as a fourth grader.
She describes her day walking a child in her own words:
“Lightning-fast. Eye-opening. Way more fun than any school day I remember.”
And if she were to let us peek into her journal or diary, fourth-grader-Sue describes her day from the point-of-view of a Walker student.
After socializing at my table in Gatti Hall, everyone lines up, quickly, to get upstairs. The day starts fast, and the pace is set.
There’s an easy flow to that first organizational piece of dropping off homework and writing down assignments. Teachers have us programmed well to get assignments from the white board — some sit at a desk, but others sit on the floor right in front of the white board. (Probably would have been me in fourth grade!) There’s a quiet hum as students hold up their hands to have assignments signed off by Mrs. Mulroy. At precisely 7:55 a.m., we are hearing the next chapter read out loud from a great novel she’s reading to the class. Must be great to have your own “book on tape” installment every morning.
First class is a social studies test. Wow, Mrs. Jackson has quiet music playing when we walk into the room. (My brain sure feels calmer just having that music in the background.) And I can’t believe how helpful she is when she hands out the test. She actually tells us which key words to highlight for the first four questions. Even better, on the second page, she draws the picture we went over in class to remind us of the details for that Mayflower Compact question. And she tells us to come up to her desk and say, “I have a question about this question.” Some kids go ask questions…it’s no big deal, and makes a big difference if I don’t understand how the question is worded.
Now we move to math class. I’d probably feel a lot differently about math if I had Ms. Ahmed as a teacher in fourth grade. She’s always saying things like, “I’m not that fast with my multiplication facts…can someone tell me how they would get that answer?” or “Numbers are easy, it’s the words that get in the way — let’s walk slowly through the words.” A classmate said that she didn’t understand the reason zero wasn’t a prime number and, get this, Ms. Ahmed said, “I don’t like that reason either, and I’m going to come back with a better reason on Monday and share it with you guys.” It’s super safe to raise your hand in here, and you don’t have to be certain you have the exact right answer!
Back to English class to work on our personal narratives. I really didn’t know what a “hook” was, but now I get it — it’s how to trick the reader by saying something funny, or using dialogue, or maybe a contrast — and then they’ll read the whole piece of writing, even the parts that aren’t that exciting. Mrs. Mulroy is awesome at saying things over and in a different way — until we get it. (Should probably go back and rework the hook to this piece.)
Finally, it’s recess and then lunch — then PE. No one complains about running 4 laps right after lunch, probably because Coach Brady just makes everything FUN, even all the conditioning drills! (Those fourth grade arms were much stronger than mine doing the 5 pull ups following a full minute of sit-ups).
What better way to end the day than to have Science with Mrs. Waddington and Mrs. Mullins? When Mrs. Waddington said we were having a quiz, I thought “Oh, great.” But guess what? She had us work with a partner and make up our own quiz! That’s more fun, but actually not that easy. We had to make up easy, medium and hard questions — plus a bonus question. And we had to figure out the answers for every question. Science goes by way too fast—all the kids say that!
Now, quickly check the books we need for homework, listen for our carpool number, and down the steps to carpool circle!!!
What an incredible, amazing experience this was. I really can’t begin to describe what these teachers are able to pack into a day. Tomorrow, I’d love to be a first grader…then a Kindergartner…and then….second grade…and then…
What did I learn about Walker from this experience walking as a child?
- Students feel so respected and are constantly encouraged to ask questions or make comments on other’s answers by agreeing or disagreeing.
- Critical thinking takes place in EVERY class — students are asked to discover answers on their own, or better yet — come up with the questions. Students simply don’t have the chance to “sit back.”
- Learning strategies are being taught in so many ways and naturally incorporated into how students ask for help, how to use resources, and how to walk through a test.
- Being in the classroom, it’s easy to feel how much these teachers care about each student — encouraging someone to ask a question that they haven’t heard from yet or authentically commenting on what a great connection was just made.
- These kids should be TIRED when they get home — they are going nonstop, and it moves fast!!!
About the Author: Mrs. Sue Rittenberg, M.A., is the Preschool and Lower School Learning Specialist. She is in her seventh year at The Walker School and is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist.