Friday, December 11, 2009

What I've learned so far in First Grade

First Grade in public school has been an interesting learning experience. After the newness of a different school and schedule settled in, I started meeting Henry for lunch every Friday. I think we both look forward to this lunch date every week. And it's given me a peek into Henry's day that I would typically be clueless about. His school doesn't seem to be big on parents helping out in the classrooms so I don't have an excuse to go and hang out there during the day (beside which, I don't think my employer would be happy about that).

It's interesting to watch the dynamics between Henry and the rest of the kids. He definitely has some kids that he considers friends. And then other kids, he doesn't even know their name yet. Since he packs his lunch most days, he ends up sitting next to the same group of kids. They have pretty strict rules in the lunch room. You're not allowed to save seats and you have to sit next to whoever you are in line with. The kids that pack their lunch come in, grab their lunch box, and then sit down. Each class sits down one side of a long stretch of tables. If you are buying your lunch, you have to go and get in line and those kids end up at the other end of the table. If parents or grand-parents are visiting, they sit across on the other side of the table.

Henry attends school with a very diverse group. As a matter of fact, he is the minority and may be the only Caucasian student in his classroom. This was the case in his last school, as well. So Henry does quite will with the diverse types of names his classmates have, such as Mohammed, Aban, Monsie, Abdul, and other assorted names. He doesn't think they are strange or different. So far, Henry doesn't see skin color or ethnicity as a way of identifying people. While conversations at home include references to people being Asian or Middle Eastern or African American, Henry just hasn't seemed to make that connection yet. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but for now, it is what it is.

The other interesting thing is the terms and phrases that they use. Here are a few that I've picked up on:
  • Our voices are off; our lips are closed; our volume is zero: these are all ways of saying that the kids are expected to be totally quiet.
  • Our seatbelts are on: this means that the students are walking with their hands grasped behind their backs while they are walking down the hall
  • High five: this is a way to get the kids attention...when they hear this, they are to stop what they are doing and raise one of their hands to show that they are paying attention
  • Check Yourself, Check Yourself, Foul: This is a communication between students. If one student is doing something that another finds irritating or offensive, they do a hand sign and say "check yourself" as a way to ask the other student to stop. They give two warnings and then call foul, which means they tell the teacher.
We've had our struggles with First Grade. But it seems we're moving in the right direction. Henry's teacher has been absolutely fabulous in working with me on some very specific strategies and goals that have proven to be very successful. I daresay that we've had the best week of school this week. Henry and I agreed on some very specific long-term and short-term goals for him for the last two weeks. He earned two of the three rewards that were put out there and it has left him feeling quite proud of himself. We'll be heading to Target tomorrow for some new Star Wars gear!

About the time I get first grade down pat, he'll be in second grade!

PS: I also learned that Junie B. Jones is not just for girls. Henry absolutely loves the book series. I tend to agree that Barbara Park has done a great job at capturing the spirit of first graders!!


  1. Junie B. is so funny it is definitely for all first graders! Glad it seems that good progress is being made too!

  2. It sounds like both you and Henry are doing well in first grade. I liked some of the catch phrases being used in his classroom. We'll have to talk more.

  3. love the check yourself phrase. i think it's great to encourage the kids to resolve conflicts on their own. it sounds like he's really adjusting to the new school well. how do you like it compared to his montessori school?