Fieldnotes, 4 Oct. 2012

Back to the Northside school. This time I show up right on time. As I arrive, the students are finishing their snacks. Ms. C greets me. I say hello. Some of the students also call my name, but the excitement isn’t as pronounced as last visit. I credit this to the snacks. Crackers and juice.

“Now don’t get used to this,” Ms. C said loudly. Miscellaneous other adults whom I’ve never met but whom I’ve seen around also monitor the students. I’m assuming some of these women are teaching aides, or maybe volunteers. A few of the volunteers look to be in their twenties.

Ms. C continued, “These are donations from Mrs. Cunningham, so we won’t be having these all the time.”

Ms. C looked over in my direction again. “Maria, Maria where are you?”

“Here!” she said.

“She’s over here,” someone else said.

“Okay, Maria, Mister Steve is here to help you so when you done you go with him.”

“Okay,” Maria said.

I stood back, then eventually sat down with a group of kindergarten boys. The small chairs at the table brought me down to their level. I had worked with one of the boys previously.

“Do you come everytime?” he asked.

“I try to, but I have to work too.”

“Where do you work?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“Do you teach high school?”

“No,” I said. “I teach college.”

“What’s that?” he asked. I somewhat taken aback by this, but I tried not to show too much surprise, after all, he was a kindergartner.

“It’s where you go after high school.”

“I know that high school’s for big kids,” said another boy.

“That’s true,” I said. “So is college, but really for adults. Someday you all will go there. Maybe you’ll be my students.”

“We still have to finish kindergarten,” another of the boys said.

“Make sure you pick up your scraps everyone. Now finish up, we got some homework to get to, and when you finish up, we will have a special treat. Remember, I have prizes up here for whoever has the most tickets by the end of the afternoon.”

The students again perked up. Gifts. All toys from the dollar store as Ms. C let them all know.

“We can give you tickets, and we can take them away.”

Discipline and punish I thought. But when she told them to get on their hands and knees to each pick up ten scraps of paper, it worked. “This really works good,” I overheard her say to one of the assumed aides standing near her as the children ravaged the carpet. “This really works good.”

I’m assuming the gift idea as something new. Maria sat next to me when she realized there wasn’t enough trash on the floor for her to earn a ticket, and we started her homework. She had nothing to do but read a book, but she requested we do some writing.

A short while after starting, students all gathered near a smartboard at the corner of the room to watch a PBS show put on by one of the aides. This was disaster for Maria as she couldn’t focus on doing any reading or writing. I was frustrated with this, and I told her to watch the show instead since she couldn’t focus, this way I could help other students. I realized she didn’t want me to help other students, and so she tried to feign distraction with reading little by little. I ended up reading with her for a short fifteen minutes before she gave up completely, and I started to help another boy.

After about two minutes, the young man’s father arrived, and he had to leave. I didn’t really help many students today, not many had homework, and most were too preoccupied with watching the show. I also heard one student crying at two different points, but it appeared the aides treated her as a “crybaby” and did nothing to console her. I observed this from the back table where I sat. The sobbing child was somewhere near the screen of the smartboard watching the PBS show.

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