Teach first grade? Heck no. The runny noses, the tattling, the constant need to go to the bathroom… this is what I thought a year ago. Fast forward to my current coaching position, in which I’ve worked in three 1st grade rooms so far this year. Despite my long-held perceptions of life in this early grade, I’m a convert. I adore these kids and admire their teachers! Here are a few reasons why:
1. First graders tell you what’s on their mind. I started with a new class a few weeks ago. I sat beside the student who was clearly having trouble staying focused. He willingly talked to me about his word work. In the middle of our conversation about his word sort, I heard a quiet “You’re beautiful.” I thanked him, and he repeated the sentiment a couple more times before we were done. He still tells me at least once a week…I know where I need to go when I’m feeling low!
2. First graders have awesome imaginations. We’ve been peer revising in first grade (I’m still amazed by this). We asked kids to interview one another; one teacher used a marker as a microphone. The kids grabbed right onto this, and there they were, little reporters, talking the talk, asking meaningful questions, and listening well enough to report out at the end. Adorbs.
3. Unabashed pride about reading. I’m used to seventh graders who don’t want their peers to know that they like to read, or if they’re advanced readers, they definitely don’t want their peers to know that they read at high levels. First graders grow more as readers than in any other grade.. and due to consistent benchmark testing, they know it. I’m sure that all readers who know that they’re progressing feel proud, but I’ve never seen a full-out happy dance like the one I saw last week! This little boy, didn’t care who was watching, and even better, his classmates celebrated along with him!
4. The enthusiasm! Today, one of my classes celebrated their argumentative writing by sharing and giving feedback. Oh, how they’ve grown, largely because they’re up for trying anything, and the writing shared today was quite an accomplishment. I loved how kids mimicked the mentor texts we used of written reviews. One boy said “Get your family, get in your car, and get to the nearest Kalahari Waterpark!” He turned his paper around, showed it to the class, jumped up and down and said, “Look at all those exclamation points!”
5. The hugs. I’m a hugger, but it was a rare occasion that I’d ever show physical affection to middle school students. This doesn’t fly in first grade. I’ve been inundated with hugs in each of these classrooms~ as I enter, as they line up for lunch, as they shift tasks during workshop time… hugs, hugs, hugs. They are usually quick and quiet, but today there was a particularly poignant moment today as I was leaving little “T” who I worked with quite a bit. He struggles and can be a reluctant participant, but I was able to get him to work with some one-on-one attention. His hugs today let me know that my work is worthwhile.