Editor’s note: We met Bellevue first-grade teacher Kelye Kneeland at the end of the summer as she was setting up what would become the Lemonade School, a backyard project she had worked on for months with her father and other family members. We checked back for a two-month update from the Lemonade School. Here’s how it’s going (and here’s the original story if you missed it):
Today is the 28th day of October, and it was the 38th day of school.
First-graders keep track of these things. They matter. We are moving forward. More slowly on some days than on others. We strive to keep our spirits up and find joy in each day.
I am not always sure what parts of the day the kids enjoy most. But I always know which parts speak loudest to my heart. I especially love reading to the kids. When I share my screen under the document camera it becomes very quiet. The kids listen attentively. They love stories. I try to add drama to the stories and change my voice to reflect the voices of the characters in the story. I keep hauling books home from school to share with my students. The stories transport us to places, ideas and experiences that are new to us.
I also love the sound of their voices when we sing. Some people might think the sounds that come through my computer have more in common with noise than music. There is a delay in the audio that means we rarely sing together. The sound of their asynchronous voices is something that was hard to hear initially. It was loud and choppy. I could hear their enthusiasm but rarely were any of us singing the same words at the same time. At times I sit back in my chair, shake my head and giggle. Their exuberance is the thing I need to hear. They love to sing. They may know that they are singing out of sync, but it doesn’t seem that it matters to them. There is joy in the process. Because they are at home, they can sing. I am thankful for this. Their joy matters.
They have started their writing unit focused on expository writing.
An old friend visited the Lemonade School last week and taught the kids about her chickens, Pretty Girl and Elsa. Elsa was “frozen” or put in the refrigerator before the miracle of her birth. It sounded like a miracle took place. The kids loved learning about the chickens. A colleague came with her iPad and shared the moment with her class. I followed the presentation by moving closer to the chickens with my laptop as my kids oooed and ahhd.
Later the kids wrote about the things they learned about the chickens. Their observations were darling. One little girl got a “chicken” from her refrigerator, wrapped it in a blanket and told her mother about the miracle of Elsa the chicken. She wanted to hatch her own chicken without giving any thought to where she would put the live bird. Her mother was amused and sent me her daughter’s handwritten action plan that she wrote on her own with no prompting from any adult. It appeared that we failed to mention the importance of roosters in fertilizing the chickens’ eggs.
This past week has been filled with the joy of stories. We made a scarecrow and carved a pumpkin. I only cut myself once. The kids wrote about the materials and steps involved in carving a pumpkin. Later in the day a little boy sent me a photo with himself and the pumpkin that his dad helped him to carve just like the one we carved in class. Another boy shared a scarecrow he made by stuffing his little clothes. They were so happy.
I continue to enjoy doing reading groups with small groups of children in the afternoon. The kids are growing their skills. One little boy loves to take turns reading as long as my puppet Foxy reads every other page with him. My dogs interrupt with barking at the scarecrow that sits in a chair outside my door. We are managing.
Our days are not flawless. There are many challenges. It is cold. But my husband brought me a heater this past week that I can use each morning when I log in to greet my students. I will never take teaching in a heated room for granted again. The kids made thermometers in science and are learning to measure temperature. We track the temperature each day, and are learning about different clouds. They work online in the afternoons.
We work to stay positive. We strive to share examples of kindness in our lives. We make mistakes and we learn to breathe deeply and be patient with ourselves. We make a lot of “beautiful oopses” — myself included. I continue working to learn how to use technology resources when I can, but it is one of my greatest struggles.
This is Year 28 of my career as a teacher. When I was a student I used a typewriter or a pen. It is a brave new world. We have to be brave to be a part of it. And even when we don’t feel brave, we do our best to try.