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Mommy COULDN'T FIND HER EYELASHES
Forty-Four Years in First Grade
By MARY JANE FIZER
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Mary Jane Fizer
All rights reserved.
I'm Helping My Mom Learn to Read
I always got so excited when a child began to read fluently, especially one who had struggled to master the concepts of reading. It was such a pleasure to see the joy on a child's face when he or she read a selection fluently for the first time.
A child from Croatia became a very good reader during the course of the school year. I commented on how much progress he had made and how proud I was of him. I asked if his mom helped him in the evenings, and he said, "No, I teach her to read while I am practicing my reading." And he really was teaching her how to read!
One day I had a reading group sitting around me on the floor, since our reading table was in use. After they had sat for a few minutes, they began to lie down on the floor to read, which was all right. Then a terrible smell arose, and one child asked who made that smell. Of course, no one accepted the blame, so he proceeded to go from one child to the next, as they lay on their stomachs on the floor, and sniff their bottoms to find out who was the culprit!
How Do You Spell ...?
One day, some of the children were having difficulty learning their spelling words and were not trying to figure out the correct spelling by themselves; they wanted me to spell for them.
One girl, Joanie, spoke up. She said, "You can spell anything you want to if you just sound it out."
Sarah said, "I bet you can't spell 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.'"
So Joanie proceeded to go to the chalkboard and, syllable by syllable, she wrote out the word with only one mistake, to the amazement of the entire class—and the teacher!
One of my students, who usually got all the words correct on the weekly spelling test, missed nine out of ten words one week. All the words were from the same word family, so they all ended with the same two letters, but there was no logic to the combinations of letters he had written for each word after the first one, which was correct.
Upon receiving the test paper at home, his mother sent a note to me that said that she couldn't understand what had happened; he knew all the words when he left home that morning.
I called him aside, showed him the test paper that his mom had returned, and asked him if he could tell me why he got so many wrong. Without any hesitation, he said, "When I was in kindergarten, my teacher taught me so much that my brain is so full that if I put anything else in it, it will explode!"
What Goes at the End of a Sentence?
For many years, my students had to respond to a writing prompt in their journals each day and then share what they wrote with the class. Here are some of their more interesting responses to their prompts.
One day, the writing prompt was, "Why do birds fly south for the winter?"
One response was, "Because it is too far to walk, and because they would freeze their butts off if they didn't."
Freddie was sharing his story and had trouble remembering what he had written, so I proceeded to read it for him. He said, "Mrs. Fizer, you are stealing my story!"
One year, when children were writing their stories, they were required to conclude their stories with a sentence that told about how they felt about what they had written. Joey wrote, "I feel happy. I am finished with this story."
After spring break, the class was writing about what they had done on their break. One child wrote, using his own inventive spelling, "On vacation, I was in the water. An it was fun I let a toot in the water. An it felt dum. I laughed. An then we went home."
Another story with inventive spelling was, "I like the Easter Bunny Becus He Brne us candy. I like Easter Sunday cus Jesuse rosis from the ded."
Billy always forgot to put periods at the end of sentences. A teaching assistant in my classroom was reviewing what he had written and asked him what he should put at the end of the sentence that had no punctuation there. He responded, "A pyramid?"
One spring, we were doing a lesson about alphabetical order. The students had to complete a worksheet that had a list of vegetables to be put in alphabetical order. The children had to write the names of the vegetables, in alphabetical order, on the packets pictured on the worksheet and then draw a picture of each vegetable on its packet. We discussed the names of the vegetables and talked about what the unfamiliar ones, like eggplant, looked like, before they started their work. It was interesting to hear the discussion taking place at one table, where a girl and boy from Ghana, a boy from Peru, a boy from Guatemala, and a local boy were working. They were having a discussion of what kind of beans they would draw.
Earlier, when we had discussed the various vegetables, I had pictured green beans in my mind.
The Peruvian child said he would make black beans, the Guatemalan was going to make red beans, and the American was going to make green beans. One of the boys said, "You know, if you plant the little beans in the ground, they will grow and make more beans."
The girl from Ghana got very excited and said, "I am going to make jelly beans, and I will plant some jelly beans when I get home so I can have a lot more jelly beans!"
The American boy said, "You can't plant jelly beans. If you do, they will rust in the ground!"
How Much Is 5 + 5?
Math was always one of my favorite subjects to teach. There are so many different ways to help the children master the basics.
One thing that the students always enjoyed was a math relay. They would divide into teams, and the first child in line on each team would go to the chalkboard to write the answer to the problem that I wrote on the board.
One day during one of these relays, Gina, who had a lot of difficulty with math concepts, was at the board and, instead of trying to figure out what 5 + 5 equaled, she asked me to tell her the answer so that her team could get the point.
I told her that I couldn't tell her the answer. I said that it would be cheating if I did, to which she replied, "I will pay you if you will tell me."
I insisted that I couldn't tell her the answer, and she said, "Oh, come on, Mrs. Fizer. I will pay you one hundred dollars if you tell me the answer."
Needless to say, I did not tell her, and she did not get the answer correct, because her time was spent trying to bribe me to tell instead of figuring out the answer.
Another day, a child was having trouble solving two-digit addition problems. I asked her why she couldn't do the problems. She said, "Because I don't have sixty-two fingers and this number is sixty-two!"
When I Am One Hundred Years Old, I Will ...
Each year, as part of our math curriculum, we counted days until the hundredth day of school. On that day, we did special things involving one hundred to celebrate the occasion. One of the activities was for the students to write what they thought they would look like when they were a hundred years old. Here are some responses!
"If I am a hundred years old, I would be blind and old. I would have a cane and a dog that can see for me."
"I will look like I am about to die, and I look very, very old, but I'm going to heaven."
"I think I will look like my grandmother."
"I am a hundred years old. I can't walk. I'm bald."
"I will look like Mrs. Fizer."
"If I were a hundred, I will be crazy."
"I will have a big beard. I will have gray hair."
"If I was a hundred years old, I would have to have a cane and a wheelchair, and I will have wrinkles."
"If I was a hundred years old, I would blow up, and I will fly, and I will not do nothing, and I will have a newspaper."
Another assignment was to write a response to the question, "What would you do with a hundred dollars?" Some responses were:
"I will save the hundred dollars, and then I will get more money, and then I will be rich!!!"
"I will buy a hundred chocolate-chip cookies."
"I will save it for the beach."
"I will buy a hundred Nintendo 64 games."
"I would buy a hotel or go to Florida or buy a new sofa or a new house or lots of food or a Jacuzzi or a big hot-air balloon or lots of centers or a big bed or lots of glasses or a lot of TVs or lots of schools or lots of water or get more money or more Band-Aids or lots of computers or markers."
"I will go shopping and will save some for my mom. We will go to school. We will go to see Mrs. Fizer. We will see her house."
As we were discussing different ages of people, one child said, "Anyone who is between thirty and one hundred years old is already dead!"
What Was in Lincoln's Hat?
I always enjoyed our social studies classes. I came up with many ways to make the lessons more exciting for the children, sometimes with interesting results.
When we were studying Abraham Lincoln, we would talk about his tall stovepipe hat. I told the children that he had a secret pocket inside his hat and asked what they thought he would carry in the pocket. The first reply was, "Rabbits!"
Each year, the first-grade classes in our school participate in a Flat Stanley project. Each teacher reads the story about Flat Stanley to the class, and the children discuss how Stanley became flat and was mailed to another state in an envelope. Then the students each make a Flat Stanley small enough to fit in an envelope and take home a letter to their parents asking them to send back to school the name and address of a relative or friend to whom they would like to mail their Flat Stanley. Each child mails the envelope with his or her Flat Stanley and a letter to the recipient explaining the project. The recipient is asked to show Stanley around town, take pictures, and send Stanley back to the child—along with a picture and letter telling about what he did during his visit.
One of my students was from Vietnam and had just returned from visiting her grandmother there, so I said that it would really be great if we could get a letter from her grandmother in Vietnam. The next day, as the students arrived and were handing me their addresses, this particular child handed me an envelope that was addressed to her grandmother. She said that her parents did not know how to make a dress. I was confused about this until I looked inside the envelope and found a paper dress that she had cut out and colored, as well as a paper doll that she had cut out and colored to put the dress on. She said that she hoped that this dress was all right; she wasn't sure how to make a dress!
As the letters came back to school, we marked where letters came from for each class on a graph that we drew on a hallway bulletin board. It was always interesting to see how many different states and countries were represented. Often, people sent gifts along with the letters. For example, one student in my class received a T-shirt for each classmate with the name of the state on the front!
During career month, parents are invited to share what they do at their jobs with the children. One morning, the guidance counselor appeared in my room and asked if we would like to see a presenter at ten o'clock. I replied that we would be happy to see him.
One of the students asked, "We are going to see a prisoner at ten o'clock?"
While we are studying careers, I have the children write about what they want to be when they grow up. Here are some of their stories.
"I want to be either the president or a forklift operator." (This student is now a teacher!)
"I want to be either a garbage collector or a teacher."
"I want to be a nurse so I can help people who are dead."
I Think I Have Head Lights!
A boy in my class who had allergies to nuts came up to me in the cafeteria one day, very concerned because he couldn't find his lunch. We went back to the classroom to look for it, and it was nowhere to be found. So I took him to the nurse, who knew just what he could and could not eat, hoping that she could help him select something from the cafeteria menu that day that he could eat. She checked the menu and found two or three things that he could have and told him to get those from the cooks. He replied, "But my lunch is in the cafeteria. I only lost my container of cookies."
Each year we are required to watch a video, mostly in cartoon form, about head lice. Toward the end of the video, a real person comes on the screen and tells the children that, if they have an itchy head, they should see the school nurse, who will check to see if they have head lice. At the end of the video, one of the boys came to me and said, "Mrs. Fizer, I need to go to see the nurse. My head is itching. I think I have head lights."
At the end of the school year, my class had an assignment to write a thank-you letter to the school nurse. One letter said, "Dear Mrs. Jacoby, Thank you for the nose bleed."
Early in the school year, we had our annual tornado drill. I explained ahead of time that it was just a practice drill and that it was very important that we do it correctly in case we should ever have a real tornado. I said that the children were to get into their positions (which we demonstrated) in the hallway and were not to talk or giggle so they could hear any instructions that may be given.
I was so proud of my class for following the directions and being very quiet until the drill was almost over, when I could hear a faint voice saying, "Mrs. Fizer, Mrs. Fizer." I walked up and down the line of children to identify who was talking and found Felix with his head in a pool of blood. His nose had started to bleed. I asked him why he didn't tell me earlier, and he said, "You told us that we couldn't talk or move." So when we returned to the classroom, we talked about when it is acceptable to break a rule and talk!
It Isn't Allowed to Snow!
As we were discussing the weather one day in January, Julie stated that she had heard the weatherman say that snow was predicted for that day. Kenny replied, "It will not snow today. It is not allowed to snow after Christmas!"
In one of my earlier years of teaching, we were studying electricity, and I was explaining how an electrical circuit works. I set up the experiment that I had done several times in previous years with no problems, making a circuit with a lightbulb, a switch, batteries, wire, and a doorbell. When it was all set up, I asked one of the students to pull the switch to see what would happen. Nothing happened. Another child tried, to no avail. We tried several times more after I checked all the connections and could see nothing wrong with what I had set up. I told the class that I would check everything again after school and that we would try again the next day.
Then one child, who often did not seem to be paying much attention to what was going on, walked up to me and said, "I know what we can do, Mrs. Fizer. We can pray, and I will pray right now."
Before I could say anything, he closed his eyes, folded his hands under his chin, and proceeded to pray. He was not praying out loud, but his lips were moving. After a minute or two, he asked, "Can I try now?" I, of course, told him that he could, and, lo and behold, when he pulled the switch, the lightbulb lit up and the doorbell rang!" Never underestimate the power of prayer!
What a surprise, one hot summer day, when I heard a knock at the door of my home and opened it to find one of my first graders standing there with a big pumpkin in his hands. He had grown it from a plant that we had started from seeds in the classroom. I had told the students to put the plants in their gardens at home and, if their plants grew, to let me know about it. A good listener, he brought me one of the products of his plant!
Each fall, when the leaves begin to change, I ask the children to bring to school toilet-paper rolls, which we use to make binoculars. We staple two rolls together, punch a hole in each one at one end, and tie yarn onto them to make it possible to hang the binoculars around one's neck. The children then go outside to the trees around the edge of the playground and use their binoculars to look for signs of fall. Much to my surprise, one morning as the children were arriving and giving me their toilet-paper rolls, Terry brought me a four-pack of toilet paper, not empty rolls! He said that his daddy thought that I needed the paper on the rolls. I had him take the toilet paper back home with a note explaining to his dad why I was returning it. The next year, I made certain that I was more specific in my directions, asking for "empty toilet-paper rolls."
Excerpted from Mommy COULDN'T FIND HER EYELASHES by MARY JANE FIZER. Copyright © 2013 by Mary Jane Fizer. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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