This week I’ve been sharing “My Teacher Is A Monster” by Peter Brown with first graders. They love the story. Here’s a reading of it on You Tube: https://youtu.be/iu8lMajbigQ
I encouraged my first grade students to draw pictures with text on iPads in the Storymamker Free app to share moments from the story. When the teacher reprimands the boy, Bobby, in the story, we see that he envisions her as a green monster. The teacher yells, “Robert!”, which is Bobby’s real name. Bobby had thrown a paper airplane in class which was clearly not a good choice for Bobby by the way Ms. Kirby states his name rather sternly. It wasn’t until a chance counter that Bobby had with his teacher in the park that he began to realize that she is nice. He recuses her hat when it blows in the breeze. She calls him her hero. They quack along with the ducks. They climb to a special spot where Ms. Kirby pulls out a sheet of paper and encourages Bobby to fly his paper airplane. As the story progresses, the illustrator brilliantly shades the teacher to look less green and to have an even skin tone. When Monday rolls around after the weekend park play time, Bobby sees his teacher so much differently. She is someone who will lead his learning and will give him what he needs to succeed. Ms. Kirby took the time to bond with Bobby and recognized his way of learning which is personalized learning at its best.
It really caused me to think about the way that children perceive their teachers. Kids create their own interpretation of the adults who talk to them at school. They see their teachers one way which is sometimes not the way teachers perceive themselves. I know that they go home and share stories about what their teacher did or did not do. Even parents begin to paint a picture of the teacher.
I hope that one of our new kindergarten students will remember the patient woman who took her by the hand and talked to her about her new class as the student dried her eyes this morning. The child had just left her mother in the car pool line. The little one is learning a new morning routine and seeing new faces as she enters school each day. My friend and colleague, Kelly, masterfully walks children in daily and is a difference maker. Her heart to show love is evident. She shows kindness and does not shame students for having a difficult time with separation anxiety or the stress of arrival at school. I also have the privilege of greeting children each morning as they arrive. I am one of many who create the school experience for students. I know that the adults who guide and reassure students are the ones which help set the course for our new Kinders as well as all students and make them want to come back each day. I hope that they talk about their smiling and positive interactions with adults at school when they get home at night.
I have had teachers whom I may have viewed like Bobby viewed Ms. Kirby at the beginning of the story. They talked so sternly that I had trouble focusing on the content. Being organized is a key quality of a teacher, however, I have felt so much stress by teachers who had to have me do things their way with not much regard for my style. I think that it matters as to what our students think of us. How a teacher treats a child will either unlock a trust filled relationship or it will build a barrier to learning. Teachers should hold high expectations while taking into account the way that their words are received by their students. Words matter. Children matter.
I try to notice the interests of my students and listen well. I hope that my students see me as positive, encouraging, welcoming and one who notices them and the effort that they give. It is when teachers build trusting relationships with students that students will buy in to the school experience.
I included some of the pictures that my students drew of scenes from “My Teacher Is A Monster”. They are so creative and give us a glimpse into how they understood story events. Ms. Kirby realized that she needed to try a new strategy to win Bobby over after some initial moments at school when she reacted instead of seeing Bobby’s choice of flying a paper airplane as something to redirect into something positive. She began to see that she should build on his strengths and interests. Building on strengths should be our focus as we interact with our students too.