BY: KARIN RIEMER, Elementary Vice Principal and Teacher
It was my first year teaching. Fresh out of Dordt College, transplanted to sunny California. I had this wonderfully diverse and eager-to-learn first grade class. After the first few weeks of “what am I doing here?!” I was finding my rhythm as a primary teacher. I was connecting with the students, explaining things at their level, engaging them in learning experiences, and managing my classroom of 6-year-olds.
Obviously teaching was my thing and I was knocking it out of the park! Lucky kids. (WARNING – if you ever find yourself thinking like this you are about to be taken down a few notches!)
Lunch time fun
One of my students was a sweet and lovely girl named Lilly.* Lilly was a new immigrant from the Middle East. She was learning to speak and understand English at school and she was learning fast.
Now in our classroom we had this blue coloured iMac – you know the cool curvy one. It sat on a little student table next to the book corner. Besides typing my weekly classroom newsletters, it was mostly used for educational CD-ROM games. A classroom favourite was Franklin The Turtle Goes to School.
Everyday the special helper would get computer time to play a game when they were done their lunch. It was Lilly’s day to be the special helper. She quickly finished her lunch and went to the computer to play “Franklin.” As the rest of the students finished their lunches, I began wiping off the desks and cleaning up. The bell rang and the kids headed outside. I looked over at the computer and Lilly was still playing.
“Lilly, time to stop playing,” I said. “Go outside.”
Just a Simple Question
I kept cleaning. I looked over again, “Lilly, let’s go, everyone is going to the playground.”
Lilly responded politely in broken English, “Teacher what to do now?”
In the midst of wiping down a group of desks I glanced at her screen. She was on the exit screen where it asks, “Do you want to quit?” with a YES and a NO button that the user selects.
In a hurry, I exclaimed, “Lilly, just say yes and then it will be done and you can go outside.”
I finished cleaning and put the leftover lunch boxes back in the cubbies. To my surprise, when I turned around Lilly was still there! (Seriously, Lilly, get a move on, I have a staff room to visit.) I walked over to see what was going on. She was leaning in close to the computer screen. When I got close I could hear her little voice saying to the computer, over and over, “yes…yes…yes…”
Just like I told her.
Yep. Way to go Karin. Awesome teaching. You really knocked it out of the park.
Sixteen years have gone by since Lilly. My students have given me countless life lessons, including a healthy dose of humility, but I know they have more lessons in store for me. I figure that by the time I have nothing new to learn, I should probably stop teaching.
*Lilly’s name has been changed to protect her privacy (mainly because I stalked her Facebook profile and discovered that she has turned into a successful, beautiful young woman, regardless of her first grade teacher).