Quest for Meaning

Dear Families:

As administrators, Diane and I have the pleasure of visiting throughout the school and observing teaching and learning in action.  In these early days of fall, we witness the coming together of communities, the tentative steps towards feeling safe and the powerful acquisition of knowledge.  We ask that as parents, you, too, embark on this journey of watching children, paying close attention to their words and listening as you discover their quest for meaning.  

Last Thursday, I visited Bill’s first grade class.  It was 9:45 in the morning, and I wasn’t the only visitor in the room.  Shirley, our math coach, was there working alongside Bill, his student teacher, and Sandy, the education assistant.  But who were those other adults in the room? Oh, the Lice Busters were there, en masse, checking heads.

But somehow learning was still going on.  Children were grappling with a big concept of number: the idea that eleven means ten one, twelve means ten two, thirteen means ten three and so on.  Did you know that in Chinese this is how they say those numbers: ten four, ten five, ten six? Wow, that makes a lot of sense.  

With storytelling as a mode for meaning making, Bill was informing his students of Shirley’s apple picking trip.  Shirley counted her apples: ten one, ten two, ten three etc. But when she showed them to the people who worked at the farm, they said she had seventeen apples, not ten seven.  Bill showed how you can take 10 and 7 and put the 7 in place of the zero and the number becomes seventeen. “It works for any number,” he claimed. “Does it work for a million?” a child asked.  They were only six years old, but these little ones were thinking and talking mathematically. It was fun to watch. 

Meanwhile upstairs in Amanda’s second grade classroom, Okhee Lee, the Field Mentor for NYU Student Teachers, was observing.  A child asked her, “Are you their boss?” (referring to the two NYU student teachers).  Okhee responded, “No, I’m not their boss, I’m their teacher, like Amanda is your teacher.”  The child asked, “Are you old?” She answered, “How old do you think I am?”  The child guessed, “70?” Okhee said, “A bit younger.”  “65?” the child asked. “A bit younger,” Okhee said. “60?” guessed the child.  Okhee left the student, but returned as she had noticed a pattern in the student’s response. Okhee wondered, “You said 70, then 65, and then 60. What were you thinking?”  The child explained, “I was subtracting by 5.” Okhee asked, “If I am 60, how old was I five years ago?” The child answered, “55.” Okhee asked, “How old was I 10 years ago?” “50,” said the child. 

The exchange intrigued Okhee and she noted that it made sense that the student thought she was old since she is the teacher of two adults. Okhee noted too that the student was doing math intentionally. As she was explaining her thinking to Okhee, she beamed with pride. Okhee delighted in the instructional moment in which she could probe the student to find out her reasoning.  

These moments are constant in our students’ lives.  Look for them, listen to them, pay attention, ask questions and enjoy the power of these inquiring minds.

Kindergarten parents, please join us tomorrow morning in the art room.  Let’s gather to talk about the world of the kindergarten classroom and that big transition to elementary school. 

All for now,

Anna

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