Noticing the Light

Slice of Life Entry Challenge #17:Noticing the Light

As I mentioned in my slice from yesterday, our class is reading Number the Stars as our read aloud. We are in deep in a historical fiction unit right now. My students have started making some deep connections of the book, and I am so thankful. I read the part where they say that all of Denmark is dark after sunset. They are not allowed to have their lights on after a certain time and their electricity is rationed. My students are continually shocked and surprised. In Seoul, our Interent connection is probably one of the fastest in the world, and flashy signs and lights are everywhere.

One of my students commented how at night, South Korea is bright and full of lights, while North Korea is black with very lights. There is a famous picture that shows this difference. We started to discuss some of the similarities between North Korea and what the people in Denmark were experiencing. My students are very sheltered in some ways. Yes, they do see the news on T.V. and are influenced by the media, but I wonder, if they really know what is happening in North Korea. We do talk about it in class, but I don’t know if they just brush it off since they are used to hearing about it.  I wonder if they are truly aware that their neighbors are suffering, hungry and crying out for help. Yet, no one seems to really be hearing them.

Unexpected News

My friend surprisingly came into my classroom during the middle of the lesson dressed in all black and with a look of seriousness. She quickly came up to me and I just listened in silence to her news. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. As she left, I saw my students with their eyes on me, I continued the read aloud of The Tiger Rising.

I kept reading aloud like normal, but then as I started to process the news, I felt my eyes filling with water. I kept looking at the book, hoping my students wouldn’t notice. I just kept reading about a boy named Rob, who had lost his mom, and tried hard to keep his “suitcase” shut. I felt my suitcase slowly opening as sadness tried to sneak out of the sides. I kept pushing it back in.

I was the teacher.

I went on with the rest of the morning, teaching the rest of the periods until lunch. During lunch, I came back to my classroom and my sandwich with sitting on my desk staring at me. I should eat it, I thought. I finished it and then the suitcase burst open. I wiped away the tears and composed myself. A few minutes later, two of the girls in my class came inside during their recess time.

“Ms. Kim, were you crying?” She asked concerned.

I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t look up. I stayed silent.

“Why would she be crying? Of course not.” The other girl replied with confidence.

“Her face is all red.” She replied.

“I wasn’t crying.” I softly responded.

I wanted to tell them that my friend’s mother battle with cancer was almost over, but I couldn’t. I wanted to tell them that sometimes teachers have suitcases they try to keep shut because they have to. Sometimes we are like Rob from The Tiger Rising. Sometimes, we are human and we cry. Sometimes, we hurt, when our friends are hurting.

The Teacher Effect

One of the things that I love about teaching fifth graders is what I call the “teacher effect”. Yes, I just made that up. What is it? The standard dictionary definition would look something like this. The ability to influence students in a positive manner due to your role as a teacher.

Here’s a specific example of how it looks like in my classroom. I tell my students about a new children’s book I just read. I give them a brief synopsis, then tell the students I will put the book in the classroom library. Then, I ask the students who would like to borrow the book. Without fail, almost the entire class shoots their hands up, excited and hoping to be chosen. I bring our class cup with colorful popsicle sticks with the name of all the students in the class. I choose names randomly, deciding on the order for who will borrow the books first.

A few days to a week later, there is a buzz growing about the book. As students start talking about it and what they think about it, I overhear conversations about it! I have a few particular students this year, that are always asking me for recommendations. They seem to think that I know all the “good” books.

I finally had some time to read a few really good children’s books this past weekend. I absolutely loved The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, and immediately started doing a class read aloud with it. I also read So B. It. by Sarah Weeks. I was reading the ending in the hair salon and had to hold back the tears! I just finished rereading The Hunger Games (first book) as well. What can I say, except that I am soo excited for the movie to come out in March. Of course, I told my students all about this. I’m pretty sure all the copies of So B. It & The Tiger Rising are checked out by my students!

How have you seen the “teacher effect” working in your classroom? 🙂

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers.

P.S. If you haven’t checked out two apples a day yet, please do so. My new teaching blog project is up and running finally!

Read Aloud Guests

This year, I started something new with my students. Every Friday, I have a read aloud guest who comes in and reads to my students. We’ve had different teachers and staff from our school come in to read almost every week (If I haven’t asked you yet, don’t worry your turn will come soon!).  It has been a lot of fun as my students are always curious to know who will come in and what they will read.

I have given my read aloud guests a few options on what to read. I can give specific book recommendations, or they can read a particular story they love to read, or they can choose a story in the genre that we are studying in reading or writing workshop.

So far, we’ve had a variety of stories read from picture books, short stories and even a teacher’s own written narrative. I know for me, I loved getting books read aloud to me from my parents. I know that in America, it is really common for parents to read aloud to their child every night when they are young, but I wonder how often the parents of my students do that here in Korea. I always do emphasize the importance of parent involvement in reading to their children at home during back to school night.

This week my younger brother, who also happens to be a teacher at my school will come in and read! I’m really thankful to everyone that has come in and read to my kids. YOU could be next! 🙂 Some of our past read aloud guests:

I am curious now, how many of you had your parents read aloud to you daily?  To my readers that are parents, how often do you read aloud to your kids?

Global Read Aloud Project Kickoff

One of my goals for this new school year is to be part of projects that collaborate with other schools. So, I decided to join the global read aloud project. I volunteered to help plan and also blog about this project. Take a look at my first post on the website: Why Did I Join?

The book we will be reading for the upper elementary/middle school grades is Tuck Everlasting. The younger elementary grades (K-2nd grade) will be reading Flat Stanley series books.

If you are a teacher and are interested, I encourage you to sign up as well! Over a hundred teachers have signed up already! Just go to the website and you can easily sign up. 🙂

My Copy of the Book!

Remembering 9/11 in the Classroom

These past two years, in remembrance of 9/11, I read the story 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy to my students. This book is based on this amazing and inspiring story of the Massai people in Africa and the responses they had after hearing about the 9/11 attacks. They decided to donate 14 cows to America in response. To the Massai people cows are really important to them. Their donation of 14 cows was a huge sacrifice for them.

I remember listening to Carmen Agra Deedy speak about her book at the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project summer institute two years ago. She shared that she was reading this NY Times article that she thought was interesting and decided to do research on it. She ended up writing a picture book about it.  The full article is here: I was so moved by the story, I had to buy the book to share with my students in Korea.

On Friday, I asked my students during our community circle time if they knew what 9/11 was and only a few of them raised their hands. Most of them were only 1 or 2 years old when it happened.

I heard the news on the radio while in a van early in the morning, heading to Columbia. We were coming back from our early morning skating practice in New Jersey, back to Manhattan when we heard on the radio about how one of the twin towers were attacked by a plane. I think at first we were confused and shocked from the news. We didn’t really know why this happened and thought maybe it was some sort of accident. As we got back to our dorm rooms on the upper west side of the city, we immediately turned on our TVs to find out what was going on downtown. It seemed so surreal as the news kept replaying the clips of the airplane going into the towers. We were so close to it, yet so far. As our classes were canceled that day, the scene uptown seemed pretty normal, yet things downtown were in chaos. People on our campus and streets were out and about, eating at restaurants, and talking about the attacks. While people downtown were evacuating and calling home.

As I explained to my students about 9/11, more students seemed to remember hearing about it. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of emotions as I read in the story the parts about the attack. As a New Yorker and being in the city when it happened, a part of my heart will always remember 9/11.