Report from the classroom
Any teacher knows, reading, writing and mathematics are the foundations of any given school day. These subjects are crucial in order for students to learn, develop, and grow.
In my Special Day (Special Education) classroom at Prestwood Elementary School, we focus on such things as phonics (language instruction through blending sounds), writing and mathematics. But more often than not, a huge part of our class curriculum is how to be a good person. What I mean by being a good person is how to treat others respectfully, how to take turns and how to work as a team. This idea of being a good person can be complicated, even more so than a difficult math problem. There are feelings involved.
My students were having a difficult time getting along last week. After all, I have a very dynamic group, with different personalities, strengths and grade levels.
I reminded my students that we are a team. No one seemed to listen. They usually got along pretty well, but this wasn’t one of those days.
I reminded them of the class rules (that they created), with rule number one to be respectful of others. Still, sitting there in front of me, were students who were clearly upset about the usual things kids get upset about. It was obvious that no one was happy that afternoon, and teaching anything would be a challenge. When there are classroom disruptions, kids can be distracted. That’s when it clicked.
I grabbed a stack of blank paper, wrote one student’s name per sheet and passed the paper out. Each paper a student received had the name of a fellow classmate. I told them that when a paper arrived on their desk to look at the classmate’s name on it, and then to write something nice about that person. Just one sentence – heck, just one word.
The students took out pencils. I held my breath. I prayed that they wouldn’t complain or say that they didn’t have anything nice to write.
I am happy to report that my students’ papers were filled with nice things written about them. Some said their classmates were fun to spend time with, and others said that their classmates were good at sports. It was great looking around the room and seeing that the kids were so involved. The mood was steadily lifted, and I exhaled.
This idea of being good isn’t something new. I learned the true meaning of Aloha throughout my years teaching in Hawaii, and I’ve carried it with me over the Pacific Ocean, and into the heart of Sonoma. “Showing aloha” is the term locals use in Hawaii for caring for someone, loving someone, being kind, or being respectful.
In Hawaii, my commute to school each morning was driving by swaying palm trees, a bright blue ocean, and sandy crowded beaches. I would pull up to work, take a deep breath, pluck a fragrant plumeria out of the tree, put it behind my ear, and hope that my students would show aloha to each other that day.
Now, driving from Napa to Sonoma, I find myself commuting by sprawling green vineyards, and riding under the bright blue sky filled with gigantic, colorful hot air balloons. I clearly live on a very different “island” now, and it’s not Hawaii. But in one way, teaching in Sonoma is very similar to teaching in Hawaii; my students at Prestwood showed aloha to each other, and still do.