Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In Which I Learn a Lesson from a Small "Alien"

One of my summer school classes (Fun with Computers) is made up of 1st-3rd graders. This is a new experience for me, as I teach middle school and am certified to teach 6th-12th grade. It's been really fun, as these little ones are pretty stinkin' cute.

"Teacher! Teacher! Come and read my story!!!"

Cutie-Pie, a little first-grade sweetheart, is late every day (walking from her previous class) and is still learning how to log into the computer after eight days of class. Seemingly on another planet, CP is often lost in her own little world and doesn't seem bothered by that at all. When she is "with" us, she is almost-always talking and almost-always asking what to do two minutes after I give instructions.  I wasn't expecting a lot from her writing (truthfully), and my judgment was confirmed when I glanced at her computer screen, on which a goofy looking pirate was prancing next to this:


Feigning admiration, I chirped, "What a great story! Wow!"

CP chirped, "I bet the boys are really going to like this story!"  

I had no clue what she was talking about and had 29 other stories to read, so I said, "Uh-huh," and turned to the next student, but she pulled me back. 

"I want you to read my story!"  

Read it? Okaaaay...I decided I had to play along.


I had no idea what to say. 

"Why don't you read the story to me!"  I suggested, and she read aloud, confidently,

"Once upon a time it was a rainy day and the city was called Pirate Land!"

She grinned at me expectantly, eyes wide open, as if to ask, "Isn't that incredible?!"  Clearly, we weren't writing the same language, but she was positively beaming with pride. It wasn't like her to be so engaged, and I couldn't ignore that. This time, I took a real look at her writing, and it finally clicked for me.  Holy cow! This little munchkin had worked her tail off on that "sentence" and had five more like it!  I was blown away! She's six, for crying out loud! 

Get it?


wuns apton tim it was a rne da and tat site was kold ta prit land

Once upon a time it was a rainy day and the city was called Pirateland!

It seems this teacher has a lot to learn! 

Impressed (and now thrilled) to finally "get" what she had shared with me, I asked CP if I could copy a couple of her pages, and I quickly emailed it to myself via her computer...

See if you can figure this one out (page 2)


(And the next day, I saw a silly guy on a boat.)

Sadly, minutes later, she accidentally deleted her story in the impulsive click of a button, just before the students were going to share their stories. 

"Oh, no!!" I cried. Her wide eyes read mine for leadership in how to respond to the calamity. I acted quickly,

"I wanted everyone to read your awesome story!! Now I feel special that I got to read it before it disappeared. I'm so glad! Thank you! I can't wait to read your next story."

And she smiled her cute, little, girl-from-another-planet (possibly called Laid-Back Land) smile.


Today, I was reminded that being witness to the budding of literacy skills is a truly a gift; one that is to be treasured, especially when it comes from another "planet." 

The U.S. may have dismantled its space program, but I'm keeping my space suit; I just remembered I'm probably going to need it for years to come.


  1. Yes keep that space suit at the ready because you might need to do a space walk to capture the ones that are orbiting too far out.
    Great story.
    When do you tell them about spaces between words?

  2. Aww, this made me miss teaching. And yes, the little kids are pretty cute.

  3. You are truly a wise teacher. Really hearing what a student is saying is a blessing for both of you. I sure wish I had teachers like you when I was so young. I was out in space so much of the time, dissociating as I know it now. But the ridicule and punishment just made me disappear even more. I so like hearing about your teaching experiences and how you are open to learning along with them.

  4. I teach fourth grade, but my student teaching and aide days were in first. That whole invented spelling thing is a kick, we'll have writing meetings from time to time, and when little ones' writing is shared it's fun to hear us all decipher it. Once we get going, it's fun to keep going! Hopefully they feel the say about writing. :)

  5. To funny! It reminds me of emails from my dad but instead they are all in caps. That age is so sweet and so literal. Have a wonderful day!

  6. Such patience, and such genius to decipher her tale. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  7. Wow! That almost made me cry. I really can picture how hard she must've been challenging herself to put that together phonetically. I bet when she's "there", she's a hard worker. Just gotta get her interest.

    Playing with a 3 year old a few months ago, she brought me a book and said "Will you show me how to read this?". I responded by flipping it open and starting to point out her letters and how they were together in groups. Her mom came in and said 'I see she's got you reading her a book.' to which I said, "No, she asked me to teach her to read a book." The look I got was priceless. I think the game changes every day with little ones.

  8. Your creative storyteller is a gem. This week Pirate Land next week the Moons of Mars. Be sure she secures the movie rights to her stories.

  9. That is adorable. Absolutely adorable. And you have got to be one of the most patient people in the galaxy. I'm pretty sure my (impatient) response would have been, "Seriously? What IS that?"

    So sweet!

  10. Teachers of these little ones truly hold fragile treasure in their hands - how they're responded to can make or break them. Sounds like you did a wonderful job with this one!

  11. This is SO cute! I actually got some of the first one all by myself. =D

  12. Thanks for sharing your story and her's. This is why people become teachers, I think.

  13. that's hilarious!!! i almost got the whole story right having a preschooler myself. what a doll!!

  14. You? Are a rocking teacher. I love this whole story--the student's and yours!

  15. Aww you are such a good teacher. So patient! :-) It sounds like Cutie Pie will be an artistic type. ;-)


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