Monday, September 16, 2013

First Steps in First Grade - What's in a Name?

Last August, I was starting my teaching life at Sabot, eager to jump in and anxious to meet my class.  As you can see in my very first blog post, my academic year truly began as a blank slate...a very empty new class in a brand new building. Things slowly started to take shape and then it was off to the races, and the time flew by at a breathless hyper-speed pace.  One of the most beautiful gifts about being a teacher is that you are always starting over and continually surrounded by others starting anew.  Even with a very rich and challenging first year at Sabot under my belt, this August found me nervous about how to try and capture the momentum again...just as I imagined my students might similarly worry about reestablishing themselves and trying on new experiences in a new setting.  The delicious disequilibrium of trying to balance teacher expectations and the great unknown that is the perpetual surprise of working with an organic, emergent, constructivist curriculum...

During the first few weeks of class, my new first graders spent valuable time getting comfortable with their new space, new routines, and with each other - and with me.  As one of their first art provocations in our in-class studio, I invited them to create a doodle with the letters of their names, but in a different way in which some letters are big and some are smaller.  The letters are all out of order but they share a new and more dynamic space, just as the children have entered a new space and have been reasserting their personal identities and communal connections as a class.

They used watercolor over several days, thinking about line and color to design their names.  Some of the pictures contain clearly drawn letters, while others are more abstract with the letters layered and overlapping.  Some are hiding secretly behind the colors, waiting to be teased out by the mind's eye...

The students' work afforded a peak into their inner imaginative lives as well, filling in the background of their portrait shots.  All in all, as an educator/researcher, I see a class trying to re-define itself, full of creativity, aspirations, humor, and personality...and endless possibilities.
N:  My middle name means "star of all stars," Celeste.

    A.C.:  I'm named after Acadia National Park in Maine.  It's delicious (they have popovers) and beautiful (the view from Cadillac Mountain).  

 T:  I was named after the t. in wine.  It turns wine red.     
R:  Your name is important so that your mom and dad know who you are.  If you didn't have a name, you could get lost really easily.

M:  My mom and dad didn’t know that M. was the name of a movie.  It’s about a girl who is magical. I am magical.
W:  My name has a W and W is fun to write.
P:  There’s a football player named P.M.                                                                           My parents didn’t know if I was going to be a girl or a boy.

G:  I like to water plants, but I don’t know why my name is G. 
My real first name is J., but I go by G.


E:  One of my grandmas is named E.  A lot of people are named E., like the E. River. 

A.L.:  My real name is A., but they call me A. so I won’t get mixed up with all the other A’s.  If I didn’t have a name, I’d call myself Amy. 

C:  My first name is J.. C. is my middle name.  Somebody was named C. in the Bible.  My mom was going to call me Jack but she named me C. instead. 

I:  I. means “I am smart.”  I like my name.

J:  My name is a boys’ name and a girls’ name.  J. is a smart name.


L:  My parents thought I was going to be a boy!  I sort of like my name.  I wish it was prettier.  I wish my name was Grace.  I would still be the same person if my name changed.  It’s good that I have a name!


 E:  E. means a special name.  It makes me feel like a king and a queen.

N:  A the beginning of my name is “No” and people get me confused with I.. My mom says my name means something about peace and something about Jesus.
 Why is it important to have a name? 
T:  If you didn’t have a name, no one would know who you are.

E.K.:  If I didn’t have a name, it would feel like I didn’t exist.  People would just say, “Hey, Nobody.”

G:  If I didn’t have a name, people wouldn’t know what to call me.

C:  If I didn’t have a name, I guess I would be smaller.

J:  If you do not have a name, they will call you nothing.

E.S.:  Without my name, I feel like I would not exist.

N:  You need a name so people won’t just call you “Hi, Person.”

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