Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Room, Ever-Changing!

One room.  Twenty-seven fourth graders.  A new building, and lots of new experiences.  The students in my district begin their 4th grade year in a new place with hundreds of new faces.  They walk the halls that first day with anxiety and nerves.  Their one safe zone becomes the classroom.  Here, in my classroom, they can form new friendships.  Here, in my classroom, they find their way around a new building.  Here, in my classroom, they stretch themselves further than they have since their kindergarten year. 

This year, I met each student.  I learned all about each one.  I studied their strengths and their weaknesses.   As I watched, their predictable behavior became even more predictable.  Their quirks became more and more pronounced.  So, by the last day of school, I have each student figured out.  Or, so I thought...

Let's start with the event.  Our class auction.  The characters, my students.  Several boys and two girls.  Our bidding had gotten a bit crazy.  One bid went up to $200 for a small deck of cards, a plastic spider, and a glow-in-the-dark necklace.  The boys began to bid on girl items, and vice versa.  I held up the Disney Princess Glitter Bubble Bath, and began the bidding.

"$25," Sue yells out as Maggie silently counts her money next to her. 

"$30," Joe yells as he smirks to the boys near him.

"Joe, who are you buying that Bubble Bath for?," Alex asks.

"My cousin," Joe spouts back.

"Maggie wanted that bubble bath," Eva reminds the bidders.

Joe smiles, and shouts out another bid.  I realize that Maggie is frantically counting her money, but she isn't bidding.  I reminded myself, of course she wasn't bidding, this girl hardly ever said a sentence in the class all year long.  Why would she start talking now?  Realizing the situation, I pause the bidding and ask Maggie, "Do you want to bid on this?  How much do you want to bid?"

Now, Maggie lowers her head intently counting her money.  She slowly shakes her head, saying no.  I go back to the highest bidder, Joe for $30.  He slowly turns around as someone reminds him that Maggie wants that bubble bath.  He continues to bid, as the bids jump to $60.  Maggie continues counting.  The bid goes up to $75, and more students are moving towards Maggie to help her count.  She again shakes her head, no.  Joe bids and bids.  His final bid, $88 was every bit of his money.  I wrap up the bidding with a loud shout of, "Going once, twice, sold to Joe for $88!"

Joe walks to the front, pays his $88, and walzes past his chair on his way back.  He walks straight up to Maggie, who is still counting her money.  Sets the bubble bath boxes on her lap and shouts, "Merry Christmas!"

Every students' eyes watch Joe's every move.  When Maggie looks down at the boxes on her lap, she just stares, not entirely understanding what just happened.  I can see the surprised looks on every student's face.  My own face mirrors theirs.  Joe sits back down like he does that every day.  He gave all of his class cash to buy that bubble bath, but his smile is the biggest in the room.   I catch myself staring at Joe with my jaw hanging down.
Each student in the room, watched Joe and learned something today.  They learned about putting others before themselves.  They watched the joy that followed a big generous act.  They realized how powerful your actions can be on others. 

I thought I had Joe figured out.  I thought I knew what he was thiking.  I realize now that every observation from this past year of Joe could not have prepared me for this one act of pure kindness.  Yet, I'm reminded of that one fact, "One room and 27 students".  Such a small variable, yet such great things can vibrate through that one room.  Those 27 students are still feeling the aftermath!