October 13, 2011 -
What has 40 eyes, 20 noses, 200 toes and can put the fear of God in a news anchor? A creature that can be found right around the corner at a local elementary school.
I had to face it recently when a teacher challenged me to do her job. Approaching that classroom door I was as nervous as a first grader on opening day.
"Good morning, Mr. Myers! Well, good morning to you!
With enthusiasm like that it's hard to stay nervous for long! The woman who had challenged me to do her job was Kathy Donk, a great name for a first grade teacher!
Kathy asks the kids, " Raise your hand if you were nervous starting school the first day here!"
Kathy has calmed the nerves of first graders and novice teachers like me for over 30 years now- the last 24 at Gilchrist Elementary in Tallahassee.
Says Kathy, "they come in so young and so needy, maybe knowing a limited number of reading words and math facts. But by the end of the year they are reading books. The rewards are so visible!"
Kathy's a pro at this. I just hoped I wouldn't set the kids back a year when it was my turn!
Job One- lead the kids in the classic "Apples and Bananas" song.
"I like to eat, eat, eat, apples and bananas.. everybody now!"
Next up- Leo the Lion puppet makes an appearance to teach word sounds like the "r" in roar!
"You mean like...roar? "ROAR!"
One little girl said Leo didn't sound like himself. I explained he had a cold.
Another word to work on was "coffee."
I asked the kids how many of them had had coffee that morning to wake up. An amazing number raised their hands. I challenged them: "You didn't have coffee! Your parents gave you coffee? Are they crazy! "Yes!"
Smiles and laughter are a big part of learning in this classroom. Kathy says it's hard not to laugh at the things kids do.
"I'll look down at their feet and they'll ask me to fix their shoes and-- wrong feet. Their shoes are on the wrong feet!"
Good teachers are masters at multi-tasking.
Kathy seemed to do it all with energy and ease. She's gifted at lighting the fire of the love of learning in children and making sure they pass the torch to the next generation. Like the promising little girl in one of her first classes here.
"She went on to FSU and later became a teacher and did one of her first internships in our classroom," Kathy said.
Remember the slogan "The toughest job you'll ever love?"
A perfect description of my morning in Mrs. Donk's class. I had a blast, but I was beat!. So how did the kids enjoy our morning? To quote them, "Awesome!"
I understood why Kathy says that even after 30 years, it's still a thrill stepping into that classroom.
"Every morning it's a new adventure. I'd do it all again," says Kathy.