The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Farewell, Miss Shapiro!

My class has been so fortunate this past semester! Not only did we have three amazing America Reads/America Counts tutors who helped out throughout the week, we also have a fantastic student teacher with us every single Tuesday and Wednesday. Miss Shapiro started the year with no experience teaching fourth graders. She only spent a few days observing in the classroom before she jumped right in and starting helping students as they worked. Soon she was teaching math and reading lessons, recording attendance and lunch choices, grading homework and other assignments, lining the class up, and helping to attend to any one of the myriad things a teacher has to do every day. She also attended collaboration meetings, came to an inquiry group meeting led by Teacher Collaborators with the University of Illinois and a district focus group led by our director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Needless to say, Miss Shapiro has been a valuable asset in our classroom. She connected with the students, talked with other teachers, asked questions about professional practices, and grew in her own skills and knowledge. She spent two days in a full takeover in the classroom before Thanksgiving Break, doing everything in the room: planning instruction, teaching lessons, changing plans as needed, etc. After having the week of Thanksgiving off, she returned and jumped right back in to working with the class. During the past two weeks, we have been team-teaching in the classroom, which was a great experience for both of us!

Last Friday I reminded the students that Miss Shapiro’s time with us was drawing to an end and asked them how they would like to express their appreciation for all she’s done. There were several suggestions, but one that came up more than any other was to make a book of letters and pictures for her. I agreed that this would be a great idea and the students started working on their letters during their free time. Many finished by Monday and turned them in, but a few were still working on them yesterday. They managed to write letters and draw pictures for Miss Shapiro, even as she was right there in the room! Some even asked her how to spell her name, presumably under the guise of writing a story.

Today was the last day for two of our tutors. (The third was done last Friday.) It was also Miss Shapiro’s last day. We celebrated by working all day long. She helped out with our reading buddies in the morning and then worked with her reading group in our classroom until it was time for us to go to a meeting. (The class stayed in the room and worked with their groups under the supervision of a substitute teacher.) Then she taught a math lesson on writing equations to represent subtraction situations in word problems. Our morning was wrapped up with a science lesson that involved reading more about electricity and magnetism.

We broke into our math groups after lunch, with some of my students going to the other fourth grade teacher’s room and some of her students coming to my room. Then Miss Shapiro worked with one small group while I worked with the others. All of our math groups have been working on long division over the past couple of weeks. While some of the students are still struggling with these concepts, we are definitely making progress. I am  confident that my students will be fully prepared for our division unit that will start shortly after the winter break.

The day ended with a fun snowman project that Miss Shapiro wanted to try with the class. She gave the students marshmallows, pretzels, chocolate chip cookies, frosting, Hershey’s kisses, and Twizzler pieces. They used these to make snowmen that they were then able to eat.

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She and I went around and tried to take pictures, but some of the students’ snowmen disappeared by the time we made it to them. I had to laugh out loud at one student’s response when I asked if his snowman had melted. He said, “Yup… into my mouth!”

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Then I read a chapter of Hattie Big Sky aloud before we presented Miss Shapiro with her booklet of thank you notes and pictures. (One of my favourites was the picture of her at the front of the room saying “Listen up!” to the class. I guess this is something she did quite often!) I also gave her a handy bulletin board staple remover that also has a built-in letter opener that can double as a tool for opening shrink-wrapped bundles. The students all read quietly for the last part of the day while also saying goodbye to Miss Shapiro.

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All too soon the day was over. We will all miss our wonderful student teacher, but we also wish her well as she heads to her next assignment: first grade in Mahomet, Illinois! Farewell, Miss Shapiro! We will miss you!

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