Excitement and Desperation in a Second Grade English Enrichment Classroom

Excitement and Desperation in a Second Grade English Enrichment Classroom

I feel ______ when _____

By the 40th minute of class I threw my arms up in the air and my body down on a chair. It took me a few seconds to reconnect with where I was and with my role there. That’s when I decided to verbalize my feelings to the loud, energetic second-graders in front of me – still making use of the sentence frames we were working with last week: “I feel frustrated when I am trying to explain something to the 2nd grade students and they are talking at the same time, or climbing the table, or kicking one another.”

Some of the kids hadn’t even noticed I had sat down, and they looked at me in surprise, as if my frustration seemed absurd to them. What had they done?

What they had done

This group is requiring all my energy to make lessons happen. When I think “Oh, now I got this!” they surprise me. Yesterday, by the end of class, a boy was sleeping on the floor, while another was choking a classmate, and another was telling me that someone was chewing gum. All that after I had already confiscated a couple marbles, been smeared with a girl’s creamy chapstick that came in a little pouch resembling fast food ketchup, been accused by a second girl to have touched her hair with my chapsticky hand, and been introduced to the sweet newly-arrived-to-school Olivia – “Can she be in my group?” “No! In mine!” “No, I am in her classroom!”

I love it when they love it

I have been trying different strategies, contextualizing the classes with subjects of their interest, and teaching them language they should actually be using in their lives outside the classroom, and outside the school. What happens when I hit the bullseye is that the students get so excited that they stop hearing me. They jump up and down, they run around, they yell with joy. And the craziest of all is that I smile when I see that reaction.

“I like it because it is good”

I need, however, to find a way to harness all that passion and redirect it towards learning what they must know: to speak their own language in a coherent stream of words that is more than basic. My mission with this group is to get their English to a higher level of precision and to get their thinking to grasp ideas more complex than “I like it because it is good”.


For the time being, I have established another goal. Simpler in theory, but extremely complex with my little crowd, I am determined to build a sense of community, in which “Who is the leader of the table?” is less important than “How will we tackle this task as a group?”

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