First grade isn’t what it used to be. It's more.
Amber Baumert has been teaching in Flagler County for the past 16 years. Ten of those have been at Rymfire Elementary.
Baumert engages her 20 students with hands-on lessons.
“I try to make it fun so they don’t realize how hard they are working,” she said. “Demands have increased on children and they are a bit more stressed out and overwhelmed than years ago. If I can do something in a fun way I can take some of that stress away from them.”
The children sit in chairs with rollers and on big blue balls, all designed to help the students stay focused.
Baumert gets to know her kids, and their families, through surveys that ask how they like school and getting them to share fun things from home.
A board system allows Baumert to spend time with the children in small groups of five. While she is in group the others know to check the board to see what they should be working on, and who their partners are.
“When I first began teaching, whole group instruction was the norm,” she said. “I have learned that I love teaching in small groups.”
This is also the time for some social skills. Everyone is expected to greet one another and start the day on a positive note, even with just a smile.
Baumert keeps score. When the students do something well they get a point, if they are not doing well, “oh no I can do better,” Baumert gets the point. She makes sure the “competition” is close. If they have more points, which usually they do, they get to play quiet ball or hot potato at the end of the day. On those rare occasions when Baumert “wins” they keep working and finish their activity.
Failure is an option, an option to learn, according to Baumert. She often encourages the children out of their comfort zone to increase their learning.
“They are going to have struggles in their life and they learn not to give up when they are struggling, and that it’s OK to fail because you learn from your mistakes.”