Julie Kruitmoes: OK. It’s Julie Kruitmoes and I teach 5th grade at Cherry Hill. I’ve been at 5th grade three years. I taught 1st grade nine years before that. But my degree and major is actually a dual certificate in special ed and elementary ed.
Interviewer: Well, tell me a little bit about your classroom.
Julie Kruitmoes: I have 30 kids. Um, I only have actually two Hispanic kids this year. Last year I had quite a few and a lot that went out for ESL help. Um, this year I have one little gal that goes out for ESL help but mostly she goes out for um special ed help. She’s uh—uh, I don’t think that they—I don’t think that she’s self-contained but—as close to it as you can—she spends more time with the special ed teacher then with me. And our room is very small. Our um facilities and stuff are very tight so it makes for a really close classroom. I enjoy the kids. They’re a—it’s a big challenge in 5th grade. There’s so many more things from 1st that they can do um on their own independently, but then there’s a lot of other things that come into the—they’re a lot more hormonal and they have their little clicks and kind of, you know, their arguments and stuff. It’s uh—it’s a real challenging age. So it’s less than I have—I’ve just 30, like I said. Which is still too many but last year I had 33. So I’m kind of lucky to have even, you know, less than that.
Interviewer: Are there any kind of uh special problems that you have in the class?
Julie Kruitmoes: Um, I have a little boy that’s autistic and he goes out for—he is self-contained in special ed um and he is mostly out of my class all morning. Um, uh I wouldn’t say that’s any bit of a problem because—and I also have a little boy that doesn’t have any resource help. He is dyslexic but the mother wants him in—in the classroom at all times. So I uh work with him. It’s just kind of a—I do have to do things different uh with him. Do things like give him tests and things out loud, orally. Um, not assign—his outside work, you know, isn’t as much as the other kids. Um, some things like that.
Interviewer: Well, tell us about Roxanna.
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, she’s only in my room (interruption) Oh. (interruption) OK. Roxanna Rodriguez is in my room uh mostly in the afternoon. She spends uh pretty much the majority of the morning in her special education class with Mrs. Buck and Mrs. Jenson. Um, so I have her in my room maybe just a little bit before lunch and then in the afternoon. Um, she does her three main academic classes with the special ed teacher um which is good because I have 30 kids and it’s real hard to give Roxanna—she really, really needs a one-on-one teaching situation. And I think that’s where she functions the best and that’s probably where most of her learning takes place is uh on a one-to-one basis and not really in a large classroom.
Interviewer: What subject areas does she do with you?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriquez) Um, she does like kind of her specialty areas with me like social studies and science and um activities, things like we do. I still, even though they’re older in 5th grade like them making some Santa Claus mobiles and some reindeers and stuff to decorate the room. And she loves to do that and gets very involved in that. It’s been hard for her since she broke her arm but as far as academic things um she usually does um “Deal Well With Us,” which is a daily oral language program where I put some sentences on the board with some obvious, some not so obvious mistakes in them and the children copy them in their journal and correct it as they go and then we correct it together. And um I don’t know if it’s a transfer problem from the board to the paper or if it’s just um—I’m not sure exactly what it is, but she has a hard time even spelling the right word, you know, once she’s looked on the board and put it in—I don’t do any misspelled words, I just do things like capitals and uh commas and quotation marks. Things like that. And to transfer—transfer it from the board to her paper um a lot of times—there’s a lot of mistakes. She struggles extremely hard in a regular classroom.
Interviewer: Do you do any reading with her?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, not any other than—we do social studies, we’ll uh—mostly I read aloud on that. They do follow in their books and we ask questions and sometimes they’ll take turns reading but um I found that when I’m working in social studies and science if I have the kids read they’re more concerned about their reading and being nervous if they have to read in front of the class then they are about, you know, the colonies or the war with England. So um I usually do some comprehension questions on that after we’ve discussed it. So I really don’t hear—she’s not with me long enough to do any of the uh—like I said, the closest thing that would come to uh reading or language would be the words that she copies for the daily oral language off the board.
Interviewer: What do you consider her biggest challenges?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, well I worry the most about her academics being on grade level. Um, of course, I don’t see her like the resource does on a one-to-one basis in reading, in spelling, in math. Um, she is non-functional in the 5th grade classroom on those subjects in, you know, a regular classroom without extra help. She couldn’t keep up. I don’t say wouldn’t keep up, I think it’s couldn’t. I think it’s because she’s um—besides—I don’t consider that her Spanish or being Hispanic or the bilingual thing is a problem for her in the classroom. I don’t see—its—she’s just—she’s not um caught up in her native language. I mean if she were to be I think where they spoke all Spanish, she’d still be behind. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the language isn’t the problem. She’s just very, very low academically. Uh, she wouldn’t be able to function in a regular classroom.
Interviewer: What does she do well?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Well, I think uh—she’ll try to participate in the things that we do um. With the subjects that she’s in my class for uh a lot of it is taking notes so that’s very, very hard for her and I accommodate that situation by just, you know, when we’re—every couple of days I’ll take one of the students that has very legible handwriting and takes extremely good notes and I’ll copy them over and then explain them to her, show it to her, and then, you know, tell her that when we do this uh this is what we’ll have the test on and these are the words she needs to know. But um she doesn’t—she doesn’t do well enough to even get a grade in any of those subjects in my class. I think because she has her three main classes with the resource teacher is a very, very good thing, her reading, writing, math, spelling. She’s tried a few spelling uh and that’s—we’ve just switched and had Karin take over that because she was just having a—uh if the kids are having a real hard time in spelling I’ll uh cut the spelling list down and, you know, I’ll try to encourage them to just write the words that they know, you know, or that they’ve studied so the kids don’t know that they’re only taking another half a test or 10 words or 5 words or whatever. And um we just solved that by having her do spelling with Mrs. Buck.
Interviewer: Are there any stories you can think of that stand out in your mind that kind of capture her experience?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, she’s a cute little girl and I think she’s very uh friendly and very social. Um, she likes to tell stories. Everything—of course, a lot of the kids do at that age. It’s sometimes hard because everyone wants to add to the conversation and um I think mostly if there’s things that stick out in my mind with her is how well she participates in a uh group discussion, especially if it’s something that she’s familiar with. A trip or some place she’s been or different things that she’s done. She’s very willing to participate and share and eager to have me and the other kids hear her.
Interviewer: What’s your greatest concern?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, my biggest concern is her reading, I think probably because I just feel like everything borders on that and she um is just so far behind and I don’t know if it’s—I don’t really know what the cause is. I don’t know if she’s—I think she really, truly does have some learning disabilities and so I think that’s um a problem for her as far as um getting up to grade level. I think um as long as she’s having extra help it’s—it’s a very, very good thing. But I worry about them once they get to junior high and, you know, how much—even now in 5th grade they don’t—she likes going to resource. I think she feels very, very successful in there and she knows that it’s helpful to her. And the kids are good about, you know, sometimes kids can be real mean and just—when others are different or something. And we talk a lot about that in um character education and I encourage them and really insist that, you know, that they’re not. But still they know that they go to a special class and I worry about Roxanna um continuing her uh one-to-one academics. I guess that’s my biggest concern because I just feel that she’s—each year she gets further behind. I’m worried about her that way.
Interviewer: So when you have them reading 4th grade reading text she can’t handle it?
Julie Kruitmoes: Um…
Interviewer: What is your experience with her in reading?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, well like we said, it’s—it’s 5th grade and we studied—the United States, is our main curriculum. And I’ve kind of developed a program that’s really good for, um it works out good for me and I thing it’s good for me and my kids where I break the states up so they don’t have to memorize all 50 at once and—and we have a map and they color it and find the capitol and, you know, like that and there’s uh kind of a little research paper on the back on each—each state and then I have them draw like the New England States together free hand and we put those up and talk about them and then we take the test on them, which is the same paper as the worksheet and she can’t take the test. I mean even though we’ve written it and I’ll Xerox a copy of the states with the capitols for her to study from and I give her the same exact paper.
Interviewer: So does she have a memory problem?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um…
Interviewer: She can’t remember the things that you have talked about in class.
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I don’t know. I’ve talked to Mrs. Buck about it because (interruption) Oh, the—whether Roxanna has a memory problem, remembers what we do in class um as an entire 5th grade I’m not sure. I’m concerned and I have talked to her resource teacher about her remembering things because she reads, uh and Karen is real pleased with her progress. But as far her reading on a 5th grade level and doing 5th grade work in my classroom um I’m real—real concerned. She’s not, you know, functioning on a 5th grade level by any means.
Interviewer: Do you have any material in your class that—about the same subject that’s on a lower level?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, luckily I have quite a bit because I taught 1st grade. So I brought all of—a lot of my 1st grade materials, especially um books that are on an easier reading level that are factual and stuff. And it’s not always about um exactly what we’re studying like the government or the US or anything but if Roxanna needs something to work we can go pick out a book on her grade level pretty easily and she’ll be uh very studious and content to sit at her desk and read it and then come tell me about it. She’s always real happy when she’s finished. And she’ll usually pick a book that she can read.
Interviewer: Does she read the book well?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Uh-huh. Yeah. She—I think for where she’s at—like, I think at the beginning they—of the year her reading skills tested at a 1st grade/5th month and she’s probably 2nd or—you know what, I’m not even sure. I shouldn’t even venture to—to say what uh grade level she’s on. But when she picks things that she can read, she does very well.
Interviewer: Were there any other things that you would like to say about her or about—like if you had a chance to talk to teachers that were going to be having to deal with kids, what would you say to them?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Well, that I think that Roxanna is um—I think Roxanna’s limited English is not really um a learning problem. I think she probably—she speaks English here at school and I think she speaks um Spanish—I’ve talked to her dad and he speaks English but I don’t think her mother speaks anything but Spanish. And uh I don’t think Roxanna has as much as a language problem as—I think hers is um just learning disabilities. I think she really has some um serious learning disabilities that—maybe with uh memory, maybe an attention—she’ll stay on task fairly well but if it’s difficult—the task is too difficult she gets frustrated just like any of us would. But um I would say to another teacher uh just get as much one-on-one as you can like maybe parents in a classroom, you know.
Interviewer: Is that what you’d think would be the best thing for—what do you think would be the very best thing that could be done for her?
Julie Kruitmoes: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I think probably the full-time resource and uh—the best thing for Roxanna I think to help her uh achieve her maximum ability would be to have as much resource help as she can on a one-to-one or a two-to-one basis and just try to be at her level and continue to move up instead of trying to take 5th grade level and stick her in. I don’t think um we need to start where she’s at which I think uh when you have a smaller classroom and you’re in um resource, you’re more able to do that. And I think the big classrooms are going to be very hard for Roxanna. Very hard because she’s going to get skipped over and they can’t individualize the curriculum that they need to for kids with special um needs. And I don’t know if I foresee her special needs as being a language barrier. I would—I would be more concerned about her learning disabilities then her Spanish speaking in the classroom.