I’m not certified to teach elementary, but as a sub, sometimes you get called anyway, and several times I agreed to go.
I thought fourth-graders were tough. First-graders? I wouldn’t wish teaching them on my worst enemy; first-grade teachers deserve to be sainted, or knighted, or given whatever honor you can name.
But then last Friday, I met a creature more fearsome than first-graders, more frightening than any boogie man under the bed of a child:
I taught kindergartners.
And let me tell you, 5-year-olds are evil.
OK, they’re not evil. They’re mostly wonderful and cute and fun and all those things you normally think about 5-year-olds. But when it’s your job to corral them and keep them busy for seven hours, well, let’s just say when the day was over I felt like Fred Flinstone after something fell on him at the quarry: dizzy and thrilled to be out of there.
A few tales from my day with the tiny set, and with all due respect to Robert Fulghum’s wonderful essay, I’m not sure I learned everything I needed to know:
— My day began with a boy who was brought in to the classroom crying, and he remained that way for a good 40 minutes. It was only the second week of school and E (his first initial) was having a little separation anxiety. He came in, sat for five seconds, then collapsed to the floor sobbing hysterically, saying “I want my mommy” for a while and then just dripping puddles of tears onto the lovely tile floor.
I spent a good 20 minutes begging, pleading, cajoling young E to please sit up and join us, but like a 1960s protester, he would not be moved. I thought I knew what feeling helpless was like before Friday, but this might have been my most helpless moment ever. I was so desperate I thought about offering him money, but I figured that might not be a good precedent to set.
— One thing I learned in a grad school psychology in the classroom course is that when we’re only 5, we don’t have a real grasp on “consequences” yet.
This was brought home to me at lunchtime. Three kids were doing as they were told, holding hands as we walked down the steps to the cafeteria. I was at the front of the line, and all of a sudden I heard two “OWWW!”‘s from behind me.
It seems the boy in the middle of the trio decided it’d be really awesome to jump from the third step down to the bottom step.
Only, he sorta forgot to let go of his two buddies’ hands when he jumped, and they apparently came tumbling down like dominoes. (They were fine.)
Oh sure, it’s funny now (my wife is still laughing at the visual four days later). But YOU try explaining to my little jumper that he can’t do stuff like that when holding hands with other children.
— Whoever designed the bathroom in this school clearly screwed up. I learned this when, while making the first of our many trips to the potty, two boys said they needed help at the sink. They could lean over and get their hands wet, but the soap dispenser was like 8 feet over their heads.
So all day I was pressing the dispenser, then watching the liquid soap slowly drop down into tiny waiting hands.
OK, that was funny at the time.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I got lots of hugs and lots of “Mr. Teacher” goodbyes and I got yet another new perspective on how teachers who teach 5-year-olds are the bravest people on Earth.
**Next up, here’s something hilariously awful. A bunch of white pro golfers got together and tried to rap, and it went about as badly as you’d expect.
Friends don’t let friends who can’t rap, rap.
**And finally, this was one of the coolest moves by a football kicker I’ve ever seen. Check out the fancy move by Rice University kicker Chris Boswell in the fourth quarter of his team’s game Saturday; the best replay of this awesome attempt starts at around the :46 mark.
Sadly, Rice didn’t win, but man, that was a sweet move.