Monday, February 23, 2009

Kindergarten Baby

I am soooo not cut out to be a kindergarten teacher. Between job offers I tend to forget what a horrible, terrifying, painful experience subbing in a kindergarten classroom is. Or perhaps my desire for a paycheck helps me repress the memories.

The thought is always there (don't do it), just below the surface (please, don't do it!) when the school calls (anything, anything but kindergarten) and asks if I'm free to substitute (for the love of God, don't do it). It's like the spooky music playing during a scary movie: Don't answer that phone! Can't you hear the violin crescendo?

I remember the first time I subbed in a kindergarten room. They trickled in by ones and twos, quiet little cherubs full eager for learning. But soon I was caught in the swirling eddies of an ankle biter flash flood. I had stepped into a tranquil stream in the Amazon, only to see it become a churning cauldron of destruction as the piranha began to feed.

It's not that they wanted to take advantage of the substitute (that doesn't seem to happen until about third grade, a trust me). They were really trying to be helpful, the little dears.Each one knew what the schedule was. But each one's schedule was different. And each was absolutely certain they were correct. Kind of like politicians.

One on one, kindergartners are a manageable commodity. Oh sure, we've all seen the screaming toddler at the store. Always someone else's kid, right? An aberration, the exception to the rule. But as they are brought together, their energy level increases exponentially. A release of energy to rival the splitting of an atom.

Remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Kindergarten Cop? He is completely overrun by the students, until they settle down, exhausted, for rest time. The director had it all wrong. The kids weren't nearly wild enough. And they don't settle down, exhausted, for rest time. The teacher might cower, quietly sobbing, in the corner, however.

Happily my day ended without bloodshed or wet pants. After about four or five (maybe it was eight or ten) tequila shooters (they're just like the kids: small, fast acting and they pack a punch) I mellowed enough to realize most of the students were good kids. In fact, I spent most of the day trying to corral just four kids: Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer and Damien.

My favorite true story: I had just sent the students to their desks after group time on the rug. One little boy, whose assigned spot on the carpet was right up near the teacher (should be a hint), said his shoe was stuck to the table. I figured maybe his shoe lace had been tangled around the table leg. Oh, no. The shoe dangled from the support just under the table top, where it was bound by a knot any boyscout would be proud of.

How did this happen? I asked.
"I don't know!" he exclaimed, eyes wide with astonishment.
Was the shoe on your foot the whole time?
"Yes," he answered solemnly.
Was your foot on your leg the whole time?

Sarcasm is wasted on kindergartners. Another reason why I'm not a good match for them.

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