Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Day in the Kindergarten

Here's a first for me -- substitute teaching in a kindergarten classroom.

Getting there required a bit of mad dash and the first thirty minutes were a tad dicey, but besides that, all was mostly well. No, I haven't discovered what I want to be when I grow up, but all was mostly well.

Those first thirty minutes reminded of the last time I was in charge in a kindergarten classroom -- ten years ago when I taught art once a week for Tim and his then tiny pals. The key take away: Don't turn your back for a minute. If you can avoid pausing to take a breath, all the better. Don't think back to your days in the high school classroom  and consider such folly as strolling down to the copy room to snag a cup of Joe. Oh, no, no, no. There's a reason that elementary kids think teachers never go to the bathroom -- they don't. That is, until the P.E. teacher, the music teacher, the Spanish teacher, or some other blessed and merciful soul assumes temporary command of their charges.

Yeah, the first few minutes were like playing that Whack a Mole game in which the moles just keep popping up. (Thankfully, no one provided me with a stick, and I didn't whack anyone.)

But they were lively. And talkative. And in non-stop motion.

The biggest challenge? Little children are creatures of habit. This is a good thing, something the teacher, no doubt, has worked long and hard to instill in them. Classroom management is all about routines. Trouble is, you throw a sub in there, and she does things a little differently, and the kids all go bug-eyed.

"No!!!" I kid told me in near horror, "we don't read over there!"

"Jonah's supposed to pass out the paper! He's the classroom servant today!"

"We never put things on top of our cubbies!"

Lord love them, they embrace the letter of the law, and there I was just fomenting rebellion and sedition in the ranks with no mind whatsoever for the Way! Things! Ought! To! Be! They're probably at home telling tales to their parents.

I at least had the good sense to respect the office of Line Leader. If Ainsley has taught me anything, it's that one does not mess with the Line Leader.

Lunchtime rolled around, and I realized I had forgotten to pack anything for myself. John grudgingly shared his Doritos. On the table full of math manipulatives,  I spied a container of pretzel rods. After a brief taste test, I am reasonably confident they've been there being counted and measured since Kolbe was in kindergarten.

Product DetailsIn the afternoon we hit phonics -- reading and spelling and rhyming. We read Press Here, one of the coolest books ever. I came home and bought it off Amazon.

Tilt the book a little to the left, the book reads. And all the dots slide to the left. Shake it all up! The dots get bigger. So cool. The kids loved it.

As we moved from one activity to the next, I thought about the variety of jobs I've had. I have mostly good memories of my years in big business. I worked with neat people and did some interesting, challenging work. Too often, however  I left my office, having put in long hours, and wondering if my contribution had made any difference at all.

Teaching is nothing like that.  I knew I could have been a better teacher -- more interesting, more patient  more organized --  but I never struggled to see the point of it all. At the end of the day, I could see a ninth grader who could produce a reasonable essay, a student who actually enjoyed The Odyssey, a senior who could articulate what the Renaissance was and why it mattered.

With these little, little ones, it's even more obvious and in some ways more gratifying. At the end of the phonics lessons, five children understood that I plus CK says ICK and that rhymes with pick and sick and nick and stick.

My hat has always gone off to elementary teachers because their side of the trenches routinely includes shoe tying and trips to bathroom and occasionally descends into fever and, worst of all, vomit.  Even today, I had to pop into the little boys' room to check on a student who was having, ahem, issues. Thankfully, for me and for him, it happened to be my kid. As I helped him and as I opened lunch containers and put straws in drinks and assisted with jackets, I thought that there's a good reason my kids have occasionally called me Mrs.Hebert or Mrs. Phillips. The job calls for a fair amount of Mommying.

Please pray for Mrs. Hebert, the hard working teacher who does this everyday, and for her son who had an emergency appendectomy yesterday.


Janet said...

You go, girl! I always wondered why Kindergarten is the farthest away from the bathroom, but I've never wondered enough to suggest a change! It was good to see you today!!!

Rachel said...

How fun! I'm so glad it worked out for you to go. I need to remember to pack a lunch. And to have someone on hand to bring a large vat of caffeine if I get desperate...

Mary Painter said...

I LOVED teaching Kindergarten. Well, all except the holding of the bladder part. I was so grateful for the parent helpers who came in. Next time you have the chance to sub, tell the kids that it is Same/Different day and at the end of the day they have to tell you what we did the same and what we did different. Then when they tell you you're not doing something right, you can tell them "that's something you can say is different, remember that for later."

Kris said...

You are a brave, brave Mommy!! It takes a very special person to teach elementary school and that is NOT me!! So nice that you can help that teacher out while she cares for her sick child.