Friday, October 28, 2005

Into the Pumpkin Gulag

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Attached you will find a permission slip for our field trip to The Pumpkin Farm. The admission is $7, which all of you will just ignore anyways, seeing as how I teach in Povertyville, IL; and don't worry about remembering to sign the permission slip, as I will be mailing a letter home every day until the day before, at which time I will become frantic and teach your progeny to chant "Sign my slip...sign my slip..." until you do the best you can. So, por favor, make this underpaid pseudoparent happy and just send back something, anything, with your name on it.

Love, Mrs. C.

Well, we had our first field trip on Wednesday to the Pumpkin Farm. And when I say "pumpkin farm," I mean militant hippy commune, where kindergarten teachers are ripped off the buses by rangy women without makeup sporting long gray braids, as they tell us, "Stand over there, we'll unload the children." This made my clingers panic, and my manipulative schemers instantly going into "Plan B" mode-"Try to Take Over the World." I nervously paced around several million pumpkins until my kiddos were returned to me. Still no idea why we all had to be separated.

We were met at the gate by another militant, gray braided woman, this one a bit plumper. She apparently would be our "guide," which meant she escorted the kindergarteners and I, and my seven trusty chaperone moms, over to a train. This train was driven by a really freaky mannequin, (dressed in a prisoner's uniform? WTF?) which for some reason really scared the shit out of my Mexican kids. Around and around they went until the man at the controls woke up and realized where he was. Our next stop was an inflated pumpkin, where kids could jump around without my direct interference, as I was too big to get in there. They used their time wisely, enacting Darwinian "survival of the fittest" maneuvers, clobbering one another until I dragged them out.

The other highlight of the day was feeding creatures at the "petting zoo," which consisted of a million starving goats crammed into a cage. My kids were all excited about this until go-time, when I found myself surrounded by paper cups of goat feed, and little voices telling me that they were scared. So, while some of my kids conquered their fear by chucking the whole cup of feed at the goats (who amazingly, caught and ate it in mid air), I was helping about three-quarters of my kids feed goats, which left me soaking in goat mucus from my elbow to my hand. The next time someone tells me teachers are overpaid, I am going to soak them in goat mucus, and then stick them on a pumpkin commune with twenty-four kids who have to pee.

Several other elementary classes from other schools were there, and I kept finding extra kids in my group from a nearby new elementary school. We just kept chucking them at the Pumpkin Gestapo, and moving on. I congratulated myself on not losing any of my kids the whole day, when at the end of the day, the apparent head SS officer came over and barked, "Excuse me! You lost four of your kids today!"

Beg your ever-focking pardon? "Who do you think you're talking to?" I asked, trying to remind myself that 48 eager little ears were pointed in my direction. "Who are you?" Head SS asked me. I told her, and she froze, said "Oh, ok, never mind," and then walked away. All of my kids, however, were very excited over this, and asked me the whole ride home, "Who was lost? Were we lost? Am I lost? Teesher, what lost means?" and so forth.

I will seek revenge, so help me God. At least mi ninos had a good time.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sotto Voce

It was bound to happen sooner or later- 24 kindergarteners, sticking their fingers into their nose-mouth-eyeballs-God knows what all else, and grabbing me all day. That's right- I have fallen victim to some kind of viral crud. Fortunately, it wasn't the kind of sick where you're totally incapacitated- it did rob me of my voice, though.

Explaining this to my kids elicited a variety of reactions. I gathered the darlings to my feet at the rug, and told them that I had lost my voice. Excited buzz ensued.

Little Mr. Cutie Pants- "Missis 'Appoda, where it go?"

Sarcastic Five Year Old- "It did not- we can still hear you talking."

Girl Who Likes to Copy Me- "My voice is lost, too." (whispered)

I clarified things- my voice was sick and so today was going to be a Very Quiet Day. Which, my over-qualified and under-informed aide took to mean shushing my kids all damn day. There is little more that I hate than the sound of "SHHHHHHH..." It's enough to make me take everyone hostage. And PS- if your school decides to hire a disgruntled administrator as a kindergarten aide, tell them to go... Oh, you know.

Ya see- five and six year olds talk. It's how they figure things out. I do like them to talk in a voice that can only be heard by their table. And, while they do a good job of this some of the time, they still are learning. It seems, after meeting many of the parents, that conversations are held at the level of a fishmonger's wife's holler in many households, so no wonder they're confused. Baby steps, my friends.

So I turned on a nature CD, which included Vivaldi and crickets chirping (and loons calling, and drunks falling into a pond- very soothing). I went to each table and whispered for them to "Listen for the crickets." In less than a minute, I had accomplished what no level of "SHHHH" by the aide could- every child was silent. And listening. They loved it! There is nothing like ending a Friday afternoon with mes petites choux coloring away to Vivaldi, and the aide sneaking home early. Good riddance to her. We've finally earned our fish!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Imaginary Friend? It's Okay!

Well man, I've been delinquent. The amazing world of kindergarten has absorbed a ton of my time, (with a birth on the side, nonetheless, but this is a teacher's blog, not a doula's, so you'll have to get that info out of me some other way. I will say this- I plan on birthing at home, now more than ever. Frikkin doctor...)

Anyways, it's just tons of fun at Room 109. One of the ways I have been trying to motivate my little spazlings into doing "the right thing" (aka not shrieking, staying in one general spot for just a few moments, and participating) is by bringing in a fish tank and all of the little doodads that go along with one. The deal is: if they are by and large well behaved for a day, we add one more element to the fish tank. I was explaining this to them one day on the carpet.

Me: "I have so many fun ideas that I want to do with all of you- but if you're Time Wasters, we can't do them. I will have to take my fun ideas home to Mr. C."

Crowd: gasps
Little Clara: looks thoughtful

Me: "One of these things is a fish tank. If everyone makes right choices, we can add to the tank every day, and soon we can add fish! I hope everyone makes right choices! Otherwise, I'll just have to bring home the fish for Mr. C. to play with."

Little Clara: "Is Mr. C. your imaginary friend? It's okay to have an imaginary friend, right?"

Is Mr. C. truly my imaginary friend? This girl scared the ever-living quantum physics out of me, resulting in an afternoon of pensive reflections about whether or not the last 10 months have been some kind of hallucination.

My kids have been very lovingly bringing me little presents as well. One child, the "Quiet Instigator" has been stealing things from his cousins' rooms and bringing me all sorts of pre-teen girl jewelry. Another boy brought me, of all things, a square inch of bread last Friday. Another one brought me a postcard with a dog and a kitten on one side, with the reminder on the other that "Tigger is overdue for his distemper vaccine." Treasures!

During an observation, it became clear that I'm mashing letter concepts into their little craniums pretty hard when I held up a small triangle and a large triangle and asked them to tell me the similarities and differences. "One's a capital triangle, and one's a lowercase triangle," they all yelled (since when do five year olds do anything quietly?)

Walking them through the hallways is enough to cause other teachers of older students to bend completely in half laughing. I don't go into these trips half-assed, either. We have debriefing sessions that are pretty intense:

Me: "We'll be walking into the hallways pretty soon ladies and gentlemen, you know what you have to do. Are we in wiggly-jiggly lines?"

Class: "NO! Straight lines!"

Me: "How about our voices?"

Class: "Turn them off!"

Me: "What if you really have to say something?"

Class: "We'd better be bleeding or barfing if we are talking!"

Me: "Where are we looking?"

Class: "Straight ahead!"

Well, but attention spans and short term memories aren't what they used to be. No sooner are we out in the hall before:

Limited English Speaker: "Hey teesher, teesher, I hab two things to say-"
Me: "No Limited English, save it."
LES: "Two things-"
Me: "NO." Repeat, repeat, repeat. I tell him to cover his mouth with his hand.

We struggle on, most of the class still hanging on, a few kids losing track of where we are and what we are doing, wander away. Once retrieved, a few other ones do the same thing." We stop and gather our thoughts. Repeat process all the way to the library (or computer lab, or wherever.) Teachers passing us in the hallway practically are in tears trying not to laugh.

More insanity later...