I taught second grade today, which is like being pecked to death by a chicken. Small children in doses of about four at a time is fun; twenty-three against one is an unfair fight.
I am just not used to dealing with people who cannot tie their own shoes or find the gloves their mothers stashed in their coat pockets. You’d think hanging out with the Chico State AGR frat boys would have prepared me for this experience, but it didn’t. I lose my patience after the 13th “Do NOT talk while I’m talking.”
Some days I feel like an automated voice-command robot wearing a plaid skirt and black leggings. My vocabulary is reduced to “Don’t run in the hallway,” “Show me how you stand in a nice, straight line,” “Don’t play on the ice,” and “Do you need help zipping your coat?”
The kids don’t deliberately misbehave; they simply have the attention span of microwave popcorn. They are at the door, they are at their desk, they are getting a drink of water, they are asking to go to the bathroom, they are hugging me, they are shoving a marker up their nose…they are everywhere! All twenty-three of them!
To add to the merry chaos, their regular teacher left me a note that included these instructions:
“Calendar Math: Start them, as the students the numbers you write them.” Didn’t make a lick of sense to me, either.
“Pick up students.” From where? And then, once I located the little beggars, they all put their coats on and I didn’t recognize a single one. Wandering the playground, shading my eyes from the sun while looking for the group of students entrusted into my care for the day does not cultivate the competent persona I was going for.
“As you work with the red and purple reading groups, the rest of the class will do centers.” I never did figure out what ‘centers’ were, but that didn’t stop me from commanding half the class to do them. The kids would come up and ask, “What center are we on?”
“Pick your favorite one.”
I endured 12-degree morning recess duty wearing a knee-length wool skirt and leggings. That was a poorly thought-out clothing choice. For afternoon recess, I told the kids to put away their books, put on their jackets, and sit quietly at their desks. After a few quiet but warm minutes, a little voice piped up “Are we in trouble?” Glancing at the clock, I realized I had to take them outside and freeze at some point. Sigh.
Tomorrow I have sixth grade math. Middle school is a beautiful thing; changing classes enables children to experience new teaching styles, practice high school-type schedules, and, most importantly, teachers catch a break. If a kid is lipping off the entire hour, just make it to the next bell and he’ll be gone.