After four years of enjoying my time at Bridgewater—and being thankful of my decision when I heard how UMass Dartmouth, my almost safety school, got rid of elementary education—I finally graduated and was ready to start teaching. To start molding the minds of young children. After all, that’s what I fell in love with. That moment when you’re able to help a child understand something, when you can find a way to get a message across.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher. I was the kid in first grade who loved school so much that she’d take home extra workshops to play school with her stuffed animals. If only I had taken the time to compare the differences between stuffed animals and kids. I wouldn’t be in this position right now. Gorilly, my right hand stuffed monkey, never put up a fight when it came time to sit still during reading circle. And Benny, in all his stuffed penguin glory, never punched Miss Pinky for not sharing the orange crayon.
Even nearly a decade and a half of being an aunt hadn’t prepared me for how annoying children are. I thought it was because of how little peace I got at home. It turns out having the safe haven of my room invaded by toddlers is nowhere as annoying as trying to wrangle twenty or so hyper first graders into doing something productive. Playing the role of teacher was a lot easier in my imagination.
The school year is almost over. My first year as a real teacher. I must have been insane to be excited over giving up the comfortable position of teacher’s aide. I had celebrated turning over my copy machine and grading duties. But what did I get instead? Runny noses, grumpy pouts, and high-pitched screams. I used to be able to pass all the problems along to the teacher…silly me, forgetting that I would be the one to have to deal with the problems.
And in front of me sits three of those problems. It’s not even time for art, but Mary Anne is hugging her orange crayon like a security blanket. Which is funny, considering I watched her break every last one of her crayons just this morning. She alternated between crying and glaring at me when I threw away the rainbow splattering of crushed crayons. Her table mate, Bobby, seems to remember too because he has his twelve pack of crayons box turned upside down. Only eleven crayons fall out, and he starts to slowly count them. When he realizes how many are there, his picks up the pace and before anyone can react, his fist flies towards Mary Anne, barely missing her. To her credit, she takes it in stride and holds on to the crayon even tighter.
Sighing, I separate them, moving Bobby a handful of kids away from Mary Anne. My lecture probably falls short, so I make a mental note to raise the issue again later. I know I should do more to stop them, but George is in my peripheral vision, dancing from his spot on the rug. He’s never been a fan of sitting Indian style, but today’s fidgeting has me worrying that it’s more more than a simple case of ants in the pants. Either he sampled the sugar container for breakfast this morning or he’s about to have an accident. Again. And here I thought that first graders were well past the potty-training stage.
My attention is drawn back to Bobby and Mary Anne as I notice her hurdling over the kids between them in an effort to make a grab for more of his crayons, left forgotten on the floor in his fury over the orange crayon. I can’t help but mentally place a bet on Mary Anne as the winner of this battle. This week alone she’s massed quite a collection of her classmates’ belongings. I’ve had to unload her desk every day this week, returning pencils, toys, and snacks to their rightful owners. It’s a problem I’ve left numerous unanswered messages about on her parents’ voicemails.
Ah, parents. The other bane of my working existence. You think they’d care more about their children’s well-being. Well, you’d be wrong. They think they’re off duty as soon as they drop their kids off at this jungle of a classroom. Then they’re my problem. A problem I’m clearly not good at solving. The fact that Bobby now has a purple crayon stuck up his nose should be enough proof of that. At least George is stationary for the time being. Although, on second thought…that might not be the best news.
I think the clock on the wall is broken. The second hand can’t be moving that slowly, can it? Recess is in a couple of minutes…and reading circle is clearly a bust. I think it’s time to distract them.
“Line up for recess!”
Yep, there they all go, scurrying towards the door. Crayons drop from Mary Anne’s pockets as she races the other students. Petty theft is nothing compared to the measures she takes to be the line leader. Knowing she’ll be placed at the end of the line for her behavior when she’s caught doesn’t stop her from stomping on feet and pushing friends out of the way.
Bobby bends down to collect the crayons, a big smile on his face. He still has the purple one in his nose. I’m kind of hoping it’s from fear of Mary Anne and not because he actually forgot about it—or worse, likes it. To my relief, he pulls it out and lines up behind George, who once again is dancing in his spot. Mary Anne pats her pockets, her face set in determination of revenge. And just as I look at the clock again and realize more than half of the day is over, one thought sticks out to me.
I get to do this all over again tomorrow.