Thursday, February 23, 2017
If you find yourself in the habit of being trapped in large rooms with about 30 2nd graders, as I do, you might find out that on the day of a storm, a Friday to be exact, when the yard is flooding, and the lights are flickering, and you realize after about one hour out of the six you are allotted to spend with this lot, that you pulled a crap lotto in this group.
What happens when the you that you usually are – the funny, tall, fast thinking, great reading, candy giving, highly motivated, craftily creative fake teacher that you are – it is not working.
This group, on this storm day, is the group from hell. A bawdy lot, crass, loud talking, fast moving, openly yawning sneaky devils who aren’t getting you.
OMG, I think to myself. But 2nd grade – it’s my THING. They’re so CUTE usually. They’re so easy to ease out of their chattiness and into the fake way I make learning fun.
But not here, at Hacklin elementary emphasisonthehack. It’s like this group, it’s been inoculated. They see me but nope there is a fine invisible film between us. And that’s just fine with them.
I sink down into a chair. Crumbling slightly after wrestling through the English lesson the teacher left out and haggling my way raggedly through the math. OH NO. It’s not going to work out. You barely like me. I certainly don’t like you. We have to break up.
Usually I schedule my break ups happily for the end of the day when really we’re still in love, it’s too soon to say goodbye, will I ever see you again, they’re saying wistfully, of course, I answer with reassuring gentle wisdom. We all go out with a smile and some angst and a bang at the bell ringing when I release them back to their wild. While they still love me because for six hours I CAN be loveable, I can win an Oscar and break the sound barrier and fuse neutrons for 6 hours. But what happens on a day like today, when we are breaking up NOW. Not when I schedule it. But NOW. Right in front of my face, right after breakfast, 45 minutes in, even before recess.
It’s mostly Mathew’s fault. Mathew and I, we’re like having a mental knife fight from the moment he sets eyes on me. He has one t in his name, which is so wrong. It’s just lazy, people. He is boisterous, and he doesn’t care who knows it. He spends a great deal of time making paper airplanes and throwing confetti on people. You think it’s cute but the kid uses confetti like a thug. Paper airplanes now, hubcabs off your car tonight.
When I’m doing vocabulary there are only five words they have to get through, and one is recuperate. During word number #1, number THE FIRST, when we are barely STARTED, I see their eyes glaze over. I’m dancing around to keep them interested but table 2 is ordering nachos and half of table four has collapsed drunk on boredom. Uh oh, I pull out my ACTING trick and pull two students up to act out the word recuperate. This gets table 1 listening, because half their table is up there ON STAGE, and SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. Usually acting gets all the kids listening, because of the fun. But table 4 is looking at me like they’re trapped at the museum of modern art with no art on the wall. This is when I know I’m sliding down an icy slope into the place where they shred substitutes and sprinkle the remains on top of the salads of actual teachers.
Recuperate does not recuperate us. It’s learning cholera, it’s epidemic. I consider letting them play the rest of the day and not doing anything else. It’s not like I have a supervisor. There are no adults. The little dudes are not going to remember this ONE DAY in 2nd grade. But when you have a group that has checked out, if you then give them FREE TIME, they end up underneath the desks making a fort out of raincoats. I can’t have kids that I don’t know underneath desks, as much as I’m all for that in general. I’m pretty sure if another adult walked in, I’d be spanked.
So I just have to keep my torment to myself. I can’t break up with them in front of them, although I do manage to say carefully during my one ten minutes of reading aloud to them, that this is maybe the one class I’ve ever had where we won’t get to play a game at the end of the day because WE ARE BREAKING UP. Can’t you see that YOU ARE HORRIBLE no because YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME because MOMMY IS HAVING AN ANXIETY ATTACK because 30 IS TOO MANY FOR BAD. There is no happy ending with this group. There is just quickly changing every subject, yelling at Mathew, sending kids out of the room, yelling at nobody, feeling volcanic, and feeling small. We angle toward the end of the day and by the end I do let them play a game but I am counting the minutes because twenty to two is a really long time until 2:23 when they get out, and every minute is loud.
The rain rages on outside and the principal makes an announcement that parents will come TO the rooms to pick up children, after the bell of freedom, so YES I GET THEM FOR EVEN LONGER.
Eventually all the moms come, even the one of the morbidly sneaky Ruth, and I close the door on this room hopefully forever. But when I’m down in the office handing in my key shakily as the real world comes lumbering back at me in a whoosh, there is another teacher there, smiling hopefully at me. Oh hi, she’s saying. I’m getting picked up in the lobby basically. The office is the bar of my career, and I am its painted whore. Do you have a card or something? She’s asking.
Of course I give her my number.