... things are falling into place.
I've been back at school since Tuesday. The first two days were inservice; all of the beginning-of-the-year stuff we need to know about, as well as getting my classroom ready for a new year's worth of kids. Wednesday I spent the morning at the elementary school, hoping that they had figured out what it was I was supposed to be doing there every afternoon. They hadn't yet, and told me to come back Thursday and maybe they'd have figured it out.
Thursday was the first day of school for kindergarten through ninth grade. My morning was spent doing paperwork and such (since I don't teach freshmen). I ate lunch, and at 11:00 I arrived at the elementary school.
Oh. My. God.
Let me begin by saying that I don't dislike children. I really don't. I just don't know how to deal with them. I've never been around little kids, so I never learned the appropriate ways to deal with them. It never was a problem, because when was I ever going to be around little kids? I'm only certified to teach grades 7-12, and since I won't be having children of my own, this was never a problem. Until yesterday.
Everything started out great. My assignment, which they gave me yesterday when I entered the building, is to help with first grade math and writer's workshop. Since it will be several days before they begin those routines, for now I'm just supposed to help out where I can. The kids trooped in from lunch and sat down on the carpet while I sat in the back of the room. They're cute little buggers (including one that is a tiny peanut with a mohawk!), but wow, they were full of energy. None could sit still, even when the teacher called for their attention.
The first part of the afternoon I didn't have to do much. They had share time, then went to music class. Terrific. I had a bit of a breather and spoke with both first grade teachers about what I will be doing, who I will be helping, and what that will be like. I am going to have to learn to be very, very flexible as things change in the elementary classroom way more than they do at the high school. High energy has never been something my high school students suffer from.
After music, Ms. P had the kids start an art project to bring home to their parents. Two red school houses that they had to cut out and glue together with glue sticks, and some other embellishments to add. Sounds simple, right?
"Mrs. Kinne, I can't cut this part. It's too tricky."
"Can you help me?"
"Did I cut this right?"
"How do I fold this?"
"What do I do next?"
"Uh-oh, I ripped it!"
Seventeen first graders were suddenly all clamoring for my attention. All at once, right on top of each other. My poor high school brain was almost immediately overwhelmed. I wanted to have a meltdown right there, but kept it together as best as I could. We got through that okay, and as the end of the day approached, Ms. P asked kids if they had to go to the bathroom. Several did. One little boy came back and looked at me with big eyes. "I can't get my zipper. Can you help me?"
Seriously. I had to zip up a boy's pants. I have NEVER done that before in my life. EVER. I felt like Arnold Schwartzenneger in Kindergarten Cop. Suddenly I knew what that kind of get-me-out-of-here desperation felt like. And yes, I zipped his zipper. My face was probably flaming with embarassment, but I did it.
After that was story time - kids could pick a book and read it on the rug while they waited to be dismissed. No less than four kids wanted to be read to, and others wanted "help." I tried to get them started and leave them, but they kept coming back, like waves, each one more insistent than the one before.
When they were dismissed at 2:05, I was exhausted and sweaty. I'd had two kids on my lap at different times (I don't even know the rules about that!) and left feeling more overwhelmed than ever. I have no idea what I am doing there. None.
And at 11:00 today ... I have to go back.