She had one of those first-grade voices that just doesn’t carry at all, nor would I expect it to. She is one of the smallest children in the first grade class in which I was called upon as a substitute today at the last moment. It was a joy to return to the class because this class was my first experience on the elementary level. I remember being terrorized for most of the day. Not because the class was any worse than any other class, but my expectations of what was required were completely unrealistic. What I mean by that is that at the high school level, the teacher gives you a movie to show the students, or a test, or a paper that will keep them busy while you read a novel, surf the internet on your iPhone and feel completely worthless in your role of supervision.
Elementary school is not that way at all. You don’t sit down in elementary school. The only time you surf the net is when the students are at P.E. or some other functions. And even then, for the most part you just relax and enjoy a few moments of silence and solitude.
The reason my first experience with an elementary class was so horrible is because the class was in constant motion. The days of keeping the students in line by whacking them on the back of their hand with a ruler have long since faded into our collective memory along with the Pink Floyd song that reminded us of such things back in the late 1940s. Corporate punishment does still exist, but it has to be documented, witnessed, authorized, cauterized, sterilized and immunized to the point that it it virtually worthless. All this means is that the phrases “sit still” and “be quite” really don’t mean anything at this level. During my first experience in the classroom with a bunch of 6-year-olds was overwhelming.
But it was not today. Today, as I had learned from repeat performances, it was a lot better going into a class in which you know the students. They remembered me, and I remembered… well, I have slept since my last time in this class so it took a while to place the names with the faces. But that was rather easy. Most of the day was taken up by a some state test the students had and the teacher assistant the administration sent in to give the test ran the show at that point. Once she was done with the test, then I took over in the afternoon.
Since Mrs. M. was sick and had not been able to give any instructions about what to teach them, I was left pretty much on my own, which was not great, but not bad. I had them read and take trips to the library (not lieberry*) for new books. Everything went well until the last 20 minutes of class when all discipline just sort of vacated the building like we all wanted to do. I didn’t try to fight it but did tried to keep things from getting too ugly until I got them all out the door. It was when we started lining up to leave that K came up to me and was trying to tell me something.
There were three or four other children around us, so I couldn’t really bend over to hear her. I asked her to repeat herself twice and after that proved fruitless, I just decided to pick her up and put her face about six inches from mine. Not a good idea. Why? Because she, and the rest of the class started giggling uncontrollably at the fact that I so easily hoisted her up to my level. I tried several times to get her to repeat what she was trying to tell me earlier, but all it did was illicit more giggling.
I put her back down and thought: “that wasn’t as effective a I hoped.”
Then the real drawback: the rest of the class wanted me to pick them up as well. Nope! There are some hefty boys in that class and I have a back to take care of. Hence, the note to self.
* Some of my pet peeves include children saying “lieberry” as opposed to “library.” I don’t let them get away with that. I’m also on a crusade to rid the English language of “foe” for “four” and “doe” for “door.” I know that with these last two, I run the risk of stepping on the Ebonics crowd’s toes, but I will pursue my crusade nonetheless.