Tell Me Everything

Once a week my class pairs up with a first grade class to read books. It’s one of my favorite traditions, and the older and younger kids all really love it. It’s also a chance for me to interact with first graders, which is always an adventure.

Today one little girl brought a non-fiction book about fish to read with her buddy. They were near my desk as I answered an email, so I could hear my student patiently answering questions about fish. Do they blink? Do they have eyelids? If they don’t, how do they close their eyes when they sleep? My student patiently answered as best she could, including to say she didn’t know and maybe they could do more research together in the library. I smiled to myself, so proud of my student.

However, after awhile they hit a point where my fifth grader was all out of answers. Which was when I looked up from my computer to see a tiny person staring at me solemnly. As soon as I made eye contact, she demanded “Tell me about goldfish rectums.” In a heavy Russian accent, which made it even better.

I stared back at her as I decided where to start. “What do you want to know?” I asked. “Everything.” She answered.

Thus followed a detailed discussion of the digestive system, fish eating habits, and official terminology of body parts. Always an adventure.

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Jumping Off Bridges

A couple weeks back, I was leading lines of kids from the gym to their buses at the end of the day. A jacket was left on the floor. “Whose is this?” I asked, pointing to it. After a short pause, two second graders literally flung themselves at the jacket, smacking into the floor and each other, then wrestling for it.

“WHOA!” I yelled, and they separated from each other, but continued to yank the jacket back and forth between them. I held my hand out for it, and they reluctantly surrendered it. “Who does this belong to?” I asked again. One of the boys raised his hand. “Mine.” “But he told me to race him to it!” The other cut in quickly. “Did you think that that was a good idea?” I asked him. “But he told me to!” The little one insisted.

Using the oldest metaphor in the book for this kind of scenario, I asked him, “If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you?” I meant this as a rhetorical question, but he got a thoughtful look on his face and cocked his head to the side.

“Hell yeah!” He answered. “That sounds awesome!”

Ant Problems

We had a class breakfast last week, and in the ensuing chaos of twenty-three 12 year olds eating and drinking, some juice was spilled. Multiple kids attempted to clean it up, but only ended up smearing it across an even greater surface of the counter. Within an hour, sugar ants were busily crawling across it. We cleaned it up, but by then the damage was done and a line of ants kept scurrying across the counter.

That afternoon we had reading buddies, and the second graders of course noticed the ants. One little girl quickly pointed out that I could just poison them. I explained that they were there for the spilled juice, and that I didn’t want to use poison if we could just do a better job cleaning up the juice.

“You could put the poison in the juice bottle!” She suggested enthusiastically.

“Well I really don’t want to use poison, and the ants won’t be able to get the juice in the bottle anyway” I replied.

The little girl looked meaningfully around the table at each of the sixth graders she sat with. “It’s not for the ants.” She said to me. The sixth graders looked at me and each other, but the little one was already back to her book, head resting gently on her very alarmed looking buddy.

After the second graders left, my students asked “Did she suggest you poison us because we didn’t clean up the juice?” “I think she did.” I answered. “But I promise not to poison any of you.” Nonetheless, the juice was thoroughly cleaned up after that.

What I’m Doing With My Life

One of the first students in this morning was Evie, who immediately strode purposefully to my desk for the following very important conversation.

Evie: “What did you think of Kanye’s contacts?”

Me: Blank stare

Evie: “At the met gala? His contacts??”

Me: “Oh, I didn’t watch that.”

Evie: “It was all over social media!”

Me: Blank stare, slowly sipping my tea.

Evie: “What are you even doing with your life?”

 

All Hormones, All the Time

Ahh, May of the fifth grade. A glorious time. The flowers bloom, the weather warms up, the kids are suddenly taller, crankier, and stinkier. Spring is in the air, and so are the hormones.

We have officially hit the preteen period. They are talking about who likes who, desperately jostling to sit next to specific people only so they can roll their eyes at everything that person says. They are more aware of clothes, and music, and what they are ‘supposed’ to like. For my friends who teach primary grades, this time is terrifying, but I don’t mind it too much.

It’s a tough time for them. Emotions are high. They are likely to laugh too loud, cry at the drop of a hat. Little things can make them angry and ruin their day. Their bodies have started changing in weird, uncomfortable ways. Even worse, people know this is happening and expect them to talk about it. Relatives and older family friends around them wax emotional about the wonderful, amazing changes ahead, while they cringe awkwardly.

All of the above describes puberty, but it also describes… pregnancy!

I feel your pain, guys.

You cried yesterday because your friend didn’t want to play tag with you. I cried because I could not reach my foot to buckle my sandal. You became inexplicably angry when your mom insisted you go with her to your brother’s soccer game. I went into a rage when my husband ate the last pizza slice.

You’re suddenly getting taller. A lot taller. When you stand up, it’s disorienting to see how high off the ground you are. I’m getting wider. A lot wider. It’s hard to remember that I can no longer fit between small spaces like desks. (Related note: I’m sorry my belly has hit so many of you in the back of the head when I walk by. You’re right, we do need more space between the tables.)

You’re growing hair in unexpected places that you don’t want to talk about. I am sporting luxurious side burns (don’t worry, your facial hair will come in soon) and a hairy belly of truly epic proportions. I, too, am simultaneously ashamed and proud of this.

Your body has started doing all sorts of strange, weird, gross, but sort of cool things that I won’t talk about here. I feel you, my small friends. Humans. Gross, am I right?

So here we sit- 23 pubescent preteens and a 6 month pregnant teacher. Sometimes I ask my assistant what it’s like to be surrounded by a sea of hormones. She says she doesn’t mind, but in all fairness she may just be afraid I’ll cry. Or eat her.

These Are My Big Girl Pajamas

Last year, our superintendent retired and a new one was hired. At the end of the year, the new hire (let’s call him Mr. S) went around to all the schools to meet the new staff. He came to our school on field day, which is a huge outdoor K-6 event. It’s a blast. Last years took place on a bright sunny day after a week of rain. I had been leading parachute games, and over the course of a few hours had sat, laid down, and slid in the mud left behind on the fields. I was in cut off jeans and a t-shirt, and pretty thoroughly covered in muck. When I met Mr. S, I had to wipe my muddy hand off on my muddy jeans to shake his hand. He was a very good sport about it, and in my defense I was one of many scruffy, muddy teachers.

The next time I ran into him was this fall. It was a cool, rainy day, the kind where you wake up and think “No, I do not want to dress like a professional.” Luckily for me my school is ok with that, so I pulled on a giant sweatshirt and my comfiest jeans. When I ran into Mr. S at school that day, I cringed slightly at my outfit, even though I knew he was aware that our school has a very relaxed dress code.

The next time, I assured myself, I would be dressed like a grown up. A professional, even! Unsurprisingly, that was not the case.

It was pajama day. Kids love to wear their pajamas. They always want to have an official pajama day on the last day before a vacation. Every time, I remind them that technically, they can wear PJs whenever they want! But the fun, of course, is in all of us wearing them at once. For the first PJ day this year, I wore sweatpants and a flannel shirt. This was not enough, according to the kids. Those were merely comfy clothes, NOT pjs. Next time, I upped my game. I borrowed a fuzzy blue two piece flannel PJ set from my mom. It even had stars and moons on it! I wore it with my head held high.

Towards the end of the day, I went to pick my class up from art, which they had gone to straight from recess. I hadn’t seen them since before lunch, since my assistant had them while I was in a meeting. As I waited at the art room door, I ran into Mr. S. We chatted briefly, exchanged pleasantries. I saw him notice my unusual outfit, but put on a polite, understanding smile. “Pajama day?” He inquired. I nodded and started to explain.

Before I could, however, the art room door opened and my class filed out. Unbeknownst to me, they had all changed out of their PJs for recess, and not had time to change back yet. Every single one of them was in regular clothes.

So there I was, face to face with the superintendent of schools, wearing pajamas for no discernible reason. I decided trying to explain would only make it more awkward. So I smiled at him, and walked away with as much dignity as an adult woman wearing pajamas at work can muster.

The kids, needless to say, were very entertained by the whole process.

An-i-maaaa-tiooooon

Despite the fact that I don’t teach kindergartner, kindergartners feature heavily in this blog. They are adorable, hilarious, and have absolutely no filter. Most of my interactions with the tiniest of our school’s students occur at the end of the day while I walk bus lines out, and this week’s highlight was no exception.

A little girl who I know only as ‘dinosaur hat’ based on her excellent choice in winter headgear looked up at me with big round eyes yesterday and said apropos of nothing “I’m confused by how some movies have people that are real and some don’t.” I’m used to questions like this- when you’re still processing how the world works you ask anyone and everyone for help.

“Do you mean like how some movies are drawn, and have some have real people?” I asked her. “Drawn like Spongebob?” She clarified. I nodded. “That’s called an-i-maaaa-tiooooon,” She told me in an incredibly condescending tone, drawing the word out like I was simple and clearly wondering if she had chosen the wrong adult to ask for help. “And no, not just like that.”

At this point I was confused by what she meant, and when I told her this she puffed out her cheeks and said “Ok, it’s like this. Have you seen ‘Frozen’?” When I nodded she said “Ok, so Anna and Elsa are drawn, right? Remember an-i-maaaa-tiooooon?” Once I reassured her I understood this concept she moved on. “So they aren’t real, at least I didn’t think they were real, but my friend when to Disney World, and she said that Anna and Elsa are there, and they are real, and they talk to you!” Her eyes had been getting bigger and bigger throughout this, and her hands getting higher and higher in the air. The shock and awe was palpable.

“I’ve never beened to Disney World, but I’m going in April! Do you think they will talk to me?” She asked. I assured her they would, and then I melted into a puddle because this was just more adorable than I can usually handle.