Blunt Scissors and Paste
So I have landed in the last job that I ever thought I would have, in fact the one job that I sweared I would never have, an elementary school teacher. I’ve held jobs that most people would cringe at and avoid; working in a women’s drug and alcohol rehab and working in a youth crisis shelter. No, I’m not afraid of drug addicts but I am absolutely terrified of kindergartners. Fortunately I only have the kindergartners for forty minutes sessions twice a week. In fact I only have each class for forty minutes twice a week. So I am fortunate that I don’t have the little squirts for a full day, I get breaks. I’m the elementary art teacher at Rosslyn Academy, I am presently an elementary school teacher.
It takes a special person to be an elementary school teacher. And I wonder am I that special person? Can I really do this? Can I really get fourth graders to understand positive and negative space? The answer to that question is: maybe, sometimes, and sometimes all the time. It seems like every class there’s a child that instantly understands what I want them to do, some that get it even before I’ve hit my main point and other’s that no matter how many different ways I come up with explaining a specific point they don’t get it.
I’m in my fourth week of teaching and so far it’s been up and down. I started with this gorgeous picture in my head of them quietly drawing and painting while Brahms and Mozart play peacefully in the background. Heheheh. They do talk and I allow them to talk because then they talk to me and I get to hear about the things they are creating and how they’re thinking through their projects. And it’s fun, and they’re creative and so often I’m blown out of the water by what they come up with and they’re executing a project. But when they talk often they distract each other so that they don’t get things done, so the class and I have ‘discussions about that.’ Then Mrs. Barnett takes away the privilege because they’re too loud and I can’t hear and I just saw little Jimmy start waving his paper in the air haphazardly. I find certain rules and standards hard to enforce because then I become a policeman of ‘sit in your seat’ or ‘stop talking.’ The sitting down thing is also difficult (elementary school teachers everywhere have a sudden headache right now and they don’t know why) because so many of them get up and I understand because it’s often easier to create standing up, in fact in many of my classes in college we were told to stand up. But when you’re eight you get distracted by your neighbor and if you’re already standing it’s just so easy to take a step over there and then all of a sudden someone has glue in their hair.
This week so far has been the best the children getting used to what I expect and how they are to behave in my class; ‘sit down quietly,’ ‘nothing happens until you’re quiet and looking at me,’ etc. Things are actually going smoothly and a few events that might have derailed me a week ago went without incident (one girl stood up in the middle of my instructional time, tooth in hand, bloody mouth wide, and announced, ‘I just lost a tooth!’ Her friend escorted her to the nurse, and I kept going.). I’ve learned to be way more directive than I ever thought I would have to be (and still after repeated directions I have a child who will wander up to me and say, ‘what do I do with this?’ and I want to say, ‘the same thing we do every night Pinky…’), am still amazed that, ‘It’s time to clean up,’ is heard as, ‘Everyone come up and show me what they did,’ and am learning that taking away sharing time just kills the second graders.
I still wonder though, ‘am I that special person?’
(written by Lara)