A rearranged room, picture day, and a new student . . . three exciting wins for 6 year olds. Add a substitute teacher, who knew most of the rules . . . but not all, ramped up the thrill-o-meter a notch. As the aforementioned sub, I kept a close eye on that meter.
In the ensuing anecdote all names have been changed to protect the guilty.
The bell rang, the kids lined up, and I led them into their neat classroom that held three double lines of miniature desks. Generally students efficiently executed their morning routine as stated in the minute-by-minute teacher substitute plans. (The entire school ran on synchronized watches with schedules as precise as a “Mission Impossible” caper. For instance, the plans read “11:08-11:10 – Walk students to art room for specials.” A few minutes early, the art teacher may be taking a necessary bathroom break and not be in the room. Then I have to contend with a line of fidgety artists. A few minutes late, the teacher may have to hurry through project directions to ensure enough work time. Budding Picassos don’t like to be rushed. )
The “8:51-9:06 students make lunch choices, put away belongings, and journal write” portion of the plans was not going well.
Instead of deciding lunches, stowing backpacks, and scrawling in notebooks there was high-pitched squealing, widespread twirling, and a cluster of satellite classmates orbiting a lone student. As a veteran teacher it didn’t take long to identify the squealing-twirling-clustering causes. This wasn’t my first rodeo.
Squealing cause: Mrs. T, their REAL teacher, had rearranged the desks. Students explored their new positions in the room. As in any real estate “location, location, location” was all-important.
“Why am I in the front?” asked a cowlicked-headed boy. (Maybe to help you focus, I thought.)
“We’re not sitting together anymore!” bemoaned two munchkin girls. (Maybe because you talk too much, I surmised.)
“I get to sit next to Pete!” (Maybe because you get along so well AND get your work done, I figured.)
Twirling triggers: Spring picture day dawned. Girls with elaborate braids (YouTube instructed projects I suspected) and headbands twirled until their full-skirted dresses billowed about them. The centrifugal force strong enough to untie sashes. (I believe Newton accounted for this in one of his laws.) I retied sashes under scrutiny.
“Don’t double tie it because then it’s hard to get out of it.” I envisioned a frustrated mom cutting her daughter from sash bonds resulting from overenthusiastic bow tying.
The boys, less passionate about their attire, tugged at neckties. The “10:34- Take students to cafeteria for their picture appointment” plan directions confirmed my conclusion.
Cluster orbiting: Randy, a transfer student, arrived. His classmates, eager to pass on their collective knowledge of the inner workings of Mrs. T’s first grade class, volunteered tips to the newbie whether he wanted them or not.
“Put your name on all your folders.”
“Don’t sharpen pencils when the teacher is talking.”
And the all-important “This is the signal if you have to use the bathroom.”
Randy, basking in his celebrity, wisely labeled his folders, sharpened his pencils and practiced the hand signal.
I knew how he felt.
When their REAL teacher was absent first graders do their best to shape the sub into a clone.
“Pick someone to wear this necklace and look for students working quietly,” Mandy the “Line Leader” suggested. I handed her the lei type necklace. She had me at “working quietly.”
“We use the mechanical pencils when we’re in reading group,” recommended Timmy the “Star Student.” If you can’t trust the “Star Student” whom can you trust? He sold me.
“Everyone who finishes their work gets a treasure out of the treasure box,” tried Annie the “Paper Passer.” My vision blurred as I felt the wool slipping over my eyes. “I’ll leave a list of all the good workers and Mrs. T can award the treasures,” I countered.
It was creeping up on 9:17. I closed the door and quietly chanted my credo: Secure the perimeter and no one cries, including me. (I had more in common with Trump than I realized. Although when he secured America’s perimeters a lot of citizens stranded at airports cried.) I flicked the lights, a universal sign for “Attention, heads up, time to regroup.” Theaters use it to indicate to the audience that intermission is over, down the martini dregs, and return to your seats. (I could have used one of those martinis right now.)
I shared the 4-page lesson plan their teacher had written outlining the three hours that lay before us and appealed to their sense of community. “Mrs. T expects us to get all this done by lunch.” Squeals quieted, twirling halted, and the cluster disbanded. Students migrated to their new digs and retrieved their journals.
At morning’s end all 4 pages of tasks completed, I reflected upon the students’ accomplishments. Perhaps our government could learn something from us.
Maybe Obama should have left Trump lesson plans for the first few weeks until he got the hang of being President. Tips such as Shake hands with world leaders like Angela Merkel and don’t take too many recesses to Florida and say that they’re business meetings would be good pointers. Or maybe the Committee for Congressional Seating (If there isn’t one, perhaps Mrs. T could volunteer for the job.) could rearrange desks in the Senate and House Chambers so our elected Senators and Representatives stay focused and complete assignments. The CCS (or Mrs. T) could eliminate the aisle I hear about, and then they wouldn’t have so much trouble crossing it to work together.
In the end, it may be us citizens who flick the lights and appeal to their sense of community.