My line of first graders quietly snaked behind me on our way to the cafeteria. Shepherding a classroom of hungry seven (or so) year olds in an orderly fashion to lunch and subsequent recess was a coup especially if you’re not their REAL teacher, but a substitute.
Furthermore, they had just escaped the clutches of the classroom Lava Monster. It seemed that Lava Monster activity increased when a substitute teacher was in charge. I became aware of its presence, when I called rows to line up.
One sharp-eyed student clutched his soft-sided Spiderman lunch box and stepped from desk leg to desk leg picking his way to the front before darting across the open field of rug to the safety of the waiting lunch line.
A murmured “Lava Monster” answered my what-the-heck-are-you-doing stern teacher look.
Behind my adult face downloaded a childhood memory of leaping from couch to arm chair because a Lava Monster inhabited our living room. As all Lava Monster avoidees know, not touching the floor was the only way to escape its wrath. I similarly murmured “Lava Monster” when Mom shot me the what-in-the-heck-are-you-doing mom look.
That memory left a residual first grade perspective in my adult brain as we made our way to the cafeteria. I thought like a first grader for the entire journey.
I resisted the impulse to instruct my students to gently tap the outlet cover to recharge from our Lava Monster encounter. We would need energy to face more imagined hallway dangers.
Luckily we came upon a raft disguised as a blue square in the carpet.
It was a timely find since we needed to traverse the roaring rapids, which to the untrained eye looked like ceramic tile.
Though pitched about we endured the waterfall which was disguised as a white floor tile.
The raft deposited us at the edge of a deep dark forest posing as a black carpet section outside of the janitor’s room. Had we not followed the faint clinking of cafeteria trays, we may have been lost for days.
Treacherous to the end!
The scent of mozzarella sticks wafted through the air! This incentive helped muster our strength. We trudged through the swamp that appeared as an inconspicuous brown square of flooring.
All imagined hazard traversed, I guided my students to their assigned tables. I proceeded to the exit and came upon a taped arrow. I asked a waiting fifth grader the purpose of the arrow.
He didn’t know.
The first graders and I knew. It was a rickety bridge to cross before going out to recess.