This next week is going to be somewhat bittersweet.
For the last few months, I’ve been subbing NON-STOP at Taft Elementary, Taft High, and Oceanlake Elementary. My alma maters. It’s weird, but interesting to see how things (mostly kids, teachers and policies) have changed. Hannah’s an 8th grader and has classes where I did as a senior. My former teachers are now my peers. I still feel like that over-achiever/suck-up/leadership nerd high school kid I was… when I go to the high school especially!
Recently, I took a daily position at the after school program at Taft Elementary, a school I never went to, but is now in the building where I attended middle school (and my dad went there for high school. WEIRD.) Memories of 6th grade band pop into my head every time I’m in the portable working with the special education kids. For some reason, I always think of the time I hit Chris Lowes in the mouth via his own trumpet. Then I always think of jazz band at god-awful hours in the morning in the carpool with Collette Page and Ashley, whose last name is no longer the same.
You know what that means? It means people my age are growing up. Female Peter-Pan syndrome minus the awkward Freudian crap. Right here.
Every day, I work with first graders, some of which are awesome, others… I hate to say are not quite as awesome. These kids have the hardest time focusing on anything, and they’re all quite the cast of characters.
- The Blonde Diva
- The Gentleman
- The Quiet Girl
- The Emotional Basketcase
- The One with an Oral Fixation
- The “Evel Knievel”
- The Futbolista
- The One Who’s Boy Crazy
- The Intellectual New Girl (Next Door)
Seriously, if you’re working at Taft, you’re more than likely able to identify each one of these kids. At first, I said that “I can’t deal with little kids.” And it was legit. I didn’t know how. I’m starting to realize what things are effective and things that are useless. For instance, I was specifically told that “routines are sacred and should NEVER, under any circumstances, be broken.” (HA.) If Indonesia taught me anything, it was how to go with the flow and not get worked up over things, then, get resourceful. Here, I just wave something shiny in their line of vision and it becomes, “What routine? What are we doing now, Miss Dani?” Win for me.
Oral Fixation girl seriously annoys the crap out of me, but I’m slowly teaching her some etiquette. She will yell across the room, “TEACHER! TEACHER! TEACHER! teacherteacherteacher! TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEACHER!” And I just ignore her. I’ve told her before that I don’t answer to that; it isn’t my name. My name is Miss Dani. The second she calls me that, I acknowledge her. She even self-corrected today. I was so proud!
Getting kids to work the way I want them to is tough, but I’m finding my way in a reward system. I even spray-painted a whiffle ball gold Tuesday night. It was so pretty and shiny! I told them that the person who was most helpful, most on-task, and was responsible would win a golden ball. I’m sneaky like that. O.F. Girl looked at my shiny new toy, held it, then sighed. “What is this?”
“It’s a whiffle ball.”
“Miss Dani, this is just plastic.”
“What did you expect?”
Indignant, hand on her hip, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a GOLD BALL?”
She held the ball like a goblet in one hand off to the side, and she was as disappointed as a wine snob drinking a wine only commoners and peasants drink.
At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or hope that the paint I used was lead based. (Because, of course it was in her mouth within seconds.) I need to find a sprayable something nasty…
But this week is going to be my last week at school and in America. My kids were sad when we told them that I’m leaving, but I have that innate urge to migrate again. Saying goodbye to the community I’ve re-built roots in is going to be tough, but there are adventures to be had and languages to learn!
South Korea, here I come! (In a week.)