Teaching is both the thing I struggle with the most and the thing I love the most here. Which isn’t much of a surprise. I think that’s how I’m going to feel for most of my life. Because without a classroom full of children- whether they’re screaming, running, jumping, asking for candy, giving me flowers, or actually sitting quietly and listening to me- my life just isn’t quite right. It’s not full enough. Not in the way I know it’s meant to be. To me, kids fill up all the little holes there may be. They fix the aches and pains. They bring joy even when you’re on the brink of a breakdown. They’re loyal beyond reason- best friends to the end.
Speaking of children and best friends, I had a recent encounter with one of my students that involved both of these things.
I asked Riya, “Riya want to be my best friend?” (I don’t have favorites. Except for Riya.)
Her response, “Alina!”
Riya’s still working on her English. She thought I was asking who her best friend was. Or she was rejecting me with a huge smile on her face. I’m gonna go with the first option and save myself some hurt.
For those of you who don’t know, Sarah and I have been teaching in the lower section, known as KG, of Saint Andre since April. This section of the school is set away from the main building which houses grades 4 and up, with our section having grade 3 and below. Since moving to the lower section our days have become a whirlwind of the craziness that comes with small children. And when those small children and you don’t speak the same language? Triple that craziness; throw in a few more tears (their and ours), and a lot more charades.
To give you an idea of the craziness that we’ve delved into, I’m going share a few of our stories from a life in KG…
It’s third period April 27, 2015. The first fifteen minutes of my class have passed by uneventfully. All of a sudden there’s a commotion on the left side of the classroom and a chorus of voices calling, “Miss, puking! Miss, puking!” I hurry over to locate the puking child and see what can be done. In this same moment the other side of the room erupts with voices yelling, “Miss Spider! Miss Spider!”
For those of you who don’t know me, let me just be clear my fear of spiders far outranks my aversion to puking. In fact my fear of spiders outranks most things in my life, I am very much my mother’s daughter in this respect.
Back to April 27th and the simultaneous spider and puking event. I move as far away from the spider calls as possible and focus on the puking child, a young girl in the second to last row of my classroom. And then what? I run.
Don’t worry, I don’t run far. Just to the next class over where Sarah’s teaching KG 2 (Kindergarten 2) drawing. I bust into her classroom and exclaim, “I have a puking child and a spider. Help!” I then proceed back to the puking child, hoping Sarah will take care of the rest. In retrospect, I’m just like the children… Children: “Miss puking! Miss Spider!” Me: “Sarah, HELP!”
My puking child manages to stop, and heads to the bathroom and eventually the nurse. Everything gets cleaned up and I gather all my strength to locate the spider. Which is perched on the back wall of the classroom near a few boys. I give them strict instructions to tell me if it moves. Which obviously it does.
Within the next 60 seconds the boys are yelling, “Miss it’s moving! It’s moving!”
Boy: “It’s in my bag!”
I take a deep breath and tell everyone to stay in their seats, except of course for my army of third grade boys who are facing the enemy. The few minutes pass with me in the front of the room trying not to run away while also trying to teach a lesson and periodically watching the struggle with the spider.
And then one boy walks out from the others, clutching a crumpled piece of paper out in front of him; victorious. His name is Salim and I have since dubbed him, “Salim the Spider Killer.” We made him a sign and everything.
Luckily my classroom meets spider incidents aren’t too frequent (spider meets bathroom MUCH more frequent). The only other time a spider appear in that third grade classroom, Salim took care of it nice and quick for me. Other classrooms I just avoid them while trying not to draw attention to myself. Aka walk around the classroom with my eyes on the ceiling monitoring their movement.
Despite how it may seem, spiders do not dominate my time in KG. Children do that. Every morning as Sarah and I walk down to KG we are showered with “good morning miss,” smiles, giggles, waves, and bouquets of flowers. Even while we’re teaching (or reprimanding) we often find ourselves being offered flowers, drawings, pens, tiny plastic toys. Imagine trying to give a speech (aka yelling) about sitting quietly and listening to 40 plus small children and then there’s two kids at your side thrusting wildflowers and drawings at you. Clearly they’re getting the point you’re trying to make, right?
While there are certainly days we leave feeling a bit downtrodden, they don’t compare to the magical moments that come with being surrounded by children. Nothing quite beats chasing my first graders until I can barely breathe. Or hearing them scream with joy as I finally catch them and proceed to spin them around and tip them upside down. Or blowing them kisses as I walk by their classroom. Or watching them lead assembly, mistakes and all.
The most magical thing of all? Perhaps in all the world? Sister Angelle running. There’s nothing quite like a sister in a habit chasing small children.