Wednesday, January 15, 2003


For the past several days I've substituted at Geoff's school, mostly in the toddler room where one of the regular teachers is out with severe flu.

I'm enjoying myself, and it is the easiest 8 bucks an hour I've ever made. I hang out. I play with toys. I get hugs. I wipe boogers. I am much loved by a few of the kids, and many of them are much loved by me. One little girl though ... voof. I don't want to say that I hate her. But. I could seriously do without ever seeing her again. She's the kind of little girl who at age 2 you know she's going to be a bitch at age 12. She's bad news, and everyone knows it. Her mother attended the school back in the day, and her grandmother is one of the teachers, who has been there for close to 30 years. I guess she's pretty much raising the little girl, as the mother is 20 or 22 and ... not responsible for her own actions.

A lot of little kids are in this situation, many of them are darling. Others are hell on wheels. They may grow up to beat up a cabbie one night. They may grow up to do drugs. They may just grow up and be bored and lonely. I have to keep telling myself when I'm dealing with this little girl that the people around her will shape her. Eventually. And if enough love can penetrate the darkness of the exterior she currently seems to possess, perhaps there is hope that she won't end up knocked up at 20 like her mom. And on Jerry Springer yelling "You don't know me, I do what I want! Shu uhp!"

She's in a big "NO" phase. One of the kids asked me if I had a cat. I told him "I have two dogs and no cats." The little girl said, "No" with such a bitchy tone, I just looked at her and said "Pardon?" She looked at me because I'm sure in her life no one has ever asked "Pardon?" to her. I said to her "You've never been to my house so you can't say NO to something that is a fact of my own life. You can say NO if I ask you if you want to sit down of if you are doing something and don't want to stop. But you most certainly cannot say NO to the fact I have no cats and I have two dogs."

She just gaped at me, slackjawed.

I turned back to the other little boy and we chatted about his one dog and three fish. Towhit she said "No" to the boy.

The boy and I chose to ignore her. She eventually told me she has a cat. I was tempted to say "No."

She's the kind of little girl who has to have all the crayons and a toy in each hand when there is just enough to cover one toy per each child. She tried to ride one scooter today while towing the other behind her, because, you know, she's a toddler and everything is "MINE!" Bitch.

I've actually started using the phrase, "You've got to learn to share," on some of the kids when they fight over things. Saying "You have to share" isn't something that makes sense to a two year old. They don't know how to do it. So make it a teaching moment. Tell them to start learning. Suggest how it is done. Amazingly, I saw a response in most of the kids. "I'm done. You turn" says one boy to a little girl waiting for the Minnie Mouse Tricycle. "I let you ride. I use the wagon" offers one girl to another who patiently waits for for the Cabbage Patch Kids Choo Choo. I saw change and learning taking place in 3 days.

The teacher of this class is learning disabled, I think she has downs syndrome but I haven't pried too deeply into her life. She told me she just moved into her own apartment in December and she's very happy. She's got to be about 25 or 30. Her mother is the day care's director. At first, I scoffed at the nepotism. I thought -- how can that girl deal with teaching these kids. I was judging a book by a cover.

Boy, did she open my eyes. She's bright, funny, full of love for the kids and for God. She has kind of a strange voice, so I always thought when I walked past that she was being bitchy or mean, but it's just her voice... her disability makes her speech sound stunted and sharp.

The kids love her. They respond to her. She treats them like gold but she also lets them know SHE is the teacher. This one little challenge of a girl gives her a run for her money, but she doesn't take any shit from this girl.

At naptime, the teacher asked me to get the other kids (8 in the room) all down for their naps and she'd focus on little miss NO. I thought at first she was asking me to do quite a lot, but she really was the one with the hard job. I got all the other 8 kids horizontal. Some of them were passed out within five minutes. Others, I had to back rub and sing to. I ran out of ideas for songs to sing, so I sang "Close your eyes" by James Taylor, a song I sang to both my kids and one that always makes me smile.

Within a half hour, all my kids were out, and the teacher was still wrestling with Miss NO. When she finally fell asleep, I shook my head and told her that I thought she was the best teacher ever. She laughed... She knows she is. I have a deep and abiding admiration for this teacher, and I think that she's the best.

I also have a renewed love for anyone who ever has to work with my son. Geoff's a lot better than he was a year ago, two years ago. At age two in pre-school, I'm sure he was Little Mister No. He was hell on wheels. And I'm sorry that people had to deal with him. Some have dealt with him better than others, and now his teachers tell me he is the best and brightest. Good and thank you. Without them and their guiding hands and tired but helpful hearts, I'm sure Geoff wouldn't be turning out this well. So I've got humbled and deep love for his teachers. And I will pray daily for anyone crossing his path as an educator in the future, as well as praying for him.

One little boy in the class is adopted from Russia. He is about 19 months old, and he doesn't speak much English except for "Mah Dah" which is "My Dog," a stuffed Ty Beanie Buddy of a German Shepherd which he carries with him all the time.

This little boy is the sweetest, most adorable, lovely, bright and gorgeous child I've ever known, even with his boogers.

We had a storyteller come to the school today, and this little boy sat on my lap entranced for the whole hour. They told me it was my break time, and I should go take a break, but I looked down at him and realized that there was no way on earth I was making him get up. I stayed. He doesn't speak much, he's loving. And I am actually going to miss seeing him tomorrow when I won't be working there. Sniff.

No comments:

Post a Comment