October 2007

Kindergarten

By Suzanne Strazza

Praise be to Kindergarten Teachers!

They have chosen a career that in terms of stress, overload, over-stimulation and pressure far exceeds that of an air traffic controller.

Last week I began my day as a kindergarten substitute full of vim and vigor; I ended it a deflated balloon.

I began, determined to be a fun, warm, caring, effective educator-for-aday. Dressed in my best comes it-in-my-lap, sweet-kindergarten- teacher blue dress, I sat down in front of 16 cherubic little faces, 14 of which had fingers in various stages of traveling between nostril and mouth, and smiled benevolently,

“Hi, I am Miss Suzanne and I love to pick my nose but I do it in private” (expectant pause) “and, I guess you all prefer to do it in public.” Next. Time to start learning…

“You need to play the CD”

“Jane needs to say the day.”

“We have to sing the Days of the Week song.”

“We have to do the Macarena.”

“Can you tie my shoe?”

“I have to pee”

“I forgot my folder”

“Can I put my snack in my cubby?”

“Where’s our teacher?”

“Why do you pick your nose in private?”

Well, 30 seconds had just elapsed, only 26,970 more to go.

So, we did the Macarena, sang the Days of the Week song and the Months of the Year song, knocked the calendar off the wall, stepped on the chalk, crushing it, and said s#$% three times.

Snack time! Interesting fact about Kindergarten Snack Time; it lasts all day long, thanks to the fact that 5-yearolds have a tendency to spill their goldfish crackers all over the floor and then have no qualms about scraping the crumbs back up and into their mouths as the day wears on and their little tummies grumble.

Thoroughly grossed out, I decided to move into reading. I approached this task with confidence, knowing that I can read a story to adorable little children. Or so I thought. I had one child crawling under the tables, one girl flashing us all, two girls having a tea party in the corner, a boy pulling every single book off the shelf, three kids snacking off the carpet and 29 untied shoes in my face needing attention.

“Okay kiddos, we are learning a new word today. Repeat after me…VEL-CRO. Now, go home and say it to your parents.”

As the day wore on, my nerves were worn. I was being sucked dry by my own ineptitude and lack of innate talent. And besides the fact that 5-yearolds can’t tie their own shoes, I had some other challenges.

For example, around 11:30 I figured out why two little girls kept mentally flipping me off, not doing a thing I asked. One approached me, hand between her legs, eyes pleading, “Baño?”

Ohhhh, she doesn’t speak English.

Fortunately, she hit on the singular word in my Spanish repertoire.

Got that one cleared up – now if we could just get Johnny out from under the table.

I performed playground duty. “Can you push me on the swing?”

“No, sweetie, I can’t because I am hanging by a thread here and pushing would require energy, of which I currently have none. I am so sorry. Do you have any Valium?”

The end of the day finally did arrive. My voice had gone from syrupy sweet to sourly screechy. I had sweat stains down my front, back and armpits, ruining my Maria Von Trapp dress.

I was oozing fear.

I hadn’t killed anyone, either by accident or by choice (although I did lose one into the depths of the boys’ room). Only one child had cried and the only thing they had all learned was to dread the substitute teacher.

I went home with the full intent of drinking heavily and I raised my first glass to the Kindergarten Teachers of the world.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.