If you’re going through hell… keep going. – Winston Churchill
Now that may be overstating it, but I’m not sure by exactly how much. It was my turn in the breech. My trial by fire. I was the heated iron, awaiting the forger’s hammer. Of course I’m speaking about my time as room mother in Frank’s kindergarten class one Wednesday in January.
Be advised my time in the Catholic
Penal System School System in the early 70s through 1980 all volunteers in the classroom were room mothers. I understand there are some among us who will take exception to my phraseology in the use of room mother. All those now suffering from the vapors at my comedic slight of long suffering dads everywhere, the X is up and to the right, again that’s up and to the right. (Unless you use Apple products, then the red dot is up and to the left, that’s up and… well you get the idea).
Funny thing happened when the schedule came out for volunteers. I saw my name in the Wednesday block and I got a little worked up, apprehensive, frightened even. It had been quite a while since I felt like that.
I mean I had been a teacher, an instructor at an Air Force Noncommissioned Officers Academy for almost ten years. In the final four years I was teaching on a live TV program four hours a night, two nights a week. Even funnier, I had already done time in Frank’s class for the Christmas party in December. I ran the cookie decorating table and then the Christmas Bingo.
That was a good party. No sprinkles went unspilt, no icing went un-tainted by germ ridden stir sticks. We were decorating man. It was a party. We also amped up the Bingo a little, made it high stakes. Last person to get Bingo had to give up their candy cane to the first person who got it. Surprising how quick the kids picked up on the thrill of gambling. Only one little gambler got upset when it was time to pay up. One kid out of 20, that’s not bad. Hopefully he’ll remember that feeling before he plunks down his own kid’s college fund on 11 black in Vegas. I’m an educator people.
Anyway the point of all that is to say this, I had already been in the classroom. I had been a public speaker for a long time with a lot larger audiences, still I was having shortness of breath. This wouldn’t be the Christmas party. No results were expected of me then. We could eat cookies and gamble candy canes all day with no pressure. But this. This was going to require effort, some output, expectations would be had. No matter, anxiety or not, the day was upon me.
Started out great. I was already familiar with the school’s fancy new sign in system. A harrowing post on my first attempt with the new system coming to a blog near you. But having already muddled it up once I was prepared this time. Remembered to bring my reading glasses. So I cruised through while a first timer sat behind me, watching me work the sign in system like a savant. I could smell his fear when his turn came quicker than he expected. I moved on. I had people waiting on me. Not sure if he ever made it out. Ah well, such is life in the jungle.
Five minutes early to the classroom. Boom! Already this day is shaping up nicely. Hot as blazes in the classroom so off comes the pullover, and crap. Tore my fancy, still wet from the printer ID badge. Credibility lost. It can happen that fast folks.
Frank finally looked over at me. They were coming to the end of a lesson. He gave me a quick but deliberate hand wave. Nothing too frantic. It conveyed a message of, “I acknowledge your presence father, now settle down.” Very proper without being disruptive. Kid is all business at school. Which is bizarre because he’s a lunatic at home.
As the lesson ends Frank’s teacher starts calling names and instantly kids start moving to what appeared to be designated areas. No questions, no protestations, just movement. I mean it wasn’t military precision or anything but it was impressive. Then I got my marching orders. Mrs Givens would man the main work center and I would float around to the other three centers.
Ok this is it. This is what you’re here for. Time to do work. Annnnd stop. A voice from above says the kids need to report to the lobby for a hearing test. Lined up and ready to go in about two minutes, off we walk. In seconds the kids were lined up in the lobby waiting their turn. They were so quiet walking in the hall it occurred to me this might not be a elementary school at all, but an advanced training ground for assassins.
The test was going to be some time so Frank’s teacher sent him, and me, back to the room to get some books. Frank has never moved that fast or that straight to a destination in his entire life. He was practically marching. Books in hand he spins and marches back to the lobby for what turned out to be reading time with Frank’s daddy, AKA me. It went well except for a constant critique from the peanut gallery. “You read very fast.” Ha. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. I resisted the urge of telling them to listen faster.
Back in the classroom things got hoping. For the most part the kids did what they were supposed to. Not sure what help I was to them other than the odd login in help with the computer center. Oh and I was a star there. All Apple products in the classroom. Since I have a giant Mac desktop I was right at home. I looked like a wizard to these kids. Except for that one young man who decided to debate me on the necessity of a tissue.
He needed one and he needed one bad. He refused however. Then he decided I need to do it. No way bro. Your snot is all yours.
He wasn’t having it. He had me over a barrel. Either I wipe his nose or he’s just getting early lunch. I’ve been wiping noses for five years but when it’s not your kid it’s no where near as much fun. But watching him willingly use his tongue was gonna make me puke. So I’m getting a tissue. But before I could get the blast zone completely covered the kid starts blowing snot rockets everywhere. “Do it better.” The kid says to me. Not kidding.
It was all downhill sledding from there. A few kids didn’t get all their centers finished but most of the herd did what they had to do. The freedom she allows the kids has really paid off. Most of them do their assignments, put the work in the appropriate bin and then move on to a secondary assignment until it’s time to move to the next center. Just impressive. And tiring.
I was worn out. More exhausted than I am after walking a mid-summer round of golf. I was asleep ten minutes after I got home and I only was there for two hours, plus my time in the cafeteria eating lunch with Frank and his pals.
But that’s another jungle story for another day.
Coming soon – Kindergarten Cafeteria: Welcome to the Thunder-dome!