Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Last Year? I Got Free Lunch?

Oh, Lordy, Lordy.

Why must the first day of school always be quite such an experience? Why? I detest the first day of school. I guess the good news is that my least favorite day of the school year is over with. I just forget year after year how young the kids seem when they start fourth grade. Babies, they are! And sadly, not very bright this year. We've got some dim bulbs in the crowd. The mostly male crowd at that - I have 14 boys and 6 girls. Seems a little squirrelly, no?

The first problem with having so many boys is that nine year old boys like to turn anything into a gun and make that rapid fire machine gun noise with their mouths. Pass out the composition notebooks. R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! They aim the corners at one another and fire at will. And no teacher with an ounce of kindness wants to be the mean teacher on the first day. We don't start our management system until tomorrow to be nice. Just wait until tomorrow. [grips fists and cackles an evil laugh]

Here's the gist of today:

Lesson plan: Read story First Day Jitters about girl dreading school and being dragged there against her will. End of story find out girl is actually teacher. Talk about feelings, create first journal entry about first day.

Me: [mid-story reading aloud]

Punk Kid: It's gonna be the teacher! I've read this!

Me: [narrow eyes, deep breath, keep reading to end] So what did you think?

Disappointed faces. Point lost by punk spoiling fun ending. Small hand patting at my leg. I look down.

Kid #1: I get free lunch.

Me: Okay, thanks! We'll worry about that later. Sit up please! [smile and gesture at lounging youth]

Youth: [struggles to sit up, glares at me, lays back down]

Me: [roll eyes inwardly, proceed with journal modeling, send kids to seat to write own entry]

Kid #2: My mom didn't get me one of those notebooks. She got me this stuff instead. Can I use it?

Student has array of sparkly, light up school supply-like items bedazzling her desk, none of them actually resembling what was on the list. I sift through them, hoping for something, anything, that might function as a journal and only come up with a furry cat head shaped spiral number. She looks at me hopefully. I give her one of my notebooks instead and urge her to put the Hello Kitty aisle of WalMart away and get started.

I had written a nice little ditty about Gus chasing a rabbit this morning to get them going. A little modeling eases the 'ol fears. Unfortunately, it also loosens the 'ol tongue. I turned around to see eight hands waving in the air. I pointed hesitantly.

Me: Yes?

Kid #3: This one time? This summer? My dog?

Me: Great journal topic! Write it quick! Before you forget! [point again]

Kid #4: I've got two things. I was just gonna tell you that I have a puppy? And she's kinda bad?

Me: Awesome! Perfect for your journal, wow! Write! Hurry! [point]

Kid #5: Oh, um, my friend? Well, this one time? Her dog? He was sick?

Me: [cease all story telling, mute class, get them writing]

Kid #1: Mrs? I was wondering what to do about my free lunch? At lunch time?

Me: Well, you could write about it right now, then when we get to lunch, I promise it will be fine. [smile encouragingly, gesturing at journal]

I notice that one young man is choosing not to write, fake writing, or fake thinking about what to write. He's belligerently poking stuff inside his desk instead. I kneel beside his desk and talk quietly to him.

Me: Are you stuck for something to write about? [kindly]
Punk: shrug
Me: You have really pretty cursive. How long do you think you worked on it last year?
Punk: shrug
Me: Who was your teacher last year?
Punk: shrug

Well, this is getting me nowhere. He continued to be a punk for the rest of class and I chose to ignore his behavior temporarily. No need to ruin class the first day, afterall. Will worry about him tomorrow. I went to pick up a stack of folders to pass out while the little cherubs worked. Twenty heads snapped up to see what I was doing. Eleven hands shot into the air. Sigh. Be-nice-be-nice-be-nice-be-nice. My mantra ran through my head. I smiled and nodded at a child.

Kid #3: Last year? In third grade? We had those folders too.

Kid #5: My teacher? From last year? She gave us those folders for homework.

Kid #4: Those folders? I have mine like that? It's from last year?

My grip on the folders shifted ever-so-slightly and I felt the top one begin to slide off of the pile. Those fresh from the pack new folders are still shiny and incredibly slippery and before I knew what was happening, one folder after another after another cascaded seemingly in slow motion from my stack and crashed onto the floor one at a time until all sixty of them lay in all directions all over the floor. Titters of laughter threatened to burst forth all over the room. I giggled and shrugged my shoulders.

Me: Go ahead. [laugh as class begins applauding my grace, take deep bow]

The kids began to help me pick up the folders and I felt a hand tapping on my arm.

Kid #1: Is my free lunch form in those folders?


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