September 4, 2016 at 6:47 pm #3266
‘I hope you like kindergarten.’
‘Today’s my first day.’
The secretary gave a whistle. ‘Good luck. You got a tough one down there.’
The room was at the end of the hall. I was glad to see it was next to the emergency exit, just in case I had to make a run for it. There was half an hour before the bell. I paced and the sticky notes that the teacher had left for me.
Then came the sound of their feet, hundreds of them, thundering down the hall. I braced myself and tightened my tie. The stampede turned the corner. It grew louder and louder and stopped all of a sudden. I turned around to see twenty wide-eyed, uncertain faces staring at me.
I managed out a ‘good morning.’
There was no response, just their eyes following my every move. My breath escaped me and I started to question myself. Why was I here? You’re too young; what are you thinking? Then someone started to cry and a wash of fear ran through me.
We spent the morning sizing each other up; twenty of them versus one of me; I was in over my head.
‘That’s not how Mrs. Peterson does it.’
‘You’re doing it wrong.’
‘Why does your tie look like that? It doesn’t look right.’
And the boogers, and the crayon eating, and the mystery stains I was getting all over my new shirt, and the ever sticky hands that every kid seemed to have, and everything I did that seemed to be wrong’ added up so that by the time I dropped them off at the cafeteria I was ready to hit that emergency door running. But I stayed, giving myself up to the great teacher of experience.
‘I almost went to the bathroom in my pants.’
‘Why are you still here?’
They led me back to the room from the cafeteria. I messed up putting together the pattern blocks. I coughed during reading time. And I mispronounced enough names to seal my fate. I was a stranger in their world and to make it worse we both knew it. Victory was theirs; I just hoped to leave with all my limbs intact.
The final sticky note said very simply ‘play movie.’ Finally. Collapsing onto the alphabet rug, I hoped that death would come quickly. But it didn’t. Instead one little girl came up, plopped herself down right next to me, and held my hand. A little boy came up and laid his head down on my shoe. More came, each one finding a spot on me to lean against, lie on, or simply be near while we watched the movie. I didn’t mind their sticky hands or their burps or nose picking. We sat in complete silence, complete tranquility, and learned about baby animals and colors.
‘I’m learning how to tie my shoelaces and they look just like yours.’
‘My pet cat just had babies.’
‘Are you coming back tomorrow?’
I did come back tomorrow. Not there, but another class just like that one. And I came back the next day and the next after that. I came back and went back to school myself. Now I’m one week from getting my teaching certificate and one shot away from getting my first teaching job. I never thought I could be a teacher until I got a lesson from the best teacher of all, experience.
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