Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to the Selfless Saints

This week’s blog is dedicated to all who teach in the public school system in the United States of America; especially my close pals, who, if you’re still standing after a long day at school, kick your heels up and enjoy!

Let’s look at that career to end all careers; second only to the esteemed profession of Trailer Park Manager: The Kindergarten Teacher.

I have 3 close pals who teach kindergarten. God love 'em.  I tried one time in the 90’s. YOWZA! It’s Barnum Bailey meets Mr. Rogers and the neighborhood’s not sprouting up roses, people.  I remember when I was placed in a bilingual class in 1997 (made since because I did know 3 words in Spanish).  During the first week,
I said,“!Recojer, por favor!” which loosely translates as “Clean up, please!”  All the sweet little Latina chickadees quickly and obediently started picking up the toys, wiping the tables, looking for brooms…while the little boys, after wrestling for 5 minutes, took their places on the carpet, waiting for the girls to finish cleaning. 
Clearly, those little guys didn’t know who they were dealing with.

And you might ask, “How could cute, innocent 5 year-old little munchkins become reckless, blood hungry Godzillas in the blink of an eye?” and I say to you, “How could a demure, John Denver-loving, gift-giving resident call your land line 12 times in 5 minutes, leaving twisted love messages on your machine?”  Same deal.

I watch my friends who teach this wondrous grade begin each year jolly, positive and energetic, but by April, each one becomes The Bride of Chucky. This year, for teachers in all grades of public school, due to the state of our public educational system, the burnout of April is now hitting in mid-November.
Two of my kinder pals are room partners this year, which means the fun is doubly delightful.  They tell me stories weekly about the trials, tribulations and escapades of Room 1.  (This makes it excruciating for me to not want to renew my credential and jump back into the circus.)

When you teach on the frontlines in a town like Salinas; in schools now labeled “Program Improvement Schools,” (Thank you very much George F** Bush for your ingenious plan, which I commonly refer to as No Child Left a Dime and All Teachers Left Behind) you have only a couple of options:
1.   Give it all you got.
2.   Fake it till you make it.
3.   Drink heavily.
Option one leads to crash and burn; while option two, the most popular and sought after method of practice, leads to artificial smiling till it hurts, lying to the parents, faculty and the children themselves and cheating on standardized tests.   
Option three, also a favorite amongst many teachers, is the best in my opinion, though I wouldn’t recommend starting before 2:45pm on weekdays.
In teaching, just like in park management, I opted for all three.
Here’s an important 41 seconds that’s a ‘must view’ before proceeding.

Each year the stories get better and better. But the fact is our nation's public schools are no laughing matter; especially those designated as program improvement ones. More and more have closed their on-site libraries, eliminated the arts, sciences, and physical education while increasing class size to 28-36. 
No aides. No creativity. No nada.
Oh! Wait! Testing!  Yes, there is testing!  A GINORMOUS amount of testing.

This year’s kinder kapers, however, are amongst the best I’ve heard of late... 

Important background information:
Roberto’s parents think he’s pure genius.  The first week of school they approached my friend, his teacher, to tell her so.  They also indicated their concern that their son’s feelings got hurt that day because she didn’t call on him when he raised his hand.
Today, during center time, my pal looked up and noticed “the genius” sitting on the floor, gripping one of the legs of a table.  With the intense motion of a piston engine, ’cept moving horizontally, he was rocking back and forth in a continuum of rapid speed and force; moaning and freaking out, which disturbed the other 28 in the room.
The teacher’s thoughts explored the unthinkable, as you might imagine. 
She quickly left her table to assist Roberto.  Kneeling down beside him, she was relieved that her initial thought wasn’t the case, but shocked to find Roberto had intentionally torn and tied the elastic waistband of his pants to the leg of the table and was stuck. 
Trying with all his might to free himself, the teacher stepped in. 
Of course, when she cut him free, he had a minor problem to deal with…his pants wouldn’t stay up.  As harsh as this sounds, my friend, showed him where the belt loops were on his trousers and encouraged him to hold onto them for the remainder of the school day. 
Whew!  Those teachers are big, bad meanies in kindergarten.

Then there’s Beatrice, who has a severe speech impediment.  She’s as cute as a bug, follows directions, shares the toys, makes it to the bathroom “on time”, knows how to write her name, and never is disruptive. 
Her speech is challenging for the teachers and children to understand though, and all have to lean in close to hear her and often times, ask her to repeat herself.

Room 1 has a daily ritual that is oober cool: Barnaby Bear.  
Each day a different child gets to take Barnaby home with her/him.  They have a little 'kinder essay paper' that they can color and write what they and Barnaby did together.  Because they’re only five, most dictate the experience to a parent or guardian and that individual documents for them.  The next day they sit in front of the class, Barnaby on their lap, and share about the fun they had together. Then the other kids get to raise their hands with questions.
Beatrice begins calling on kids and calls on the boy in the back row, who happens to be sharp as a whip…
“Yes, Retardo.”
“WHAT?!” Ricardo shouts out, totally understanding his new name.
Quickly the teacher encourages the conversation in a different direction.

There are lots of “special” kids out there.  Ms. C (we’ll call her that to protect her dignity) had a kid last year that was that rare “interesting special.”
All year, August through June, each and EVERY DAY, he would sit close to her at circle time, gaze up into her eyes and ask the same damn question, 
“Ms. C…Are you a policeman?”
“No, Justin.”  She would reply.  “I’m your teacher.”

I remember my first year teaching sixth grade…I thought I was going to pull a Samurai and just end the misery quickly. To this day, I blame that class for my having to dye and highlight my hair.  Anyway, I looked out my door and saw both the principal and vice principal walking toward my room with very serious expressions on their faces.
In my principal’s hand was a black and while journal. It belonged to one of my students.  As they opened the book to a page filled with cartoon-like figures; all with “talk bubbles” above their heads, I felt my stomach drop to my feet.
At the top left corner of the page was an explicitly drawn picture of a naked woman; voluptuous bosoms and anatomically detailed. (How my student saw voluptuous bosoms out of these babies, I'll never know.) The figure had my name scribbled below it and above my head, the talk bubble read:
“I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH DR. SCHMIDT.”   Then there was the character labeled Dr. Schmidt, naked and quite large in the genitalia region, staring at me with these wild, heathen eyes.  
His bubble… "LET’S DO IT!”
I found it difficult to make contact with Dr. Schmidt for several months.

It’s a toss up: the life of a trailer park manager vs. the life of a school teacher. 

This is Susan J. Lundeen and this is what she has to say about teaching

“The world is a wondrous place where there is always a new adventure or finding around the corner.”

Susan’s not on the up and up with us, and we all know it.

Here’s Chris Chi, who wrote a blog titled: Endangered Species-Smiling Teachers

Here’s Chris on a Friday night after a week in public education

I’m formulating a compare and contrast thing right now between two settings: 
the trailer park and the classroom, and I’m here to tell you I’ve been bitten, flipped off, tortured, laughed at and hit by flying fruit…
Thank God the classroom was a little less brutal.  

Ode to the Resource Teacher sung by a classroom teacher.
I think you’ll dig it!

Here's to all my friends who teach…Damn.
I dig you and believe you’re all just selfless saints or crazy.


  1. Oh, woe! I remember it well,..the stories shared in the teacher's lounge! Bless 'em, those bright teacher friends of yours. May they stay sane and sober (at least until 2:45 each afternoon). And may you never, never ever quit writing, Ms. Good-Humor Gal with a Twist of Lime!