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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back to the Future...and It's Scary!

By Jody Worsham, all rights reserved for Valium!

Emitting from the darkest regions of a lost and forlorn soul, the screams reverberated around the room. Such keening and wailing caused window panes to vibrate. The high pitched crying had dogs baying at the sun, small children covering their ears, and senior citizens tossing their hearing aids. And that was just from me.

Nothing in my 60 hours of college education courses, 39 years of teaching experience, or raising eight children had prepared me for this. I was being propelled through the time-continuum portal of substitute teaching in…kindergarten.

My 39 years of teaching experience occurred mostly in the last half of the twentieth century, and mostly PC (pre-computer). Even as a recent substitute, I had encountered the occasional power point presentation or DVD left by the teacher to be played, or the request to take attendance using the computer. Nothing, however, had prepared me for High Tech Kindergarten substituting.

My instructions were printed out. The first thing I had to do was log in on the computer as the children arrived and sat on the carpet. Actually, the first thing I had to do was find the computer. I was looking for something similar to my ‘05 Dell, you know, big tv type monitor, tower, and keyboard with mouse, not a gray-black rectangle the width of a desk blotter.

After finding the blotter sized lap top I then struggled with how to open it. After a trial and error period of 10 minutes I succeeded. There was no icon, button, or big red flashing arrow to indicate that was where I was to log. When in doubt, click everything. The teachers’ aid rebooted it for me. The teacher next door came and clicked onto the Alphabet program then turned on the wall switch to the “Smart Board”. Thus I firmly established myself as an authority figure, one to be reckoned with, firmly in charge of the situation in front of my sixteen kindergarten students. Not! It went downhill from there.

Unlike my high school students I had for an hour and a half, I had these children all day long. And while I could divide my high school students into reading groups, send one group outside to rehearse an acting scene, and tell another group to begin painting; these couldn’t read, couldn’t be left alone a second , and t would sooner color each other than what they should be coloring. This was a whole different world I had entered.

By the time I got through the first page of instructions, I was twenty minutes behind schedule and would have missed the bathroom break if six little boys hadn’t suddenly broken into the Potty Dance. As a mother of eight, I know that dance well. After trying to herd my chickens to the restroom and back, I was now ten minutes past Alphabet time.

Alphabet Time had to do with the Smart Board and the Dumb Sub. Fortunately one of the five-year-olds was in charge of this portion of the lesson. He touched the picture of an arrow on the giant screen and the picture changed. He did the calendar as well. He drug the date from the side to the calendar. He moved the star to the correct month. Then he touched the arrow again and the letters of the alphabet appeared giant sized on the screen. The children were to trace the letters. I looked for some chalk but the five-year-old-techno-genius said “We use these” and gave me a pitiful look along with some kind of giant computer crayon. We were supposed to stop at Ee but we had to stop at Bb. It was lunch time.

I again began my attempts at “sweeping feathers” toward the cafeteria. Each child had his name on a “credit card” located in a slotted board. They had to have their cards to get lunch. I had left my glasses in the room; they couldn’t yet read their names. I held their cards out as far as my arm could reach and squinted amidst cries of “I’m hungry,” “Hurry up!” “We’re going to miss lunch”. “I want my Mommie.” “Our real teacher let us eat”.

After passing out all the cards, I was left with one. Panic set in. I had lost a child! I quickly scanned all the tables but I was having trouble trying to find my missing child among the 50 plus children with catsup smeared all over their faces. It was steak finger day. I asked the Aid for help. She told me that child had brought her lunch. Ok, LCA (Lost Child Alert) averted,

After lunch, we had recess. One hyper little child asked if he was going to have to miss recess because of his bad behavior. I thought to myself “Not on your life. Run, Forrest, run” He did. When we returned to the classroom, it was nap time. I needed it, but when I read down further, it was only for the children.

Nap time was an excersize in futility. I didn’t know how to get music on the Smart Board, or the computer and I hadn’t brought my old antiquated jam box and CD’s. I dared not sing so it was simply “Quiet time, please.” Four went to sleep right away. Seven did their best to keep five awake and did a very good job of it. I saw the 2020 gymnastic hopefuls working out their routines those who will one day appear on Dancing with the Stars were inventing new steps, and American Idol hopefuls were getting in tune. I just kept staring at the clock. At last it was time to go home. I got everybody who was riding a bus to the bus line. Everybody who was riding in a car was shuffled off to the pick-up line.

In theory substituting in a kindergarten class had looked easy. Follow the lesson plans and all would be well. In retrospect it was a microcosm of our world to come. Every kindergartener had a job, but just like their 20 year old plus adult counter-parts, they didn’t always like their jobs nor did they always do them. Shades of unemployment lines to come. One started crying loudly when another child cut in front at lunch. Geneva Convention violations. One moved his mat into another child’s space. Border disputes. Getting bumped by another student in line was a call to arms. Nuclear arms race continued. One child claimed another child had taken over his job. Labor Union negotiations .

I had observed in one day a microcosm of our world. I had been staring at the future…and it was scary!

When I returned home and reached for the wine bottle, no glass was needed, my husband was laughing.

“Ate your lunch, did they?”
“My lunch, my breakfast, and my supper.”
“Going back tomorrow?”
“Not on your life. I’m sending flowers, sympathy cards, a giant box of very dark chocolate plus a year’s membership to “Massage Stress Away Health Club" to every kindergarten teacher I know. They deserve it!”


Sharon said...

Hilarious, Jody! Tell hubby to give you the wine, chocolate and spa treatment.

Marti said...

Oh Jody, you always make me laugh! (And make me so glad I no longer have kids in school)

I agree with Sharon - you deserve the wine, chocolate and spa treatment!