Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Subbing for Pre-School (Because I Am Too Exhausted to Think of a Creative Title)

Today I subbed for a pre-school class in a small rural town 15 minutes away from my town. I was a little apprehensive going in because I wasn’t sure how well I would do in managing an entire class of 3 and 4 year olds. I was comforted by the thought of having a teacher’s aide. The other part of me was excited. Three and four year olds are so cute! Even when they are being obnoxious as I found out today.

I’ve found that I am able to remember names rather quickly. I try to say the children's names as often as I can, out of necessity because I like to know a kid’s name when I am asking them to do something. However, it is so easy to get kids mixed up. For instance, during nap time, I kept telling “Irvin” to lay down and stop talking. Later, I realized his name was actually “John.” Irvin and John both were wearing the same shade blue shirts and they had the same hair and their faces had similar qualities. Poor Irvin. He was being a good boy, laying quietly on his mat the whole time! The thing is, when I said something to him about it, he didn’t seem to have any idea what I was talking about.

One little boy, “Jonothan,” seemed so sweet. When I brought them in from the playground for breakfast before the day began, he said, “You’re pretty.” Sweetness can be deceiving. Don’t get me wrong, I still thought he was sweet, but I soon learned that he did not like to follow instructions. At time he would be quiet and compliant, but at other times he would be loud and wouldn’t stay still. Nap time for instance. No matter how often I threatened to send him to the office, he still wouldn’t lay down and stay quiet. Eventually, I did send him to the office because he was making the other kids act up.

And I felt really bad about sending him to the office. He just was being a little boy. He wanted to make a tent with his blanket and several chairs. He wanted to talk to the kid next to him. In any other circumstance, I would have made a tent with him and told him a story. But this was a classroom of course and I wasn’t about to have the teacher aide come back from lunch to a rowdy class during nap time.

Anyways, it turns out that Jonothan is always like that, so the aide says. She got quite frustrated with him later in the day and made him sit at a table by himself with his head down.

And then she said something that broke my heart.

“You know what, Jonothan,” she said. “Don’t come back to school tomorrow. Stay home. We don’t want you here.”

Then he mumbled something about not wanting to go home. (I think). And the aide said, “Yeah, your parents probably don’t want you there either.”

I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t correct or criticize the aide in front of a bunch of kids that she has to spend seven hours, five days a week with. I imagine that could be frustrating in itself. And I really like the aide. I have nothing against her. She was very helpful today. But I really really wished she had not said that. Because words can make such an impact on little kids. And telling someone, who only wants attention, that you don’t want him, that nobody wants him, is the most hurtful thing a person could say to a little kid.

At the end of the day, when we lined the kids up and the aide took them out to the bus, Jonothan still sat at the table. He wouldn’t get his bookbag. He wouldn’t get up and come outside when I asked him to. And so I knelt down by Jonothan and told him how special he is. I told him that I think he is a good person and that I want him to come back to school. I told him that people would miss him if he didn’t come back. And I told him that his parents would miss him too if he didn’t go home.

He just looked even sadder so I tried to distract him. I asked him if he had any brothers and sisters. He looked up and spoke for the first time. He has two brothers and one sister, but he doesn’t know how old they are. Do you guys like to play together? I asked. He nodded his head, but then said, “My other brother and sister hate me.”

I asked him if he had any pets. He started talking again. He has three dogs and one cat, some pigs and a bunch of chickens. We talked about his animals. I told him that his pets would miss him if he didn’t come home. And then I tried to take him out to the bus again. He still resisted. Eventually the aide and I had to practically drag him outside so the bus wouldn’t leave without him.

All the way home, my heart was breaking.

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