As one who studied English and Creative Writing, I tend to structure my writing in an anecdotal way, leaving it to the readers to figure out what I'm actually trying to say. Given that this is my first blog post as a Fellow, my introduction to the world of whomever out there wants to read this, I thought a anecdotal blog post was only fitting...
“Guess what, girl?" my boss says. "You’re in Ms. Smith's class today!”
“Shadowing?” I try not to sound too hopeful.
It is my second week at Ravenscroft. I have zero classroom teaching experience. Ms. Smith teaches Kindergarten. For a moment, I consider faking an illness.
Thirty minutes later, I greet a class of fourteen six-year-olds as I try to decipher the half-page lesson plan that is supposed to guide me through a seven hour day.
“Who are you?” one girl demands. “Where’s Ms. Smith?”
“She’s going to be late today. I’m Miss Mangum.”
I grin and tell her she’s welcome to call me Miss Mango if she wants. The other students laugh in that high-pitched, innocently joyful way only little kids can, and a couple of the boys pretend to eat my arm, because I’m a mango.
But at snack time, when my boss's son pretends to pour his juice over another student’s head, I tell him to stop or I will take it away.
“You can’t do that. If you do, I’ll tell my mom and she’ll fire you.”
For a second, he has shocked me into silence. No one, not even an six-year-old, has ever threatened to have me fired. But after a moment, I lean down to his eye level. “She wouldn’t fire me. I’m not afraid of you.”
“She’ll fire you!”
That silences him, but later, when Ms. Smith returns and I leave the classroom--all but sprinting out--I am still haunted by his threat, and by my less-than-professional response. I pray I never have to sub in that classroom again.
First Week of Fellows Program
Boy 1 is stabbing Boy 2 with a freshly sharpened pencil. Don’t yell at the children. Girl 1 is sprawled out on the floor like a starfish and refuses to get up. Do not yell at the children. Girl 2 and Girl 3 are yelling at each other because Girl 2 cut in line. Do not yell at the children. Boy 3 has just dumped an entire bucket of crayons on the floor. Do not yell at the children!! The rest of the class stands semi-quietly in line by the door, ready to go to lunch. The 1st grade teacher’s assistant appears in the doorway, and we lock eyes. Help! She immediately blows the whistle around her neck. The stabbing and yelling stops and the crayons are now forgotten, but Girl 1 remains on the floor.
I get down low so she can see my face, but she looks away. So, I channel my mother and say her name slowly, softly, and dangerously. She looks at me.
“I need you to get up. Now.”
“I don’t wanna!”
“Do you want me to move your name down and make you do a reflection with Miss Taylor?”
She groans and rolls over, pretending to get up, but a few seconds later, she is still on the floor. I walk to the discipline board and move her name down from “In Danger” to “Teacher’s Choice,” which means she will have to sit with her teacher and do a reflection sheet, and possibly call home to her parents. When I turn around, she is in line and looking at me expectantly, like I will move her name back up now that she has finally listened. I don’t. I just move to the front of the line and lead them out the door.
Third Week of Fellows Program
“One time, when I was y’all’s age in this very classroom…”
“Did you go here?” one of the boys asks.
I nod while one of the other students shushes him. Another boy starts to roll around on the floor, kicking his classmates. I say his name once, firmly, and he sits back up. They all look up at me from the rug, completely silent now. Listening.
“I was sitting at the computers, just like y’all did earlier. And I opened something that was just for teachers to open, and I clicked a button I shouldn’t have. And guess what happened?”
“What?!” most of the shout.
“They had computers when you were in school?” the same boy asks.
I nod again, trying not to laugh, and say, “I crashed every single computer...not just in second grade...not just in the Lower School...but every single computer at Ravenscroft!”
They all gasp.
“Did you get in trouble?”
“So much trouble!” I shake my head as I remember. “I had to go see the principal and she called my parents!”
“Tell us another story!”
“Yeah, another funny one!”
The bell rings to announce that school is dismissed, and the kids all whine.
As they file out, one girl asks, “Will you be here tomorrow?”
“No, Mrs. Stevens will be back tomorrow. I’ll be at the front office, though, so if you need ice or a Band-Aid you can come see me.”
She turns to her friends. “I wanna get hurt extra bad tomorrow!”
I laugh and linger in the doorway after they’ve all left.