I was called in to substitute teach yesterday at the kids’ school. I was in the art room working with 3rd, 5th and 6th graders. It was my first time working out of the house in nine years, and I agonized over my outfit–how to look professional, yet kid-friendly. My tata’s are DDD so it’s very difficult for me to find a shirt that doesn’t show cleavage. Pretty much everything I put on makes me look like I’m going out to walk Sunset Strip. So, I finally decided on the only collared shirt I own and a sweater buttoned over it. In any case, it didn’t matter–I spilled coffee on the pristine white collar on the way up there, driving by the ocean in the rain, getting stuck behind a train. Normally I would love to be in the rain by the sea watching a train, but today I didn’t have time!
The 5th graders–let’s see… a girl in a pink fluffy skirt fell off her stool in the first few minutes, her feet in the air, and things went down hill from there, climaxing when a wasp flew around the room and all the kids ran screaming. I caught the wasp in a piece of paper and planned to set it free later. The 5th graders were working on drawing different textures and had been assigned to sketch a still-life of a chicken statue with a cactus on it’s back, a basket, and a bowl of balls of…something–rope or twine. Some immediately got to work while others couldn’t stop socializing and wiggling and dragging their chairs around. I was happy when I knew I had 3rd graders next–that’s close to Annabelle’s age and I thought they’d be little and sweet and listen to the adult in the room better.
I was wrong.
They all had ants in their pants. Jumping off their stools, unable to keep quiet even for a minute so I could explain their assignment, which was drawing their own face onto a paper and designing their own “magazine cover” about them. Here were some of the questions and comments:
“Can I make myself into a monkey-man? Half monkey, half man?”
“Can I draw my whole body so it looks like a jumping into the air?”
“Can I make myself into a ninja man?”
“He’s doing a hunting magazine! He’s not allowed to draw guns! Ms. Johnson! he drew a gun!”
By now I was eager for my break and I had lunch with Henry, then lunch with Annabelle. It was a long break and I hadn’t brought reading material, my phone didn’t work, and so I ended up wandering the halls in my new red moccasins (my “professional shoes”) saying inappropriate things to the other teachers like “I want to get a cupcake tattoo on my ass so I can tell people to kiss my sweet ass.” I have no filter! Then I had a long conversation with the secretary about boarding school. I was telling her I could never send my children to Boarding School like everyone does on the East Coast. It would kill me to not have them with me. She said her son was at Phillips Exeter. That he loved it and did really well and they saw him every weekend. Still, it would break my heart to send my children away.
Then I had the 6th graders.
I set the room up for the still-life drawings of the chicken scene again. I stood in the classroom to greet everyone, and three boys entered. As soon as they saw they had a sub, they bolted, running down the hallway. I had to run out myself and say in my grown-up voice” Boys! Come back to class!”
They came back, but were horribly unruly the rest of class. I asked them each to tell me their names so I could get to know the class. Each child said their name, and finally a girl said, “That’s not their real name. It’s not Tim, it’s Jackson.” I had two troublemaking tables so I walked between them, keeping an eye on the kids and encouraging them to focus. And then the wasp escaped again. And all hell broke loose. You would think the Swamp Thing had entered the room, the way the kids ran screaming, and the class clowns leaped into the trash cans and under chairs. I caught the damn thing again, but while I was taping the edges of the paper, it outfoxed me over and over again until it finally flew up to the high window, out of reach, and the kids ran screaming again!
By now the kids were done with their still life’s, so the teacher had said they should draw pictures of items that start with the certain letters of the alphabet. But I forgot and told them to draw their favorite animals. Here were the questions:
“Can it be a mythical creature? Like a Viking-cat?”
“Does a human count? I have a pet human…”
“That boy drew a gun! That’s not an animal!”
Some kids were still working on their still-life’s. In an effort to be encouraging, I said to one boy, “Great job on your drawing! Why don’t you add some texture to your balls?” He put his his head down and my face turned beet red as I turned my own head away. I knew I had made a profound gaffe and hoped no one would notice. But within seconds that entire table had erupted into giggles and one boy saying over and over again, “She did NOT just say that!”
Then the REAL drawings started. Penises, balls, etc. I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “No vulgar drawings!”And the boy said, “What? It’s an airplane?” And promptly drew wings on it that looked suspiciously like a penis with balls on it.
At this point, I was watching the clock for the class to end. Once they left, I walked like a zombie to the secretary’s office, my eyes wide. She laughed when she saw the look on my face. “I now understand boarding school.” I said as I signed out.
Next time, I will know what to expect, and I will plan accordingly!