Kindergarten teachers don’t get a lot of respect. First off, there’s the abuse of comic sans and terrible clip art. But even beyond that, how hard could it possibly be to teach Kindergarten, right? Most of those kids can’t even read yet! Makes it hard to deconstruct the literature when the only word you recognize is balloon. And your own name. It’s a tough sell, but woe be to you for such heresy.
I’m a SaHM so, as part of my social contract, I volunteer in my kid’s class. Because I’m an artsy type person, I volunteer to do art projects with the kids a couple times a month along with my fearless partner…Xena. Let’s call her Xena. Because of the fearlessness.
The project she picked could not have looked simpler. Four leaves, a little paint. Boom, adorableness. You’ve got counting, sorting by size, gluing and just the tiniest bit of painting. Dots. Just a few dots. What could possibly go wrong. Turned out the teacher wouldn’t be in the room. She was taking advantage of the volunteers to work individually with kids out in the hall.
That’s fine, I ooze authority, I assured myself. (Too much over-self-confidence, Yoshi used to call it. I always took that as a compliment.)
I went in brimming with confidence, so the kids wouldn’t smell all the fear. Kids can smell fear, right? I had paper, the kids had brought in leaves, glue sticks were on the table.
“You have before you a piece of paper,” I hollered, holding up my sample artwork. “You’ll need four leaves, arranged from largest to smallest.” I pointed meaningfully at the example. See, I said with my hands, see the lovely leaves in their perfect, successive order. It’s math! And art! At the same time! Virgos rejoice.
“Joey doesn’t have leaves!” shouted a little girl who had brought half a tree with her to class. She had approximately a thousand leaves. The kid next to her had none. And she TOLD on him.
I looked around. The leaf situation was insane. There were bags of crushed leaves, wet leaves, leaves the size of my head, pine needles. The project called for four small leaves of different shapes and sizes. I asked the little girl with a thousand leaves if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her leaves, since she had mad excess and someone at her table didn’t have any at all. The little girl, without hesitation, chose three of her least perfect leaves to give to the other little girl at her table who, also, already had a gross excess of foliage.
F*ing Capitalists, I thought. Silently. I know enough to know you can’t call Kindergartners capitalists. Or fascists. Name calling is rude.
I redistributed leaves all over the place until everyone had at least four leaves of roughly correct shapes/sizes/wholeness/dryness for the project at hand.
Then came the gluing.
You ever see kindergartners glue? It’s horrifying. Glue stick was everywhere. Leaves were in hair, on clothes, and stuck to fingers. If a kid actually managed to glue his leaf down to paper, he almost immediately picked it back up again to see if the glue had worked. It made me nostalgic for paste. Remember paste?
“Mine won’t stick!” a dozen tiny voices complained at once. Xena and I ran from table to table, pressing down leaves and counselling patience.
“Glue stick is not an instantaneous bond,” I explained, because I have no idea how to speak to five year olds, apparently. My own kid rarely calls attention to this, which is nice. She mostly just ignores me.
Then the paint hit the table. Dear God, the horror. A kid actually stabbed himself in the eye with a paintbrush. This is the kind of thing that happens in kindergarten. Painting injuries. it’s chaos.
“I made pink!” a little girl screamed giddily. A dozen pairs of eyes flashed her way.
Pink. Their minds were blown. A second ago, she’d had just red and white and now, suddenly, there was pink! PINK! Holy cow. Everyone wanted a piece of the miracle paint. The project was forgotten. Paper and leaves were saturated with paint.
I took back all the terrible, sad paintbrushes and threw them away while the kids were distracted.
“Nice work, everyone. Brilliant interpretation of the craft,” I said. “Really…interesting stuff. Now go and wash your…everything. Why is there paint UP your nose? Nevermind, I don’t care. Go and wash your nose.”
I learned a lot about myself that day. For one, I’m an even bigger control freak than I thought. This whole zen irony thing – obviously an act. Also, running a project with 21 kids is roughly a million times more difficult than running a project with one child. Also, Pinterest can kiss my ass. As usual. That actually wasn’t a new thought for me.
I have mad respect for Kindergarten teachers, whom I truly think deserve some sort of hazard pay. And lattes. I asked my sister in law how she does it (the teaching Kindergarten thing) and she suggested red wine was helpful. I can see that, though I’d wager a nice Moscato would be more popular with the kids. And white would probably pair better with the lentil-chips they had for snack. I’ll keep it in mind, though, since I get to do this all again in two weeks.
Next time, instead of a double Americano before class, I think I’ll take a Xanax.
And no paint.
Is it possible to injure oneself with oil pastels?