I’m getting a celebrity complex working in a school with preschoolers. I don’t know if it’s because I’m “tall”, have long hair and wear dresses “like a princess,” or always beg for high-fives as they try to march by (I swear 80% of their time is spent trying to line up and get from one place to another), and maybe they do this to everyone (although that would really kill my vibe), but they love me. For no reason at all. The little girls want to touch my dress and smile and run for a hug, burying their faces in the folds of my skirt, and then do that thing kids do where they grab your clothes and lean back waaaaay too far to look up adoringly at you, and you know you would throw yourself in front of a bus for them, even though they don’t know your name and are getting all kinds of stains on your clothes.
Was I ever so tiny and adorable? Did I ever sit in a circle and learn colors and shapes? Did I have a favorite princess? It’s hard to believe I ever had to learn the ABCs or numbers or body parts…everything is so automatic now, we don’t even think about it.
Well. Actually. I do. I have to think about language all the time. All day. Because teaching English is my actual job and it’s an actual puzzle I’m constructing and deconstructing all day long. It makes my brain hurt in a delicious way.
Today I was teaching a student adverbs of frequency. These are words you use when someone asks you “how often do you…?” So we made a chart and did some examples. First I had to explain that the word “often” has nothing to do with the number “ten.” Then I asked the student – “What’s something that you always do? What is happening in your life all the time?” I was expecting “I always do my homework” or something benign like that, but without hesitation he replied, “I always have Christ in me.” Sometimes kids’ faith is so strong and evident that it really shames me. This is the same kid who when I took him back to his class one day and no one was there, pretended the Rapture had happened and he and I had been left on earth. Which was terrifying for a number of reasons.
My example for “always” had been “Miss Weight always needs you to bring her chocolate.” I might rank on the shallow side of things.
But then a minute later, I asked “Okay, what’s something that you never do?”
Without hesitation – “I never rob banks. Or see dragons.”
Oh, yeah. You’re still a kid. A big, goofy kid.
I also had a fun moment today trying to do what I thought would be a quick exercise on what a family tree looks like, which devolved into explaining the words “husband” and “wife,” which necessitated explaining the concepts of “dating” and “marriage.” Then the girls asked if they could carry my wedding dress train and be my flower girls when I get married, and then my boy (who is my sweetheart – the student who absolutely melts me into puddles when he lisps his way through ‘I mithed you, Mith Waaay’ after a long weekend.) asked if he could carry my rings, and what is that called in English? And then I had to explain that a ring bearer is not an actual bear of any kind.
At one point, I threw a marker in frustration (in a super non-violent way) and looked up to the Heavens for help in redirecting and shifting my lesson plans. I let one breath drive out the fear that I will never be able to teach these kids every thing they need to know, and let the next breath draw in the knowledge that my kids were enjoying my class enough that they were bold enough to ask to be in my wedding, and loved me enough to look insulted on my behalf when I confessed that I didn’t even have a boyfriend and didn’t know if I would ever get married. (“But Mith Waaaaay! You should be mom!”)
This week I also had a student tell me his “foot finger” hurt and another tell me her leg was sick. And I can only laugh and explain and then hug when they look so confused and betrayed they could cry. We started making an “English is CRAZY” poster to write down all the times we come across words that drive us nuts, and we get to eat candy for each word.
Two of my classes were cancelled today because the K-1 grades went on a field trip to the grocery store. “omg!” said I. “I can get so much done!” I then spent about an hour looking up cool new projects to start on Pinterest, blissfully ignoring the several dozen incomplete ones lying around me. Teaching is never done, is it? I can be as creative and hardworking and productive as I want, and there is always more I could do, more I feel like I should be doing at the expense of life. The list of things I could do to make things better is infinite and will never expire. I find this overwhelming in the best and worst sense.
Some days it’s enough to make you want to lie down and never get up again because what’s the point – you will never be as good/prepared/organized/inspiring/fun/life-changing as you want to be for all these little hearts and lives God has placed into the palms of your hands for a year or so.
But most of the time, frequently, almost always, generally, normally, usually, nearly every day, the anxiety brought on by the suffocating sense of responsibility is outweighed by the joy in losing count of how many hugs, how many high-fives, how many lightbulb moments you get to see each and every day as a teacher.
So we hold onto that. Mith Waaaayyy holths onto that.