A woman at yoga the other week inquired about the level Lindsay and I teach. When we replied kindergarten, laughter betrayed her attempt at taciturnity and she muttered that she made it a week in her own TEFL experience with the little mongrels. Her expression changed from amusement to sheer sympathy as she nudges me on the shoulder and says, “it takes a strong woman to teach kindergarten.”
The whole way home I thought about my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Humprey and I smiled. An expansive woman in her mid-thirties with chaotic curls and smile that could’ve singlehandedly caused global warming. In addition to providing my first course in the upcoming world of education, which would undoubtedly consume my life for the next 17 years, Ms. Humphrey moonlighted as my babysitter on occasion when my parents needed a hiatus from the incessant chatter about undeniably awesome 4-year-old things. I’d like to think Ms. H voluntarily took an extra interest in me because she recognized my specialness from a young age, but I think she may have run a (semi-illegitimate) daycare in her spare time.
I guess my point is that our kindergarten teachers make an impact on the course of our lives, however minute. They are the first adults bestowed the privilege to mold the tiny impressionable minds of the never before schooled future of the human race. Sure, it doesn’t take a heap of brain power to instruct someone to color the pig pink, but it takes some compassion, patience and love to do so while one monkey is hanging from the rafters, tiny thieves are pilfering my purse, curious Kip’s got two crayons shoved into his nasal cavities and the nudist has stripped down completely to use the restroom.
Patience has never been my forte and so I was forced to use a different weapon from the arsenal. I combined my affinity for humor and entertainment with semi-educational instruction to form a superpod of knowledge and amusement in T. Arex’s classroom. After a morning of teaching the thizz face, the dougie and various other novelty dance moves accompanied by the tune “Call Me Maybe,” I was feeling a bit under the weather (perhaps associated with the unidentifiable grey meat for lunch). My patience level hit an all-time low and I skirted the border between teacher and tyrant. After the kids began chanting “TEACHA ANGRY,” attempting to display their knowledge of the emotions I taught them last month, I cracked and my anger dissolved into embarrassment.
These foul-smelling booger pickers aren’t actively trying to send me into early retirement, they’re simply missing the social graces that evolve with age. My mind travels back to the time my little brother squeezed the breast of one of my mother’s clients at the supermarket. The woman, although shocked, laughed it off with complete poise. And those dwarves taking turns rubbing their cheeks on my unshaved legs and recoiling—a true game of game of pain endurance—aren’t adults; their tiny minds are still incubating and the whole reason for their irritating presence in my personal space is that they need instruction. So instead of harboring misplaced anger, I lined up my little minions and instructed them to come and give teacher some much needed hugs, one-by-one. Not only did this little game put me soul in a much better light, but the little freaks were coming back for seconds and thirds like plump crowds at Golden Corral.
After Hug-O-Rama, as I playfully nicknamed our ‘game’ and which they pronounced “hug-a-llama” (also fitting), I was showered in stickers and given a Power Rangers pin, which I am taking as a symbolic initiation into the inner circle of their five year old cult. After today, I realized that not only is teaching Kindergarten the hardest job in the world maybe besides being the guy that hangs off the back of the garbage truck, it’s equally as rewarding and entertaining, as long as the clown gauges her audience and never has a shortage of bribery tokens. I can also thank my little stooges for allowing me to foster my inner child, who stubbornly refuses to grow up.
I’ll never forget my kindergarten teacher and I truly hope that when I depart from this life that my little trolls will remember the funny antics of Teacher Alex and that weird afternoon she forced us each to embrace her. This post is dedicated to all of the kindergarten teachers out there. From Miss Lippy to Arnold, thank you for being the real-life superheroes for life’s first wave of sweaty recessers!
But remember children: recess time is not only a special time for you children, but for Miss Lippy too, so stay outside.