9.30am. I’ve been at work for half an hour before one of the kids points out that my name badge is upside down. First lesson of the day – even adults can make some really basic mistakes.
I bend to tie up a boy’s shoe laces as he heads out to recess. I’ve been tying laces at this school for nearly five years now, but only recently has it been pointed out to me that those laces have probably been dragged across a pee-soaked bathroom floor a few times today. I remember this fact, shrug, and keep tying – that’s what hand sanitizer is for, right?
* * *
I break up a permanent marker play fight during art class. One of the combatants emerges from the bathroom.
“It won’t come off!” he says, pointing to his black-striped face.
“Yes,” I say. “That’s what ‘permanent’ means. It’s also what we call ‘natural consequences’.”
Lunchtime yard duty at the sandpit. I take a child aside because the other kids have complained about his spitting in the hole they’ve dug.
“We don’t spit at this school,” I say. “Do you know why we don’t spit?”
He nods. “Because it might hurt the crabs,” he says.
After a second or two of thinking, “???”, I put it together. We’re in the sand, there’s a hole, therefore there must be crabs…makes perfect sense.
* * *
Another child has to be removed from the sandpit, this time for pushing a smaller kid around. He is content to just stand and watch the others play, and while doing so he reaches up to hold my hand. I feel a nudge on my arm, and look down to find him wiping his nose on my sleeve. Pee, spit – this just completes the trifecta.
* * *
Using flashcards, I’m testing a child on her sight recognition of some of the most commonly used words in English. She’s doing well on the test – until we come to the word ‘decided’.
“Decapitated?” she says.
I give her The Look – the one that says, perhaps you should reconsider that. “Do you really think we’d test you on the word ‘decapitated’?” I say. She looks confused. “Wait – do you know what it means?” She shakes her head. “It means to get your head chopped off!”
And she laughs. And so do I. And in my head, I question whether it’s entirely appropriate to be laughing about decapitation in a primary school classroom (the answer – probably not).
I’m assisting a class to complete a maths worksheet on fractions. One boy kneels on his seat and crows, “I’m finished! I’m awesome!” I check his work.
“Well, yes, you are awesome,” I say, “but your number line – not so much. It’s meant to be a straight line, not a wavy one.” I show him examples of other children’s number lines, and he flicks his hand through the air in a dismissive gesture as if to say, “Straight, schmaight.”
I help him to correct it. Creativity is important in education, but so are ruler skills.
* * *
7.00pm at home. You know that thing you do with little kids when you offer them two choices, one choice being the thing you want them to do and the other being an unpalatable option, the aim being to get them to do the right thing while letting them think they’ve come to that decision on their own? Well, I’m doing that.
“It’s dinner time. The rule is you don’t hang around the table at dinner time. You have two choices – go sit on your bed, or go outside in the cold.”
Belatedly, I realize that this approach is not going to work in this situation. For one thing, I don’t think our new foster dog has understood a word I’ve said.