by irene bean

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A Solid Foundation



Not Trying to be Corny

This Little Light of Mine

We Were Once Young

Veni, Vedi, Vinca

U Tube Has a New Star

Packing a 3-Iron

Getting Personal

Welcome Again

Well... Come on in

Christmas Shopping

There's no Substitute

Dressed for Success

Cancun Can-Can

Holy Guacamole

Life can be Crazy

The New Dog

Hurricane Reenie

He Delivers

No Spilt Milk

Naked Fingers


Have Ya Heard the One About?

The Great Caper


Barney's P***S

My New Security System

There's No Substitute...

Last night I hobbled home. Actually I drove home, and then hobbled from the truck to my back door. Despite all the hobbling (due to an accumulation of activity over a period of two days), I was able to smile. I love my life (most the time anyways and it hasn't always been that way).

Several weeks ago I went for a 6-hour training session to become certified as a substitute teacher. All I can say with hindsight wisdom is that I must have been certifiably insane.

I got a call this week to substitute teach for two days. I was thrilled. The elementary school I listed as a preference is about six miles from my house. I was placed in a Kindergarten room with about twenty children sans the usual teacher's aide who had to fill in for the third grade substitute teacher who had also called in sick. I suppose I could end this post right now - I suspect you know where it's going.

HOLY SHIT! Teaching is not for sissies (I bow to you almighty and great Scout, Stace, David, Julia, Alix, Tom, and all the other teaching heroes I may be omitting). Teaching Kindergarten is definitely a niche career choice, which requires abnormal physical constructions not wired into the DNA makeup of Homo Sapiens.

In a nutshell, I am not anatomically built right to be a substitute teacher for Kindergartners. For example, I have only two eyes and two hands, and my two eyes are on only one side of my head, and my hands only have five fingers each, with limited task capabilities. A few extra thumbs wouldn't hurt either. My humanoid features also include only two ears, while ideally, a Kindergarten teacher should have at least, at the very least, six ears. To accompany the six ears should be the six mouths required to answer the rapid fire questions hurled throughout the day. Luckily, the most oft heard questions are: Can I get a drink of water? Can I go the bathroom? (These first two are dependably linked in a vicious cycle.) Can I sharpen my pencil? Do you have a cat? Did you know I have a cat? Did you know my cat had kittens? Do you want a kitten? Do you want to wiggle my tooth? All these questions require only a nod of assent or decline, so the six mouths are free to answer the barrage of other urgent questions. I got real good at using a custom sign language that unbeknownst to me must be universal amongst teachers, because the children understood the meaning behind every tic, toss of the head, wince or smile, wave of a hand, snap of fingers, a "talking to the hand motion", a raised index finger, or a Hmmm or Ahhhh. It's all truly amazing. Like going to a different country and instantly assimilating the customs and dialects.

Then there were the very few who were chronically ill with some variation of sore throat. There was also one who yearned for her mommy. Hey! Trust me! There were moments I wanted my mommy, too! And as far as the sore throat, I s-w-e-a-r to you I had a sore throat five minutes after entering the classroom. Five fucking minutes is all it took, and I had a sore throat. I will never ever substitute again without a vial of Airborne in my purse.

I also surprised myself by learning most of the children's names within a few minutes of entering the classroom. The only names I didn't get right away were the well behaved students, which seems totally unfair. One day I was tussling the hair of one of the well behaved students and affectionately referred to him as Buster. Okay now, imagining your best Forrest Gump accent, in unison the class hollered, "His name isn't Buster!" Omigod, I thought. I forgot where I was - a region where people actually have Buster on their birth certificates!

Another day, I was sashaying around the classroom checking on students' work and answering six questions at the same time, when I overheard a student joyfully singing, "Jesus was a Jew." Well of course he was, I thought, but what the hell happened to songs like Jingle Bells and Frosty!

Ya know, Kindergarten has changed a lot. I don't know why I thought time had stood still for 30+ years. The classroom had three computers. These kids were more savvy than I. (Okay, I'm exaggerating here, but only here, mind you.) Kindergarten is also now a whole day affair - seven hours. When my children were little, Kindergarten was a half-day event, and a half-day in education at that time was only two hours. I know all schools are extremely strapped for cash, but this school has its priorities lined up right. The two days I was there the students had classes in P.E., Music, and Art like when I was growing up. (An honest aside here: I didn't give a fig regarding the children's cultural and physical development - the enrichment classes gave me a luxurious forty minutes to myself, for God's sake! A full forty minutes to eat lunch and tear the classroom apart, searching under every boogery Kleenex for my sanity.)

But some things are the same - like rest period. Thirty minutes is reserved for rest time each day. Good God in Heaven - what an oxymoron that is in a Kindergarten room! If research scientists ever need to know the fine nuances about fidgeting, I suggest they observe rest time in a Kindergarten room. The kids are pros! I swear, some of the positions they twisted their little bodies into looked like they were straight from the book on Kama Sutra... not that I would know or anything. The second day, though, a little boy actually did fall asleep. At first I didn't see him on his mat all tucked up, eyes closed, and his chest sweetly rising and falling. I knelt down beside him and gently ran my hand up and down his back. When he finally did stir from a deep sleep, he jumped up like a startled coon dog that's no longer worth a lick for hunting no more. After a few reassuring words from me, he settled right back down with a smile and woke up more slowly. (Sorry, I fell into Forrest Gump talk for a spell.)

I must confess, this sleeping child was my favorite from the very start. I think it had something to do with the placement of his eyes - I suspect his father was a fine banjo player at one time or another. I always gravitate toward strays and I really liked this kid and he liked me. At the end of the first day he said, "Mrs. Reenie, you are so sweet." I looked down at him and with a swaggering voice said, "I was just pretending today - you better watch out tomorrow." He started to laugh. I started to laugh. Smart kid.

I can't wait until I get called again. There's no substitute for this brand of learning.

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