I check in at school at 7:15. Today I’m teaching twenty kindergardeners while their own teacher tests each one individually in another room. Yes, even kinders have to be tested twice a year.
The teacher explains that one of the moms will be in at snack time to bring
cupcakes for a birthday treat.
A few of the kids are surly, having to put up with a sub. I’ve only been in this class once before so they barely know me and of course I can’t remember any of their names.
After morning meeting, some seatwork, and a song or two it’s time to go to gym. One little girl refuses to wear her gym shoes. I use all the techniques the
University of WI education program taught me many years ago. Positive reinforcement, yada, yada, yada….She is immovable. The rest of the kids are lined up already and getting fidgety with the waiting. One of the boys the teacher alerted me to—who I will refer to as Opposite Boy because he does the exact opposite of what I ask– is poking the kids in front and back of him. When I ask him to stop, he continues the behavior.
I finally decide I have to get these kids to the gym. I pick up Shoeless Jill’s shoes, grab her hand. When I get to PE I explain the problem to the teacher. She assures me she will take care of it. Teachers are so nice to me. I guess they appreciate subs. Meanwhile, Shoeless Jill grimaces at her.
Back in the classroom mom has arrived with cupcakes. They are a home-made work of art. She has only one extra which she takes home. While the kids are at PE I place
one cupcake and one napkin at each seat. For a moment I take a deep breath, look around the room, admire the cupcakes, revel in the peace of the moment.
Suddenly, one of the older students, a profoundly autistic boy, races into the classroom, sees the cupcakes and smashes his face into one of them. His special ed teacher is right behind, but he is too fast. When they leave the room
the teacher advises me to lock my door.
I panic. What now? I’m short a cupcake. I head across the hall
and ask the other kindergarden teacher’s advice. She gives me a handful of candy and suggests I ask the kids for a volunteer who’d rather have candy than a cupcake. Ok.
This should work. There’s usually at least one kid who doesn’t like frosting.
(Yeah, really.) I look at the clock. It’s time to pick the kids up
Upon retrieving them, I find them in a better mood. Shoeless Jill has her shoes on. Opposite Boy seems to be ignoring me and right now that’s a good thing. I think. At least he’s not poking anyone.
Just as we enter our classroom, the autistic boy returns, and destroys another cupcake before his teacher can get him out of the room. I forgot to lock my door.
This time 20 five and six year olds have witnessed this. So instead of having snack I bring them all to the carpet. I explain that sometimes special needs kids do things that are not appropriate. Things they can’t control. They look at me wide eyed, serious, as if they understand. They do not look freaked out. No one cries. I am thankful for their resilience. And for the fact that we include special needs kids in our schools and don’t lock them away. I’m thankful that all kids can learn about these differences and needs. And learn how to get along with everyone. These very young children amaze me.
I ask for two volunteers who’d be willing to give up their cupcakes for anything in
the snack cupboard. I get more than enough volunteers. All is well.
Crisis over. Kids are eating happily. Well, most of them. Shoeless Jill is shoeless again and Opposite Boy is poking his seatmates. And it’s only 10:00.