Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A day with fifth graders...

I had never been so glad to be done with anything in all my life as I was when I stepped out of that classroom yesterday afternoon after nearly seven hours on my feet in not-the-best-choice footwear.

My day began at 5:45, a time that in my humble opinion is too early in the day to do anything, especially when it's 12 degrees outside and still dark. Too early to be fighting the battle with the shower trying to find that perfect balance of hot and cold water. A hair to the right, too cold; a hair to the left, too hot; somewhere in the middle of a hair and another hair, just perfect. I also fought a battle the entire time before leaving for school with David - he had run a low grade fever the night before, and woke up with it that morning as well, and though he was under the 100.9 mark of real fever as defined by the Shelby County Board of Education (his was 99.7), the mother in me struggled with the notion of sending him to school as his cough sounded much like that of a large male seal looking for his mate in the crowd. Off we went, though to face the day, and I was glad when I arrived and realized that several volunteers were not able to attend due to their children's or their own illness.

We started the day discussing the concept of an entrepreneur, and we did an activity in which the children were divided into groups, given a topic, and asked to work together to form a business idea and create an advertisement for their business. I was amazed at how the students totally got into this activity and how creative they were. One group had the medical topic card, and they decided they would start a business to research and create a medicine that would enable humans to live forever. How imaginative is that? Another group did a car designing company, one an amusement park, another a football/cheer leading training facility. They were so smart and intuitive. And they kept asking me questions like, "Do we have to do such-and-such?" My answer was always, "You can do whatever you want to do..." Their eyes were bright with wonder at the notion that there were really no rules... and no grades...

I had this one little boy, however, that just wasn't having it. He didn't like the activity, he didn't like the group he was in, and I was beginning to think he didn't like life in general. How sad to be only 10 or 11 and not like life already. What on earth does he have to look forward to? What will he be like when he has to start paying bills and raising kids? I was amazed at his disposition as I had never been around a child like that, and I set out on a personal mission to make him smile. For the second activity, we played a game board, and he refused to join any of the groups. So I sat in the floor and played with him and finally got him to grin when he won the game. He really was a smart boy, just belligerent and grumpy and unwilling to cooperate with anyone consistently. Later in the day he told a fellow classmate that his dream of playing football for the University of Alabama was stupid. I was floored, and I was very glad that his teacher stepped in to discipline him for that one. I tired to explain to the children that you should dream big and work toward your goals, and I even shared with them that I am currently pursuing my dream of writing a novel.

There were five activities in all, and the final was an absolute nightmare. It involved a large spool of string, 29 children, and my desire for a shot of tequila or two or three. And I don't even shoot tequila - never have - but if there's anything that will make you want to try, I promise it's a 8,000 feet of white string, one belligerent, aggressive boy, and 26 other fifth graders. Just sayin'.

I was glad I had the opportunity to do it. Very glad, actually. It was so interesting to see all the different types of children in one classroom. Early on in the day, one of the kids looked at me and asked, "How come you are so nice? How is that possible?" So I answered him as honestly as I could by telling him, "Because I don't have to be here everyday..." And the poor things - well, their teacher is pregnant, due in April, and carrying so low that I am guessing she won't it out of the month of March. She can't be comfortable, and from what I saw, she's a no-nonsense type of teacher. Don't get me wrong, she was kind. But she certainly had a tight handle on the classroom. Very tight. I am thinking the students are looking forward to her maternity leave.

On my way out, I told the volunteer coordinator for the elementary schools that I want to do Madalyn's class. How fun... the little kids are so much fun. They are still pretty happy to be there, so it's a totally different experience from the poor fifth graders that actually thought I was nice because I came in there and saved them from their workload and allowed them to play games all day. Wow - I do sound pretty fantastic when I think about it that way...

1 comment:

Erika said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the day and I think you are pretty fantastic too!