Sunday, December 21, 2014

Don't Try This At Home

It's hard to believe it's already December and soon a new year will be here.  Friday was our class party with a New Year's Eve theme.   It goes without saying that the last day before the break is extremely exciting for a kid.  It also goes without saying that it is even more equally exciting for a teacher.  This was evident each and every time I passed a teacher friend in the hallway.  

As the first bell rang and I took up my post by the classroom doorway to greet students and chat with teachers as they stood outside their doorways, it began.

"Seven hours!" called over my next door neighbor above the heads of the little ones hanging up their coats and chattering excitedly.

I smiled back, happy that it was only seven hours, but also knowing deep down that seven hours can seem like many more on a day before a school break.

In the lunch line, at least three other teachers reminded me of the remaining time.  Accurate to the minute, perhaps even second.  We all had a little more pep in our step and a ready smile.  I caught myself looking at the clock more often, counting down in my head the minutes until I could be free of the demanding job that I love so much.  

Now, don't get the wrong impression.  Teachers don't want to get away from students and go on break because they don't like their job or the students.  Teachers just need some time away.  From the constant calling out of our name, the unending pile of paperwork, the "too much to do, too little time" feeling that is constantly nagging us, and the management of twenty-four little personalities   It's exhausting.  And we need this time away to recharge and reenergize so that we can come back in January and be the best teacher we can be. 

As Friday passed slowly, and the kids were trying their very best to behave and contain their excitement and anticipation of the holidays, we finally make it to the afternoon.  One of my students was having difficulty with a little mini stapler that he had bought in the classroom ticket exchange.  As he watched very closely, I pushed the tiny staples into the tiny stapler and gave it a try.  It wasn't working.  I pushed and snapped it back and forth and suddenly it stapled!  Right into my index finger!   And by stapled, I mean it embedded itself into my finger better than I have ever seen a stapler staple.  

My eyes met the little student who was the owner of the stapler and both our eyes grew into the size of saucers.   One little cutie who had been watching in fascination while I attempted to get the stapler to work, covered her mouth and began repeating words like "oh no", over and over and over.  She covered her mouth, eyes wide, not quite sure what to do.   

Now, when you work with little ones, you have to always remain calm, cool, and collected.  We have fire drills and tornado drills and scary lock down drills and teachers are the height of coolness and calm. We calm down upset kids, mediate arguments, help with lost items, you name it and we do it.  All with a smile and a very patient temperament.    Even when you have just put a staple into your finger.  I couldn't react the way I might if I were alone or with adults.  Of course, if you think about it, I would never be in a situation with adults where I could possibly staple my finger.  

The fact is, any time there is a ruckus or commotion in the classroom, every single student has to rush over to see just what is happening and what they possibly might be missing out on.   So, there I was, standing at the back table holding my finger out so several little ones could admire (or be repulsed) by this staple in my finger.   And, by the way, yes.  It did hurt. A lot.

I tried to pull it out but it was deeper in my finger than any staple I've ever pounded into my wall or bulletin board.  Great.  Even though only a few seconds had passed, it felt like minutes as the little girl continued to look scared (and still had not stopped her chorus of "oh no") and the owner of the stapler looked helplessly on.  They waited for my lead. 

I pulled at it with my fingernail, all the while assuring them that all was fine.  That it was perfectly normal to have a staple in your finger.  But it simply was not budging.  I pulled again and then finally headed over to my desk to find a staple remover.  I was actually thinking that I would have to use it to get this thing out of my finger.  And, yes.  It was hurting even more.  In fact, now it was throbbing.  

My little crowd followed me to my desk and luckily, I pulled one last time and the staple came out.   Immediately, a couple of my little helpers raced to the sink to get a paper towel and water and soap and a bandaid and anything else they thought might help, including a spork.   It wasn't really bleeding and although it did hurt, I soldiered on.  I showed the darling little girl that it wasn't even bleeding.  

"Hey!  It looked worse than it feels," I told her to make her feel better.  "It really doesn't even hurt."   I smiled my best teacher smile.  

She looked relieved.   The stapler owner tossed the defective stapler into the trash in a show of disgust and support of my finger.  

"I'm fine!  I'm fine!" I reassured them all.  "But I wouldn't recommend any of you try this at home!  Just stick to rulers on pencils and clicking your pens."     

They giggled and you could see they all were ok now that I was ok.  Their worry for me is so heart-warming.  The last thing they want is for anything to happen to me.  A classroom of students is like your own little fan club.  

One of the things I always tell my students when they are playing with something in the classroom, like twirling their ruler on their pencil, clicking their pen, or playing with scissors is to save that for when they are home on the weekend with their parents.  I tell them to walk around their house all day Saturday clicking pens, twirling rulers, and playing with scissors.   They always laugh.     We are at the point in the year where as soon as I remind them not to play with something, they all parrot back what I have been telling them all year. 

It was a great New Year's Party on Friday. We had balloons and decorations and music. The kids played some games, wore hats and tiaras, decorated glasses, ate some food, and limboed.  They laughed and had fun.  Just like a kid should do every day.   They gave me gifts and cards they had made with markers and stickers and glitter.  They hugged me tight before they left.  They told me they would miss me and see me next year.   Two weeks is a long time for a nine year old.  I will most certainly miss them too.

And as I glanced up at the clock for the final time a few minutes before the bell rang and looked down at my bandaged finger that was still throbbing, I realized there was no place else I would want to be.  I was giddy at the thought of having two whole weeks of vacation.   One little cutie came up to me to hug me and tell me she would miss me.  She took her little hand and pulled my hand up to look at my bandaged finger. 

"Is your finger ok?" she asked.  

"Yep," I told her.  "Good as new. Just remember  - don't try that one at home!" 

To all my fellow teachers  - 

     Happy holidays!  Enjoy every minute of your break from school.     


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