Sunday, October 05, 2014

Red-letter days

“You can do this,” I told myself as I turned off the ignition and stared through the windshield at the low brick building straight ahead. “There's no reason to be frightened.”

But “Myself” wasn't buying it. I was volunteering in my son's second-grade class, and failure was in the air.

Teachers always intimidate me. Skillful masters of time. Always efficient, not a single moment wasted.
I'm just a mom. My kids don't even listen to me.

Slowly, I gathered my wits and headed toward the school. Might as well get this over with.

A steady stream of kindergarteners flowed past me through the front doors of the building and headed toward the play fields. Their coach, a smiley-faced man, inhaled deeply from the damp morning air and tipped his head in my direction. He recognizes my potential for cat wrangling.

That's what I told myself, anyway.

I am buzzed in, and go to the front office where a small test awaits. I must write the date and time, my name, the name of my son, the classroom I intend to visit and for what purpose. In triplicate.

Beads of perspiration start to form over my eyelids as I try to put the information on the correct lines.
Purpose of visit? I have to look at Jimmy's mom's entry from six minutes ago before I write down “Centers.”

I am grateful that she wasn't visiting for a birthday, but feel like a cheater.

I've also frittered away four of the six minutes I'd allowed as a buffer. If I got lost in the hallway now, I'd be late and the teacher would be disappointed.

Of course, she has all of my work cut out for me. … Cut out and stapled, with the important parts underlined and circled in green felt pen.

But the room was bright and filled with colorful posters. My eyes couldn't rest anywhere as every surface boiled with a host of shapes and patterns.

I raised my hand to ask a question ...

I could see the giant letter “F” circled in red looming over my head as she read from the page I held in my hands.

Turns out, I had fifteen minutes to get six kids to read a poem, answer five questions about the poem's contents and draw a picture that illustrated one point the poem had made.

Somewhere, in the fog that surrounded my brain, a buzzer sounded and my group of students started out of the gate without me.

And they're off ...Little Johnny Appleseed is reading the poem aloud … he's already on line two. Teenage Mutant Ninja Shirt is stuck on a word and is beginning to buck. Holy cow, it looks like My Little Pony Sneakers has rounded line five and is heading for the homestretch. This could be an upset, folks.

Of course, everything slows down once I catch up.

“Question One: How does the author describe fall.”

“I fell once. Skinned my knee.”

We're talking about the season, Fall. See here … look at some of the colors the author describes … 'red and yellow and brown.' …

“I have red shoes. … they're sparkly. I didn't wear them today, though.”

The minute hand on the clock races the second hand as I try to keep my herd of cats focused.

A bell rings and they scatter.

“That's a good beginning,” says the teacher and I hand over the kids' work. “Ideally, I'd like to see everyone get at least a start on the picture.”

“I'm not sure I can do this,” I confess. “I'm not a teacher.”

“Of course you can,” she says. “You're a mom.”

A mom? Yes. Why didn't I think of that?

This week if I feel overwhelmed I'll just tell the kids to go outside and play …
"Mommy needs a Time Out."

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