Observation: Take One

So I am currently a school teacher. If you know me, this should appall you. It appalls me. I teach the second grade at a place called NECA. That stands for New England Classical Academy, and it resides in western New Hampshire. How I ended up here, I have no real clue, but here I am anyway.

In the brief time that I have been doing this job (one week to be precise), I have made several observations.

The first is that while having 19 small children eagerly awaiting my attention for 8 hours a day should be thrilling (I guess…), it is possibly the single most exhausting way to spend 8 hours that I have ever encountered. These kids get 2 recesses per day, and even after a half hour game of ball tag, they can’t seem to sit still at their desks for more than 30 seconds at a time.

My second observation is that I must have missed the phase of my childhood where scissors were the Best Toy in the World. (Perhaps I am making up for that now with my inordinate interest in very sharp knives, or perhaps that’s natural too.) No matter where in the classroom the scissors are kept, these kids will find them, sneak them into their desks, and proceed to demolish anything remotely cut-able within arms’ reach. They are unstoppable.

Thirdly. I thought that the term “terrible two’s” referred to the acting out of a two year old. Apparently what it really refers to is second graders.

Fourth. I find it very interesting that outright rebellion erupts when it is suggested to these kids that it is time to read or be read to, but once a story has started to be told, silence prevails in the classroom. I should clarify that this is a rare occurrence (silence, that is) and to be treasured, but it makes very little sense to me anyway. It can even be a book or story that most of the kids have already read or heard before, but they’ll listen anyway. (Also I was told by a little girl that she likes my voice, so maybe this has something to do with it…? Who knows.)

Fifth. Lego blocks. They are the crack cocaine of second graders. They are also the impetus towards fights, hostage situations, loud screaming, and fits of tearful hatred toward demolishers and thieves. Who knew such small colorful little bits of plastic could hold so much power over the psyche and behavior of a 7 year old? I didn’t. But now these legos have become a beautiful bit of bait that I can use to lure unsuspecting kiddies into uncharacteristic periods of good behavior. Reward systems work.

Speaking of reward systems. Number six. If part of your reward system is to promise candy, food, snacks, playtime, recess, legos, hugs, your soul, etc to children who behave themselves, they will never, ever let you off the hook until you’ve paid up. Seriously. You forget something for five minutes and then you get a reminder in the form of a small child who only just comes up to your knee-caps, mumbling in a wispy high pitched voice, “you prooooomised!”

Number seven. This one is important. (It has to do with staying alive.) Coffee. I brought a nice hot thermos of coffee with me to school for the first week, and let me tell you – it was so very needed. By lunch time every day I was yawning and missing my bed. I can’t even tell you how many times per day I daydreamed about taking a nap the minute school got out. (Which, unfortunately, was never possible.) But the problem with coffee is this: you have to go to the bathroom several times in one day, and you only get to go quickly, once, during recess. At the second grade level you can’t just leave the classroom and go to the bathroom. So I’ve come up with a solution that will hopefully last me the semester: chocolate covered coffee beans! If I just keep a box of those in my desk, I can have all the caffeine benefits of drinking my thermos, and none of the ladies’room drawbacks. Of course, the downside to this is that if a little second grader gets a hold of even one of these delectable morsels, you will never see his feet touch the ground again… And yet I think the odds are in my favor. Hopefully.

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