In this year of voting for a new leader in my country, popularity is a most sought after commodity. Should you not vote for the sort of popular person just because she wears pantsuits that you don’t like? Or should you not vote for the opinionated and successful person who is sort of popular, but might wear a hairpiece that you do not like? Decisions about popularity are seemingly pushed along by trite and silly information. But, I do not care for the workings of politics these days. I do care deeply about the trash can situation in my classroom. The trash can is too popular. More well-liked by five year old children than any future president.
Why? What is so great about a trash can? I have no idea. The children certainly do not seem that orderly for the majority of the day. In fact, they are really totally messy. They don’t look messy. They look like they are in a very precious ad for school uniforms. Some of the girls have fancy braids in their long pony tails. Others have curls galore. Some of the boys use gel for their perfectly combed hair. I can’t believe these parents spend so much time in the morning so that their little kindergartners have orderly hairdos and perfectly pressed uniforms. They are just not messy children. Until they arrive in my classroom. All of that pent up neatness just rises to the surface and leaves.
Can they be neat at breakfast? No! We eat breakfast in the classroom. Don’t ask. The whole school eats breakfast in the classrooms. There goes the orderly atmosphere right off the bat. It is downhill from there. I find plastic wrapping from sausage biscuits or breakfast pizzas all day long. Some are hiding in a cubbie. Some are hiding in the reading center behind a book. I mention the plastic wrapping and someone comes running over to throw it away. Is the guilty party the one who runs over? I have no idea. I just know that breakfast is not orderly and I talk about it every day. The trash can is not that popular at breakfast. Thank goodness they eat lunch in the cafeteria. Otherwise, I would have retired a long time ago.
Actually, I wish that we could go to the cafeteria for art projects that cause un-orderly cutting and the un-orderly bottle of glue. Or perhaps, we could go to the cafeteria for writing. Very good idea. I see unfinished sheets of papers under the tables all day. I guess those essays (?) or drawings just were not good enough. I have mentioned the writing folders way too much. They think that their writing needs to reach perfection before entering a folder. I don’t think that at all. I just want them to attempt writing anything at all. To write their name, write some sight words from the word wall, try to write a sentence, write the alphabet. So why are these papers on the floor characterized by hardly any drawings and a few letters? Just not orderly. Messy.
And I will admit that I am not so orderly. I stack up folders and future work all over my desk. Of course, I stack them very neatly at the end of the day…although
no one cares but me. Sometimes, I suddenly have a wild need to clean out a drawer of my desk and make a bigger mess than before. However, it is a bit different with me. I don’t look that entirely precious when I arrive at school. I don’t wear a uniform (although it certainly would be a time saver) and I don’t even know how to braid hair. Our own daughter would have been very unhappy if I had even mentioned the word “braid”. Anyway, I am a little old for braids. So when people visit my classroom, they must look at the children and then look at me and think…”Oh! The teacher is the one who is not orderly”. So untrue.
The messy children continue through the school day looking very precious and neat. And the room gets worse. The trash cans are overflowing onto the floor with who knows what. I have caught some with gum. Some brought food from the cafeteria (not accepted behavior) and some just like to dry their hands with fifteen paper towels instead of one. By the end of the day, we have to stop ten minutes early so that we can put the room back in order.
All I have to say is…”Whoa! It is almost time to go home! This room is a wreck. Somebody do something!”…and the competition to grab the trash cans is ferocious. All hands are on deck. They are cleaning up so fast. They are pushing the trash cans around the room with a great amount of speed. Scary. The trash cans are so very popular at the end of the school day. All for the sake of an orderly room. Plus, the teacher won’t leave until the room is somewhat straightened. She is sure about that. After all, who is going to clean the room if they don’t clean the room? Me. I have a mess of my own to clean up and make orderly.
And that is how a trash can becomes popular.
I have a problem. Some people might even call it an addiction. No, no… nothing illegal. My mother taught me to be a good girl. Sure was a long time ago. However, sometimes I can’t pass up a good Margarita…especially at Joe T’s in Fort Worth. Look it up…you might visit Texas one day. But, that is not my problem.
My problem is forks. Not long forks. Not tiny forks that you might use for shrimp cocktail. Shrimp are not a personal friend of mine, but I know about the forks. I guess that I am right on that. My problem deals with short forks that are really made for salads or desserts. Well…I am not sure about that, but I think that I sort of have the correct use. I don’t know a lot of fork facts. I am crazy about short forks for every meal. They work better. I’ve known this for years. Does anyone else realize the culinary delight of eating with a short fork? Probably not. As with all addictions, I really can’t worry about my problem. I have to personally own the problem.
However, the problem is bigger. Much bigger. I am not certain how many sets or partial sets or pieces of silverware I own. I am not even certain where they are located. I vaguely recall seeing a spoon and a fork in my desk at school. I had that desk three schools ago. Don’t get upset about germs… they were clean and inside a rather large size baggie. I don’t think that I packed them. I get in such a hurry when school is almost out and we pack our personal items. I worry. Was it a short fork in my desk? Of course it was a short fork. Horrors! What if it ended up with some teacher without a short fork appreciation?
I imagine that this he or she teacher threw the short fork away with the old markers and crayons. Makes me cringe. Now I have to confess the most disturbing short fork loss. Worse than the marker and crayon garbage. About ten years ago, I fell in love with a set of silverware at Ross Dress For Less. If you don’t shop there, don’t be confused. At the back of the store, they have shelf after shelf of household items, kitchen items, etc. Most every item is totally cool in my mind. This particular set of silverware is simple with smooth lines. It caught my eye immediately. I had no need for it at all. The short forks were particularly special. Just right, in fact.
Just so special and so just right, that other people in my family or perhaps friends have used the short forks. It is true. They have lost them. I am so sad to report this situation, but there is only ONE short fork left in the set. ONE! This is pitiful. They are not in any drawer at all. I am going to make it one of my main priorities this summer to find some of those short forks. I have even looked at multiple Ross Dress for Less locations. They all have silverware, but nothing like my special set. I have looked them up online. Nothing.
The problem is beginning to cause problems for me. Tonight, I decided to have an individual mini Buttermilk Pie that I bought at a pie store. I was just going to eat one half of the pie. Truly. However, the ONE short fork was in the dishwasher. I think my husband used it for his mini pie last night. I was just too anxious for the pie and settled for a short spoon. A forkless Buttermilk Pie. Shameful. So upset that I ate every bite.
So…I was just sitting here at my computer thinking about the daily prompt for Monday, May 23. “DREAM”. I can’t seem to get my thoughts together on this one. Maybe it’s because I have so much to get done in the next couple of weeks. How do I have time to dream when I have work to do and so little time? Let me look at the calendar to be sure…worse than I thought…less than two weeks. I REALLY have problems now. And I am writing at my computer? This is the place where I relax. I must be crazy.
Just for the record…here are some of the things that I need to do in the very near future:
1. I need to finish making the graduation hats for my students. Graduation is this Friday. The children can’t help me on this one. Normally, I am the ultimate supporter of students creating their own artwork. There is no right or wrong way to explore and to create. With the graduation hats, there is a right way or they just won’t fit. I want the children to be able to walk onto the stage with their hats planted firmly on their heads and not swinging precariously from their hands. These are my last graduation hats and they need to be great or almost great. Don’t forget about my exciting retirement!
2. Organize the writing folders. Each child has a writing folder and they are already full. I need some more file folders. We write every, single morning. I save everything and should have been putting work in the folders each day for about the last six weeks. I may have been a bit slow recently.
3. From the already mentioned writing papers, I need to choose their best work for their permanent folders. Decisions, decisions. Plus, I need to fill out the names and additional information on the folders. I’ve had the permanent folders for several weeks. How much information have I filled out? Don’t ask.
4. Finish the report cards. Thank goodness, these are completed on the computer. This task should take just one evening. I hope.
5. Finish filling out the graduation awards. Finish filling out the diplomas.
6. Get the take-home book boxes ready. The children will decorate them and put their alphabet books inside. I will just supervise. Really!
7. Pack up everything in my room. Divide out my personal items. I never took most of my very own school items back to school this year. Yea!! I guess that I will have a garage sale in the summer. $$$
8. I can’t remember what else. More, more, more.
I was thinking that dreaming would be useless when I started writing. Just being realistic. After all, I put off some things so that I could have more fun with the children and savor my last days at school. No time to dream. And then…while writing…I glanced over at the television and saw a Target ad. The only two lines that I saw were “DREAM BIG”. OK Target…thank you…I will DREAM BIG!
Brick houses in the suburbs are like the lines of marching band members in the Rose Bowl Parade. They have different marching patterns and different uniforms, but basically they all do the same thing. Some can play Notre Dame’s “Victory March” or Oklahoma’s “Boomer Sooner” and get the crowd really moving…others can barely muster a weak “There’s No Place Like Nebraska”. Like football fight songs, brick houses are just about a dime a dozen.
I take that back about the dime a dozen comment. It just seems like there are rows and rows of similar brick houses. These home prices are outrageously expensive for an expansive brick monstrosity like we tend to see in large city suburbs. What’s the matter with a mortgage on $850,000? A whole lot is wrong with that price. In fact, I may be going a little too low with the price estimation. And the money is being spent on just another hum drum brick house with five bedrooms, a media room, and enough bathrooms for a school building. Give me a white frame house with shutters and wide windows.
The windows would look out on a porch with a ceiling fan and a swing moving gently in the breeze. A big yard filled with tall pine trees and patches of flowers would be wonderful. I can see it all…the sidewalk would wind up to the front door and the sounds of birds singing would permeate the air. Somewhat eclectic and decorated with whimsy, the house would be filled with laughter and friends. There would be a step or two up and a step or down all over the house. Who designed this house anyway? It certainly isn’t “open concept”! This house has character written all over it. Buyers today would be shocked! No spa bath! No double sinks (HELP)! No island in the kitchen! Turquoise counter tops and turquoise appliances! No vaulted ceilings! This house is really downright different! As they say on HGTV…”we just can’t see ourselves here”! A rescue call to the Property Brothers would be necessary.
Alas…the Property Brothers were not even born when this house was in it’s prime. This was the house that I grew up in…the best house ever and still one of my favorite childhood memories. There were no houses on my street that remotely looked alike. I knew all of the neighbors and they knew me. There was a very special miniature golf course a block or two away. There were kids galore running around. My house was the center of my world. I could sit in the porch swing for hours. I had my best friends over for an “after the prom” midnight breakfast in the formal dining room. My boyfriends came to the front door and sat in the entry hall. My mom and dad talked and played cards and ate chocolate pie in the breakfast room with their close friends…everyone having fun and being way too talkative!
I loved their friends and I loved my parents and I certainly loved our white house with the shutters…on the corner with all the tall pine trees. The house was just beautiful to me. I wouldn’t call it particularly fancy, but I did call it home. And I absolutely loved that it was not built with bricks!
The child walked quietly into the classroom. His eyes were cast downward. His smile was absent. His walk was slow and hesitant. His smile was absent. Other children walked in laughing and talking and skipping. Most everyone had something to say…”Good Morning, Good Morning”, “Want to hear something funny?”, “Hey teacher…look at my new backpack! I found it at a garage sale! Do you love it?”, “Today is pizza day in the cafeteria. Is it lunchtime yet?” and on and on. Yes…most everyone had something to say and all of the children greeted me with a smile. All smiled except for one small, fragile boy. He sat down at his table and put his head down on his folded arms. He was asleep in less than 30 seconds. I tried to wake him up for circle time, for the main lesson of the day, for the teacher read-aloud. Clearly exhausted.
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The child walked quietly into my elementary school classroom.
His eyes were cast downward. His smile was absent. His walk was slow and hesitant. His smile was absent. Other children walked in laughing and talking and skipping. Most everyone had something to say…”Good Morning, Good Morning”, “Want to hear something funny?”, “Hey teacher…look at my new backpack! I found it at a garage sale! Do you love it?”, “Today is pizza day in the cafeteria. Is it lunchtime yet?” and on and on.
Yes…most everyone had something to say and all of the children greeted me with a smile. All smiled except for one small, fragile boy. He sat down at his table and put his head down on his folded arms. He was asleep in less than 30 seconds. I tried to wake him up for circle time, for the main lesson of the day, for the teacher read-aloud. Clearly exhausted.
He evidently came to school to get some peace and quiet. I never consider my classroom to be particularly quiet and sometimes I don’t consider it particularly peaceful. I do know that my classroom is filled with love and care…love from me to the children, from the children to me…love and care is always my goal.
I rarely know right away about a child’s life away from school. I listen, learn and discern information in bits and pieces for a few weeks. I would eventually know what type of home life they bring to school. With this sad little boy, I knew that things were not right. Something was missing. Please, please…help me find the missing part to the puzzle.
I asked the mother and step-father to come in for a meeting. I sent a note home in his daily folder. I called repeatedly. I left messages. The number was quickly disconnected. A relative picked him up in the afternoon. She would barely talk to me. She muttered a quick greeting with the same look of despair as the child.
Everyday, I spent extra time with the child while his classmates were busy with projects. Little by little, he started talking to me.
He was hungry. He usually did not eat at night. The breakfast and lunch provided at our school were mostly his only means of sustenance. He did not have a bed. He slept on a couple of blankets on the floor. Sometimes a sibling would take the blankets away from him.
His mother had two jobs. I was glad that she was working, but worried about the care he was receiving or obviously not receiving. I doubted that she had time to talk with me. I began trying to get the step-father to talk with me. No luck. Collaboration? Not from these parents.
A few days after the child began talking to me, he said his leg hurt, his tummy hurt. The story came out in a blur of words. I immediately talked with all of the appropriate people at my elementary school and beyond my school. The counselor talked with the child. The sad truth was indeed the really sad truth. Things were very wrong at his house.
Action was taken very quickly by the appropriate agency. He was sent to foster care in another school district that very day. I hope he found love and support. I hope he found a warm and comfortable bed. I hope he found a good dinner waiting for him every evening.
I do not know what happened to him after his placement. I hope that he learned to smile. I hope that his mother learned that she needs to collaborate with the teacher and the school and anyone else who would help her. Fear keeps so many parents from seeking assistance. If only she really knew how much effort we put into finding a bit of a future for her child.
I certainly did not find a chance at a better life for him all by myself. It took a group of people working together. And it all started because a group of educators listened to his quiet voice. That is why I believe that it takes a truly committed village to raise a child.
YEARS AND YEARS HAVE PASSED. I STILL REMEMBER THAT SMALL VOICE.