Monday, July 06, 2009

Hand in Hand Is The Only Way To Land (And Always The Right Way 'Round)

I just started a new job teaching dance at Jarrah's preschool, and I'm not sure how well it's going. Jarrah isn't there--she's at camp. But I have five students with varying levels of enthusiasm in my charge every Monday.

Today was my second class, and I think I was better-prepared for the dynamics of the class itself, but much worse off before it. Last time, I researched my chosen theme of "Chickens" all weekend, and had two fabulous books about a chicken named Minerva Louise to read, as well as a chicken craft that David had helped me prepare with an X-acto knife. I even made a whole CD called--you guessed it--Chickens, which included a catchy tune from The Bacon Brothers called "Philadelphia Chickens" that kind of rocked.

Last week, when I arrived--nearly 45 minutes early--I applauded myself for setting up a little table and chairs with all the crafty bits in advance. Things were going fine (maybe better than fine, said she) when the two boys suddenly lay down on the carpet and might be there still if their parents hadn't come to fetch them at the end of the hour. I was flummoxed by their sudden resistance, but decided to divert them to the craft table, where I also made the colossal mistake of handing out BOTTLES of glue instead of sticks. Apparently, small children are mesmerized by streams of glue, and must stare helplessly as it puddles lake-like on their paper, making it impossible to take the masterpiece home. One of the boys (he was extremely sweet, but quiet) shook his head vehemently when I suggested he glue some feathers and other goodies on his chicken, and a tsunami of embarrassment washed over me when I remembered that his dad owns a chicken shop in our neighborhood. Perhaps he learned early that there's no use anthropomorphizing chickens.

This week, I was strangely resistant myself, vaguely considering dinosaurs before moving on to cats, and never finding any books at all. I didn't really find any music, either, instead becoming fixated on "Love Cats" by The Cure and figuring I'd wing it from there. I did consult with Mary, who, as a kindergarten teacher for over a decade, knows a thing or two about animal crafts. She suggested I make Love Cats with sticky hearts for the cats' ears and noses, which is sheer brilliance, if you ask me. To further the theme, I cut out two heads for each page, and then cut some of the hearts into little slivers for whiskers. I was lazy about the mouths and eyes--small triangles would have to do (and actually they looked quite good.)

Somehow I was still at the gym at noon (the class starts at 1:00) and 12:50 found me running around the house in a fright, stuffing tiny pieces of paper and stickers into a bag and freaking out when I realized I didn't know where the extension cord for my boom box was, and didn't have any batteries, either. I was feeling crazy-irresponsible, yet somehow 1:00 found me exactly where I was last week at that time--sitting on the edge of the desk in the multi-purpose room, swinging my legs, waiting for the kids.

This time, the boys resisted immediately, refusing to take off their shoes and hats. I smiled my best steely "I'm the teacher" smile and said "Today is all about cooperating. Okay?" They complied. But then one of the boys wouldn't try my animal yoga poses at all, and when we started dancing (it looks more like running around screaming at this age) he just did his own thing, and worried me by sort of pounding on the other boy, and they both fell down a few times. I had to explain that there was no touching in this dance class.

When I asked if they'd like to rest and hear a story (I'd settled on Diary of a Wombat, since I thought it unlikely they'd have read it before--it's Australian) my little friend announced, "Stories are kind of LAME," which stung for half a second, until I pasted on a brittle smile and said "I think they're great. Raise your hand if you like stories!" Everyone else raised their hand. Gotta love peer pressure--start 'em early. ;)

After the story (which I realized might be a tad sophisticated for this crowd) I lured them over to the craft table, and that went rather well--I had done enough prep that they could make it look really good just by wielding their glue sticks (Ah, glue sticks. We love you. No more bottles for us!) though--in a running theme--the littlest boy refused to partake at all. No project for him, nuh-uh, no way. He did enjoy poking the other kids while they glued, but I just smiled and said "Would you like to make your own? No? Okay, then, let's not touch other people while they work."

And then it was over and the parents showed up. I'm beginning to see that really little kids who have just had a long day at camp are not the best candidates for expressive dance, but I'm fine with bringing those stories and crafts every time. The kid who doesn't want to do anything at ALL, though, is bringing me down. Not sure what to do about him, if anything. All of this is a reminder that I've never taught little kids before--only very big kids who can drink, and who just stay home if they're feeling contrary or hungover. This is a whole new target group for me.

Thoughts, Readers?


Jennifer said...

It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job! Believe me, as a kindergarten teacher you will always have those little ones that just don't want to join in. I usually try to make everything seem SUPER fun and exciting. We do lots of cheers in my class too....that really gets them excited. Whenever anyone is doing a great job, we give them a "firecracker"...we rub our hands together and then clap them and make fireworks come down from the sky. Sounds dorky, but kids this age LOVE dorky! We also kiss our brain a lot! We kiss our two fingers and then touch our head. I just tell them to kiss their brain if they are working hard. Any type of cheer seems to get them excited. It isn't a sure thing, but maybe in time he will come around.

Have fun!

Melissa said...

Linda is enjoying the class. You are doing fine. Isn't chicken boy going into kindergarten this September so you won't see him in the fall? :-)

Sam said...

@Jennifer: Thanks for your encouragement! Always good to hear from an expert! :)

@Mel: Thanks for saying that about Linda. :) Chicken boy is not the resistant one, but yes, there is kindergarten for both of them. :)

The Wades said...

Oh my goodness--there is no end to the amazing projects/classes/plays you take on! Wow, friend! Your projects sound well thought out and super fun. Perhaps you should start flicking the uncooperative toad--that might help. ;) Kidding. Maybe you could give him a job, something special, to win him over. He could hold something for you or hand out "stuff" or something. Get the trouble makers on your side and you're golden. Oh yeah, you're already golden!

I felt you panic when you were running late. Story of my existence.

"Apparently, small children are mesmerized by streams of glue, and must stare helplessly as it puddles lake-like on their paper" LOVE IT!

Do you sleep?

Stephanie said...

How about incorporating some stereotypical "boy" options like trucks, violence, or science-y stuff?

The instructor at Nathan's music class used to put a pile of related items in the middle of the circle for the kids to play with while everyone arrived--seemed to lighten everyone up and intrigue them for what was in store too...?


Sam said...

@Michelle: A job! I love it! And yes, I sleep the sleep of the innocent. ;)

@Stephanie: These are great ideas--I will use them. And violence! Why didn't I think of that? Next week: a pile of machetes, bloody masks and toy guns in the middle of the room as they are drifting in. :) KIDDING. :)

erin said...

The red head, Olivia, hardly participates in anything. You have to force her do practice piano and then the whole time she bugs Jeremiah about other things, like what we're having for dessert or why I haven't hooked up the new sprinkler. She can read, but she vehemently denies the fact and won't practice or take part in any learning games. She also says she doesn't need to go to school anymore cause she figured out everything on her own anyways. Thanks Olive!
So if you figure out something you can get the non participator to take interest in, let me know.

sw said...

Easy on the chicken boy comments...That could so easily be any of our kids! This age group can certainly be tough, but it sounds like you're doing a great job, Sam!

Lisa Gillespie said...

Hi Sam!

Sounds like you are doing a fantastic job!! I would want to be in your class!! :-D I second Stephanie on the stereotypical boy options, because they sound like stereotypical boys (or, basically, Anton ;-)). Maybe see if the school has a big box of LEGOs you can bring in for those you don't want to do the paper craft: they can always make cats and chickens out of LEGOs.

Hope this helps...

Love, Lisa

Sam said...

Thanks for the thoughts, guys. And S, I mean no disrespect to either of my little guys. "Chicken boy" sounds funny, but you are right. :) My main objective is making sure they ALL have fun. :)

Myrnie said...

Sounds like such a fabulous class :) Have you brought in musical instruments? It's been a great way to get our nursery class involved in the music- rhythm sticks, tambourines, castinets, bells, etc. Also scarves and ribbons seem to get them pretty involved, too. And you...if a kid says no, well then they can just watch, eh? Seems like it only takes a week or two for all the kids to warm up to a class and WANT to play with everyone else. Good luck!!

Aunt LoLo said...

Try putting him in charge of something! It works for my crazy 7/8 year olds at church...

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

That little boy? Wants you to want him to be your assistant. He is going out of his way to get your attention (and he's doing a good job, too!). He needs to be noticed and needed and for someone to think he's important. Enlist him to help you. He will.

Mary said...

Sounds like my day today! You are doing a great job! He will come around. Love the already mentioned suggestions!