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.