[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is the pseudonym for a first-year elementary school writing teacher.]
Miss Brave: “What would we like to ask Miss G to do with our Flat Stanleys when she gets them in the mail?”
George: “Can we ask her if she’ll go see a PG-13 movie with them?”
* * *
I’m starting to have a problem with some of my kindergarteners.
They’re too cute.
I know this doesn’t seem like cause for concern. But lately, I’m distracted by their cuteness. Their cuteness gets in the way of my teaching.
This morning, I was attempting to have a writing conference with Darryl. Darryl, you’ll remember, is the kid who once cried when I walked into his classroom, and then blossomed into a plucky little boy who’s still prone to throwing temper tantrums every five minutes or so but who has shown tremendous improvement since the beginning of the year. Today, Darryl was so pleased with his writing that he was giggling happily to himself as he added to his story.
“It was snowing!” he exclaimed, pointing to a few wobbly scribbles on the paper. “And then I made a snowman!”
“You made a snowman?” I clarified with some skepticism, trying to remember if enough snow had fallen for Darryl to be telling the truth.
“I made five snowmen!” he embellished, scribbling with a flourish. He laughed delightedly. “Look! Five snowmen!”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “Oh, Darryl,” I said. “Darryl, Darryl, Darryl. You are so cute.”
He laughed. I laughed. Then he asked, with a slightly worried tone to his voice, “Is that a good word, what you just said?”
It was too much. “Oh, yes,” I answered. “It means you are very good-looking and wonderful.”
He smiled, adorably, and then got back to work. I moved on to Maria. On the first day of class, Maria wouldn’t even sit up, and all she drew was scribbles. So on Wednesday, when I saw her laboring to add a full sentence to the bottom of her already-labeled picture, I was hugely impressed. I had already lavished praise on her, but today I wanted to see if she remembered what her story was about. She was bent over the page, carefully creating some random pen marks on her completed drawing, when I interrupted and asked her to read it to me.
She read the first page. She read the second page. Then we got to the last page and ooops! It was blank. The story wasn’t finished.
For a moment Maria stared at the blank page. Then her eyes goggled out in such a comic expression of surprise that I don’t think I’ll forget it for the rest of my life.
I decided to move on. But just as I was making my way over to another table, I heard a very small voice singing: “Party like a rock star, party like a rock star…”
I stopped in my tracks. “Who’s singing? Joshua, is that you?”
Joshua gazed up at me. He nodded. I could see the gap from his two missing front teeth. The commotion had attracted the attention of the paras in the room.
“Sing it for Ms. M and Mrs. C,” I demanded. So Joshua wriggled a little bit, thrust his crayon into the air and sang: “Party like a rock star, party like a rock star…”
That was it. It was Friday. And it was time to party like a rock star…kindergarten style.