On Monday I walked my daughter, Ava, to her Pre-K classroom as usual. Together we hung up her backpack, said “hello” to Gus the classroom guinea pig and kissed goodbye. On the way out, I realized that one of the two teachers was missing.
“Where is Miss Kristie?” I asked Miss Megan (it’s taken me 10 years to grow accustomed to this southern “Miss” (insert first name) thing, and now that I have, I can’t shake it).
“I Can Fill In”
Miss Megan, Ava’s angelic twenty-something teacher, informed me that Miss Kristie’s daughter was sick, so she was on her own. I surveyed the room. The 14 children were pretty settled at that moment, but I could almost hear the time bombs ticking away inside their little bodies, waiting to take advantage of Miss Megan’s solo flight.
Before I could stop myself, I said, “I can fill in if you want.” Surely she wouldn’t. I was in running shorts, last-night’s mascara and probably hadn’t brushed my teeth.
“Great!” She said, to my surprise . . . and horror.
“Please Don’t Lick My Leg.”
Two minutes into my first co-teaching experience and I was already saying, “Please don’t throw the guinea pig” and “Please don’t lick my leg.” It was going to be a long day.
Eventually, Miss Megan beckoned the children to the rug for “circle time” and when they failed to obey, she called out what must be the Pre-K equivalent of sit down and shut-up: “Criss-cross applesauce!” I have no idea what that means, but the little Pavlovian puppies snapped to attention and scurried to their respective seats on the circular rug. An eerie silence followed. Well played, Miss Megan, well played.
In circle time, Miss Megan quizzed the kids on their letters while I took it upon myself to repeatedly remind a few of the children with squirrel-like metabolisms to sit still. One of the girls could not be still or silent, as if her little body was an electrical current in constant search of grounding. I was wondering if it would be appropriate to create some sort of bit and harness for her, when the quietest girl in class suddenly piped up: “When my mommy was peeing in the ocean, she saw a mermaid!”
Miss Megan and I bit into the sides of our cheeks, stifling laughter. Apparently, not the reaction the quiet girl was hoping for. She turned and looked at me with her big, brown expecting eyes.
“Awesome,” I said. And back to letters we went.
Six Children, Covered in Glue
As it turned out, Miss Megan did not need my help. She effortlessly moved the children from one activity to the next, while I struggled to keep up. I was put in charge of the turkey-coloring station but I could not cut, glue or talk fast enough for these little fireballs. One boy who has a personality 10 times the size of his body, sat down, scribbled a crayon over his picture for three seconds and announced, “Done. Can I go play now?” He had been helping another boy build with blocks. I told him that he had to cut out his picture first. He sighed like a disgruntled teenager, and then mashed the scissors around his picture. It would’ve looked better had he chewed it out. And then, “Okay. Can I go now?” He stared me dead in the eye as if to suggest that my craft was keeping him from reaching his full potential. “Fine.”
In the time it took Miss Megan to lead her activity in which the children took turns finger painting letters using shaving cream (and not dropping a single drop on the floor), I managed to cover six children in glue, cover myself in confetti, and squash nearly every child’s artistic vision (“There’s no such thing as a rainbow turkey with fangs”).
The Fresh-Out-of-School-Childless-Twenty-Something Teacher Rocks!
When Miss Megan announced that it was time to use the bathroom down the hall, I called shotgun on helping the girls. Miss Megan informed me that they could do it by themselves. Really? I glared at Ava, who in return smiled coyly for all the times she feigned an inability to wipe herself. I watched Miss Megan direct the kids in and out of the bathroom as swiftly as a traffic cop. I stayed behind when one girl needed to “sit awhile longer.” It took me ten minutes to wash the girl’s hands and get them safely back to the classroom after stopping to touch every shiny object encountered along the way. And that’s when I realized that Ava’s fresh-out-of-school-childless-twenty-something teacher was a better mom than me. And thank God for that because she’s caring for my child.
Not Enough Prozac in the World
The day sped by. On the playground Miss Megan left me alone for a few minutes. When she returned, I looked like a Christmas tree weighted down with life-size child ornaments hanging on my limbs. I read books, wiped noses and zipped up pants. I was glad for my running shorts because by the end of the day, I was sweating visibly. Panting really. Miss Megan, however, still had an angelic calm about her, as if she could drop into a lotus position and begin meditating at any minute. No, she didn’t need me there, but I’m glad I was because I needed to be reminded how hard outstanding teachers like Miss Megan work and how little they get in return. Our children adore them—and I’m sure that feeds their souls some, but that currency doesn’t pay the bills. There’s not enough money (or Prozac) in the world to get me to teach preschool. Lucky for me, there are quality teachers like Miss Megan.
The ability to teach small children is a gift—but it’s clearly not my gift. Miss Megan went home and prepped for the next day. I went home and took a nap.
About the Author
Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 4-year old daughter (who thinks she’s a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat.