Last week was the first week of school, and the MRC members were seemingly in limbo. We can’t start working with students until we figure out who we’re working with, and we can’t start assessing the students until next week.
Luckily the start of classes added new possibilities to our workday. For the first two days, we helped the kindergarten teachers with patrol duty before and after school. I was clearly the weak link in that chain, having opted out of being a crossing guard in my own elementary school days. My ineptitude became so apparent that I surrendered my flag to a coworker. After the second day, older students take over as crossing guards.
On Wednesday the fun really began. In what I consider a wise move by the Minneapolis Public Schools, kindergarteners start two days later than the older kids. My school’s three kindergarten teachers made it clear that they would take all the help they could get from MRC members. Speaking for myself, I was itching to meet some kids, so we didn’t take much convincing. The next three days were absolutely fun and absolutely exhausting.
When you’re in a classroom as an extra helper, you get to do a lot of observing. I spent time in three classrooms during the first week of school. In any group of kids, it doesn’t take long to see who will probably cause the most trouble. It’s no surprise that five-year-olds sometimes need to be reminded of what they should be doing. I don’t begrudge them that because most of the time there’s no ill intent in their behavior. It’s just the two or three kids who actively disobey that cause the most headaches. Let me tell you, kindergarten teachers need boundless energy and the patience of saints.
By the second day, I decided to stick with one classroom. I had learned the kids’ names and some of their personalities, so I reasoned that I could be most useful with that group. You forget how laborious simple tasks can be when you’re five years old. Things like going to the bathroom, standing in a straight line, or finding the right bus. My job often boiled down to crowd control, making sure that the line kept moving and nobody was left behind.
Then again, five-year-olds appreciate simple things too. One of my favorite activities was helping with “stations.” The actual purpose was to familiarize the kids with “manipulatives” they would be using in math workshop, but to them it was just playing with toys. One day I manned a station with foam letters. I encouraged them to spell their names or other words they knew, but there was a big variance in reading skills. Instead some kids put together random letters and asked me what it spelled. Just to be silly, I sounded out one of the nonsense words. Little did I know this would be the funniest thing ever. Soon every kid at the table was making up “words” for me to read.
In typical Courtney fashion, I became attached to the kids in three short days. Now I’m a little sad that I won’t get to work with them once I start tutoring. The kindergarten teachers made it clear that we’re welcome to stop by whenever we have extra time. The flexibility of my schedule remains to be seen, but I’m making a point to visit my kindergarten friends. Even if it means taking a nap after work.