Friday, August 26, 2011

Wash and Wear

Always be prepared! That has always been my mantra. Every day I prepare projects, activities, and choose a selection of books that pertain to the lesson plan. I plot my entire day minute by minute in my daily plan book. I am prepared. I was so well-prepared my first few weeks as a preschool teacher that I always had fifteen minutes left over at the end of each session. I was proud of my ability to wing it and come up with some activity on the spur of the moment. I prided myself on being creative and innovative. I used pasteboard boxes to create a telephone booth (now obsolete) in which children learned to dial and recite their phone numbers, and I created a pretend television media center for the drama area where children reported their news about daily events and happenings at home. (Did I hear some stuff!) My mentor praised me constantly for my creativity and being on the ball.

One morning though, just as an administrator walked into my classroom, I was totally unprepared for what happened. I knew that my performance was being observed; my interactions and classroom control were being judged. A quick gaze around the room assured me that all of the children were busily engaged in the different learning centers. There was no disruptive behavior, no potty accidents or potty mouth. I smiled broadly. The administrator and I made general conversation, and as Mrs. W. turned her back to the class we continued to chat about an upcoming seminar on child sexual abuse and molestation. When I noticed a student behind her walking in our direction, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped in mid sentence. I quickly regained my composure, but I’m sure that Mrs. W. must have thought I was a victim in childhhod (Not!). In that split second I went through every emotion imaginable.

Stocky little Daniel –whose shock of reddish-orange hair was growing out wildly from a buzz cut -beamed proudly. He flashed his dancing blue eyes. I talked loudly to distract my superior, and I prayed silently, “Don’t let him take one more step our way.” I willed Daniel to stay behind Mrs. W. I figured if I didn’t meet his gaze, he just might parade back to the housekeeping area and continue his role play activity.

At the age of three, it is not unusual for little boys to wear little girl dress-ups; it is not unusual for little boys to clomp around in too big high heeled shoes. It is not unusual for little girls to wear Batman capes and daddy’s neckties instead of princess dresses. I had taken multi-cultural training and I had learned ways to avoid gender bias. I did my best to use multiple pronouns in my conversation and correspondence instead of the word, HE. I was well prepared for any situation that would arise, or so I thought. On this day, however, I was completely unprepared. Daniel kept coming, closer and closer, tromping towards us wearing only his Underoos and tennis shoes.

All I could think about was the topic of our faculty seminar, child abuse and moelstation awareness. Finally, I had to address the situation.

“Where are your clothes?”

“You know!” He smiled as I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

“I don’t know. Where are your pants?”

“Where you told us to put 'em.”

I felt woozy.

“Daniel, what did you do with your clothes? Where did you take them off?” I tried not to shriek.

“I took ’em off where you said, in the laundry mat. My pants are washing, and I’m going to dry 'em next.”

Daniel took me by the hand and led me back to the housekeeping area where he hand cranked the homemade cardboard washer and dryer with hurricane force.

“Here’s the iron and ironing board,” I said as I removed his clothes from the circular, cardboard ice cream container rotating on a dowel rod inside a large box which had been tumbling his clothes “dry.” As he pressed the wrinkles out of his clothes with a little toy iron on a little wooden ironing board (also now obsolete), I eased the frown off my face.

I laughed with relief when Mrs. W. guffawed. I helped Daniel put his clothes back on and seated the entire class. I told them that they could only wash and dry the doll clothes or dress-ups.

Daniel piped up, “I did dress up, all by myself.” I wished he’d hush his wishy-washy little mouth. Sometimes, no matter how well prepared a teacher thinks she is, the most unusual things can occur.

Last night was parent orientation and open house. I am sure to have more stories as the year goes on.


Kim Lehnhoff said...


I love how literal little kids are - that's one reason it's such a pleasure to talk to them!

My daughter Erin listened intently (such a pleaser!) when the preschool teacher told the class to put back things where they got them - until she started stuffing used tissues back in the Kleenex box.

Linda O'Connell said...

hahaha I've also had that experience.

Claudia Moser said...

Children are amazing and doing always unexpected things :) Great story and well done!

Bookie said...

The classroom is great place for stories. I so wish I had had the time to write all I saw down! One day in high school a poor student waho worked nights handed in descriptive paragraphs about deer hunting that were quite nice, but I could not figure out his title of S.A.---until I finally read it outloud. ESSAY! He was right, that is exactly what I told him to write!

Karen Lange said...

Oh my, what an adventure! Had to laugh and am glad it turned out okay. :)

Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda--Love your blog and thanks so much for visiting mine. I also wanted to let you know that your web address (when you commented on my blog the last couple of times) leads to a site that isn't yours...The p and s in blogspot are reversed....the site comes up as a religious one...thought you might want to correct your auto signature to make sure that people are directed to your site and not someone else's...

Tammy said...

And hooray for those stories--I enjoy them so much. Priceless story and beautifully told.

Lyndylou said...

kids are hilarious!