Monday, August 17, 2009

Unflappable

Kindergarten has a way of going haywire. No photos, and if you read on, you'll understand why.

My son's kindergarten was taught by a saint named Mr. Butler. There were many things we admired about Mr. Butler, but chief among them was that he was completely unflappable. When things went haywire, Mr. Butler never ruffled a feather; he adjusted and kept on going.

Early this afternoon, two days before we actually get underway, the PTO held an ice cream social as a way of easing gently into the new school year. The kindergarten class was invited to come early at 12:30 to meet me and my assistant and tour the room. I had come in over the summer to get the classroom ready for the year, but I left plenty of the work to do this morning because I wanted to keep myself and my instructional assistant busy with last-minute tasks.

What I hadn't planned on was my assistant calling in sick on the first day of the year. Her almost 10 year old dog is actively dying, and she had to be with her husband, daughter, and son. These things happen. They happened to me just two years ago.

I tried to channel Mr. Butler. "Okay," I said to myself, "I can get the classroom ready by myself. I'll just leave this and this and this and this till later."

Kindergartners and their families began to arrive for the ice cream social. I got them settled, as best I could, on the freshly washed mat and launched into my talk about being safe, happy, and kind. Thirty seconds into my talk, as I was emphasizing how important it is to me that kindergarten be a safe place, a mom with a long and serious face arrived at the door and asked, "Do you have a pillow? We need a pillow out here."

I was trying to imagine why a pillow was needed outside my door. It's all cement sidewalk out there and the first thing you pass is a boy's bathroom that smells. I could not imagine wanting to lie down outside my kindergarten's front door. My imagination couldn't come up with a benign explanation.

Soon there was some arm-waving giving me the general idea that I should not have any of my students walk out the door they had entered.

A fire truck arrived, parked outside my window. The firemen first responders carried a yellow strecher off in the direction of my front door.

I channeled Mr. Butler a little more actively. "Okay. We'll change plans, go with the flow here."

With the help of seasoned parents, we exited out my back door and walked the long way around the kindergarten room to the ice cream social. I think we managed to avoid seeing what caused the commotion just outside my door: a new kindergarten student's grandmother had fallen and sustained injuries that involved a bloody head wound and possible some broken bones.

Please offer some get-well wishes to this grandmother.

And to Spencer, Amy, and all the others: thanks for helping me get through the first moments of the year.

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