Milo’s not what you would call talkative about what goes on at school.
“Milo, what did you do at school today?” I prompt
“I played on the playground,” I might get. Or perhaps the classic: “Nothing.”
I can’t say that I was much different, in my memory. My own mother used to ask me how the day at school was, and I literally couldn’t remember. I couldn’t be bothered to cast my mind back to period 2 English or period 7 Math. It was in the past, a whole bus ride in the past, and I wasn’t interested in revisiting it.
So what happens in the classroom has been a big black box to me….until I got to peak in at a window of time this week.
The teachers always email that they love parent help–people to sharpen pencils or put workbooks in order or listen to kids read. I had assumed that since I had Naomi with me, I couldn’t stay, but I saw another mom staying with a kid in a pram just a couple weeks ago….so I resolved to stay and have a look-see one Thursday morning.
Milo’s regular teacher was away, but his beloved year one teacher, Mrs. Davies, was standing in instead. The class of 26 kids had an hour before they loaded onto the bus to go to their swimming lesson, and the teacher gathered them up to do an activity that involved making a fold-out fish that looks all nice and friendly until you pull out the crease and reveal the gaping mouth full of teeth. “Roar!” The kids were delighted. All except a couple boys at the back who were busy playing with a pirate ship and poking pins into the wall.
Even handing out paper to a group of fidgety six-year-olds is a logistical task. Then came the job of writing one’s name on the paper, putting the name side down on the ground, folding the paper in half (the fat way), adding an additional fold to make a hidden pocket…..dude, I take it for granted that Milo catches on quickly. You can’t imagine how many ways a kid can get stuck or distracted during that process, starting with not having a pencil. Fifteen minutes later the teacher was ready to show the kids how to draw the fish with the hidden teeth in the crease. The boy at the back adjusted the flag on the pirate ship, his paper forgotten at his side. The girl in the middle drew the fish lips both on top and couldn’t get the mouth to open. I tried to help another girl who appeared stuck, only to be baffled when she sunk her head onto her knees and tears began to appear. Ay caramba.
Let me declare, the teacher was masterful. She was clear, and patient, and cheerful. Chipper in the face of all that discombobulated hubbub. She remembered everyone’s name, and let me remind you–she was the substitute. There’s a reason I’m not a primary school teacher. But wow, I sure got a vision of how hard it would be to be a parent of an easily distracted kid. Or a timid kid. Or any kid who has a challenge with catching on to new stuff. Because with 25 other kids in the room, it’s not like the teacher can stop and give a lot of one-on-one time to any single child. A kid can float along, leaving the job of paying attention to other kids in the class, and where does that leave them?