Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Shayne's Day #77: The one with the American kids - Part 1

The inspiration for this blog came from my dear friend and fellow teacher, Michelle Turnbull. I realize that this 'Singleton's Across the Pond' blog was created to chart our progress as we take on London, but let's be honest, as Michelle reminded me, my teaching experience in America came with a few award winning zingers as well. As I wrote the post titled, the one with the british kids, I felt like I was leaving out Uncle Sam's naughty and comical editions to the child population around the world. It's delightful to poke fun at the here and now, but as most of you know, I have had some jaw dropping/movie worthy circumstances happen back in the land of red, white, and blue. So, as requested, sit back and enjoy a walk down memory lane with my favorite stories from the front line of teaching in America. In an effort to keep you sane, I am going to do this post in a multi-part series - I wouldn't want to leave out any details! 'The one with the American kids' will no doubt, make you smile, laugh, possibly cry, and certainly wish that you too spent your days with the wide-eyed, runny nosed delights that are the future of our wonderful county.

Readers from SC, the most INCREDIBLE school in the ENTIRE world, this one's for you!!!

The Penis
Ceramics in the art room always brought comedy. Something about that gray and gushy goop always seemed to bring out the 'that's what she said' in everyone. Every time those little hands got hold of the pliable clay, phallic symbols seemed to arise (that's what she said). The kids always found a way to turn every project into something inappropriate. I had to be very careful when giving directions. I caught myself time and time again saying things like: pound your ball, roll your hands over the tube, or stick your thumb in the hole. Most comments went over their heads, but the 5th and 6th graders couldn't contain themselves.

Over the years I had many comical displays of 'that's what she said' in the form of art. For example, one year during the ceramic cupcake project, I had a fifth grader strategically place a 'candle' right between two 'cherries' on top of the cupcake. There was even a bump on the tip (that's what she said) of the candle to represent a 'flame.' I will let you visualize the geometry. Like this example, most of the phallic uprising were written between the lines.

However, one year a third grader just came right out with it (that's what she said). We were making storyteller dolls and I was very clear about the students needing to make responsible choices as we sculpted the native american statues :) For the most part, all the kids respected my directions. However, one student just decided to screw it (that's what she said). He threw all caution to the wind and, when my back was turned, used his entire block of clay to sculpt a giant penis. When I say giant, I mean larger than life (well, in most cases). This thing was like the size of a forearm. And not only did he sculpt it, he added details...lot's of details. When I turned around the student was holding it to his 'region' as he casually swaggered his hips from side to side. He looked down at the third grade girl sitting next to him and said, "Look...I'm whizzing on the table."

Horrified, I grabbed the penis (that's what she said) and compacted it into a ball. This child's teacher and I had countless laughs about this incident, especially after finding out his father did something similar to this when he was in third grade too. You are probably wondering, "Did he get to finish his storyteller doll?" The answer was no. He was banned from clay until fourth grade.

The Room of Darkness
While we were on the topic of clay, I figured this one should come next. I had been an art teacher for all of four weeks when this scene went down and I was forever bonded to the third grade girls who were in the locked in the bowels of the school with me. It all started when my lunch bunch came to help me load the kiln. Looking back, I have absolutely no idea why I thought this was a good idea. Call it a lapse of judgement or perhaps I was just a beer short of a six pack in my early teaching days. After our task was complete they asked if they could come in and look inside the oven. I had a strict "no student in the kiln closet" rule, but I figured they had earned the right. What harm could it cause? The kiln wasn't on and I was right there. Those were the reasonings I kept playing in my head when the door slammed shut and we were standing in an airtight black hole the size of a porta-potty. The first thoughts to cross my mind were:
* "Stay calm!"
* "I am going to be fired (no pun intended)!"
* "Just open the door!"
When I felt around and located the handle I felt a tremendous surge of relief. I shoved the handle down and...nothing. The handle would not move an inch. Instantly, all the problems that could occur starting flashing through my mind - the kiln could click on, the girls could step on a rusty clay support nail, there could be a big know how your mind would start to wander.

I took a deep breath and, prior to going all MacGyver, told the girls not not to move an inch.
One of their tiny voices came out of the blackness and asked, "Ms. G, I don't think we could move even if we wanted to."
She was right of course. We were crammed in a space that was tight for one.
The next voice asked, "How long do you think it will take for someone to find us?"
I thought, "Minutes, HOurs, YEARS???"
But I responded, "Not long!"
The third voice asked, "Ms. G, do you think we will be excused from class if we miss the recess bell?"
"OH MY GOD," I thought, "Please let an unexcused tardy be the biggest thing you need to worry about today!"
But of course I responded, "Of course you'll be excused!" in the most chipper voice possible.

I told the girls to give me a minute to think. I brainstormed ideas about how to get out. We could send the smallest girl through the vent, we could pick the lock with a clay nail, we could widdle our way through the cinder block wall like in Shawshank! In the end, we did the only logical thing - bang! We banged our little hearts out (if this line were in the story above, I would have said 'that's what she said'). After about 15 minutes, my hand was swollen and my voice was scratchy from yelling for help. I was beginning to think we would be forgotten and abandoned. We were going to die slow painful deaths and be found years later all glazed over (no pun intended here either).

Just when I was losing hope, we heard a teeny-tiny voice, "Is someone in there?"
We were saved!
Knowing it was a voice coming from an extremely small person I said, "Sweetheart, we need you to go for help. Do you know where the office is?"
Of course the tiny person said, "No."
I said, "Ok, I want you to go tell the first person you see that we are stuck in here."
The small person left and I feared they would get sidetracked and forget about us.

However, my fears were put to rest when I heard the voice of an angel - our school's secretary. She opened the door and we took our first breath of fresh air in over 30 minutes. It was like breathing life! Our tiny kindergarten friend didn't drop the ball! We were saved.

These third graders are now sixth graders and they have not forgotten our afternoon in the kiln closet. We will forever be bonded by our memory of staring death in the face and conquering it.

Sidenote: The kiln room door was immediately fixed.

Lesson's Learned: 1) While kids have the most honorable of intentions, sometimes temptation takes hold which results in ....well, you know, 2) Children should not be allowed in a kiln closet, 3) Make sure the door works before you shut it.

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