I know your kids must be in their 3rd or 4th week by now, but CCDC just had our first week of class with students, tots up through age 5, and my kids were 2 of them! It’s been a couple of years since I’ve worked on a regular basis at a pre-school, and I forgot just how rewarding and EXHAUSTING it can be! Dustin is completely off this weekend, and took the kids to the museum in Fort Worth for the day, so I am currently recovering and relaxing! Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of our week together:
- I was filled with such warm feelings on first day – of being in the same little loving community with my kids, being able to peek in on them, pass them in the hall, share hugs and kisses, AND be their music teacher – that after only a couple of hours of being there, I walked into the director’s office teary-eyed to tell her how glad I was to be there!
- That same day, MJ apparently felt the same way. His 5-year-old “Bridge” class is just steps down the hall from the music classroom, and uses the restroom right across from me. During a break, I heard the boys lined up in the hall waiting to use the potty. I went out to give hugs and kisses to Michael James. From back in my room, I overheard a classmate asking him, “Is that your Mom?” He proudly answered, “Yes, my Mommy works here. She’s the music teacher!” (Not sure he’d be so happy about this if we were in middle school.) Then, obviously pleased at the close proximity of his “peeps”, he went on to take stock, while no one else really listened….”So, I’m here, and Mommy is here, and my sister is here, too… And I think my Daddy is at work.”
- Getting to tell my own kids, along with 20 other class-fulls, that they are beloved children of God in chapel, showing them their beautiful smiling, silly reflections in the mirror while singing “Jesus Loves Me” with them.
- Once again, a whole new set of little children is lighting up when they see me in the hall, on the playground, in the parking lot – “Mrs. Manderson!”, “Music Teacher!”, “Mrs. Manners!“….. I feel like the “Pied Piper”, and it is good for my self-esteem. “They like me, they really like me!”
- I managed to distract some of the crying babies (who had just been dropped off by moms, many for the first time) with my “magic scarf” and the sound of my finger cymbals. At the end of my 20 minutes with them, I got to sing “goodbye”, wish the “baby teachers” luck, and leave the persistent criers with them for the rest of the day. Whew – not an easy job.
- MJ and Ellie were super-excited about their new lunch-boxes! They spent an hour playing with them on Sunday, and MJ has enjoyed washing and packing his each day, and even packed Ellie’s one day. (We took the recs of a couple of you who responded to my post, “Back to School: Lunch Bunch”, and went with the Planet Box for MJ and the Bento Box, both from Pottery Barn Kids.)
- I shared our “In Our Family” Song with the children and teachers in music class, as the expectations for our school family, and our behavior in music. “In our family, In our family, and in the world, in the world. we will listen, help, and share, love and care, love and care.” MJ insisted that we also sing the Spanish version to his class, as we often do at home. (see my post “Live and Label the Values”, and let me know if you want to order one of the new wall hangings!)
- I managed to take a shower every morning, and never had to don my emergency “CCDC” baseball cap! (Thanks to a later school start time, 9:00, and pbskids.org.)
- SO relieved and happy that MJ is getting to PLAY and learn in this great class (with a cool treehouse loft that his teacher’s hubby built, 13 other great kids, and 2 fabulous teachers) this year instead of being in public school Kindergarten already. I know I made the right decision, and am wishing I could keep him here a couple more years! He needs this year to increase his stamina to make it through the day without lying in a heap on the classroom floor.
- I managed just fine to teach while on heavy pain meds (balanced out with lots of caffeine) for my hip, and jumped, spun, stomped with the kiddos! And thank goodness I have a little break each day to go home at lunchtime before returning to pick up my own kids. I’ve been “plugging in” to my electronic therapy, and enjoying a quiet lunch. (FABULOUS!)
- My own children were happy to see me at the end of each day when I picked them up from class as “Mommy”, and I have their snacks all ready at home for our after-school “Story, Snack, and Snuggle“ ritual. Ellie is so tired that she misses the stories a couple of days, and I put her straight down for a late-afternoon nap. MJ honors his hour of “rest” in his room so Mommy can take a nap. Then we work together to clean up the aftermath of “rest”.
- A couple of days after school, we hung out on the playground for a while before heading home. One day, we skipped the playground, and played in the orange sand pile in the parking lot! Duh! (At least it matched the orange shirts. Definitely a bath night…)
- The students had SO much silly fun guessing what kind of instrument might be in my black guitar case…turns out it was a guitar all along, but the suspense made the reveal quite memorable, and many excitedly told parents about Mrs. Manders’ guitar! (When you teach 3-year-olds, even the 3 basic chords I play make me a rock-star!)
- Already, I’m hearing children outside and in the halls singing tunes from music class – music to my ears!
- I got this e-mail from a veteran teacher of a 2-year-old class, and it’s nice to be appreciated: “Hi there. I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed music the past couple days. I think I love it as much as the kids do! It will certainly be my favorite time of the day. I feel so peaceful when we leave your room, and so do my kiddos.”
- We have yet to make it on time to school (or rather, Mommy has yet to make it on time for work). Though we live literally 1 minute away by car, getting the children “out the door and in the car” continues to be an issue. I thought we were going to make it one day, all loaded up and ready to go, until I realized that MJ had left his bike and its many “decorating” supplies - streamers, scissors, tape – in the driveway right behind the car, and we had forgotten Ellie’s lunch and blanket.
- Ellie’s teachers asked the parents to bring a family photo for their “All About Me” wall, and we have apparently not taken a family picture for about 2 years! We’ve been busy…
- MJ chose a striped shirt and mismatched plaid shorts (worn backwards) for his first day. Slightly better than the hand-painted white T-shirt that he wore for “Meet the Teacher”. He had painted a giant bright yellow “Star of David” on it! He doesn’t know it’s the Star of David, it’s just a simple way to draw a star – putting 2 triangles together like that. (Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Star of David…I just found it humorous that he was making such a bold “I AM JEWISH!” statement for his introduction to families and teachers at his Christian pre-school.)
- As I expected, it is proving to be a challenge to “teach” my own children. Or maybe they are just a challenge in general! During his first visit to music class, MJ refused to move to sit next to his teacher when he was being a distraction. I scolded him in front of his classmates, and he began crying. Distraught and disappointed, I lost track of my mental lesson plan and my connection to the other children for a full 2 seconds before coming back to my “teacher self”. Somehow we recovered, and after a couple of serious talks, he managed to do pretty well during the next class, enough for me to give him a “smiley face” for our new reward system at home.
- Because he is just down the hall, I can sometimes hear his name being called, and it is becoming clear to me that “internal control” and following directions are “growing edges” for this kid, who happens to me mine!
- Ellie had good and bad moments in my class. She came to my door with a bubble in her mouth just like all the other children, restrained herself from running over to hug me. Save for her big grin upon seeing me, you would never have known she was my daughter. (She was also the only child who remembered my last name, Mrs…….”MANDERS!”) She marched around the rug to the music, freezing like a statue when I paused it, just like all the other children. But when we did a traveling circle for “The Wheels on the Bus”, she treated me as Mommy, demanding to hold my hand when another little girl had already claimed the spot. Lip quivering, she began crying and saying, “Mommy, why aren’t you following my rules?” The other children stood in silent awe as she melted down, and she had to be taken out of my class by her teacher. (So disappointing for both of us!) I’m hoping we can all get the hang of this new situation!
- Several times during the week, I have to enlist another teacher’s help to peel my children off of my legs…going into their classrooms for the day, leaving my class, etc. My children know they can fully handicap me by hanging on my legs, sitting on my feet, with their full weight, and when they are working as a team, I am rendered helpless! SO obnoxious! Why do I not see any other children behaving this way? Maybe it’s just a sign of their healthy emotional bond to me – yeah, that’s it.
- MJ is dealing with some kind of overactive bladder condition, which means his teachers are also having to deal with it throughout the day. With everything else going on this week, I forgot to mention this “issue” to them, and overheard one of them in the hall: “Michael James, you just went to the bathroom 10 minutes ago!” He began crying, so I offered to take him, remembering how bad I felt as a Kindergartener with a UTI getting in trouble for having that feeling of “having to go” so frequently. His urine test showed no sign of infection, and the doc said something about how bright kids can just be super-sensitive to subtle “feelings” like this. (My parents remember that I had a similar issue at his age with tags on my shirts.) Dustin said that reasoning sounded like the unlikely explanation of a busy pediatrician trying to get a parent out the door quickly. MJ continues to wake up several times a night to empty his bladder, says he has the feeling that he has to go but can’t, so we’re going to see a specialist.
- By Thursday, I was in severe pain, and not being quite as enthusiastic about my marching and twirling. I am having surgery to fix a severe tear in my left hip on Oct. 3rd, and taking a couple weeks off of work….looking forward to finally being pain-free!