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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I had an awesome teaching day yesterday. I needed an awesome teaching day yesterday. Last week, I had one exceptionally challenging teaching-related day in which someone beat me up repeatedly with a “you suck” stick. It hurt. It hurt bad. Especially because I’ve done nothing wrong; this person just holds my mere existence against me. I shan’t go into detail, however if you want the full detailed version feel free to request a copy of my dissertation on the topic.

Anyway, yesterday was wonderful. I spent two full hours teaching a total of 120 2 ½ -5 year olds at the boys’ preschool. It’s funny that sometimes (and often) the kids who are the most challenging – the ones who are there not to learn from you but to teach YOU – are often the ones you end up liking the most. One of these kids is (I’ll change his name) Tommy. Tommy is five going on fifteen. Every single day he wears a fly fisherman’s vest (you know the kind full of zippered pockets and compartments); I have yet to find out if he keeps anything in these pockets. Tommy is the Alpha Dog. The leader of the pack. The head hauncho. The boss. Tommy is the Godfather. Every little boy in Tommy’s class wants to sit next to him, to be his best friend, they want to BE him. And Tommy plays it all so cool. They are just wee peons. They bore him, these pointless lowly mortals.

Unfortunately, from day one, Tommy decided that music class was beneath him. It was a waste of time. On the very first day, he sighed audibly and said, “This is so boring.” He’s five! Five year olds shouldn’t be bored with music and dancing, instruments, parachute-play and bubbles. Come on! Therefore, it has been an uphill battle with his entire class. If Tommy doesn’t think that music class is fun, then most of them are convinced it must be a pointless exercise. I was discussing Tommy with Matthew’s teacher (Matthew is not in the same class as Tommy, by the way). Mrs. Morris said that once she reprimanded Tommy for something and he said, “Woman! Why you gotta be so hard on me? Gah, you’re as bad as my mom.”

I’ve gradually been winning Tommy over – primarily because our last two themes were ones that interest 99.9% of all boys under the age of 8 – dinosaurs and transportation. This time we were singing about animals so I knew that I’d need to work some magic to get Tommy on my side. Once you’ve got Tommy in your corner, then you know you’re good to go. (But it would take some serious finagling to get Tommy pumped about the “Animal Pokey” – you know: “you put your piggy in, you put your piggy out, you put your piggy in and you shake it all about.” Each kid gets a picture of a different farm animal. You get the idea). I decided that kissing Tommy’s butt would be the way to go.

I took him aside before class started and schmoozed and oozed over him to no end. I raved about how well he’s been doing in class, and gosh, I could REALLY use his help. Would he be my special helper and sit next to me to help show the other kids (those silly guys just don’t get it sometimes!) how it’s all done? He looked at me, seriously contemplating this offer, and then said, “Well, I didn’t look at my notes on this.”

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing and remaining completely deadpan, I said, “Do you think you can wing it? You know, just follow my lead? It’s cool that you didn’t have a chance to study up. I could sure use your help.” He gave me a brief nod – a little mini-adult nod like yes, lunch next week would work out well, thank you; we’ll be in touch.

Magic. Having that boy by my side transformed that class of whiners into the most enthusiastic, farm animal music-loving group of mini-musician kidlets I’ve ever seen! At one point, after collecting a batch of instruments I sat down in a different part of the circle – actually directly opposite from Tommy. Before I could start the next song, he said, “Uh, Ms. Jenny, did you forget our agreement? You need to sit by me.” He pointed briskly at the Ms. Jenny-sized vacant spot by his side. I nodded and said, “Yeah, thanks, Tommy, I just wanted to watch you for this one, I’ll be back over there soon.” Charmed. He was pleased with that deal despite it not being our original ‘agreement’.

At the end of class, Tommy, hung back and said, “Thanks, Ms. Jenny. Music was fun today.” Dude. I love that kid.

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