A Kindergarten TeacherSubmitted by Murphy1844 at 2010-08-12 21:13:23 EDT
Rating: 1.58 on 25 ratings (25 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Kathy is a largish woman approaching her late-forties. Her skin is orange and she has huge breasts. Tonight she’s drinking Chardonnay.
We talked in her back yard, only a meter or so away from a big blazing fire that would pop occasionally and have us dodging sparks. There were plenty of distractions around besides tiny hurling flames... there were a dozen or so people--her family and friends, a big dopey black lab, alcohol, and in my case the haze-like clarity one gets from smoking a well-known green plant.
She talked about her career which would usually bore me to suicide but it didn’t in this case because of her career and her passion about her career. She’s a kindergarten teacher, and probably the best kindergarten teacher on the West Coast.
Her story began with her principal approaching her. The principal said, “Kathy I’ve got a little boy who would absolutely flourish in your classroom. Nobody knows what to do with him. He hits the other kids and we’ve got him on a behavior contract. He’s extremely bright though.”
Kathy’s talent is difficult to describe. She’s the mother of three kids, two boys and a girl. All three have totally unique personalities. It’s tempting to say that her talent is creating an atmosphere for little boys and girls to feel safe and stimulated, so that each can thrive at his own pace. I think it’s much more than that. I think her talent comes from a precise sort of intuition and genuine giving a shit. To the principal, she said, “but my classroom’s packed.”
Eventually she agreed to take on this little trouble-maker. He walked in to her class on the first day and all the kids were sitting around a semi-circle listening to Kathy read a story. I can’t remember his name, but we’ll call him Christopher. Her first words to this boy were, “Christopher, come here.” The boy walked toward Kathy, insecure and well-behaved at this point. “Do you see how all the other kids are behaving right now?” He nodded. “I expect you to behave in the same way, do you understand.” He nodded again. “Now please have a seat next to Samantha, the little girl wearing the green shirt.”
Christopher was a good boy for a while, that is until the insecurity seemed to fade and routine and boredom took over. Additionally, since Christopher was a bright boy, he seemed to do what bright boys do, which is look for something to stimulate his mind. Eventually he hit one of the kids.
I’d like to tell you more about Kathy because she’s one of the most amazing and entertaining people I’ve met. She’s extraordinarily strong... a strength that seems to come from going through hard times and enduring them. As a teenager, and when she gave birth to her first son, she and her husband didn’t have a lot of money. She never complained about this, though, and on any special occasion she would scrap together what little money she had and create something magical for her children.
I remember joking around that Kathy could take ten bucks and about thirty minutes at a thrift-shop and entertain the fucking pope. She’s good.
Her clothes are typically tailored conservatively, but loud in color. Tonight it’s lime-green. Extravagant colors match her disposition perfectly. I’ll give you an example.
An ordinary person will take a sip of a glass of good Chardonnay and, if their pallet has been exposed to a few different varieties of wine in a non-pretentious way, might say, “Ummm, boy this is pretty good.” Kathy would sip the wine and toss her hands around and say, “this is absolutely DELICIOUS” as if every cell in her being has succumbed to pure gratitude. It’s entertaining to watch. Many would say that they can handle her in doses, that she has too much energy and enthusiasm and that it’s a bit draining. Personally, I can’t get enough of her (when she’s in a good mood).
The wind picked up a bit and a huge wall of black smoke blew all over me. It made my eyes burn and reminded me of cutting onions-- an unbalanced feeling. Tonight I was smoking one cigarette after another. Smokers know this: when you’re having a good conversation, a pack in one sitting isn’t uncommon. Here’s something else I noticed:
Kathy has that thing that parents have that I’ve never seen in anyone who hasn’t shit out at least one kid. It may seem like multi-tasking, but it’s more than that... it’s literally dividing one’s attention and keeping a full eye on their little kid while maintaining enough attention to do anything else, such as have a good conversation or do school-work or watch TV.
And ever since Christopher entered her classroom, Kathy had him pinned down with one eye. Within seconds of Christopher hitting another kid, Kathy was on his ass with the swiftness of a prey-bird. She didn’t strike him or grab him in a hurtful way. All she had to do was summon all that native energy she has floating around inside of her and direct it like a beam of sunlight through a magnifying glass. It’s the look in her eye and the low grumble of her voice. Even as a grown man, that voice scares the shit out of me and whips me in to compliance before my reasoning can catch up. “You’re in time-out,” she said. No arguing, no negotiating, no compromising.
“I never treated him like he was special,” I remember Kathy saying. “But I didn’t let him walk all over me either.” He sat in time-out and cried. She ignored his crying. After some time, she said, “are you ready to behave like all the other kids?” He nodded.
Kathy said, “ever since then, he hasn’t hit anyone. I treat him like all the other kids, and I make it clear to him what the rules are and what I expect, and I follow through with everything.” I, your author, smiled at this.
Weeks later, and after good behavior, Kathy said, “Christopher, come here.” He came. “I heard that you’re on a behavior contract. Is that true?”
“Well, I don’t think you belong on a behavior contract any more. I don’t think you need that. Why don’t you walk to the Principal’s office and say that you don’t need to be on a behavior contract any more.”
He looked at her funny. “Go on,” Kathy said. The little kid’s shoulders squared a little just then. With confidence, he walked out of the room and in to the Principal's office, all by himself. He said he didn’t need to be on a behavior contract any more. The Principal pulled out the behavior contract and said, “this?” Then she ripped it up.
The boy flourished.
Stupid people say stupid things. One of those things is “all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” Fuck that. When I asked Kathy about that, she said, “fuck that”. Well, in so many words she did. She said:
“This is where they start. It’s my job to get them off to a good start.”
I said, “Kathy, you seem to have a unique gift.” She said:
“No. I’m not special or unique or gifted. All I do is care.”
I wholeheartedly disagree.