Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving Greetings from the Zoo

Thanksgiving greetings from the Underworld of Teaching.

Teaching is wonderful.  It truly is.  If I were going to write about the greatest profession on earth, I would right about teaching.  Yep.  Teaching’s great.

Of course, the pay is kind of crappy.  And the hours really suck.  And sometimes the end of the day (or week… or in some truly abnormal cases, year) can’t come soon enough.  But if you’re considering teaching as a career, please don’t let this discourage you.  Because I’m here to say… teaching’s great and the kids are awesome!

Now keep in mind that I teach first grade, so I can’t really speak for all those kids stuck in the deepest, darkest reaches of teenage hormonal hell, but here in first grade, well… it’s kind of like being stuck at the zoo, only it doesn’t matter whether you’re a zookeeper or an animal.  And if you are an animal, it doesn’t really matter whether you are prey or predator, mammal or reptile, because everyone’s housed together in one humongous cage.  And even the zookeepers CAN’T GET OUT!
But that makes it all sound like teaching’s a bad thing.  And it’s really not.  Here at the zoo, we have lots of fun.

Like that day last week, when we were exiting the church, and found at the bottom of the steps…. a coffin.  Yes, that’s right.  The “limo” dropped off a coffin on the sidewalk outside our church I suppose in preparation for a funeral later that morning (after all, it IS a real church).

Now I don’t really know how an ordinary child at a normal gathering might react to a coffin on the sidewalk.  After all, most children I’m around are not at “normal” gatherings.  Remember, they’re at the zoo, surrounded by every other species of animal known to man, and in such circumstances, they have the infinite capacity for wild behavior beyond anyone’s comprehension or imagination.  And a coffin is just the sort of trigger required for full-scale insanity.

Of course, I tried to stop, for I immediately foresaw all the terrible repercussions of walking past this coffin.  But there was a pile-up of other classes behind me.  There had been no warning.  No announcement from the altar, informing teachers that the front entrance was currently being blocked by the delivery of a corpse.  No suggestion that we use an alternate route (the side entrance perhaps?) to escape the church.

Thus I was trapped.  And the animals rioted.

“Ooooooooooooh,” cried one student, disgust in her voice. 

“COOL!” exclaimed another, excitement in his. 

And then my personal favorite.  “MS CULEY!” (in a very loud and echoing voice) “IS THERE A DEAD BODY IN THERE?”

I wanted to run.  I wanted to hide.  I wanted to pretend I was just another animal at the zoo.  But no.  I was the zookeeper, and thus responsible for the crazy things my kids were saying.

I raced us away as quickly as possible, admonishing my students to be sensitive (like they even know what that means — remember, they’re animals!) all the while sending apologetic looks to the pallbearers who quite kindly pretended they hadn’t heard my students’ most strident calls.

Of course, far ahead, the other first grade teacher (whose class always sat next to the side entrance, thus her fortuitous avoidance of my fate) was laughing at me.  How wrong is that?

In any case, it’s Thanksgiving time, and and even we zookeepers get to have a little break from the madness.  Of course, I have a portfolio to finish for K-State and my thesis for KU is still hanging over my head.  Not to mention that my classroom looks like a bunch of wild animals were caged in there for hours on end.  (Go figure.)  But I’m sure I will eventually get a few moments to myself to down a bit of tofurkey.

In the meantime, I need to go take care of that lollipop someone left in my chair.  That unwrapped, soggy, sticky lollipop clinging to the seat of my chair, daring me to peel it away.  I don’t remember reading about the remnants of lollipops in my teaching contract, but who knows?  It probably comes under the umbrella of zookeeper management.

And so, from my zoo to yours… Happy Thanksgiving!

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