I’m not a teacher, but I play one on television—er, I mean…I play one a couple times a week. In the form of substitute teaching.
Which—when surrounded by twenty-plus kids for eight hours in one stretch—is about as far as a person with a Journalism degree can get from a solitary life of writing and editing. So in an effort to step away from my computer and join the land of the (loudly) living, I head up to my kids schools to occasionally fill in for the sickly teachers…or more likely for the ones desperately needing a day off. Can you blame them?
I spend most of my time at the high school and a little time in middle school. But the real fun—if fun translates to unasked-for pain, suffering, and humiliation— happens in elementary school. Namely in Kindergarten. Because at ages five and six, filters have yet to settle in place inside these sweet little mouths. Honestly pours forth as though stored inside a leaky container, and they cannot—cannot!—help the things that escape. And with faces as precious as these, I wouldn’t want them to.
Except when they say things like this, which happens every time I show up:
“How do you get your hair (swirls both hands in a wide circle over head) to do that?”
“Can I braid your hair? It would look better if I did.”
“You have a bunch of white hair right… (points to spot just above my forehead)…there.”
(as if I didn’t have a hair complex already)
“Your tummy is squishy.”
“What are all these lines on your hands?”
“Can I sit on your lap? It’s soft.”
“How come you wore those pants?”
“My grandma has a shirt like that.”
“Mrs. Mayo, Mrs. Patoyto, Mrs. Montoya, Mr. Spaghetti’o….”
“Can we just call you Ms. M? ‘Cause you have a weird name.”
“You have big teeth.”
“Are you in college?” (Me smiling, just so happy but answering no). “I didn’t think so ‘cause you look a lot older than that.”
And like a moth being sucked straight into the flame with a lot of other moths waiting to dive in right behind it, I keep coming back for more. Because they’re cute. Because I love seeing their sweet faces.
Because the money’s good and I’m an unpublished writer.
And they provide really good material.