Back In The Swing Of Things

We started work again on Monday. So quickly the holidays have come and gone and now we wait another eleven months until our next long break.

Though I am still at the school I’ve been working at for the past three years, I am no longer with my Ladybirds. At my request, my boss moved me to the toddler group (The Ducklings). It wasn’t because I no longer loved teaching 3-4 year olds; I just really needed a change. The oddest thing is how people look at me and assume I’ve been “demoted” or am being “punished” or that I can’t “cope” with the bigger kids any more.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

No age group is any more or any less challenging than another group. The pace is slower with the toddlers, but their independence level is far lower. I can still do the same amount of creative work, but it’s even more of a challenge to think of stuff that is stimulating for this age group, and is stuff that they can do themselves without too much help. A totally different outlook, mindset and skills set is required.

It’s something new. Something different. And I NEED this.

So far, only four of my children have arrived. Two will only be starting in February when they get back from holiday, and two are still in the baby centre as they can’t walk yet, having only turned one in December. Others may still enrol.

The four I have are all boys.

Neo (pronounced Neh-woh, not Nee-oh, though my boss has already nicknamed him “Matrix”) is the oldest, and the smallest. He’s never been to school before so it’s a huge adjustment for him. He’s at his happiest sitting in your lap while he plays with your mouth with his fingers. On day one, he cried constantly. Now, on day three, he’s confident enough to play with and talk to his class mates, and move more than a meter away from me. He still cries when I leave the room, however.

Langa has been at the school since he was a few months old. He’s turning two in February. He’s naughty as anything and loves to see how long he can ignore me before I will actually start chasing him. He’s got a brilliant sense of humour and is very clever. He can sing the whole of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jingle Bells”, as well as count all the way to ten (He will only do this if you’re not looking at him – if you try to ask him to count for you, he just giggles).

Tawfeeq is a sweet and gentle little boy with a butterfly obsession. Seriously. The kid goes NUTS for butterflies. I gave him a free-drawing task yesterday and he looked at his scribble and excitedly squealed, “It a buttah-fie!!!” He’s not as rough as my other boys but he enjoys playing with them. He loves coming for cuddles. Not too keen on eating though.

Stephan is my current youngest. Absolutely adorable and he knows it. It’s very hard to be cross with him because all he has to do is smile and hold out his arms and my heart melts (Note to self – get a stronger heart…). He is a typical boy – loves cars and trucks and is constantly raiding the shelves with the big trucks – no matter how many times you tell him no. Insofar as kids this age form bonds with each other, Langa is his best friend. He, along with Langa and Tawfeeq, form our class’s Three Musketeers. All for one – unless you get caught, then it’s every kid for himself!

I didn’t have the excitement towards the end of the holidays that I usually do. But it’s just set in late. I am so excited to be with this group. So excited for the new challenges. I’m loving it.

(Ask me again in a few months and I’ll be begging for the holidays).

Senseless

On Friday a man armed with three guns killed his own mother, then walked into an elementary school in America and started shooting. Twenty children aged between five and ten were murdered, along with six of the teachers, before this bastard finally turned the gun on himself.

Holy shit.

What? Why???

What the FUCK was going through this guy’s head that he would do something like this. They were children. Little fucking kids and they did not do anything to warrant something that brutal. The survivors have lost their innocence; it was torn away from them as they watched their friends bleed to death in front of them.

And we will never know. We will never know exactly what was going through his head.

These were kids just a little bit older than the ones I teach. They were kids the same age as my nephew.

What did they do that pissed this guy off so much he felt he had to snuff out their precious, innocent lives? What the FUCK is wrong with this world.

I know there’s all sorts of arguments about gun laws and crap in the States at the moment. You know what? I don’t think anyone should own guns. I don’t think guns should exist. But that’s not the point. The old saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” rings particularly true here. What kind of life did this guy lead? What was wrong with him that no one noticed? How does a guy become so fucked up he’d murder twenty children in ten minutes without anybody noticing?

What is wrong with this world?

It’s senseless.

Just A Dream

I don’t usually remember my dreams. And when I do, all I recall are hazy snippets that don’t make sense, and are soon shrugged off and forgotten. I think I can remember five nights where I woke up, fully remembering all I dreamed: great tales of fantasy and adventure, of giant robots, space travel, dragons, mountain-climbing and huge tidal waves of red fish at my high school.

Hey, when all you read is fantasy and science-fiction, it rubs off on your subconscious, ok?

I love remembering my dreams. The stories my brain comes up without me rival anything I’ve ever read.

But last night I had a dream that has… not so much shaken me, as left me with a bizarre sense of longing. It wasn’t a nightmare, it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t filled with daring and adventure, and there were no fairies and dragons and great battles. It was completely mundane.

Most of it took place in my room, as I recall.

And I had a son. Noah. Just a day or two old.

The dream carried on, just going about the normalcy of taking care of an infant: feeding and bathing and changing nappies and keeping the cat away. People came to visit (oddly, the parents of the new child in my class are the ones I remember the most clearly). They wanted to hold him and made a huge fuss over him.

The baby had blonde, slightly reddish hair and big dark eyes. He was gorgeous.

And then one minute I was in my dream-bed with my dream-baby, and the next I was awake, in an identical bed, sans baby, and the reality that it had all been just a wonderful dream fell around me like a tower of blocks.

I expected to forget it, as often happens. I can hold a dream for moments after I wake but the more I try to remember details, the more it slips away.

But not this time.

I remember that baby, and I want that baby even though I know fully that he was something my subconscious concocted.

The whole day this dream has bugged me. The broodiness that never really goes away these days is back with a vengence.

The funny thing is, though I’ve always wanted a daughter, I now know exactly how much I would love a son.

And one day, hopefully soon, I will have a baby. And if it’s a boy, I have a name that goes really well with “William” for a middle name (after my Dad).

Noah.

Until then, I will sit and be the Scary Broody Single Lesbian ™, and wait for the time to be right.

Until then, it’s just a dream.

Highlights

While there are some downsides to teaching  – the occasionally emotional days, the ick factor, working with 11 other women which means there’s ALWAYS someone PMSing… there are some awesome moments, too. So I thought I’d share them with you.

Today, I got my kids to draw their faces, since I’ve been focussing a lot on body awareness the last few weeks. Rethabile started colouring something in, and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing.

Me: Whatcha drawin’, Retha?
Retha: Red eyes.
Me: O___o; O… okay…

Where she got the idea from, I don’t know, but next thing I knew, her entire group all had red-eyed drawings.  A trend setter in the making!

See, I studied anthropology for a few years, so teaching absolutely tickles the part of me that is an anthropologist (my gods that’s a complicated word to type!). Last year, for insance, I saw first hand the development of slang: there’s a TV show on Cartoon Network where a main character eats bananas to gain super powers (laser beams shooting out of his eyes). The character eats a banana and declares, “I am Mighty Ray! FEAR MY EYEBALLS!!!” and then it’s smack-down for the baddies. So one of my kids, upon bringing a banana to school, said, “Hey, I’m Mighty Ray! Fear my eyeballs! Shwooooom!”

Within days, all the kids were referring to bananas as Mighty Rays. It’s what’s for lunch. For the whole year.

I also love when I set a task for my kids where they really excel beyond what I expect.

Last week, I asked my kids to assemble a torso, legs and a head on a piece of paper in the right order. Some were… interesting…

Yet by no means not good!

 

The rest were simply awesome.

 

 

 

This kind of thing makes me so happy I actually have no words for it.

And then there’s this:

Munaishe has an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I’m not sure what was going through his head, but he opened his yoghurt at snack time and decided to put the lid on his head. Then he dribbled yoghurt on the table and set about wiping it with his sandwich plastic with a look of absolute, focussed glee.

Cleaning up is honestly no chore after that. Seriously.

And lastly this:

This is Calvin, and if you’ve read that post, then this picture needs no other words.

 

Calvin

“I don’t know what I’d do with a special-needs kid.”

“You must have loads of patience to deal with him.”

“Oh shame, can’t he go to a special school for others like him?”

“Is he safe?”

“Why is he here, can’t he go somewhere else?”

“It’s a bit unfair, isn’t it? How do you manage to teach the other children when he takes up so much of your time?”

And my answer?

“It’s my job. And I love him.”

I have a little boy in my class who is classified as special needs. He has foetal anti-convulsant syndrome, because his mom has to take Epilem, a common anti-seizure drug. Many, many children are born this way because doctors don’t have a choice when it comes to managing a mom-to-be’s epilepsy or bi-polar disorder and ensuring the safety of her unborn child. They choose to ignore the data. So many moms have to deal with such guilt and pain, and the struggle of raising a child who, despite everyone’s best efforts, will always have a harder time than other kids. And it’s not their fault. Not at all. But try telling them that.

Calvin has clubbed feet.

He narrowly avoided spina bifida.

He is 5 and a half, and still on nappies much of the time.

Mentally, he is about 2 years old. Physically, he’s a big, strong boerkind.

He battles to swallow, so he drools a lot, and has to wear a bib.

He wanders off, and all the staff know to keep an eye out for him, especially when I am working with one of the other kids.

He gets frustrated because he knows that for some reason he can’t do a whole lot of the stuff the other kids in the class can do. The other kids are all 2 years younger than him.

He bites himself when he gets upset. He lashes out at other kids who tease him. He has to constantly be reminded to be gentle.

Calvin also gives the best hugs.

His smile can light up a room.

His laugh can bring smiles to the faces of people on the other side of the school.

He can tell a joke.

He loves doing work in class, and even though he can’t perform at the level of the other kids, he tries.

He loves to see smiles on other people’s faces.

He is perceptive and can tell when someone is upset. Then he’ll hug them.

He’ll greet other parents with lables of “Papa”, “so-and-so’s Mama”, “Oom” (uncle), “Tannie” (Auntie), “Ouma” (Granny) “Oupa” (Grandpa)

He’ll hug them, too.

He has this way of staring through you with this puzzled expression as he figures out who you are and your place in his world. Then his eyes focus, and he give’s the statement, “Calvin’s Teacher Kirsten”, or the like. It means he likes you. It means you’re a part of his world.

There is no special school for him. Not until he turns 7 and is in grade 1. And by that time, the formative years have passed and the brain settles into the patterns that will define a child for the rest of their lives.

He comes to our school because his mom had nowhere else to turn.

And I believe that some higher power must’ve sent him to me. And I thank that higher power every day.

I look after him because I love him. I love him so much my heart aches. He’s special. In more ways than one.

He has taught me so much about a world of things.

He has taught me patience.

He has taught me to see the funny side.

He has improved my ability to speak Afrikaans.

He has taught me to appreciate the beauty in simple things.

He has taught me about the strength of the human spirit.

All the people who’ve ever asked those questions at the beginnings of this post… they’ve all become his biggest fans, because they see how his joy, his sense of humour, his boundless energy and bright spirit enriches the lives of them, and their children, and their children’s teachers.

When he first came to me, I was uncertain.

I was stressed.

I was afraid.

I didn’t know how to deal with him.

I cried most nights for the first couple of weeks.

Not because I didn’t want to. But because, as his teacher, I wanted to do right by him.

Because that’s my job. My vocation.

And I won’t lie, this one child has affected me more than any other child I’ve ever taught. In the few short months I have been Calvin’s teacher, his spirit has become inexorably bound with mine. And even once he’s long gone like the others, gone to big school and a bright future, I will always remember that I was his teacher.

And when I remember that I was his teacher, I want to remember that I did all I could to make sure that future is as bright as I can possibly make it.

A Shitty Job

WARNING: This post is not to be read if you have a weak stomach, or do not like reading about bodily functions and the cleaning up thereof.

 

 

 

Are you still reading? OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned before that in my opinion, I have the greatest job ever. It’s rewarding emotionally, it’s fun, it allows for creative freedom and it’s constantly dynamic. Even though we have a fairly strict routine, no day is ever the same as the next.

But then I have an afternoon like today.

And ooooh man am I glad genetics gifted me with a strong stomach.

A little girl in my class has been battling for a while with constipation. Kids do sometimes, especially the picky eaters who won’t eat anything with any sort of fibre content. At my suggestion, the Mom has packed WeetBix for her the last two days, and I’ve been ensuring she eats it. It’s the chocolate flavoured WeetBix – not idea, I know, but it has fibre and at this point, no one’s complaining.

So she pooped the other night, which was great, but it was painful, so the goal is to try and get her “regular” again.

Well, she got “regular” in her undies this afternoon.

See, I love my job. Really I do.

Because if I didn’t, there’s no  WAY I would’ve been able to clean up the kid. It was a combination of runny mess and rock hard solidity. No wonder this kid hasn’t liked pooping lately.

So, I stripped her off and put her in a large bucket of water to wash her down (’cause wetwipes just weren’t gonna cut it), disinfected her, dressed her and all the while reassured her that no one was cross with her and that she shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

And that’s the thing – yes, it’s an inconvenience, yes, it’s a horrible, horrible thing to have to clean up someone else’s poop… but the one thing you can’t do is shout at a child for having an accident like that, especially not when they’re so squeamish about the process in the first place.

You have to keep your cool and be nice and keep a hold on your stomach. And I mean a strong hold. Poop is NASTY.

Oh, and after cleaning her up, I then had to rinse her clothes in order to put them in a plastic bag for her to take home. It involves scrubbing.

It involves lots of soap and handwashing later.

And I’m really grateful we have these little disinfectant alcohol dispensers in the school for hand sanitising.

I suppose the one plus side of this is that no one can tell me that they have to deal with a lot of shit in their job – I’ll always have a story to top their’s.

Woot, an Update!

Such a great day today with the kids! We did our first workbook sessions today, and most of them managed to follow the instructions without a hitch! The only ones who struggled are the ones I’ve already put into a group for more intensive work, so it makes me happy to know my initial perceptions of them were correct. They all did me so proud today. I can’t wait to do more work with them!

Tomorrow is Baking… haven’t quite decided exactly what we’re going to make, but I’m banking on something simple. Our colour of the week was red, and the shape was circle, so I’m thinking of putting red icing on a marie biscuit and giving them circular sweets to stick on… maybe some jelly tots and some marshmallows. When we do more complex themes like the seasons or animals, I get a lot more creative. My favourite thing to make is trees. ^_^

On that note, it’s pretty late for me. I’m off to bed, but I wanted to post something before I do. Blog every day and stay disciplined – I’m determined that this blog shall be my procrastination cure!

One last thing though: I was introduced to the following video via http://www.gaystarnews.com. Being a lesbian, and knowing what others “like me” face every day is heartwrenching. To see people attack us for who we are, and condemn us, and drive children to suicide while murdering others… this is something that needs to be shared, so share it I shall. Maybe things will change for us, if only the perceptions of us change first.

I am gay. I am not a monster. Ask anyone who knows me.

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