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).

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Ripples

Cast a stone into a pond and watch the ripples spread. 

I cast mine in 2008 (though I didn’t know it at the time) when I joined a little message board for South African Pagans called Way of the Rede. I practically lived there in my spare time. I loved having a group of like-minded local people to chat to, relate to and celebrate with, even though at the time I was a solitary practitioner.

Every once in a while, a bunch of us from WOTR would get together. We called this the meeting of the “Pointy Hatters”. It was at one of these meetings, midway through 2008, that I met Jane. Jane ran a course called “Paganism 101”, the likes of which I had always wanted to attend but could never find one near enough to where I lived.

Through Jane, I met what would become my coven. Through Jane, I gained a far more solid working and understanding of the faith I had been following since 2002. I attended rituals. I gained a confidence in my own abilities within the Craft. I nurtured a bond with the Gods who had been calling to me for six years. I was happy.

Through Jane, I met Symi (in the hopes that we would form a relationship – we didn’t). When Symi was handfasted to Ava, I was present. It was the first time I had ever seen two people so in love. That day restored my belief in love, restored my belief that everyone has a soulmate out there; that one person who is meant to share your life. That was the day I met Ava.

Ava taught me how to dance. Between her and Symi, I grew in confidence, I became more comfortable with my body and how I look . I reconnected with myself and made peace with the shadows in my past. And even though I have lost my parents, those two women have become my guardians, my mothers. They have “adopted” me, opened their home to me and woven me into the fabric of their lives. Without them, I don’t know if I could have survived the past two years.

Ultimately it leads to a gathering like the one I just got home from –  Symi and Ava, Ava’s mom and dad, my “adoptive” sister Montse and me… one big happy family sitting round a table sharing a meal. A feeling more like home than I’ve felt in a while. As much as I adore my biological family, I never realised the bond I could share with friends so close they have become my family also.

The ripples don’t end there, though. Going back to Jane, I met her daughter Sandy who is a teacher like me. In 2009, my boss was making my life a living hell (it mostly started after she found out I like other women as opposed to men). After one spectacular incident when I collapsed on the playground with a massive fever, and then got royally shat upon when I had to leave work to go to the doctor, I asked Sandy if she knew any schools with open positions.

Through Sandy I met Lindy, who hired me even though she knew from the start that I’m gay, even though I rocked up to the interview straight from work in a dusty tracksuit and close-cropped hair, looking (as she said) more like a “Bernard” than a “Kirsten”.

I have been working at that school ever since. I have met so many wonderful children, and parents, who have touched my heart and changed my life. I have amazing colleagues who I would go to the ends of the earth for, and who would do the same for me.

And it doesn’t even end there.

Because through this school, I met Calvin. And through Calvin’s mom, I have a new home to move into, to begin my new life.

I am so, so blessed.

I am so, so happy.

All because I cast a tiny, insignificant stone into a pond by joining a message board.

Be aware of your actions. Take note of the little things. You never know when it will change your life.

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.

 

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.

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

For once, unusually for a journal/blog belonging to me, the hiatus was not of my own doing. We recently joined a new internet service provider and had a few hiccups and only got back online yesterday, and I haven’t had computer access until now. I’ve wanted to write, I really have, but I can’t update this thing on my phone. I get to the “New Post” screen, and can’t go any further. It was frustrating.

We’ve been back at school for nearly a week now. The kids are all in and settling – I only have one more child who hasn’t come in for the new year yet, but she should be in tomorrow once the primary schools go back and her transport service starts running again.

Barring some screamers on the first day, I haven’t had any hiccups. I have two children who cry in the mornings, but only when they leave their parents. They’re happy and playing within minutes. They’re getting used to my routine and they’re actually more organised than my last group was this time last year. We’re settling into class work (I had them make Ladybirds yesterday – it’s our class symbol, plus I was able to integrate this week’s shape and colour – circle and red). We’ve had some disruptions from the external exta-murals who come in and do demo-lessons, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.

My current perceptions:

Abigail: Clingy, cries for mom in the mornings, but it seems mostly to garner attention from her as her little brother Josh cries. Otherwise well-behaved and is learning that it’s my way or the high-way – no exceptions!

Boikanyo: The oldest (save Calvin), already turned 4. Well-adjusted, bright, mature, polite, but a bit quiet.

Calvin: Has Fetal Anti-Convulsant Syndrome, which leads to some physical and mental delays. The actual oldest at and 5 and a half. Very sweet and affectionate, but is still a toddler in a big boy’s body. Big project this year – get him into a remedial school as opposed to a special needs school.

Catherine: Well-behaved and chilled little girl. Mom going to have a baby in a month so it’ll be interesting to see how she reacts and if she becomes emotional and/or clingy. I really need to work on her slow eating habits.

Farhanah: A staff kid (Teacher Faridah’s daughter), with all that goes with it, but she seems a lot less high-maintenance than some other staff kids I’ve taught. Quiet but sweet-natured and clever. Very gentle little girl.

Gabriel: Emotional in the mornings, but usually fine once Mom and Dad have gone. Has some problems with speech (he garbles his words) but is otherwise talkative with a good vocabulary. He enjoys taking on responsibility so I think I’ll give him class Leadership slightly more often to build his confidence.

Hlumisa: The ever-elusive child who has not come to school yet! Last year’s perceptions are that she very much has a mind of her own, but she is very clever. I want to try to get her into a gross-motor movement extra-mural to try and combat the fact that she’s far too overweight for a 3 year old.

Jack: Does not speak when I talk to him, but talks up a storm with his friends – need to work on that! Screamed blue murder on the first day but has calmed down. He’s another one expecting home upheaval in the form of an imminent little sister so again I’m curious to see how it affects his personality.

Jade: Former staff kid, and still acts like one. Very much a little madame and wants her own way ALL THE TIME. She’s learning that I’m no push over and that respect is the number one rule in my class. She’s talkative and clever and VERY charming. If I can get her out of the sulks she has when things don’t go her way, I’m going to have a real gem.

Kagiso: Very sweet little boy and very funny. Can be naughty but all little boys are. Needs to develop confidence with his shapes and colours, but he’ll get there.

Munaishe: My fairy child. Fairly sure he has an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) but he is such a character! In his own little world and smiling 90% of the time. Next step is to convince Mom and Dad to go for assessment to work out if there actually is a disorder. Not going to be a fun conversation.

Olwake: Does not speak and very shy, but play him some music and he’s away. I’m definitely getting through to him when we sing. He loves it.

Ofentse: Doesn’t understand English and is way behind in where he should be… unfortunately leaving at the end of the month so I won’t get the chance to work with him.

Rethabile: Dynamite comes in small packages. She’s tiny but she knows what she wants. Ignore her at your peril! Very confident and verbose – talkative children make me happy.

Riley: Very fun little boy with a whip-like wit and great sense of humour, has a bit of a stutter so I may recommend speech therapy if he doesn’t show improvement by June or so.

Sanelisiwe: Well-behaved and mature, slightly shy. Can talk but doesn’t put herself out there. Very clever though, I just need to get through to her.

Sophie: Total angel (and I’m not just saying that because her Mom reads this blog!) Can be quiet at times and talks softly, but has the best general knowledge of the class – I’m hoping she rubs off on the others, especially Abigail and Jade.

Thabang: Can talk but chooses not to talk to adults. Very shy and insecure, but there seems to be instability at home. I’m working hard to make sure he feels loved and safe in class and with me. He responds to praise, so I’m hoping that’s the key if I just give him simple tasks that he can easily do and work from there.

Wihona: The youngest. Red-haired and a total fire brand. Very strong leadership qualities, mothers the rest of the class like nobody’s business! She’ll definitely be a big help through the year as she follows instructions and requests very well.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun year!

Oh, and in other news, I held fifty million Dollars  in my hand yesterday. Pity they were Zimbabwe Dollars and worth about R2!

The Best Job

I have, possibly, the best job in the world.

I mentioned in my last post that I’m a preschool teacher. Basically, what this involves is getting to work at 7:00 every morning and leaving at 17:30 every evening to look after other people’s children for 10 and a half hours per day.

Yeah, I know, if you’d said that to me when I was like, 16, I would’ve totally had that look too. The hours alone seem to make most of my friends pale. And that’s before we even get to the pay.

But the long hours and crappy pay actually have very little to do with anything. I don’t do this for the money. And hey, who needs sleep?

The point is, there aren’t a lot of jobs in the world where you get told, “I love you” many many times a day by the people you work with. There aren’t a lot of jobs in the world where you are subjected to hug and tickle attacks by the people you work with. There aren’t a lot of jobs in the world where seeing the achievements of the people you work with brings you so much joy your heart feels like it’s going to burst.

Every smile, every laugh, every “I love you, Teacher” makes it all so, so worth it. Every time a child my class manages to do a puzzle that’s been too hard for them before, or suddenly remembers the difference between blue and purple, or tells me that a rectangle is a rectangle when they’ve called it a triangle for the past six months… all of it makes my heart grow bigger.

Sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it downright hurts. I’ve seen abuse, I’ve seen parental indifference, I’ve had to deal with kids who’ve lost parents. I’ve lost my dad, but small children don’t understand why things like that happen. They can’t get why someone they love has left them, or hurt them, or simply doesn’t seem to care. And it affects the whole class when one of their friends is hurting. And often there’s nothing you can do except be there to offer hugs and love and gentleness. And from where I’m standing it doesn’t seem like a whole lot.

But when a child sees me in the morning and leaves their mother’s hand to run into my arms, when they give me a picture they drew at home that looks like spaghetti bolognaise but they say it’s me, and when I overhear a pair of 4 year olds discussing, amongst themselves, responsibility and how it affects them… well then all the bad stuff is worth it. Just for those moments.

Like I said, it’s the best job in the world.

Christmas Trees come in all shapes and sizes. 🙂

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