When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher because I loved working with kids. I looked into getting into ECE (early childhood education) when I graduated high school, but ended up going in another direction. Although I took a different career path, my job does include teaching theatre and acting to kids. Usually it’s 13-16 year olds, once a week for an hour and a half, but each summer I spend two weeks with 6-8 year olds in the morning, and 9-12 year olds in the afternoon. It’s one of those things that I get super excited about beforehand, hate it while it happens, and then miss it within a day or two of being back at the desk.
Welcome back to the desk.
I don’t think I could handle working with the youngins full time; they are a handful! Some of them were quite greedy – wanting to play games just to win the prize, or asking me if they can take the theatre’s property home with them and then whining when I said no. Others got really upset over the smallest things, crying because someone else was wearing the costume they had yesterday, or because they were one away at winning at bingo. My clothes have paint, food, and other child-inflicted stains all over them. I came home with a headache every day (although, I’m wondering if the humidity has something to do with that). I went to bed very early and drank coffee (which is unusual for me), yet was still so tired. I was choked, kicked, jumped on, scratched, hit, tackled, used as a napkin, called orange-head and four-eyes, screamed at, and told I was hated – all before noon. Bleh. But sure enough, I’m already starting to miss it.
For a while, my assistant and I had some of the kids convinced that I was 14 years old, and that she was 12 (in reality, I’m 28 and she’s 18). A few of them knew better and guessed we were both in our early twenties, but many of them believed us. (I know I look young for my age, but really now…) Anywho, the smart-cookies of the group kept asking how old we really were, and eventually I told them what year I was born in and had them figure it out. When they discovered my true age, the conversation went a little like this:
Kid: How many kids do you have?
Kids: Well, do you have a husband?
Kid: Do you have a boyfriend?
Kids: So you live together?
Kid: Well, why not??
Kid, you sound an awful lot like my parents! At this point another kid chimed in and told me that I was pretty and deserved a husband, (awww!). She then went on to ask me to call the boyfriend so she could talk some sense into him (her words). I think she just wanted to be my flower girl, but it was still adorable.
They often said or did innocent things that, well, could be taken in a very different way. For example, I had one kid ask me if she could lick my muffin. I didn’t eat muffins in front of the kids after that. One girl was telling us about her 9 boyfriends – which include two sets of brothers and one of her dad’s 35 year old friends. Another pair of girls were pretending they were married. After having a wedding, they were going to bed together as a couple; I got a little nervous as they made a pretend bed, proceeded to crawl into it, and started hugging. They then made this sort of kissy-hummy-whimpering-dog kind of sound while saying (in character) how much they loved each other. I didn’t know that’s what couples were supposed to do on their wedding night – good to know.
Some of the kids were actually pretty awesome – and not just because they brought us candy, gave us hugs or told us how awesome we are, although that helped. One girl brought in her violin one day to play for us. Another reminded us Olive Hoover, Abigail Breslin’s character from Little Miss Sunshine (minus the dance at the end, of course). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of people (of any age) get along as well as the girls in the afternoon group did. They just accepted each other with arms wide open, no questions, no hesitations, no tears, no disagreements, no bullying, no teasing. And their imaginations never fail to amaze me. Even though the younger group insisted on re-creating Disney Princess movies 90% of the time, they still made it their own by adding characters or using whatever they found around the room as props. At one point, they even performed Justin Beiber for us. The older group created their own play, with very little input or direction from me; not because I’m lazy or a bad teacher, but because they just took their ideas and ran.
Now that I’ve been back at the desk for a bit, I’m already getting excited for March Break when I get my next group of kids – printing out different games and activities that I wish I had ready for this last group, making note of what worked and what didn’t, considering the feedback I was given from the kids and their parents… It’s a bit hard to turn that part of my brain off and focus on the more academic (and sometimes boring) things I should be doing instead.