Joey heard that ALL the moms were coming to his class's Thanksgiving celebration at school today, and he begged me to come, too. I did not want to at all, but I could not tell him no. And before I go further, I will say that Im glad I went because Joey was really, really happy every single second I was there.
Still, I've mentioned before how uncomfortable I feel going into classroom situations where I'm not the teacher. It stems, I think, from a combination of two things. One: contrary to popular belief, I'm actually painfully shy. It's taken me a lot of personal effort to portray all the flair and spark you see out there in the world. I think I've become so good at faking it, in fact, that in awkward moments I can't seem to crawl out of, people think I'm being rude or stand-offish.
The second thing is that I'm a total control freak. No need to explain this one; I think it comes across loud and clear to all.
All the same, I didn't want to go today. It also doesn't help that I'm taking time off from teaching, and there I was thrust back into the fray.
Joey's class was set up in centers, several separate tables designed for different activities. I was put in charge of the Indian/Native American headdress station. For a germophobe like me, this was especially tricky because it involved measuring children's heads for headdress sizes. I had to touch their hair. I handled that the same way I handle cleaning vomit. Again, no further explanation necessary.
Anyway, it's been a long while now since I have done the whole teacher thing, and I have to admit, I easily fell into the old groove of dispensing materials, giving directions, and attending to all the various needs of each boy and girl. That's actually what I'm best at, I think, and I did start to enjoy myself a bit.
After the activity was over, however, there was a prayer service. Basically, I'd compare this to any school-wide assembly where all the kids are put together in a large space, whether it's an auditorium or the church where we sat today. And this is where my stomach started to burn.
First of all, let me say that I don't think anybody else present was aware of the small annoying points I'm about to make. I think they are the sorts of things that catch the eye ONLY of the Control Freak Teacher. But certainly, they are the kinds of things I really can't tolerate in my own students.
While the priest was giving a speech on what being thankful is all about, or should be all about, I counted at least two students per class talking.
As an inspiration interlude, the principal pressed Play on a portable CD player and we all listened to a jazzy song about God and giving thanks. Granted, it was completely cheesy, but I was not a fan of the smirks and eye rolls I saw from some overly comfortable older kids in the back.
And this was the kicker: When the priest asked the students to raise their hands and share what they were most grateful for this year, one kid raised his hand, stood up in church, and said, "Noodles." The priest chuckled good-naturedly, but when he picked the next person, that kid stood up and also said, "Noodles." There were about four "Noodle" responses in a row before the priest chose a darling younger child who said, "My family."
It was the Noodles that got me. It was the Noodles that made me really, really glad I'm home with Joey and Noah this year. It was the Noodles that prickled under my skin last year in my own classroom when I would close my eyes and count to ten and think, "Do I really want to be here with these NOODLES when I could be home doing something that matters to me?"
There was a time when I would have laughed at Noodles. I would have laughed AND had a snappy comeback that would have ended an irritation before it started and allowed us to move onto more important things. But right now, I'm doing something way better than coming up with snappy comebacks for Noodles.
I think I know what I'm most thankful for this year.