Twenty-two boys and girls moved through the jumble of desks, chairs and shelves in a room not really large enough to accommodate that many busy kids. Over the din of chatting and slamming notebooks, I heard a throaty, choking sound.
Is that sobbing?
A boy spotted me, pointed and shouted, “Who’s that?!” All the activity in the room stopped, and 42 small eyes — the source of the sobbing excepted — focused on me.
They’re small, but the adults are way outnumbered. The odds aren’t really that good.
Ms. F. spoke up, “Oh, that’s our Mystery Reader for the day. Class, this is David’s mom.”
Twenty heads snapped around to David, who looked at me with an enormous grin. One of the children asked, “David is that your mom?” She needed confirmation from a more reliable source.
Some of the kids continued talking to David, and some turned back to me, staring curiously.
One little girl walked over, petted my sleeve and said, “I like your pink coat.”
“OK. We’ll have our story time in a few minutes when we finish our journals. Children, please go to your seats,” said Ms. F. as she quelled the small riot my arrival started. I watched amazed as the little mob obeyed her.
She must have them under a spell. David didn’t tell me his teacher was magic.
Throughout all of this the boy continued to sob.
Ms. F. welcomed me, and asked if I would help a few of the children with their sentences. Without answering, I found myself in a small windowed room at the back of the classroom, sitting in a miniature chair at a tiny table surrounded by three kids. One of them was Sobbing Boy.
Despite having two of my own, I’m not that great with kids, and I’m kind of afraid of them.
“OK. So you’re supposed to write a sentence, huh? Um, are you OK?” I asked Sobbing Boy.
“She laughed at me!” He pointed to the girl sitting at the table with us.
The other boy in the room chimed in, “Yeah. She’s mean.” Sobbing Boy blubbered even harder.
The girl sat silent, arms crossed, glaring triumphantly at Sobbing Boy as if she enjoyed watching him cry.
“Well — ”
Just then Ms. F. came to check on us. “Is everything alright?” Sobbing Boy repeated his story to Ms. F. Wisely, she removed the girl from the room.
His antagonist gone, Sobbing Boy confided in me. “She always laughs at me. I HATE her!” He folded his arms on the table and threw his head down on them.
“Nobody likes her,” Boy Number Two interjected again.
If I didn’t intervene we weren’t going to write any sentences, and I was not about to let them turn in MY assignment incomplete.
“You know, when she laughs at you, the best thing you can do is just ignore her. I bet she’ll stop laughing at you,” I said.
This struck a chord with Sobbing Boy. He lifted his head, set his jaw square and said, “Yeah, I’ll just ignore her!” Bravely, he wiped his tears on his sleeve.
Apparently I have a gift for giving profound counsel to seven year-olds. I was a little proud of myself, I admit.
“So what are you going to write sentences about, guys?”
They both shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Did you do anything fun last weekend?”
“We watched Iron Man,” Sobbing Boy said. “I’m gonna write about him.”
“Good! What about you?” I asked Boy Number Two.
I noticed a little girl in the other room looking through the window at me with a dreamy smile on her face.
Am I Kate Middleton?
“I don’t have anything to write about. I’m just gonna draw a picture of Spiderman,” Boy Number Two said.
“But doesn’t the teacher want you to write a sentence?”
“Yeah. I’m just gonna draw a picture.”
How is Ms. F. not insane by now?
Sobbing Boy diligently wrote his sentence, “irun man is reely strong (sic).'”
“Why don’t you write a sentence about Spiderman?” I said to boy number two.
“Nah, I’m just drawing.”
“You could try something easy. How about, ‘I like Spiderman.’ ”
As I began contemplating methods, likely not admissible in public school, to make Boy Number Two write a sentence, Ms. F. announced journaling time was over. She called the children to circle up on the rug, and invited me to read.
David seated himself infront of me. “You didn’t tell me you were coming!”
“Shhh. You need to listen now,” I said.
The kids sat attentively, laughing at Pirates Go to School. A mostly failed Sentence Tutor, I was a rousing success at Story Time.
Maybe I’m a little magic.
The group applauded as the teacher thanked me.
David hugged me. As he showed me around the classroom, another little girl threw her arms around me.
I hope you’re not sick and you don’t have lice.
I said goodbye to David and
bolted for walked to the door.
I was only there for 30 minutes, and I was exhausted.
God Bless the magic Ms. F.