Hi. My Name is Carlos!

Art by Matthew

Art by Matthew, 2nd grade

On Friday, I subbed in a 2nd grade class, at a school where I also do poetry residencies.  As I scanned the plans the teacher left for me, I noticed a tip-off at the top of the page. A list of children’s names that might cause trouble, along with those I could rely on if I needed help. Often good information to have, but the former is not always true from this sub’s point of view.

The kids streamed into the classroom at 8:50, bundled to the hilt in their winter gear. It was 7 degrees outside and we all knew there’d be no recess that afternoon.  Seven-year-old chatter rang through the room, as I stood amongst them, a tad overwhelmed by the early morning chaos a sub always brings.

Though I’d printed Ms. Weis in large blue letters across the white board, a small boy came up to me with sparkle in his eyes, and asked me my name. When I told him who I was, he thrust out his little hand in search of a handshake.  And as I placed mine in his, he shook it firmly and announced in his little-man voice, “Hi. My name is Carlos,” with a smile that lit up his earnest face. My heart opened wide and the tenseness I always feel as I approach a new subbing assignment seemed to melt away.

His name was one of those on the troublemakers list, and I imagined whatever else he did that day, would be fine with me.  Though Carlos had difficulty staying focused through much of my time with them, I sensed this little man/child would make it just fine in this world.

Let’s face it.  Who doesn’t like a nice firm handshake coming their way?

Kindergarten Lockdown Practice

Yesterday, I subbed in kindergarten. We had to practice a lockdown. It was heart wrenching.

Before we marched into the closet, their teacher gathered them close on the morning meeting rug, one bedecked with lily pads and frogs, the spot they congregate for group activities. She spoke in a soft, calming voice.  Her words were deliberate, carefully chosen.  She told them what we’d be doing. That they would have to sit in the coat room, and stay perfectly still.  Not a sound could be made. It might last a long time. Instead of firemen coming, police officers would.  They’d check in on every classroom. To make sure they were doing it right. Their puzzled expressions led her to say, in case something bad happens.  Her face was reassuring, but we both knew a vice was gripping her heart.

This harkens back to the duck-and-cover drills we practiced in grade school.  Threats of a nuclear attack glared down from a ledge in everyone’s mind.  It has stayed with me, in the form of low-lying anxiety that never really went away.  I pray these young souls don’t suffer the same.

As we scrunched in the closet, in the space where backpacks and snowsuits are hung each day, I worried about the kids who had issues with impulse control, who blurted things out when they needed to be heard. Could they be the ones who caused accidental calamity to themselves and others?  Because they were just being who they are–little ones, who deserve far better than what our world has to offer right now.