Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chasing Kittens

School has started, and it is just as fun as ever. I love getting to know a new bunch of kids, and then tracking how much they grow over the next ten months.

This year's class has a lot of kids I have known since they were in utero. I find it miraculous that a mere three years ago my students were tiny babies that I held in my arms and cooed over, and now I am expecting them to pour their own juice and go potty in the toilet. Me? I haven't changed at all in the past three years, other than maybe a few more wrinkles.

The first few weeks of school are always chaotic. It always takes me a few weeks to get the paperwork figured out (correct spellings of names, student files complete, the parent helper calendar filled out, etc.) and to get back into the daily routine. And if it is challenging for me, imagine what it must be like for these three-year-olds. While I struggle with student files, they are struggling with being left in a new place, with a new grown-up. And this grown-up has the audacity to tell them what to do.

Which explains why when this new grown-up does make a suggestion, that it is more often than not ignored. I mean, why should they listen? They don't know me, and are fairly confident if they ignore me nothing bad will happen. And they are right.

Trying to get the kids to make the transition from outside time back to inside time is always the most challenging part of my day. By definition, recess is awesome, but we always try to make it super awesome - especially in the first few weeks of school. The kids get to feed Patton, our school's tortoise (Patton has the ability to make separation anxiety just disappear), spin endlessly on our tire swing, shoot some hoops, and, a current favorite, make rivers, canals, waterfalls and dams in our sandpit which we put the hose in. In Arizona it is a bazillion degrees outside now, so even if we get wet playing in the sand and water, we are dry before we walk the length of the playground.

So, with all this stuff to do, when I sing my special line up song, I am not at all surprised that not one kid lines up. So, I will gather a couple kids up, tell them how it is time to go in and have our awesome snack, and lead them over to the wall where we line up. And then go to gather a few more kids with the same speech. And as I lead the new set of kids over to the wall, I realize the original group I had placed there have gone back out to the playground. So, back I go to retrieve the kids that left. And when I get back, the other kids are gone.

We call this "Chasing Kittens". Those of us who teach three-year-olds always refer to the first six weeks of school as the Chasing Kittens phase. We actually "chase kittens" all day long, but it actually reaches the really, really funny level on the playground. The four-year-old and kindergarten teachers laugh hysterically as we chase these babies around, trying to convince them that actually going inside to a cool room with lots of cold water is preferable to being outside in the sweltering heat.

What's weird is even though I know I will be chasing kittens on the playground, I never allow enough time for it. I keep having to shorten music time to accommodate for the kitten factor.

It is now the second week of school, and the kids are starting to get it. I am starting to chase the kittens a little less, and in a few weeks the kids will start using peer pressure to get the last kittens to join the group. And while I love it when the kids start to know the routine, and do what is expected, I always feel a pang of sadness when I realize I won't have to chase kittens for another year. These babies are on their way to their scholastic careers, and will never be "kittens" again.


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