May 25, 2017

Ask me anything

One of the ways I fill my time as a freelance writer and lover of children is by substitute teaching. When my client load is low or my need to be surrounded by sticky little hands  and whiny voices is untapped, I accept opportunities to substitute teach.

I jest a little. I thrive on being around children and feed off their energy and curiosity. My imagination runs wild as I glimpse faces from the past. There is a little boy who could be a dead ringer for my now 19 year old daughter's second grade best friend. There is another little boy who could be my little nephew. I see these faces and smile thinking of young friends I adored from a different time and place.

Inevitably, at the end of the day, we've done all our work and there is time, usually only about 5-10 minutes, because I'm pretty good at sticking to and following the schedule. That 5-10 minutes can seem endless if you aren't ready for it.

Additionally, as a substitute teacher, you don't even know their regular routine or where the teacher keeps the "bag o' tricks" for those down times. It's okay. John Berryman once wrote a quote that has become a lifetime mantra, "Ever to confess you're bored is to confess to no inner resources."

That quote reminds me to dig deep. When I encounter that dead zone of what the heck do I do now, I fall back on a game called "Ask Me Anything". The students must raise their hands and they are allowed to ask me anything they want. Because I teach elementary school, I'm not too concerned that I won't have an answer, or at least be able to make them laugh if I don't.

Typical questions include:

  • Do you have kids? (yes)
  • How many? (2)
  • Girls or boys? (both girls)
  • Do you have a dog? (yes)
  • What is your favorite kind of ice cream? (vanilla)
  • How old are you? (50)
  • Where do babies come from? (their parents)

So it goes. "Ask Me Anything" usually fills the rest of the time and keeps the kids engaged.

Sometimes, however, I get a monkey wrench, typically with the follow-up question.

Isn't it rude that someone asked your age? (No, I invited the question).
How do the parents get the babies? (That's a question for a scientist).
What if they didn't have vanilla ice cream? (I'd probably order coffee with chocolate chips)
Do you like cats? (the hardest one of all, because I don't usually, but meet exceptions on a regular basis).

The ask me anything game is sort of indulgent for me as well because I get to assuage my ego that "I know everything". Then came the time the game got the best of me. As we were filing to leave for the day, a young girl with a twinkle in her eye asked me, "Do you teach all the subjects?" (yes). She smirked and said, "Well that means you teach science, so you can tell us how the parents get the babies."

Just then the bell rung and the bedlam of getting the bus ensued.

I learned the meaning of saved by the bell.

But in the spirit of the game, I now invite my readers... "Ask Me Anything".
I might even answer.


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