My grandma taught first grade for over thirty years, most of it in Antioch, California at a very low-income school. Cringing, I can remember using her as “senior experience” in high school and “take your daughter to work days,” never ever NEVER thinking to be a teacher myself, but enjoying being bragged about to random secretaries and doing read-alouds with kids. As kids, used to make fun of Grandma’s puff-paint sweater vests and clunky pins for every holiday. She seemed to have a hard time turning off her teacher persona when we were just hanging as a family, which made us roll our eyes as she directed every holiday or family dinner or activity at her house.
I wish she was still alive to see me now – teaching first grade at an international school in Hong Kong, mostly against my will, maxing out Amazon for weird holiday-themed vests and earrings, wearing Ms Frizzle costumes on the regular. I can picture the look over her glasses, the smile, the “I told you so,” coming through the gentle words.
I wish she was around to give me some advice because I have had a really tough year. They have moments of cuteness and weirdness – I like to write down their quotable moments like “Did you know I have three moms but two of them are ghosts inside my mom?” and “I had a dream about my adult life and it was more fun than yours” and how they call goggles “water glasses” and think that 5:30 is “five and a half o’clock” or guess I’m anywhere from 12 to 48 years old.
I have to talk slower and be as boring as possible because I say the slightly funniest thing (okie-dokie, munchkins, oopsie-daisy, SOS Jesus, etc.) and they are rolling on the floor with laughter. They lose their teeth pretty regularly and show me mouths full of blood and I have to sit down so as not to swoon. They sneeze hard into their masks and keep going with life. They touch themselves CONSTANTLY, which is really disconcerting when they’re also making eye contact with you as you teach maths. When I’m shoving chocolate bars into my mouth between lessons to keep me going they ask what it is and I tell them it’s brown carrots and they believe me.
We’re not really supposed to, but sometimes I point to my watch and say “it’s hug o’clock!” and let the little girls give me hugs and it makes me laugh how their fingers feel out the squishy bits along the back of my bra strap and pinch the fat a little. One told me “you don’t feel like my mom at ALL.”
I haven’t written in a long time, despite the lofty goals I set for myself to write twenty minutes a day a while back. This term has worn me out – I think it might be the hardest since my first year of teaching. It’s a special calling to teach kids when they’re this young, and I haven’t heard it.
It hasn’t felt great, but here we are! Learning and doing the hard things, and then doom-scrolling on Twitter and Tinder, negotiating my fridge fix under warranty in Chinese, remembering how to pack for the recently reopened travel, spilling wine on my laptop during a particularly animated facetime conversation (which is actually the real reason I haven’t been writing. Lols). Trying to get motivated to do much besides taking long, ambling walks on the promenade while listening to true crime and cult podcasts, reading delightful trashy book series, curating very specific playlists, and finding new ways to bake carbs.
My favorite student quote this year, which I think was said when I was doing my legendary “thumbs up” dance during snack time, was a student who told me “Miss Weight, I think you’re so silly because there’s a silly person inside you.” I asked “how did it get there?” and without skipping a beat, she looked me up and down and said, “I think you ate it.” So think about that sweet moment the next time you don’t have to be around body-shaming six-year-olds at your workplace.
Until next time. Hopefully within a fartnight.