My oldest, Ella, is in Kindergarten. Each day the class asks a different parent to volunteer for an hour and lend a helping hand.
Yesterday was my turn.
I had done this once before, a few months back. I was assigned to "table #1" and I had to supervise the kids doing a counting and sorting exercise. The materials were already laid out. All I had to do was follow the instruction sheet on the table. It read:
1. Each child gets a box of colored Valentine's candy.
2. Have the children sort them.
3. Have them create a graph.
Steps 2 and 3 are a little vague, don't you think? Sort them by color? Shape? Quality of the romantic statement printed on each one? And Graph how? There was no graph paper, just typing paper. A pie chart? A bar graph? These are kindergarteners for fucks sake. Give me some direction.
Yesterday I was at "table #3." It was time to do a craft involving farm animals. In any other context and that would sound illegal. The instruction sheet read:
1. Read the animal book to the kids and have them identify the consonant each animal begins with.
2. Have them pick an animal and draw it inside the barn cut out supplied.
3. Have them give you three clues about that animal and write them on the clue sheet supplied.
4. Assemble as per the sample.
5. Complete the animal quiz in the animal book.
First, there is no God damned animal book. They neglect to tell me this. I am searching high and wide for an animal book. You'd think in a kindergarten class they would be everywhere. What else do they read about? Existentialism?
As one of the teachers passes by she says, "Oh, there's no book so forget about that part." Thanks.
So now I am helping each child pick an animal and write down three clues about that animal. And these kids were animals. I am a parent, not a teacher. I know how to discipline my OWN kid. I can't do to these other kids what I do to mine.
Imagine a parent getting a call, "Mrs. Johnson? Hello. No, nothing is wrong. We just wanted you to know there was a little incident today in class involving Jimmy and another parent. No, he's fine. Apparently the father was holding his head under water until he stopped crying..."
My wife told me to tell the kids if they misbehave they will lose a dollar. I guess they have play money in class. When you're good you get a dollar, bad you lose one etc. So I wipe out ol' "reliable," "Kids, sit down or you will lose a dollar."
These are fucking 5 year olds. They don't give a shit about dollars real or otherwise. They care about ice cream, Hannah Montana, Iron Man and poop. That's it.
Somehow we get all their animals drawn, the barns colored and their three clues written down. Step 4. Assemble as per the example. What example? There is no example. I look around the room. On the FAR side of the room, in the CORNER I see another classes work hanging up. The barns and clue sheets are mounted on this blue and green construction paper, placing the barn on a nice hill against a blue sky. The clue sheet is attached below.
How the fuck do I do that?
I look around. I look around again. Finally, I ask one of the teachers. "How do I assemble this?" She walks over, behind me to a shelf, picks up a bin and UNDER the bin are pre-assembled construction paper backgrounds. Gee, why didn't I look UNDER a plastic bin on a shelf not at my station - "table #3?" She hands them to me.
I look around. "Where is the glue?" Each of these kids has more than enough snot running down their face to use as a decent adhesive but I don't think that it is what they had in mind.
She walks to the center of the room, on the FAR SIDE of this work table, reaches down and from some mystery shelf in the depths of hell she returns with glue. Duh, there is the glue! The teacher looks at me as if I asked, "Where are my own testicles? Oh silly me, there they are hanging right there all this time..."
So me and the kids glue all their barns and clue sheets on. Now what? The rest of the class is still busy doing whatever they were doing and I have nothing left. One of the kids decides to rat me out. "We have nothing to do!" she tells the teacher. The teacher says to her, nice and loud clearly more for my benefit than the child's, "Did Mr. Freeman do your worksheet with you?"
Mr. Freeman? I start looking around for my dad.
Then I notice, behind me, on a different shelf around a little corner, some photocopies from an ANIMAL book. DID SHE NOT SAY, "THERE'S NO BOOK, SO FORGET ABOUT THAT PART!"
Right about now I am starting to think that this isn't a craft for the kids, it is actually some sort of testing device designed for ME. Fuck Ashton Kutcher, there must be men in lab coats observing me through that two way blackboard.
We fill out the worksheets when suddenly I hear, very faint "ding ding ding...ding ding ding." Every kid freezes in their tracks and puts their hands on their head. It was like fucking Children of the Corn. It looked like one of those David Kouresh cults and I decide right then and there if they say it's time to drink to magic kool-aid I am grabbing my daughter or the closest kid that looks like her and high tailing it out of there.
The kids walk like zombies to a circle on the rug and, don't quote me, begin sacrificing something to Satan. The teacher looks at me and says, "That will be all dad. Thank you."
Damn straight. I barely made it through kindergarten the first time.