Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work
and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school
Yesterday I met
my match. Morning preschool circle was about to end when the head
teacher announced "Children, I didn't have time to set it up before,
but we have an art project today. Mr. Max will lead it."
Surprised to be called on with no advance
notice and no clue what the project was, but with ample confidenceheck,
it's just preschool, I thoughtI stood up and chose 5 enthusiastic,
hand-waving boys and girls. We all moved to the art table as the teacher
brought out two clear, plastic bags, the largest one containing a number
of variously colored and sized cotton balls.
Maybe half of the cotton balls were yellowish
gold, it turned out. Others were pink, white, or grey. The teacher explained
to me that we were going to make baby chickens and bunnies for Easter.
By now hands were eagerly reaching toward
me from all around the table, as five voices simultaneously exclaimed,
"I want one!" I tried to survey what was to be done, as the teacher
brought cut-off paper cups, containing paste, to the table. Next, she
brought plastic applicators and lay them beside the cups.
I hurriedly asked each child, "Do you
want to make a chicken or a bunny." hoping they'd all say "chicken".
The chickens looked a lot easier to make. Three children opted for bunnies,
though, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Just as I was about to begin my demonstration,
I heard a nearby voice almost singing, "Mitter Max, my shoe came off."
Before me stood a two year-old whose habitual mood is a delightful state
resembling mild intoxication. She held up the proof of her statement.
"Excuse me, kids," I told my eager artists.
Hoisting my supplicant on my lap, I pulled her shoe on and quickly zipped
it up. Free again to focus on our project,
I lay the necessary elements in front of each child and started the
demonstration. I swabbed a little glue on top of a yellow body to which
someone had previously added little orange cardboard feet. Then I placed
atop it a small yellow head sporting an open beak made of the same orange
I pressed the two balls of cotton together.
Of course, as soon as I let go, the head tumbled right off.
"Ahem," I said, clearing my throat and
forcing a smile. "You may need to use a little more paste."
I tried a huge swab this time, pressed
the head down harder and held it longer. Pop. Back down went the uncooperative
chicken head. I braced myself for a long morning. Finally, I got the
head to stay on top and turned to instruct the bunny-makers in attaching
little pink ears to their white cotton heads.
"My head won't stay on!" A frowning chicken-sculptors
was already holding up two yellow balls. In front of the child next
to her too I saw a pitiful, decapitated-looking yellow head lying beside
a little chicken body, white paste liberally adorning the neck area
on both parts.
"What about our bunnies?" one of the
now impatient bunny-choosers asked. Ignoring that question for a moment,
I applied another enormous swab of glue to the neck of the baby chicken
and brought it back down on the body. Releasing my grip, I saw before
us a real, baby chick shapefor a minute. Then, the reluctant head
toppled off yet again.
"Keep working with it," I told the child.
"Hold it on, with a lot of glue. I need to get these bunny-makers started."
Already aware that whatever manual dexterity
and craft skills I possess were not really enough to make a go of this
project, I began stalling for time. I only had to act like I knew what
I was doing for about another half an hour. Hopefully, the empty basket
on the table would contain a few drying bunnies and chicks by then.
I saw no guarantee of that, however. I
pasted a couple rabbit ears on a head. They, too, quickly fell back
onto the table.
"The secret really is to use a lot of
glue," I said to the half-believing children, some of whom were beginning
to lose interest. "I'm finished!" a voice
called out as I tried to help someone glue his bunny ears. I looked
across the table, and saw a baby chicken actually holding together.
"Now all we need to do is draw in the
eyes," I smilingly told the little girl, handing her a marker. It's
not easy to penetrate through cottony fluff with a fine-point felt pen
and leave a mark. Together, we did it, though. The chicken went into
the basket to dry. I felt like a trout fisherman who'd just put the
morning's first catch in the creel. "I'm
finished!" I heard now from a bunny person. I turned to look, and saw
a white, furry-looking mass, with a white head and no ears.
"How about the ears?" I asked.
"Isn't your bunny going to have ears?"
Someone else needed my help. The first
child left her bunny and ambled across the room to do a puzzle. I didn't
care. I was in purgatory, and glancing up at the wall clock, saw that
I only had ten minutes more of it to endure.
By clean-up time we somehow had two chickens
and three bunnies in the basket, though one bunny was the one with no
ears. So what, I thought. We'll call it a guinea pig.
I felt some satisfaction at having persevered.
A bit of chagrin came up, though, when I discovered that the teacher
who had planned the project had made a whole bunch of bunny heads with
ears pre-assembled like the chicken beaks. I somehow hadn't noticed.
I'm sure Picasso had bad days, too.
continued back contents title
"What Remains Is
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