August 28, 2008

Mrs. Hottie

I knew it would happen. Really, it was inevitable. You spend most of middle school doodling on notebooks your name with the last name of the latest crush. Once engaged, I secretly began signing Harris Teeter receipts as "Chrissy Hardy" just to try out a few different forms with the H. I delighted in the first few times I was able to introduce myself to someone with this new name. But today, it happened. I got sick of it.

I probably heard, "Mrs. Hardy" about three thousand, eight hundred, fifty-seven times today. Except it didn't usually just sound like, "Mrs. Hardy" the way the nice lady at the Harris Teeter check out said it. This was pitched in five-year-old-speak with the vowel stretched way out. Something like, "Mrs. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaardy." It's a shame that I didn't make it to the three month mark of being married before this new name is already sounding a bit like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard.

But it's okay. They'll learn eventually to raise their hands and stay in their seats and all that jazz. And I have one student who doesn't know my name yet anyways and he's the one I love the most, not just because he can't contribute to the chorus. I could spend pages telling you about Tyson* already and I've only known him for four days. Suffice it to say his home life is rocky at best. He is living in extreme poverty and to say that his life experiences are limited doesn't begin to cover it. He's scared out of his mind, feels completely unsafe and abandoned and doesn't know the first thing about the culture of school. But he has a sweet heart and I know he'll be okay eventually.

Today was the first day we've been able to go out on the playground since school started thanks to Tropical Storm Fay. The whole kindergarten grade level was out there and it's always fun to watch how the children negotiate play. This group was doing an exceptional job of creating a line for the slide. Everyone seemed to be getting along well and participating in the newly developed system. All except Tyson. He was wondering around the playground, just looking at the pieces of equipment with wide eyes. I left the teacher bench and approached him.
"Tyson, have you ever been to a playground before?"
"uuuuhuuuuu." (I should mention that among other things Tyson has a severe speech/articulation issue that has not been addressed since he's never been in school. Most of what he says is nearly indiscernible, but we've learned that by asking yes or no questions we can usually differentiate between the two grunts that stand for yes and no. His response about the playground was a yes, but I'm not sure he really has.)
"Well, what would you like to play on?"
"That." Tyson points to the curly slide and moves his arms to show the motion of children spiraling down it.
Tyson didn't understand the line that was forming at all, so I took his hand and went and stood beside him in line. We reached the top and he had his chance to go down. I wish I could describe for you the look on a five year old child's face who is going down a slide for the first time. It was pure, unabated joy. I am so grateful that Tyson has another 176 days of Kindergarten where he can play on that slide as much as he wants.

After recess, we came back inside and went to centers. The volume in the room quickly rose and I took a moment to excuse myself to the staff bathroom right outside my door. From inside the bathroom I could hear the voice of a little boy in the boy's bathroom inside my classroom. He has a hard time with his r's, so he was calling my name out over and over, but it sounded mostly like "Mrs. Hoddy, Mrs. Hoddy, Mrs. Hoooooooooooooooddy!!!!!!" I quickly finished up and went to go check on him. What I found in the bathroom is another story altogether and while it's far funnier than the story about Tyson, it tells better with hand motions and voices. But I turned to my teaching assistant and said, "It's a shame I hate my new name already, but at least when Chris says it, it sounds like "Mrs. Hottie."

* Names changed to protect the identities of my students who haven't a clue I'm writing about them. And I'd quite like it to stay that way.

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