Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tales from Van 11

"Do we get good deed dollars?" an anxious little face peered up at me.

"Yes," I said, trying to count squirming heads.

"Do I get one?" one boy thrust his grinning, chocolate smeared face into my binder.

"Maybe," I replied.

The "problem" child in the backseat was taking full condition of his diagnosis to kick the seats, babble, and hit other children on the head. And he smirked at me the entire time. Once I got the children settled into their seats and accounted for, we pulled onto the road.

At the stop sign, I told them to be still. They were fairly quiet, but several continued to babble loudly and kick the back of my seat.

"Whoever's kicking stop it," I snapped. "There's a camera in the van, and I'll show the tape to your parents if you misbehave. The van was suddenly silent, except for the problem child singing to himself in the backseat.

"Is there really a camera?"

"There's not a camera."

"There's the camera right there."

"No it's not! It's right here!"

"Miss, can you tell me where the camera is?"

"Is there really a camera?"

"I don't wanna be on camera."

"Shhhh! I don't want to get in trouble!"

After their fear of the camera subsided, they began to giggle again. I told two little boys I was moving them. I told the only little girl in the van of boys that she could pick who sat next to her. The boys began to groan and whine.

"If ya'll are mean to her, you'll get cooties," I warned. "If she wants to and if she gets mad at you, she can shoot her cooties out to get you. And you'll turn orange. Girl cooties are pink and turn little boys orange."

Several shocked five year olds stared at me. They began to beg the little girl's forgiveness and promise to be nice. The ride preceded to be pleasant throughout the rest of the journey.

At the homework table, faced with sarcastic and all knowing eighth graders, I pulled out the big guns: sarcasm and apathy.

These were my standard replies during the torturous 45 minutes:

"I don't care."

"John, if you want to go back to kindergarten, I can send you there real fast."

"I know you have homework to do. You can't color until you do your homework."

"That's not my problem."

"John, quit squirting juice on him. What are you, 5?"

"Let's not sing little mermaid songs at the table."

"Honestly, do I look like I care?"

"You can do your homework. It's not that hard to read."

"Honestly, it's not that hard to read. Are you just being lazy? You are? Again, how is this my problem?"

"Yes, I'm the meanest teacher here."

"The more you argue with me, I'm going to add five minutes each time. Five minutes to you staying after and just staring at me. I'll just sit here and look at you. You'll be bored out of your mind. Trust me- I got all day."

After deciding arguing with fifth graders is like trying to teach a pig to sing, I ended up watching kids build blocks for over an hour. These children were surprisingly sweet and well behaved. They also- GASP! cleaned up their own mess. The most disheartening thing though, was what they thought of being in daycare till 6 p.m.

"Do you like it here?" they asked me.

"Sure," I replied, surprised at my own statement. Those allergy drugs were beginning to fry my brain.

"Do you like it here?" I asked.

"Yea", they replied.

"Better than being at home?"

"No," they all responded quickly. "No, not better than being home."

Even though the majority of the time I stare at these children in complete disbelief, wondering why they feel the need to throw rocks at each other, I do feel bad for them. The majority of these children are lonely, and really want someone to talk to. Several children have attached themselves to me, slowly revealing pieces of themselves.

They talk about step-parents, teachers, and school assignments. They bring pictures and lego creations to praise. They lean against my legs, grab my fingers and whisper goodbye shyly as they run around corners. While the children may drive me insane, I do feel badly for them. In the end, all they want is their parents. As fifteen little faces sit staring out the window, watching for a car, a familiar face, it breaks your heart. The kids may be playing and laughing, but they're not really happy. What they really want is a mom. It's a sad thing.