Teaching day in, day out, can get pretty tiring. So something I’ve started doing at the end of each day is taking time to remember my favourite moments. I’m nowhere near diligent enough about doing this, as sometimes the last thing I want to do in the evenings is remember that I teach children and I’ll have to see them again soon. Nonetheless, it is a good practice to keep, and in the spirit of keeping it, here are a few of my favourite anecdotes.
Taiwanese children and shoes
There have been a series of shoe incidences in my older and younger classes. Walter (2) who can’t speak a work except for ‘uh oh!’ when disaster looms (or when he’s just tipped out someone’s water bottle everywhere) will break ranks to toddle up to me when I’m teaching, expressing his emotion with a mixture of crying/moaning/wailing/shouting. Naturally, I assume something is horrendously wrong and I stop the class to deal with this crisis. The crisis is that the heel of his shoe has slipped off. Mia (also 2) spent the first 2 months of my class not listening at all, but solemnly taking off first one shoe, then a sock, then the other shoe, then the sock, then putting one sock back on, then one shoe, then the other sock, then the other shoe, then taking the shoe off again, then the sock, then the other shoe… You get the idea. It was a process that required a lot of concentration and sometimes help from the other children. Timothy (also 2… Sensing a theme yet?) is one of the newest students in my class and spent the first two weeks being exceptionally distressed about his mum not being there. His response to this distress was, instead of clutching a comforter or soft toy, clutching his shoes as he barrelled (he is by no means small, I call him the kettlebell kid) around the classroom wailing, and occasionally breaking out and dropping his shoes into the bathroom sink.
Meanwhile, in Bushiban, I introduced my children to the game 20 questions. Instead of trying to narrow down their options, they prefer just to attempt mind reading by shouting out answers. The 20 questions pass by very fast. One of my favourite moments was when Dean (approx.8) shouted out the first question of a new round. Except it wasn’t a question, what he shouted at the girl with the answer was: “IT’S A SHOE!” As I pointed out to him, of all the millions and millions of objects and plants and animals in the world, why, just why, did he have such conviction that the answer was a shoe?
When working with small children, bodily functions are unavoidable. Be it rediscovering the hilarity of a fart with a room of 5 year olds, or the constant exposure to pee and poop when working with toddlers (thankfully diaper changes are handled by my classroom assistants) there is no avoiding the messier side of the human body. When I started, the majority of my children were still in diapers. Now the majority (not the vast majority, but a lot more than at the beginning) have been toilet trained and will get up in class, clutch themselves in the relevant places and shout “PEEPEE!” Whereupon they will get rushed out, stripped from the waist down, and thrust against a urinal/onto a tiny toilet. Sometimes they put the pants back on afterwards, sometimes not. I havent established why redressing their nether parts is optional. This process of potty training has not been without hitch. The attempt to potty train Nolan has, at last check, been aborted. I don’t think it lasted longer than a week, because the poor kid kept appearing by me or my c.a and making a helpless noise, gesturing to the pee that drenched his pants and trickled onto the floor. At one point he was going through three pairs of pants… Not three pairs a day, but three pairs in my class, which is 90 minutes long. Eventually, after this had happened for the third time and Nolan was in his final pair of pants, his upbeat spirit gave out. The pants were too large for him, and kept falling down, leaving his tiny buttocks exposed to the elements. He broke down, and helplessly wept, climbing onto my knee and clinging to me for dear life. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a kid who keeps wetting himself.
Sometimes, wetting of pants can provide more hilarious results. Joon, one of my three Korean toddlers, trotted up to me during our Monday play session where I turn them loose to run off their Monday morning steam. He gestured to his pants, which were soaked, and I handed him over to Rachel for a change. So far so good but, I realised, the puddle was nowhere to be seen. Where was the scene of the crime? The mystery was soon solved when I heard “Laoshi, laoshi!!” (Teacher, teacher) being shouted from the play house. When I looked through the door, four of my toddlers were trapped inside by a pee puddle that neatly spread from one side of the doorway to the other, completely trapping them inside.
The final pee tale is one of gender defiance. Sofia (2 again) is my shyest, sweetest girl who spent an entire month being terrified of me and fleeing behind the nearest Taiwanese person whenever I approached, sometimes literally thrashing across the floor for more speed. Fear has now turned into a sort of awed reverence, and she follows me around, shows me her nail polish, and the other day stood watching me write communication books and kissing every one. Sweet. Anyway, I was standing in the bathroom one day when I saw her pull her diaper and panties down. I assumed she was preparing for a pit stop on the toilet, and for some reason didn’t think to question it when she walked towards the urinal instead. It was only when she hiked up her dress and executed an expert hip-thrust forwards that I clued onto what was going on. Clearly, she had watched many a boy use the urinal and she wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Not having the right equipment be damned! she thought. It would have been an admirable gender barrier protest, but she hadn’t hitched her skirt up far enough, and instead of hitting the urinal she just, like so many of these stories, soaked herself. I could have stopped things, I know I could, but I was standing laughing. It wasn’t my finest moment as a caregiver.