Thank an elementary teacher

On Friday, I finished a most exhausting and challenging week, having just completed teaching Vacation Bible School to 14 five-year olds. I can honestly say this past week was more difficult than any week I had had at my job this calendar year. Of course, most of my work weeks were not that busy this year, hence my layoff.

For this five-day stint, I had to come up with creative ways to teach the Bible lessons. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, the church purchased only the teacher and student workbooks (which I received only a week and a half ahead of time), not any of the extras that were referenced throughout the workbooks. And on top of that, besides construction paper, markers, and the like, there were no additional crafty things at my disposal.

So I had to improvise. Fortunately, I had some supplies at home. Brian spray painted a box gold (why we had gold paint, I do not know) for the ark of the covenant. I gathered some stones for the students for the same story. I also cut out a star, which Brian again spray painted gold for another lesson. And I did a few things with construction paper.

For the most part, the students were fairly engaged. They definitely liked to participate in the lessons (listening to me talk was boring!). And they especially liked to move around; "Red Light, Green Light" tailored to the gold star was a big hit.

But what I also discovered, which was sadly not too surprising, is that some kids just don't respect authority. I have openly admitted I struggle with disciplining Jordan. But fortunately, she respects pretty much all other authority. And as my student, she, other than some silliness at the beginning of class, listened to me and did as she was told. But other students? Wow! It was as if they could not even hear me. After telling a few kids several times not to do something, I just gave up.

The worse of it was having what I assume to be a mildly autistic child in my class. This kid would end up in screaming/crying fits if he did not get a turn, or if someone ran into him during the outside time. Several times he took off, and my trying to grab him only made it worse (for the most part, he despised being touched). Music was particularly challenging. He did okay singing when all the kids arrived in the morning, but going to the actual class freaked him out for the most part, and I had to send him off with a student helper. He was very bright, the only one of the five year olds who could read. And he knew at what times certain things would happen. In my limited experience, these were signs of autism. I mentioned this to another teacher who had taught at this VBS before, and she seemed put off by my suggestion. Kids that age may cry or ignore what you say, but these great outbursts, where practically nothing can calm them down, is just not normal. I only wish his parent had talked to me first, to not only warn me to expect this, but also to give my suggestions to deal with the situations.

Those challenges aside, it truly was a rewarding experience, and I can really appreciate what an elementary teacher goes through. I am also happy to say that the director implemented some of my suggestions, which made certain aspects go much more smoothly. I would do it again, but, of course, the hope is that I will be working next summer (well, be working come September!). Regardless, I believe this was all part of God's plan for my layoff.

I just wonder what is next...


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