First Day as a Teacher

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I am standing in the classroom waiting for the day ahead with both dread and anticipation. Soon a horde of kindergarten kids will descend on me. I can hardly wait. My lifelong dream has finally come true. I am starting a job in a public school as an assistant teacher. Today is the first day of the school.

I am dressed in my best outfit. I bought the dress at flea market. It is second hand but very chic looking and professional. It is a knee length sleeveless white dress, with black flowers. It has a cute black belt to tie around my slim waist. I can wear it as a formal dress at work or when going to the Sunday church. It goes very well with my black hair and fair but slightly tanned skin. I am also wearing stockings. Really nice shoes that I got at a discount complete the outfit. The shoes have little bit of heels to give me a height boost, as I am only 5 foot 2, but not too big heels, so I am able to run around in them.

I have tried to achieve the effect of understated elegance. I have waxed my legs, done nails, applied light make up. I have managed to tame my wayward curly hair in a neat hairdo. I am even wearing a strand of fake pearls bought at a Dollar shop.

I am going to teach kindergarten. Kate Stevens who graduated with me would be teaching with me. She is my classmate and good friend. We both get along quite well. I am looking forward to working with her.

We both have done all our preparation already. I have been too nervous to sleep properly. Kate is pretty relaxed. I lost count of number of times she asked me to chill-out.

There are 20 kids in our class and all of them are adorable. Start of the school day is all rush. Several kids are crying. Many of them are playing and having a ball. Some of them are talking up a storm. Few are hesitant and watching everyone else. Kate and I both have our hands full.

I spend much time trying to sooth the crying kids. Kate starts games for the kids who want to play. Meanwhile I come up with a brilliant idea of pairing kids who are talking too much with shy once. Soon everyone is singing, dancing and clapping along the nursery rhymes.

I notice that one little boy called Luke isn't really participating. It's as if he has never heard the nursery rhymes in his life, but he is looking at what everyone else is doing and trying to copy them. This technique is having a mix results. Few times he gets it right but more often it is too late or completely wrong.

We ask everyone to sit in a circle to read a story. Luke looks as if he is lost. I go to him and offer my hand. He gives me a timid smile and silently slips his little hand in my hand. I sit down and motion him to sit near me.

Kate starts reading the story. My intention is to get up and prepare for the next activity, but Luke keeps on holding my hand. He is listening to Kate with fascination. I am observing the wonder and awe in his little face with too big eyes. I let him hold my hand and linger on.

Then I start noticing little things about him. He is not very clean. In fact, he is scruffy around the edges. His face and hands are clean enough, but I can see dirt behind his ears. I cannot even guess, the last time his dirty blond hair has been washed properly. May be it is the colour of the hair but most probably it is dirt. It looks like his parents are giving him quick once over and a rub with a washcloth to clean only the things that look dirty.

Thankfully, I cannot see any obvious sign of abuse only bit of neglect. He looks small but not undernourished. He seems well rested. He is shy but not overly afraid of anyone or anything. I cannot see bruise marks anywhere on his body.

I am having a Déjà vu. I am picturing myself at this age, just as untidy with my hair going in many directions, trying to sing nursery rhymes that I have never heard before.

Is this how Mrs. Chang my kindergarten teacher, with a daughter of the same age saw me? Is this why she made a point to introduce me to Mel, her only child? Was it out of pity?

I push back the tears that are threatening to spill down. I slowly free my hand from Luke's firm grasp and try to move on and concentrate on organising the next activity.

I make a note to meet Luke's parents when school day is over. I also remind myself to call Mrs. Chang and ask her about me when I was a little girl.

We take a break for morning recess. School provides the morning recess for kids. Kids get choice of yoghurt or fruit. We make all the kids wash their hands and sit everyone down to eat.

After the break, Kate and I continue with different energetic activities. By the time lunch time roles in some kids are flagging.

Kids have to get lunch from home. We make sure every child has brought some tiffin. Thankfully, Luke has food with him. It is just a leftover pizza but he isn't going hungry.

We have quiet activities in the afternoon. We divide kids in two groups. Some kids have gone to the preschool and know their letters and numbers. Many are behind. Luke needs to learn how to use paper and crayon to draw a picture.

Kate is instructing kids who know the letters and number while I sit down with the other group. I patiently guide them through their first activity in the school. I help them make cards for their parents to remember their first day at the big school.

Luke for a first timer is very bright. He is like a dried up sponge just soaking it in. I realise that I am falling for him. I cannot be too attached to him. I can't show favouritism for him. All the kids in my class deserve my equal attention.

With about an hour to spare, we start packing up. All the kids are trying to help us pack in their fumbling way. The classroom looks like a hurricane has moved through. Luke isn't the only dirty looking child anymore. In fact, Kate and I both haven't escaped unscathed.

We both start packing then something happens and we look at each other or at one of the kids. One look is all it takes and soon both of us start laughing so hard that we are in stitches. Kids cannot really understand the reason for our laughter but because we are laughing, they decide to join us.

We start a laughing game to finish the perfect day. We mimic how each animal laughs. We begin with hyena and continue on till we come to monkey. For monkey, we all roll on the floor, jump around and hoot loudly. As you can imagine we repeat the monkey laugh many times.

When the final bell goes, I am sight to look at. I am covered in the play dough, used in one of the activities, some watercolour has ended up on my best dress, my neat little bun is but a distant memory, I have taken off my nice shoes at some point and they have gone AWOL. My stockings have died a very early death, 'May they Rest in Peace'. One little girl called Emily is wearing my strand of pearls. I will not be fit for any kind of company unless I soak myself in a tub for at least one hour.

Kate fairs bit better than I do, then again she has done monkey laugh only once not multiple times like me.

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