Adventures in Teaching First Graders

…or the story on how time flies when (a million things happen at once) you’re having fun.

Because I am having fun. Honestly. Even when it’s hard. Even though I’ve had to scale down in my personal life just to survive the wear and tear of this term. There just isn’t much brain power left when you’re part-time parent to 25 six-year-olds. To those who don’t know it I’m a primary school teacher in my second year of teaching.

I want to share the story of one chaotic afternoon from a few weeks ago. All kids’ names have been changed.

After recess we usually have circle time. That means we sit on the carpet in front of the white board, we talk about the coming lesson or maybe why the floor in the toilet is wet or perhaps about current events (like the scary Nazi demonstrations we had recently). It’s also a way for me to give everyone time to find their way to the classroom, take off their shoes etc. This part of the day can usually get a bit a messy, but not outright chaotic. Except for this afternoon.

They’re supposed to come in at 12.20 when the bell rings, usually everyone is in by 12.25. I’m waiting as one by one drop in… all except two. I put on my shoes and go looking for them. Finally I find them, hiding inside some bushes in the school yard. Okay, fine. We talk and eventually I convince them to come inside. We are inside and back on the carpet by 12.30.

We’re about to sit down when Vera gets up, walks to me and showes a nasty looking scratch. It looks quite dirty so I send her to the school nurse with a friend. I walk into the hallway with them, talking and giving instructions.

When I come back to the classroom, the rest of the kids are getting impatient. Some of them are rolling around on the floor, wrestling, most are talking, two are crying because it’s gotten too loud for their comfort. So we have to talk about silence and sound and that even if it’s okay to talk a bit while I’m not in the classroom they cannot yell and not wrestle in the middle of the circle. While I’m talking I’m interuppted a couple of times which means we need to talk about not interuppting the teacher. Which might seem tedious to you, but it’s so necessary, they need to learn now so we’ll have a smoother ride after christmas.

Now the time is 12.40 and we really need to start the lesson. So Benny looses a tooth. And of course he needs to show and tell everyone.

I finally say “okay everyone, now it’s time to….” and that is when Annie accidently pushes Fiona’s water bottle that was standing on top of the desks. Why Fiona put her bottle on her desk and when Annie stood up, I don’t know. But now there is water everywhere. 

When that’s wiped up and the kids have left circle time and are sitting at their desks it’s 12.50 and in just 30 minutes the day is finished. They are six years old. We need more than 30 minutes to do the math lesson I had planned. At this point I give up, put on a film about “more or less than the number five” and question my career choice.

Seriously, I really, really love my job. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but also the most fulfilling. I find joy in ABC and 1+2=3. I must have been made for patience and wiping tears. And singing the same song over and over. But there is not much energy for anything else and I need to respect that. At least I’m still writing, albeit a bit slowly.

“Fröken (that’s what they call me, related to “miss” “teacher” or the German “fräulein”) fröken Kathy, I have a mosquito bite, it’s itching.” “Fröken, my stomach hurts.” “Fröken, guess what I did this weekend!” “Fröken, fröken, she pushed me.” “Fröken, it would be so strange if dogs had two legs.” “Fröken, what does criminally gifted mean?” (believe it or not, one of my boys asked this.)

I am tired when I get home. It’s hard to let go of my teacher face, my teacher voice. The vigilance.

It’s who I am. I’m 1Bs fröken. I’m a teacher. I’m a teacher who needs to learn to relax and forget about the 25 little pieces of my heart during the weekend and evenings. And somehow everything is worth it when I’m handed a bracelet that one of them has made:


It’s all good really. Some nights I’m just a bit of a zombie. I’m sure I’ll adapt eventually.

(And in other news I’ve been picked up by a publisher!! But more on that in another post.)






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