I have some boys I could sell you for a fair price. No, really. I have a classroom FULL of boys. I don’t know why, but this week I have been more aware of that fact. Today I had twenty boys and four girls. Imagine. Can you? Let me help:
My boys come to class sweaty. It doesn’t matter if it is the first thing in the morning, they’ve already been playing soccer or tag. They have their hair semi-slicked down, in some mama’s attempt to present her son as a well-mannered child. The presentation falls flat. Maybe it is the permanent grass, paint, who-knows-what stains that sully the otherwise white school uniform. Maybe it’s the clip-on monster hanging from his belt loop. In any case, he looks like trouble.
Trouble briefly takes a pause as he sweetly says good morning, and then returns as he pushes past his friend into the classroom. Trouble rears his ugly head, as he begins yelling and listening to his voice echo around the concrete and tile. Throwing his supply box onto his desk, he thenproceeds to propel himself onto the floor. Or onto his friend. Which ever seems to strike his fancy. His friend responds by grasping him in a headlock, and they proceed to roll around on the floor. Momentarily angry, they pout and tattle, but are friends in seconds.
While standing on the rectangle that was once taped onto the floor (he’s already peeled off as much as he can to throw at his friend), he shuffles his feet, dances, or pretends to shoot his friend across the circle. His friend responds with a machine gun made by his supply box, “Thrrr-rrr-rrr! chick! Thrrrrr-rrrrrrr-rrrrr!!” Another friend joins with some artillery, “PSh! pSH!” Oh, yes, it is a war zone in my classroom.
Calming the boys down with threats of missing recess momentarily works.
We proceed with greeting one another. “Good morning, ____.” Hooray! My caballeros (gentlemen) have returned! I compliment them on such fine english. The next thing I know, someone is holding out his hand–then quickly walking to the next person–tricking the previous student into believing they were going to be greeted. Giggles erupt. I shoot a warning glance that is ignored. Finally, a public example must be made, and the boys continue saying hello. When every boy has been greeted, they grudgingly shake hands with the first girl.
I begin to sing the song of the day, and eager boys sprint close to me to show what they know. Someone in the back who loves to sing (but rarely knows the words) loudly bellows noise that sounds similar to the words. Two boys to his side aren’t singing. They’re hitting one another and trying to hide it. Peering up at me as I send my you-better-settle-down-or-else look their way, they stop hitting, and pretend to put their arms around one another. As they begin dancing away from each other, it is apparent that the hits have turn to behind-the-back pinches. One sneaks a foot stomp in for good measure.
I begin to give directions for the day, and most of the boys join me. This is because my stories that I write on the board are either about them, animals, adventures, or fantasies where they turn into frogs. Yes! I have their attention! They aid me in filling in details. Who was the detective? What did they want? Who had it? The boy who is my helper for the day, causes problems when he hands out papers to his friends first. The child that accidentally gets a paper complains because he snatches it from her. “He’s just a boy–ignore him,” I whisper–as if we share a secret because we are both girls.
They eagerly head off to write their own stories, and soon are back asking me words in english. How do you say ladrón? I don’t know this word. The boy behind acts it out by stealing a headband and sneaking away. Ahhhh….robber! Next thing I know, someone is asking a word and helping me to understand by drawing a picture on the board. Bombs. Explode. Cages. Dragon. Fire. You get the point?
As I am helping one boy find the english translation for a word he needs, a loud eruption of noise comes from Group Six. Again, one boy has snuck to steal the monkey shaped pencil sharpener his friend brought to class this week. His friend has responded by chasing him around the classroom. Other boys step in to run interference. Looks of indignation are thrown like daggers as someone knocks over a pencil box and markers scatter across the floor. As I calm down that skirmish, another boy steps up to ask a question. His nose is blue. I do not ask why. He has been sniffing scented markers that his classmate brought to class today. He also has cookie crumbles and chocolate smudged around his mouth. Ahhh…this is why he asked to go to the bathroom…
I line the students up for music class, then promptly ask them to sit again. They may be boys, but I expect better. Quietly and proudly they line up. Punches, pinches, and machine guns are silenced as they wait to be released from my custody. Sweet smiles and high fives (followed by fist bumps) remind me why I leave feeling a dull headache partnered with total satisfaction for a day well done. Everyone survived my war zone today. Mission accomplished. Until tomorrow…