Last week we went to Helena’s third grade Open House, not to be confused with curriculum night which was last month.
Curriculum night is when we meet the teacher for the first time and find out what’s she’s going to teach and how she plans to teach it. On that night, the teacher is usually eager and excited and full of promise and anticipation for the coming year.
Open House is when we get to see the curriculum in practice and find out what the children have learned so far. We also get to see if the teacher is still upright and verbal and then we determine whether she now meets the state’s threshold for being legally insane and if she doesn’t, we clap and give her a standing ovation.
Then we participate in fun classroom exercises, like figuring out how much hair remains on the left quadrant of her scalp if her entire head started with a total of 1,546,893 strands and she yanked an average of 689 hairs out for every hour spent on multiplication facts thus far. Bonus points for estimating how long before all the hair turns white. Or taking the number of hours spent on currency and making change, multiplying by five and dividing by two to find out how many years she’s aged in one month, thereby calculating her adjusted life expectancy or anticipated year of mental breakdown – I’m still not sure of this one and Nate wouldn’t let me cheat of his sheet.
My personal favorite on Open House night is learning the teacher’s new language which I think is called HELP ME and consists of shaky hand movements and incoherent gibberish and is best described as a fusion of sign language and garbled pig Latin.
I hope there’s a special place in Heaven reserved for elementary school teachers, a place where everyone will understand everything they say the first time they say it and where they will never again have to deal with lice checks, never again be asked for a potty pass and never again yank a dangling tooth out of the mouth of a child who does not share their bloodline.
So far, Nate and I are very impressed with Helena’s teacher, Mrs. H. She’s a tiny thing and although she looks like she’s twenty, she’s been teaching for almost twice as long as her students have been alive, a fact that inspires awe from her students (Oh my gosh, Mom! She’s old! Do you think she’s as old as you?) and envy and waves of bitter disillusionment from those moms who have recently come to the conclusion that they will never look that good for their age, no matter what they have lifted, enhanced, tucked, paralyzed, suctioned out or surgically removed.
I need a moment.
Mrs. H is passionate about her profession and her students and she’s a Buffalo Bills fan so really, she could be teaching Helena voodoo for all Nate cares, provided she’s not sticking needles into Trent Edwards’ passing arm.
I get the feeling Mrs. H genuinely likes all eight year olds, regardless of whether they swim in her gene pool, despite the fact that she is under no legal obligation to do so. Then again, eight year olds are so much easier to like when they’re not throwing hissy fits or screaming DON’T LOOK AT ME EVER AGAIN to their siblings or channeling Hansel and Gretel all over the house or hollering YOU ARE THE BIGGEST MEANIE EVER while stomping up the stairs, aren’t they?
Helena came home from school one day waving this note that she found on her desk. I had to hunt around the floor a minute to find my jaw. After I shoved it back onto my face, I stared at her in shock. Then I gave her a squeeze, told her I was proud of her and quickly plucked a strand of her hair to send to the local FBI office for DNA analysis.
This is Helena’s desk. When Helena showed it to us, I silently reamed myself out for not having super glued my jaw to my face because it fell off again and rolled underneath her desk. As I was on my hands and knees searching for it, I was half inclined to just stay under there because every instinct screamed at me that the sky was falling.
Because this desk was neat as a pin. Book were stacked up neatly, facing the same direction, the folders were neatly stacked opposite them and in between were her eraser and ChapSticks, all facing due south. There were no dirty tissues, no smelly clothes bunched up in the corners, no discarded candy wrappers, no crumbs, no underwear strewn about, nothing spilled, nothing, nothing, nothing except neatness. For crying out loud, even her pencils were lined up in the same direction.
I was able to inconspicuously swab her desk for DNA before Nate hissed at me to stop acting like a deranged lunatic.
I think he needs to get acquainted with Helena’s room. Maybe then he’ll understand why I’ve got a little crazy going on, when her desk is so meticulously neat yet her room can only be entered when wearing a fully body hazmat suit after a tetanus booster.
Mrs. H is all about consequences and I like the visual she uses. There’s no question that if the kids misbehave, they’ll know exactly how much less time they’ll have to scream and jump around and work up a sweat.
You know, I think this tool would work perfectly for all kinds of situations. Like when I’ve spent a couple of hours making a special dinner and Nate calls me five minutes before he’s due home to tell me that he’s going to be late and not to worry because he had a big, late lunch at Dinosaur Barbecue so he’s not hungry anyway.
There’s no question that Nate would know exactly how much less time he will have to scream and jump around and work up a sweat later that night.
I also like the way she uses clothespins as a form of discipline. All the kids start with three clothespins under their names and can I just tell you, the sigh of relief from the parents holding their collective breath before discovering how many clothespins remained under their child’s name? Deafening.
Three clothespins means three chances. Each time a clothespin is taken away, there are consequences:
Like the clock, I think this chart is very versatile. For instance, I’m going to make my own consequences chart for laundry. I’ll have to post it on the front of the refrigerator because if I posted it in the laundry room, no one would ever know it existed.
We have a laundry room? Since when? No way! Where?
It will specifically deal with those occasions when I find myself trying to wash 245 cubic feet of laundry before noon, which might be possible if it weren’t for the sheer amount of time I spend smacking my head against the floor screaming I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE, not to mention the ensuing migraine, which happens each and every time I unwad a dirty pair of underwear found incubating in the pant legs of jeans.
Mrs. H emphasizes reading and descriptive writing and Helena wasted no time in packing up her clothes and Littlest Pet Shops and Bear and jumped on the synonym bandwagon with gusto and we now refer to her as our youngest daughter, Roget’s Thesaurus. I’m constantly chasing her all around the house, yelling OPEN YOUR BRAIN, I NEED ANOTHER WORD FOR BRAIN ANEURYSM when I’m writing this blog.
I’ll catch her telling her friend that she had a delicious, smooth, sticky peanut concoction spread uniformly on a circular piece of crispy baked dough and washed it down with a clear, luminous liquid with a lovely fruity bouquet and it was all just thoroughly delicious. And I’ll stare blankly at the 3/4 left over peanut butter bagel and crumpled up juice box in her lunch box, right before plucking another hair out of her head.
Or I’ll yell CLEAN UP THIS BATHROOM THIS INSTANT and she hollers back MOM! I INTENSELY DISLIKE IT WHEN YOU VOCIFERATE SO VEHEMENTLY and I shout back WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? STOP USING BIG WORDS.
Pretty soon, people are going to be asking me who the cute little bald girl is and why is she living in our house?
Posted outside Helena’s classroom on Open House were monster stories written by the kids. Helena’s monster was named Dave which made me a little nervous that the story was about Zoe’s father but then we saw her drawing accompanying the story and it did not resemble Dave at all because we think it had hair.
Helena is totally loving third grade and I’m totally loving the fact that she’s loving third grade and doing so well and I’m seriously considering giving Mrs. H a kidney if she ever needs it.
And after I write this, I’m going to drop to my knees and thank God that my little snuggle bunny, whom I’ve always known to be smart as a whip, is so neat and tidy and well behaved and courteous and well-mannered outside of our home.
And then I’m calling the FBI for status on her DNA results.