Actually, it was more like 120. First graders, that is. They were all in the auditorium while their teachers were at a professional development session, and I was the lucky winner of the mass prep coverage lottery!
I was told there would be two school aides in the auditorium to assist me. There weren't. I was told the television would be set up so I could show an educational video. It wasn't. I'm sure you can see where this is going: Miss Brave, all 5'1" of her, still recovering from laryngitis, stands in front of a roomful of 5- and 6-year-olds right before they go to lunch...and they all have to use the bathroom. Desperately.
Oh. My. God.
Should this experience ever happen to you, remain calm. Do not panic. Calmly raise your arms in the air and shout, "First graders, if you can hear me, clap once! If you can hear me, clap twice! If you can hear me, clap three times!" Repeat until everyone is listening, except for those kids who never, ever listen or sit still even for a moment who are hard enough to handle one-on-one, let alone in the midst of 120 other first graders.
Meanwhile, while I was learning a very important lesson about setting up for my own mass prep coverages beforehand, the teachers were upstairs doing their PD on how they should be organizing their assessment data. Because my office is nearby, I overheard some of what went on, and it wasn't pretty. Teachers are, to put it mildly, overwhelmed, overworked and overstressed. Teachers actually cried as they described struggling to find enough time to do everything that's expected of them while still feeling like it's never enough. Just when you get comfortable with the system, the whole thing changes. The focus of my job isn't even teaching anymore, someone said; it's collecting and organizing all this data. Someone else added: This is exactly why teachers leave the profession; I have had it and I'm done.
Stressed as I am, I can't even begin to imagine being a new teacher and being expected to maintain the amount of data that teachers at my school are expected to maintain. The mood at school these past few days has been noticeably tense and aggravated. Which is of course exactly what our students don't need: a school full of stressed out teachers.
And speaking of stressed out teachers: The only part of my job I really consistently enjoy and look forward to is the 50 minutes after school, which I spend with a small group of ESL first graders that I adore. ("Miss Brave, can I tell you something? I want to come to your house!" "I want to come to your house too! I could play with your little brother!" I don't have a little brother, but that appears to be beside the point.) So of course, I'm being transferred, to a different group of kids in a different grade.
I will miss Alex, who enjoys sneak-attack hugging me from behind. I'll miss Alejandro, whose mousse-spiked hair and serious earring bling make him 7 going on 17. I'll miss Cynthia, who bursts into tears if she doesn't see her mother immediately upon exiting the building. I'll miss Eduardo, who always has a story about his dog, and Phillip, who is eternally eager to help out. And I'll even miss Ronnie, who has a smart mouth and a bad attitude.
With the exception of a few of my kindergarten classes, which I see twice a week, they are the only kids in the building I've actually gotten to know. So I am really, really disappointed to be leaving them.