Monday, September 14, 2015

Children Inspire Me

Children inspire me. 

Today is our first day of preschool, but our new kindergarten was in session for three days last week with Teacher Rachel. On Friday, I had the privilege of substitute teaching for two hours.

When I arrived, the kids were mostly outdoors, although a couple were still inside finishing up their lunches. The first thing the kids did was to inform me that "the pump is broken," referring to the cast iron water pump we've installed at the top of our two-level sandpit. We hauled it down to the workbench, half the kids in tow, to dismantle it to see what was wrong. I probably take the pump apart a dozen times a year. Usually the problem is a wood chip or a bit of something or other that has found it's way into the works, causing the system to be insufficiently air tight. This time, however, there was nothing evident, so we gave it a general cleaning and took a good look at how the apparatus works, checking out the leather fittings and thinking through how the pumping motion draws water up the pipe and out the spout. Sabine sorted our set of crescent wrenches. Several of the other kids monkeyed around with the flap that opens and closes with the water motion. Others wanted to touch the plumber's grease we used to lubricate the cylinder.

We reassembled the pump. Grady and Henry brought over a bucket of water which we used to test our "repair" work. There was a bit of cheering when it pulled up water, although Wyatt worried that we were getting the workbench wet. He knows that we sometimes use electrical things there and so normally try to avoid having water in the area.

The pump back in place, we engaged in an all-hands-on deck hydraulic engineering project, working together to create channels through which we could direct the water as it flowed down the hill.

A couple of the girls decided they didn't want to get wet, so took a clutch of ropes to the top of the concrete slide where they tied a web of ropes between the lilac trunks. Stupidly, I asked, "What are you making," and Francis answered, "We're not making anything; we're just tying."

A bit later, we built a space ship from old car tires and other odds and ends from around the place. There was talk of "evil aliens." When I said I was worried about "evil aliens," I was informed that we were the evil aliens and that we had light sabers. I did the thing where I play dumb, saying I had no idea what a 'saber' was, and that perhaps they were talking about "light stabbers." No, it was "light sabers," and several of them took a crack at explaining it to me, none of whom mentioned Star Wars. A couple of the guys got silly and thought of 'sound sabers.' "They would be really loud!"

I moved along then, back through the sand pit were a trio were trying to get the water to flow through pipes and tubes. One of them is a fifth grader, or will be once the Seattle public school teacher strike is resolved. As a cooperative in which parents are required to work as parent-teachers one day a week, we are welcoming older siblings to come along with their younger brothers and sisters until the strike is over. 

The days when elementary school kids are amongst us are often the most wonderful. One of my fondest preschool memories is the day Sylvia's older brother Zachary taught us how to build Mouse Trap

At one point this older brother said to me, "Now I get it; it's five year old logic." 

I asked, "What do you mean?" 

"It doesn't make sense, but it makes sense to a five-year-old."

He said it with a magnificent tone of worldliness and admiration. Just perfect.

I took a seat at the now empty workbench. Teacher Rachel had left us a note about a "special project." What could it be? A couple of the kids thought it should be erupting the volcano. There was a movement in that direction, but Bodhi reminded us about power tools. He thought we should use the power tools. There was a debate in the offing, when the evil aliens attacked, and they were loud.

They were acting like they were playing punk rock guitars, crowding in on us, shouting us down. There is an upright vacuum cleaner handle that we keep down by the workbench. I picked it up and pretended to use it as a guitar. Ket really wanted it for himself, so I gave it to him. The other kids starting picking up sticks and other objects to use as their guitars. Someone brought over a garbage can lid and children started banging on it.

Our older friend interrupted us, "Does anyone want to learn about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones? I learned all about them at a place called School of Rock."

A few of the kids stopped banging and making screeching guitar sounds to listen. The noise didn't stop by any measure, but the volume dropped enough that he was encouraged to quickly tell us that they were famous bands, the band members' names, and that he knew all the words to Satisfaction. "We could perform that song. I'll be Mick Jagger. He's the singer for the Rolling Stones."

Ket said, "I'll be the guitar player."

"Then you're Keith Richards."

Ket wielded his axe impressively.

By now there were probably 10 kids engaged in our game, most of whom wanted to know who they were, so we started naming Johns, Charlies, Pauls, Ronnies, and Ringos. Then we rocked out.

That's when Silas shouted to me, "Maybe this is the special project! Maybe we need the karaoke machine!" When my daughter was young, we owned a karaoke machine. Now the school owns it. It has two microphones and amplifies your voice. That was a good idea.

As I plugged in the machine, Wyatt said, referring to the workbench, "Now we really can't have water down here."

I managed an initial round of turn taking, then left it to the kids to figure out. They deferred to the older boy who was subsequently fair, even benevolent.

At our closing circle for the day, we wound up discussing things that had happened during the day that we hadn't liked. A couple of kids had been hit. One had had water poured on him. We agreed to not do that stuff again. Then we read a story.

And the truth is that this is only a fraction of what we did in those two hours. Now I'm inspired for school to start.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

Scott said...

All of this makes me smile. Congratulations on your new kindergarten class. I'm sure Teacher Rachel will have a blast. (And you, too, it seems!)