Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Dec 5, 2017 in Everyday Life, Heart Clutter, Tales from the Underdesk | 0 comments

tales of a first year nothing.

One thing that has always fascinated me as an educator is the bathroom.

All a kid needs for the keys to adventure? Ask a question. A bathroom pass. Freedom. Only them and the promises of the wild frontier that is subway tile and laminate stalls.

My very first year teaching, I taught first grade. I had seventeen high need, highly medicated, highly loving Burger King as a food group kids.

Nothing short of any drugstore miracle could’ve saved me or prepared me for the onslaught of what was to come and what was to be.

I only allowed one kid at a time to visit the bathroom from class because they were just that eager to be the next Columbus and plant their own legacy.

Well, one day, I was busy tying a shoe, packing up the kids, and fussing at a kid for surfing with his desk. I accidentally allowed two boys to venture to the great unknown and therefore, Pandora’s Box was free for the taking.

Except I didn’t even realize it with all of the activity until an assistant from a kindergarten class (the calmest person I had ever seen no less) burst through my door with two of my boys by the ears. Her face was engulfed in the flames shooting from her ears and her eyes and her own anger.


The boys just stared at me, wide eyed, probably still in shock they were caught and kicked off their expedition before planting their flag.

I have no idea what I said, what I did, or how I reacted. Perhaps I blocked it out.

There was another time where I began doing guided reading groups in my room. We had been practicing rotating, manners, not galloping, and actually working at our stations. I had built a nice fort of self confidence with the kids and the stations.

And it all went well. Until out of the corner of my eye, I watched one of my boss girls putting her group members in assigned seats on the carpet and lecturing to them like she was their queen.

That part didn’t phase me.

The part where the other four kids sat there and allowed their lives to be remotely operated by this girl is what floored me.

She’d see me watching, deflect, and do her work-but the minute she felt my attention was occupied, she went right back to her tyrant ways.

In another group, they argued. One little girl ran up to me bawling.


“What does your pencil look like?”

“It’s yellow.”

{Like every other pencil in the universe}

I picked up a couple of pencils from a nearby cup and showed them to her.

“Like these?”

A nod.

“So…how do you know that he has your pencil if they’re all yellow?”

“Because he has a yellow pencil and I had a yellow pencil first.”

Okay. At this point, I got up, told the kids to go back to their seats. Ordered, really.

And as they were trotting back to their seats, one of my most medicated, most needy boys scrambled across the room and grabbed my arm. His eyes were wide and he looked like he was going to convulse.


“Stop shrieking. What’s wrong?”


Yeah. You can’t make this stuff up. I keep these stories filed away in a vault that is all but forgotten about because that year was quite the ninth circle of hell. All the way around. But there is no debating the hilarity from a distance.

Those kids taught me everything about myself that I already knew and had no grip on. Too many people spoke for me. Too many people let their opinions become my opinion. Every person has their breaking point, whether it be a guided reading lesson fail or a harder fall like the ninth circle of hell.

I do know that after I left, I was told that Boss Girl stood outside of my empty room, bawling her eyes out. She asked a former coworker why my name wasn’t above the door and my friend told her I’d moved. My friend told me she wailed.

I find it endearing and hilarious, because perhaps the year wasn’t quite the failure I’d concocted it to be and she knew I wouldn’t be around to warn her second grade teacher what a boss she was.




Read More

Posted by on Nov 8, 2017 in Tales from the Underdesk | 0 comments

In the Beginning.

When I first started teaching, the head of the education department at Lees-McRae College told us we had one goal.


We all thought that was pretty hilarious. Little did we know how that statement would end up being truthful. We had no idea the infectious diseases, the late nights, early mornings, our exhaustion being exhausted, and writing so many lesson plans that our plans have plans for the evening. You are told you learn the hard way, but you never figure the hard way would include fire breathing dragons and walking over hot coals.


When I first walked into my kindergarten student teaching assignment, I thought I was going to vomit.

I really did.

So much so, all I could do was walk up to the door and look in. If I had taken one more step very unfortunate occurrences would occur.

Kindergarteners are not for the feint at heart. They are supercharged cannonballs flying in any direction they can figure out to go. This particular class was no different.

And I really never meant to be in kindergarten. It was a mistake. I had asked-begged-okay, pleaded-to be with my mentor teacher, because I loved her when I volunteered in her third grade classroom. I loved how she had a room full of “those” kids and “those” kids held their heads up high with dignity, had excellent manners, and did amazing work. Whenever you find a teacher with a class full of “those” kids, you latch on and get on the ride.

And now I was regretting it. I had no idea she had transferred to kindergarten from third grade.

There was no way out. The head of the education department’s brags still cluttered up my brain from the day before about all of the accreditation my mentor teacher had racked up, and how wonderful of a teacher she was.

I took a deep breath, and walked into the death zone.

Not five minutes inside the walls and I had a foot on my lap. If you know me, I hate feet.

I hate feet. I hate them.

But yet, there was a foot on my lap. On. My. Lap.

I must have looked terrified because the child giggled and said, “Shoe”.

Oh. He wants his shoe tied.

I laughed. He laughed. He threw his teeny arms around my waist and hugged as tight as he could before giving me a toothless smile and running off to play with some blocks.

Never in my life have I been poked, prodded, patted all over my body for attention, the way I was in that kindergarten classroom. My mentor teacher and I became like sisters, the kids were the reason I got up in the morning and dragged myself to duty, and I fell in complete love of kindergarten.

They begged to walk the stage with me when I graduated. They ended up settling to decorate my graduation cap with her fingerprints that we turned into pigs.

It has been thirteen years and several grade levels since I have been with five year olds. I am not sure I have it in me anymore, but I bet if I were put in that situation, I would find it. For now, I’ll stick with my fourth graders.

I’ve got quite a file cabinet full of stories over the years. Some hilarious, some hilariously painful, others that nearly broke me. This section of my filing cabinet houses these stories that helped turn me from a green student teacher to a full on alter ego Ms. Shapiro. Don’t worry; nothing is in order and it’s organized based on chaos.

And survival is still the end goal. But the survival to what is what morphs itself and evolves over my career. In the end, I’d say my professor was both right and wrong on her assessment, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that survival is a gift in itself. 🙂

Read More