Monday, June 12, 2006

Learning the real meaning of VBS...

I knew I might be in for something the night before I stepped into my first stint as a Vacation Bible School (VBS) teacher. It all started when I was given the 3 to 4-year old supplies, and not the 4 to 5-year old ones. Oh, nooo.....not the little ones. I don't want to deal with "potty" issues! I have enough potty issues in my home with my two-year-old who is quite happy to sit on her potty and smile at me all the while producing nothing until I get her diaper back on.

And, then, there was the other warning flags that came by way of the two teenagers who were assigned to my class. There is one teacher per class with each class having about 11 to 12 kids. But, there are supposed to be two "helpers," usually teenagers who are always there giving you a hand with the little tykes.

My luck of the draw? Well, it was two extremes--one intensely enthusiastic 'tween and a 15-year-old I'll call "Polly Popular" who acted like she was being tortured to have to give me her name. Great, I thought. Well, I guess I can count on the 'tween for tomorrow, if I can just keep her contained a bit.

I did everything I could to prepare ahead of time, given that the volunteer meeting was at 4 p.m. the day before VBS started. I stayed up late, typing up a roster of my group for checking in and out the kids. I found some extra kids CDs to bring along, just in case. I prepared my kids lunches ahead and laid out all our clothes. It wasn't going to be easy getting my kids, who are embracing their summer schedule, to suddenly jump back to the 7 a.m. wake-up call so we could be at the church early.

A false sense of security washed over me very briefly as our morning routine went like clockwork and we arrived to the church within minutes of when I'd planned. And, then, it was quickly rinsed off of me as I saw that there were no childcare workers in the nursery for my daughter and there was no place to check my son into his camp yet either. My preparations in the classroom would be nil, so I was glad I'd worked the night before.

And, then I got a brief sense of how my day might go when my first child came to the room. A developmentally-challenged boy who several church members had mentioned knowing to me when they saw his name on the roster. You know you should be concerned when people you barely know keep telling you things like, "Oh, but he's much better lately. Yes, he'll be fine. I'm sure."

Mom and son entered and she began telling me he was really just almost potty trained. She vented about his teachers at the school this summer and how she'd had to switch classes for him because they were so rude about his potty training not being complete. But, no, she assured me, he'd be just fine if I just made sure to ask him if he needed to go. "How often should I check with him then," I cautiously asked. "Oh, definitely about every 15 minutes or so."

Are you kidding me, lady? Well, isn't that just lovely then? With 11 other kids in my care, and no teenagers having shown up yet to help, I really felt like letting loose with a hearty laugh and a big "fat chance" response, but I chose to stay silent. In that moment, I thought the acronym VBS most certainly must really stand for Very Bad Situation. And, that was what I was sure I'd gotten myself into by volunteering for this role.

Other kids started filing in as I got them checked off. It was about this time that the first boy's mother decided to go see where she'd be helping out for VBS and left the room. Not so coincidentally, that is the same time that her son went ballistic. After wailing and screaming as she left, he made a dead sprint for the open door where people were still coming in with their kids. I tried to guide him back inside, but he would have nothing of it. And, I could not leave the classroom because I was the only adult with no one else to watch the kids while I dealt with the throw-down I knew this boy would have if I forced him back to class.

Fortunately, the mom saw what was happening and came back. And, there she stayed, for the rest of class. And, I say a small prayer tonight that she will give in and stay in the class for the rest of the week now. Because my teenagers? Well, the 'tween did manage to come and help some and I DID keep her constant enthusiastic suggestions in check. But, Polly Popular? Why she never even set foot in the classroom. All I got was a quick wave in the music session, where she was helping lead songs. I saw her later with her feet propped up in the director's office chatting away. Nice, girlfriend. Too bad. You might have had a good babysitting client had you tried even just a little.

The day went fine. There was the expected domino cry effect at the beginning when one child gets upset that Mom has gone and the others then realize that they might need to get upset too, even though they were just fine previously. There were the minor mishaps of post-toddler life, the bonk on the cheek on the church pew, the wipeout on the way to the video room. But, all and all it was fine. There was game time, craft time, and snack time--complete with cupcakes forming icing mustaches on their cute little faces.

I did not have near enough material to keep the kids entertained. Fortunately, those CDs had come in handy as I popped one in and we all did the "Shake your Sillies Off" song and danced away. The director stopped by and advised me to just let the kids play with the toys some too, assuring me that at their age they just need to get used to the room and their teacher more than learn the Bible stories.

By the end of the day, after our half-hour drive home, I was near comatose on my couch. Apologizing to my son, I let him color as I tried to recover from the day. How could 3 hours of three-year-olds take such a toll on my physical wellbeing, I wondered.

What did I learn at my first day of VBS? First, that I will make it through this week. Second, that I have a whole new appreciation for early childhood teachers. But, lastly, I also got to see glimpses of what life as a teacher must be like most days--the looks of nervousness and fear from those tiny souls as they are left with you for the first time, the moments of joy they feel at the most simple things--stamping hand prints on t-shirts and dancing to the Wiggles, and the feeling of pride when you get to the end of a day and get smiles back from your new friends as they leave. I face tomorrow with less anxiousness than yesterday, and even with a little enthusiasm to see what the next day will bring.

7 Comments:

Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

Some parents are absolutely amazing! I can't believe that she was going to leave her developmentally delayed kid with issues with you - all by yourself!! OMG!!

Ms. Polly Popular should get her rear in your class today - if she doesn't, I'd report to the director that she IS needed and needed NOW. Otherwise, they should give you another helper...

Don't settle.

Best of luck to you!
LBC

6:27 AM, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Lazy Daisy said...

Wow....Lady Bug is a teacher so she has some great suggestions. Congrat to you for surviving the first day and actually going back! Bet you are so much better than you give yourself credit for...I'll keep you in my prayers this week! Just remember to "shake" all those cares away!

6:30 AM, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Wow - it sounds like you did a great job but they sure need to get you some good help! Be sure to ask someone.

When mine were little they would not let kids under 6 go to VBS. I taught the 12 yr olds - that was an experience too, lol.

Good Luck!! Stop by my new blog when you can - I've moved from the Linen Rose.

4:34 PM, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh my goodness Steph - you ARE earning your wings lady!

6:20 PM, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Trish said...

I used to love VBS as a kid. I'm also a native Houstonian so I enjoyed reading.
I love your blog, by the way. Great writing!

7:58 PM, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Lisabell said...

I admire you. I really do. I've never had the slightest urge to teach, and I think I would have Freaked Out had I been in your position. You go, girl!

1:55 AM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

VBS--it doesn't sound so good when you put it THAT way! :) Much luck!!!

7:31 AM, June 14, 2006  

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