Ask your average Joe what sorts of skills are needed in a classroom and they’ll probably tell you something along the lines of “a lot of patience and ability to manage a bunch of crankypants.” Ask an actual teacher, and they’ll add to that “the ability to fly by the seat of your pants; the gift of returning from a tangent to the original topic; remembering everyone’s birthday; not giving away who your favorite student is in the class.” Of course there are other things too, but when I started working at a school and teaching kids there was one thing I hadn’t been fully warned about:
The arts and crafts.
It’s a very obvious thing; kids’ classes have heaps of hands-on activities. Making posters for presentations, playing with play-doh or clay to build their own art, making whole cities out of legos, whatever whatever. You get it.
But it hadn’t occurred to me, because if there is one thing I am not, it is crafty.
So there I was one Halloween, in a kids’ classroom with a bunch of elementary school students. We were trying to make ghosts out of white plastic bags and balloons. (Yeah I don’t get it either.) I was fortunate enough that I had all the instructions printed out and sitting next to me, and I had been following them to the letter in order to survive this ordeal. The kids were confused, but willing to follow along with my attempts, as they didn’t quite know what was going on either.
One of them, however, was struggling; he’d cut holes in the wrong places on his ghost, and somehow the whole thing wound up sideways.
The kid and I both tilted our head this way and that, trying to see if it was something fixable. Then, the student turned to me with an exaggerated shrug, asking, “Stefanie, WHAT?”
I shrugged back, and he seemed to accept this, returning his attention to his ghost.
From then on, any time he needed an explanation for something, that was his default question.
“Everyone, let’s do a new activity today!”
” [Student], please close the door.”
“[Another student], don’t hit your friend with the pillow.”
” (Sulkily) Stefanie what.”
And thus a legend was born.