Cardigan of Doom

I’ve developed something of a lip product addiction, which does not on the surface seem to have much to do with cardigans. But it does. I think about which lip gloss to put in my handbag more than what shirt to wear (an unheard of anomaly) and lust after the clicky packaging on Chanel lipsticks with, admittedly, too much enthusiasm. It’s a bit extreme, a little shallow, and not like me. Or, it wasn’t like me.

The version of me with the laser focused lip preoccupation wears more make-up all the time. She wears dresses and tights more than jeans and jumpers. And only uses tote bags to carry her groceries back from Waitrose. One year ago me had a lot of cardigans. A cardigan for every day of the week, and then some. This had everything to do with being a high school teacher, because adding a cardigan to skinny jeans and metallic flats was my conception of a cute, professional, yet still recognizably feminine, and not completely irrelevant person.

When teaching started to become that thing that will be my job for a while, instead of that thing that I’m doing in between cool and creative writing jobs, a slow creeping terror began to set in. It was subtle and kind of had a poltergeist demon whisper thing going on.

“…this over air-conditioned classroom is the only place you will experience human interaction and it will be with children with the intellectual capacity of grapefruits….”

“…your only creative activity until you retire in 40 years will be to slightly differentiate the same curriculum year after year…and no one will care…”

And other funny things, like

“…you might die here. Wearing a cardigan…”

Hahaha. Not hysterical at all, really. Honestly, eating toddler ravioli cups for lunch was also getting to me. But it was the closet full of cardigans, shoving my over-indulgent dress collection into the dark dusty recesses that most clearly signified the need for change.

Fast forward a year, and I live in the greatest city in the world with amazing friends, hobbies (!), and an unscheduled freedom that gives me time and space to be spontaneous, adventurous, and wear all my dresses. With full awareness that this is a temporary state of being, I’m soaking it up for all it’s worth. Part of me knows that the cardigans are waiting in the aforementioned recesses. And their day may come given the student loan statement I’m currently ignoring. But that day is not today. And there is also a glimmer of hope that another sartorial future awaits. Fingers crossed for lots of hats.

Adventures in Substituting

After two days of substitute teaching I am, obviously, an expert. Or at least the children have not yet threatened to murder me after class. Even after I told one talkative boy that his class would murder him if he kept talking- thus keeping them from going to lunch. At the end of the school day I thought to myself that it had really been a rather uneventful day, and wasn’t sure that anyone would really care what I did all day. Then I thought about the 1st and 5th graders I’ve been spending time with, their relative insanity compared to normal people in the universe, and decided that I have the most hilarious job ever.

Everything always starts out very simple which is to be expected when you consider that all of these children were born after 2000. I have mascara older than them. That I still use. So, today, the only thing on the lesson plan was to teach the 5th graders about rain and the cycle of water on the earth. In the interest of trying to make a lecture about rain last an hour and keep their attention we talked about why we drink running water as opposed to standing water.

Me: “Where does the water you drink come from?”

Class: “A bottle.” “The sink.” “The fridge.” “The store.” “My mom.”

Me: “Okay. Why shouldn’t we drink standing water, like pond water.”

Class: “Because it’s disgusting.”

Me: “Yes, but why is it disgusting?” No answer. “How about because things breed in there like algae, and frogs and pods of mosquito eggs that hatch and attack you?” Terrified screams. “Nevermind. You know what a fish tank looks like after a week or so?”

Class: “Green and icky.”

Me: “Yes. Now would you drink your fish tank water?”

Class: Paroxysms of death. “NOOO!!” “Eww!” “Please God No, the horror!” I may have added the last one.

In short, nothing traumatizes these children more than bacteria. Well, that and the unknown. As one would expect, they felt the need to correct me when I did anything at all different from what their regular teacher would do. This included disciplinary procedures. When I realized this process was undermining my authoritarian presence I told them that I was starting a new list of bad children and anyone on Ms.R’s list was subject to my consequences- and they didn’t even want to know what those were going to be. This had a result equivalent to telling them I’d booked them a ticket on the train to Auschwitz. I enjoyed relative silence and obedience for the rest of the day.

While I’m still not sure whether to consider it a blessing or a curse, the tendency of all elementary school kids to say exactly what they’re thinking is endlessly entertaining. The first graders decided amongst themselves that I was sixteen while I was reading Franklin’s Thanksgiving.

“Miss R, are you sixteen?”

“No. We’re not talking about how old I am.”

And with proper incredulous disbelief, “Are you seventeen?!”

Knowing that it really wouldn’t matter what I said I continued talking about the dinner of the turtle family and their moose friends. My only real concern being that they were going to tell their teacher I’m sixteen, thus confirming the fears of the entire staff who came to welcome me/ speculate whether I’d snuck out of middle school to mess with little kids. I haven’t gotten a phone call yet so I figure I’m ok.

Two little girls cried in the course of one school day, and I may not have handled it perfectly, but they did stop crying. The first came to me saying that Rosalinda wasn’t going to be her friend anymore. I said that no one wanted to be friends with Rosalinda anyways because she’s mean. After a moment of blind confusion the little girls apologized and hugged, and did not ask me for anymore help with their friendship. The second was upset because the boy next to her was making fun of her. I found out he said, “Isabella farted.” Since Isabella did not fart, she was understandably very upset. When I stopped the tears running down my face, I told her that boys are awful human beings and she can basically ignore everything they say to her from this point on. She may be a little screwed up for a while.

It’s probably true that I’m mentally fucking them up in equal measure to enriching their minds, but we’re all having a lot of fun in the process. And it’s only one day right?

Next week: Subbing for high school…