Today I was a substitute PE teacher for the first and second grade classes at the boys’ school.
[wanting to insert a funny follow-up descriptive but feeling some post-traumatic]
For starters let me just say that I gave up red wine for Lent. If you know me you know I’m headed straight for my canonization meeting with Il Papa after Easter Sunday. Our priest floated that nut-job motion at Mass last week and the fact that I audibly gasped at the thought showed me there was some merit to his suggestion (the good news is that he did not single me out from the pulpit, it was one of those general statements that makes you question the validity of everything he’s ever said but at least he didn’t personally know how deeply his words would affect me).
But really, he suggested that and it sounded so radical and off-the-chain that I knew it was for me. And after Mass, one of my good friends came up to me and we were both laughing and sort of heh-heh crazy right? Right?! knowing that there was some Holy Spirit to it. Although my friend did tell Father we would gladly give up the red wine if he would take on watching our small children. He’s a Polish priest and sometimes he likes to pretend he no understand the english.
So red wine and Lent and all of that is to say my resolve is already being tested a mere 24 hours into this 960 hour fast.
Was it that bad?
It was all fun and games for starters. Like, two minutes in. I rounded up the classes (not that many kids by the way) and took them for a pit stop of bathroom and water. As they were lined up, one kid got really excited and wanted to give me a high five. He stretched out his palm.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “I have no idea where that hand has been…” so I offered my fist.
“Tap that!” and he did and it was precious.
So then all the kids wanted a fist pump and I walked down the line doing pump after fisty pump and totally looked like one of those grown-ups trying to be cool with a bunch of tiny kids. Which I totally was.
Except that I got to this one kid who was SO PUMPED about me being the sub and PEEEE EEEEEE because everyone knows PE is the best that he offered his fist at an alarming velocity and thrust his hand forward at lightening speed and I think he may have cracked my knuckles.
“WOAH,” I said pulling back in “amused” agony.
“Are you okay,” asked the principal who was still standing there as we lined up, “what happened?” See, I should have caught on. Like she knew the kids got super-dooper worked up about physical education on a cold rainy day in the gym. Like they had been cooped up for hours and where was this headed?
“We’re great!” I said rubbing my mangled fist. And down the hallway went.
As we were heading to the door a fifth grade boy walking in the same direction caught up to me.
“Teaching PE today, huh?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said with much enthusiasm.
“Have fun with that,” he said before turning into his classroom on the left.
We arrived in the gym and I tried to corral the kids. They did mostly good except the shrieking. And the running around. And I patiently patiently ever so patiently called to everyone and very few responded and finally I had to go all Bad Cop on everyone to get proper substitute PE teacher attention.
So we hashed some behavior issues out.
And then it was time to stretch.
And in that moment I was suddenly on the spot with a thousand pairs of wee little eyes staring at me and the only work-out thoughts that popped into my head were all my Shaun T stretching and T25′ing so now I’ve got a half a basketball court worth of chillruns mimicking me as we stretch our quads and inner thighs and triceps. We also did some standing power jumps and explosive jumping jacks. I was going to do the running Heisman but it seemed like an injury waiting to happen.
From our stretching and elementary pilates, we moved on to basketball drills and I was amazed at how quickly seven seasons of benchwarming came back in a flash. Chest passes! Bounch passes! Run, dribble, shoot! I remembered a lot and I was pleased to show off my mad skillz to the seven-year-old set. Muy impressivo.
Soon after my good luck ran out and people got antsy. I got tired of chasing down the one kid who felt the urge to run off wildly into random parts of the gym, I think he liked the sound of my bellow. So I let them play the game that was reserved for the end of the period — Pacman! They were excited and I kinda failed because I didn’t remind the kids to stay on the lines or maybe they thought they could get away with not playing by the rules. But as fate would have it if you cheat in Pacman you are guaranteed a head injury and the next thing I know two kids are on the ground in a state of dazed agitation. One was rubbing her forehead, the other rubbing his cheek. Long story short, despite my immediate fears of a tooth being embedded in someone’s face (it happened during basketball season this year hence my newfound and thrilling paranoia), well, everyone was good.
Except in the time it took to get those two situated another person was down for the count, briefly, and while this story probably feels like it’s been going on forever I looked down to see exactly seventeen minutes had gone by. Wow. Now what?
Finally a wee lil chap sauntered up to me standing there at the head of the class. He must have sensed my panic, or he picked up on the way I kept having kids line up on the lines, LINE UP ON THE LINES, while my eyes darted frantically around the gym all Kaiser Soze in search of word clues for another game.
“miss balducci,” he said drawing my ear to his face, “let’s play pizza.”
So I hashed through the logistics of that and it was a hit. Only two kids running wildly off and no broken glasses or bones. We ended the period with only one child in tears and that child belonged to me so I count it all a WIN.
The lesson of course is that teachers are very smart. Now is the time to have parents come in and sub being as end-of-the-schoolyear gifts are right around the corner and you better believe I will be writing a big fat check towards a nice wad of summertime cash.
Giving up red wine for Lent has got nothing on these saints.