...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Callous

Let it not be said that working at the preschool is nothing but hugs, snuggles, art projects, and bon mots, all "Kids Say the Darndest Things"-style. It can also be frustrating, nauseating (it's difficult to maintain a neutral face and positive tone of voice while cleaning up a kid's poop accident), and frenetic. Today was record-breakingly hot and, as the kids noted during afternoon snack, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so we all had to put on sunscreen before we went outside. I sat down with the sunscreen basket (each kid has their own tube, as per their allergies and parents' preferences, etc) and was mobbed by outstretched arms and legs. Kids who got their sunscreen on first ran around in a frenzy, yelling and yelping despite reminders that "Inside the classroom, we use inside voices." My co-teacher Charley was cleaning up from snack, so he couldn't take a group outside while I finished distributing sunscreen to the others. I started letting some of the older kids apply their own sunscreen--looked away for a minute while I helped little S, the youngest child, rub it in to her arms, and when I looked back, 4-year-old C was wearing a white mask of sunblock all over his cheeks, forehead, eyelids, nose, and hair. I sent him over to Charley, who tried to wash it off with minimal stinging; still, for the next hour, C screamed and cried that there was sunscreen in his eyes and was inconsolable. I went over to help little B, who is too small to turn on the water by himself, wash his hands at the sink. B stared at the soap bubbles in the basin of the sink for a long moment while the soap slid off his little hands and the water ran. On the other side of the classroom, C was screaming and four friends were running in circles. "B, wash your hands," I said firmly. B looked at me for a moment and burst into tears. "Teacher, your voice hurts my feelings!" he cried. I felt immediately horrible and knelt to hug his body. "B, I'm so sorry," I said. Sometimes this job makes me feel like the most callous person in the world.