A Place In The Line
Sometimes I swear I must have the most argumentative bunch of third graders, ever.
He took my pencil. She said she's not my friend. He said something about my mom. The list goes on and on.
Eventhough they are only eight and nine years old, I feel like they an awfully depressed bunch most of the time. If only they knew about the things in life that should really cause you to get angry. I even have a few students who I believe are clinically depressed. I mean I'm no doctor, but one made up an imaginary friend a few months ago. Not only is third grade a little old to be making up imaginary friends, she even gave the friend an imaginary death.
Then there is another boy in my class who throws up, no kidding, every day. He's a highly eccentric, highly unusual kid. Picture the SNL character of Debbie Downer as a preteen and you've got him. About the best I can do for him is to always sit him close to the garbage can. It's amazing how you easily you can become desensitized to puke.
But the one third grade gripe that gets my goat more than any other is when they line up. Walking in a line is not hard. People have been doing it for ages. In fact, I remember being in elementary school and when the kids were making a lot of noise on the way out to recess, we would practice walking quietly in a line. It seemed so harsh back then but now, I know better.
A line is simple. One behind the other. In order to avoid line related woes, I even made up a line order at the beginning of the year. This way this person wouldn't be with this person and there would be no arguing. Only they rarely, if ever, stuck with it and everyday I found I had to remind them where there place in the line was. It so wasn't worth it. Sometimes you just gotta pick your battles.
So instead, I usually call them to line up by tables or rows or however they're sitting. I look for the quietest children first. There's also a job of line leader that a different student has every week along with two door holders, one who should be in the front, on in the back (since there's more than one door).
Despite all of this effort at order, not chaos, at least once a week, if not once a day I see students fighting for their place in line. One person gets a step in front of you and there's pushing, shoving and racing like you wouldn't believe. If you want to know where road rage starts, look no further than the hallways of the elementary schools of America.
Now I wouldn't be that angry if there wasn't a system, but there is. Everyone gets a turn to be the leader of the pack. And if you're in the right place the first time around, there's no need to get there later on.
It's even more problematic considering my school has a huge set of stairs we have to take nearly everywhere we go. As if pushing and shoving wasn't bad enough on one floor, it also occurs on the stairs. I'd understand if we were practicing for The Amazing Race but we're not, we're just 23 people trying to get to places like art class in one piece.
Usually, when I witness petty line related fights I solve them by sending both students to the back of the line. They sulk their way to the rear, still glaring at me, and each other. What can I say? It's a small price to pay.
As if the cutting each other off in line wasn't bad enough, they do the same thing when they're trying to get my attention in class. If they need help on an assignment, for instance, which they always do, they make a line by my desk. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been clearly talking to a student when another kid comes up and just starts talking to me, too. When this happens I always say the same thing, Can you not see ____ talking? They sheepishly apologize and continue to "wait", hopping up and down as if they were going to tell me about a four alarm fire. Usually the urgency revolves around something far simpler like, Can I have a drink of water?
Then there are the times they cut me off when I'm teaching. They call out, interrupting my lesson. This happens all the time. I have plenty in my bag of tricks to deal with this but my favorite has to be when I tell the child:
Do I look like I need a back-up singer?
They chuckle, but it usually shuts them up right away. At least for a good five minutes or so till the whole cycle starts all over again.
I'd love to say it gets better, but I'm afraid when you're an adult, waiting in line is just as frustrating. People cut in line all the time. Waiting for the bathroom at concerts. Returning things to a store. Playing the sneaky, I was there all along bit when trying to get on a popular ride. None of this is anything new. You think kids take it too far, just check out their parents.
In my mind, waiting in line is like a euphemism for life. We're all waiting for something, sometime.
In fact, some might say life itself is one big grand waiting room. One day, everyone's number comes up. You just gotta learn to read between the lines, and bring a magazine while you're waiting.