Sneaky Ninjas, Lap Monsters, and The You Scream/I Scream Gang

Take Me Down To The Paradise City

Often in education we struggle. Did I say often? I mean always. There is struggle in education. It isn’t the kind of job that you go to daily, do the same thing, get into a routine geared toward efficiency, and put yourself on autopilot. We can get very good at what we do, but there are oh so many times that we just utterly crash and burn.  Teaching is hard. We can never be “done” or “finished” learning because our world keeps changing. Our students are changing. Research keeps happening and updating as more and more data rolls in and access to that data is more accessible. Everything is in motion, so we either race to keep up by learning and growing and taking risks, or we stand still and let the educational world, and possibly life, pass us by. Sometimes, though, we try something new and fail, or we take on more than we can handle while believing that we have it all under control. Well, I do, anyway. I got this seems to be my mantra, which is fine, until it isn’t, and I don’t.

Where The Grass Is Green And The Girls Are Pretty

Sunday school. Yes, you read that correctly. I teach Sunday school, and generally I have grades three through fifth in my class. We are a small church and currently we have more students than teachers. While I am a high school teacher by day (hehehe…er…during the school year), I am a Sunday School teacher of littles right now by “night.” Currently, there are two of us managing seven kids ranging from two years old to eleven year-old. My partner in crime is an elementary principal, while I am a veteran high school teacher going into my 24th or 25th (the years sometimes blur together) year. What could possibly go wrong? Ha. It starts with hubris sometimes. We (that collective we of educators everywhere) sometimes get so confident in our teaching that we expect every day to go beautifully as planned, and it doesn’t. It can’t. We’re working with kids every day. Kids. they have opinions, ideas, life issues, and a story we may not know about until they steal your cell phone. During Sunday School. Today. Cool story, bro.

Take Me Home (Oh Won’t You Please Take Me Home)

There I was, working with kids and believing that I’ve got this. My elementary principal partner sent me a text saying that she was running late, and that I should recruit help until she arrived. Ha. Help. I don’t need help. I can handle a hormone enraged teenager so a preschooler or two or four should be no problem. (I can hear all of you teachers of littles laughing hysterically right now. I can. My friend, Elizabeth Merce, just snorted. I have ears like a hawk, assuming they have ears.) Help? I don’t need no stinking help! I’ve got this. Uh huh. Those were my thoughts, but I didn’t know at the time that I had two siblings in class who play Sneaky Ninja at home with their mom. She didn’t know they would soon initiate me and play it at church in my class. Sneaky Ninjas like to sneak things away from their mommy (and now me), and they are even adept at using the decoy tactic. I was unaware. Oblivious. I didn’t see the Ninjas taking over my kiddos in class until it was too late.

Take Me Down To The Paradise City

As we went around the table sharing one cool thing about the week, I saw out of my peripheral vision little hand carefully reach over from behind me and grab my cell phone. He ran over to a corner, clutched my phone tightly, and giggled. That sneaky ninja giggled! So, well, I didn’t want him running away with my phone, so I stood up and just as I turned toward him to get my phone back, is sister snuck in behind me and grabbed my reading glasses off of the table. And grinned really big at me. And giggled. Suddenly, I had a class gone wild. I only had one pair of reading glasses with me, but my phone was more expensive, so I was torn as to which to go after first. Luckily, I was able to snatch my glasses out of the hands of Sneaky Ninja #2 fairly quickly. Sneaky Ninja #1 was a bit more elusive, but I did get my glasses and phone back without breaking them or the cute Ninjas. I put them in my purse and stored my purse on top of the cabinet so that I could be sure all of my personal items were safe. Relieved, I sat back down at the table. My Ninjas were not seated yet, and then the door opened and another cutie arrived. I now had seven kiddos, and two of them were two year-olds. Sneaky Ninja #1 and Ms. Cuddly.

Where The Grass Is Green And The Girls Are Pretty

Every Sunday morning to start class, Ms. Cuddly likes to sit in my lap until she gets acclimated to our class. I enjoy that time as much as she does, so I just teach and chat with the kiddos while snuggling her in my lap. Big Kid #1 (my oldest, who just turned 11) likes to cuddle Ms. Cuddly too, so after a few minutes, she asked Ms. Cuddly to sit on her lap, so she did. My lap was free, which is something that normally happens at some point during class each Sunday, but today was not normal. At all. I turned my attention back to my little crew, and suddenly I had Lap Monster #1, age five, in my lap. She grinned and said it was her turn. Umm. Okay. I usually spend the opening minutes of class having the kids tell me one cool thing that they did or that happened during the past week. This allows us to bond while some straggle in after the start time. We continued going around the table and sharing. Sneaky Ninja #2, a cousin to Lap Monster #1 asked to have her turn in my lap. I started to explain that we could have a schedule for sitting in my lap, when she wriggled her way onto my lap too. Hmmm. Now I had two kiddos in my lap.

Take Me Home (Oh Won’t You Please Take Me Home)

I don’t cuddle or have high school students sit in my lap while teaching (er..ever), so I was momentarily wondering what to do. Then Lap Monster #1 said we could play the Lap Monster game. The what? Sneaky Ninja #2 giggled and said, “YES! That’s when we all pile onto Auntie Mommy’s lap and don’t let her go to the bathroom!” Wait, what? Sneaky Ninja #1 jumped up and down chanting “Lap Monster! Lap Monster! Lap Monster!” Ummm. Help? So as you can see, this veteran teacher who presents nationally, was outnumbered and overrun by preschoolers. Two of my older kids sat calmly at the table and watched. One of the older kids, age nine, had crawled under the table. I finally got the two year-olds to play behind me (towards the door) with some toys, which they had scattered more thoroughly than a tornado, and the Cave Dweller to come out from under the table (on her own-I gave her space), and we had just started the lesson (30 minutes into class time), when Sneaky Ninja #1 let out a high pitched squeal scream. I opened my mouth to remind him to use inside voices, when Sneaky Ninja #2 followed suit and screamed. Then Lap Monster #1 screamed. I panicked but got them to stop when my partner arrived. She looked at the toddlers gone wild, the mess everywhere, and then at me. “Would nobody help you or did you even ask?” Yeah. I didn’t ask.

Oh Won’t You Please Take Me Home

This is a common occurrence in education everywhere. We need to get over the perception that asking for help is a weakness. It’s not. It’s smart. We can’t always handle everything alone. If there’s no one who can help you in your district, building, hallway, then reach out to the educators on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. We are a sharing and caring group by and large, so help can be at your fingertips if you allow yourself to connect, ask, and admit you can’t do it all. I connect with educators all of the time to get ideas, push my thinking, and give me advice. While online help won’t be able to help you with Sneaky Ninjas, Lap Monsters, and Chain Reaction Screamers, they can support you when you have a hard day, encourage you to take risks even when you fail, and laugh with you when it’s all said and done. Find those in your building who can help with the Sneaky Ninjas and Lap Monsters, and don’t beat yourself up too much when the day gets the best of you. It happens to all of us. Learn and grow from it, shake it off, and get back in there. Your students need you.

Partial lyrics are from Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses.

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