Boy, Am I Glad I Can Laugh At Myself…

Well, I started my new job this week. I worked Tuesday and Wednesday at a daycare centre. I am a “supply teacher” for the summer, which means that I get moved from room to room depending on where I’m needed on any given day. So far, I am absolutely loving the job! I’m feeling a tad incompetent, but that’s normal for the first days at a new job – I’m already getting more comfortable with the routines and everything.

However, I’m sure everyone else there must be laughing at me as soon as I leave the room! And why not? I came home both Tuesday and Wednesday and laughed for over an hour telling my family about this incredibly steep learning curve I am only just starting out on…

To clarify, I am definitely qualified to do this. I’ve taken care of young children before at home and at church, I took Developmental Psych and other courses in early childhood development, and I am qualified to teach as young as JK. However, it has been a very, very, (very, very, very) long time since I’ve had any prolonged and substantial interaction (and been in charge of) children aged 1-4. HA! 😛

Here are a few of my highlights so far:

The first day, I got placed into the “baby” room with one year olds. Thirteen one year olds and four adults. Amongst the many things that made me laugh that day was definitely the diaper changing time…

We’d just finished with lunch, when one of the leaders comes up to me and says, “We all take turns changing diapers here, so it’s your turn.” She points out the child I’m to do first, and then goes off to tend to someone else.

Oh my.

Now, I’m not squeamish (overly) about the diaper changing thing. However, there are two things making this an awkward situation for me. Firstly, I’m a teacher and have just spent the last four years of my life learning how to interact with children without so much as accidentally brushing their shoulder lest they misinterpret and lodge an accusation of inappropriate behaviour, and now I’m supposed to change a diaper??? And secondly, perhaps far more importantly, I honestly think the last diaper I changed was Marilyn’s. So that would make me, what, eleven? twelve? It’s been at least 10 years since I’ve done this…

And that is how I came to find myself staring into the eyes of a patient one year old, laughing at how ridiculously incompetent I felt at that moment and wondering what on earth the little guy was thinking… I mean, he knows the routine, and I’m just standing here looking quite like I’m expecting the diaper to change itself…

Needless to say, I figured it out. Once I got flustered and couldn’t figure out the back of the diaper from the front, but a semi-gentle reminder that the part with the tape goes at the back (of course!) had both me and the diaper back in the right direction.

We had to record the time at which we changed each baby’s diaper. I’m sure for all the other leaders, this was quite an easy task. If you changed the baby at 12:15, then you changed the baby at 12:15. For me, it was not quite so easy…

I picked the baby up at 12:15.

I managed to have him lying down on the change table by 12:16.

I had the new diaper on hand along with a couple of wipes and the plastic gloves by 12:17.

At 12:18, I finally got those gloves on my hands and was in the process of trying to pull the pants down and shirt with the snaps up. Honestly, half the difficulty changing diapers is GETTING to the diaper!!!

At 12:19, I finally open the diaper. At this point, we are supposed to take note and record exactly what happened between the last diaper change and this one. Oh boy. Clearly a BM is a BM. That was easy. It was determining “wet” or “dry” that I found kind of confusing. The yellow ones were obviously wet, but some of the ones that weren’t yellow still seemed… soggy… But maybe that was just my imagination? But how was it possible to drink all that milk and not have a wet diaper?

At this point, I was seriously considering asking another adult to come over and help me ID the status of the diaper, but a quick glance around revealed that no one else was handy – which was sort of a relief, because that would’ve been humiliating… I ended up figuring it must have been wet…

So, it’s now 12:21, and I’ve finally opened and diagnosed the diaper, so I wipe and wrap everything up.

At 12:22, I manage to get the new diaper under the baby and fastened up. Not as easy as it sounds! Under the baby I can handle, but this fastening thing… boy, talk about pressure! It needs to be tight enough to stay on, but not so tight that the baby is uncomfortable. Add to that the fact that if the diaper is too loose, you can, um… “pay dearly” for that later… I remembered something about “one finger space” between the baby and the diaper, but couldn’t remember where you were supposed to “test” that… After the first diaper change, I decided the best approach was to look at the diaper the baby was already wearing to see how tightly it was done up, and then put the next one on the same way.

12:23 – re-dressing the child. My goodness, some of those kids get really wiggly… Aren’t they used to 8 minute diaper changes???

12:24 – “Wash the baby’s hands.” Those are the instructions. How in the name of all goodness are you supposed to wash the baby’s hands??? Let’s all keep in mind that I have decently bad tendonitis in my arms and so have difficulty carrying a baby for more than, um, about a minute… So, I get the baby up on my left hip and stand in front of the sink. There is no way I’ll be able to lean the baby over to wash its hands under the sink (is that what you’re supposed to do? I don’t even know…) because my grip is already weakening, so I hold him upright, and put soap on my hands and then rub it on baby’s. Then I put water on my own hands and rub that on baby’s. This gets harder to do as baby begins to slip of my hip and slide down my leg (oh that my arm would be just a little bit stronger!!!). Finally, I dry baby’s hands with paper towel and put him back down on the floor.

12:25 – SUCCESS!!!

As I am in the midst of celebrating, one of the teachers walks up to me and says, “So, how many babies do you have left? Four or five?”

“Ummm… no… more like… twelve,” I replied.

So, now you know why “time of diaper change” was such a troublesome question for me… 😛

Moving right along to my actual highlight of the work experience so far…

Yesterday, I went to a class of three year olds – just me and one other teacher. The teacher had to set the room up for the next activity, so she told the 14 three year olds to sit in a circle on the carpet and then told me to “do something with them”.

Bless her heart.

I have never been so thrown off my stride before in my life! 😛

I sat down in the circle and looked at them.

And they looked at me.

And I looked at them.

They started to chat with each other.

And I looked at them.

Finally, I decided that since I didn’t know their names, it should be easy enough and age appropriate to go around the circle and have everyone say their name and their favourite animal. I worried a bit about their attention span lasting that long, but hey, it was the only thing I could think of, and it might work…

I turn to the girl on my left, and say, “Let’s start with you!”

And she smiles at me.

And I say, “Why don’t you go first?!”

And she smiles at me.

So, I figure she needs a reminder: “Can you tell me your name and your favourite animal?”

“Alligator.”

Big smiles.

On both our faces now.

She’s smiling thinking, “I LOVE alligators!!!!”

I’m smiling thinking, “Dear God, what have I gotten myself into??!! And more importantly, WHAT DO I SAY NEXT???”

What I ended up saying was what I ended up saying to almost every student there: “Woah, alligators/lions/giraffes/etc – cool! And can you tell me your name? – Great, thanks!”

[I am now tempted to quote Miss Farnaby from Mulberry: “One does not like or dislike giraffes. Giraffes are simply there.” But it’s much funnier to watch it in context…]

About half way around the circle, when all of the children were talking and I couldn’t make out either the animal or the name, I would have just shifted gears, but the two children on my right really wanted to share their animal, and it would have been quite an issue if not everyone got their chance.

After finally finishing that circle, I found myself in the same place as before. Fourteen chatty three year olds, and me – twenty years older, yet completely clueless. And the room was not yet ready for the next activity…

At this point, it pops into my head that these kids will know some SONGS! Surely we can sing together. Only after I voice this suggestion and the kids cheer their approval do I realize that the vast majority of my repertoire of songs-appropriate-for-three-year-olds is church related material (the B.I.B.L.E., Jesus Loves Me, Father Abraham, Building Up The Temple, etc), and is consequently of no use to me for this occasion.

So, I do the only thing I can think of on the spot: “Does anyone have a favourite song?”

They picked “Baa, baa black sheep”.

Impulsively, I’m glad they chose one I know, and I launch right into it, with fourteen tiny voices joining me…

“Baa, baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full”

At this point I start to panic…

“One for my… ”

And then I giggle…

“One for my…”

I’m listening desperately, trying to catch the words…

“One for the ***mumble, mumble, just-keep-moving-your-mouth-and-smiling*** LANE”

And then I finished the song with great gusto.

My goodness.

I never expected to forget the words to a song that every three year old in the country knows!!!

*sigh* I am really enjoying this job so far, but it is definitely quite the learning experience!!! I am very glad that I come home laughing, even if it is at myself!

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