I dropped by a friend's house for lunch the other day on my way to work. Her youngest two kids are the same age as mine, and until recently she stayed at home with them, but has since gone to work part-time at Starbucks. On Mondays, though, she's home with her two youngest and willing to serve me a bowl of tomato soup in exchange for some conversation and an occasional offering of chocolates or cookies. So when I arrived this week, the kids were delighted to see me. Was I going to stay and play with them? Did I bring them anything yummy to eat? Unfortunately not - I could come in for lunch, but then I would have to go to work.
My friend's daughter looked at me sorrowfully. "It's sad when people have to go to work," she observed, "especially mothers." (You can see why returning to the work force nearly gave my friend a nervous breakdown. I've never seen so sincere and finely tuned a guilt trip, much less from a three-year-old.)
"Do you work at Starbucks?" her five-year-old son asked.
"No," I said. "I'm a teacher. I teach some big kids - the biggest kids of all."
This, in my experience, always comes as a bolt from the blue to the kindergarten set. My own children generally respond to this announcement with a moment of stunned silence, and then shake their heads laughing, "Nooooo." I'm not sure what they think I do when I go to work, but they flatly refuse to believe it involves teaching anybody anything. So when I told Ben that I was a teacher of big kids, I expected some opposition.
"You mean ... teenagers?" he squeaked. I shook my head.
"Not even. Bigger kids than teenagers."
He pondered that for a second. "You mean, you teach adults? But I thought adults knew everything already!"
He continued to chew over this amazing information as we sat down at the table for our lunch. "So," he asked, "do you teach the adults where everything comes from and how it works?"
Um, no. Actually I teach them to read books and poems, and then to write essays about them. It's a very important job, but I can't exactly explain why.
Ben's face brightened. "You teach them how to write books?"
Not really. Let's maybe not talk about my job anymore and just eat our lunch.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009