In late October I was actually beginning to feel like I might just get the hang of things and started to feel good about my instruction. By Christmas time, I was getting downright cocky. My little charges showered me with wrapped gifts and lots of hugs on the day we got out for Christmas break. Once I got home, I unloaded the presents and arranged them under my Christmas tree. My husband was in awe of the number of lovingly wrapped gifts that were now nestled under our first Christmas tree as a married couple. He presented me with a little black dachshund that night that I named Heidi. We bought a baby gate to keep her in the kitchen area since she was only 8 weeks old and still hadn't learned to go outside to go to the bathroom.
The next day I joined some of my teacher friends for a full day of shopping and lunch. We were excited about our time off from school and animatedly chatted about our holiday plans as we flitted from one store to another.
When we got back to my house, we were still laughing and joking as I opened the door. I think all three of us stared in shock at my den. It literally looked like it had been hit by a tornado. My first thought was to call the police because I feared I had been robbed! Wrapping paper was strewn everywhere along with ribbon, candy, and other debris. Before I could finish dialing 911, one of my friends spotted Heidi lying on her back under the tree. She had chewed through the baby gate that kept her in the kitchen and ripped through every present under the tree. She had consumed bath oil, soap, peanut butter fudge, and cookies. Gnawed ornaments lovingly cross stitched lay in shambles beside her. One child's mother had knitted a scarf for me that was now unraveled from one end of the room to the other. My two colleagues and I looked at each other and fell to the ground laughing. We finally came to our senses when Heidi began to relieve herself of the contents of her stomach. What a mixture!
When we returned to school in January, things moved along nicely and before I knew it, it was conference time. In Kindergarten, we were required to have a conference in September and again in March. One Mother who had not made it to her son's first conference promised to come for the one in the spring. It probably helped that I had called her every day for a week until she finally returned my call and promised to come in the following afternoon.
I had a folder of her child's work ready to share with her and invited her to sit down at a table when she entered my classroom. Once we sat down and got started, I realized that she had a MacDonald's bag with her. As I began showing her work samples, she proceeded to remove a Big Mac from its carton. Not really sure what to say, I continued talking about her child's progress. At one point, she coughed and a piece of lettuce hit me square in the nose. I calmly wiped it away and continued talking. She finished her sandwich and appeared to be listening to me but never made any comment. So far so good I thought to myself as I continued pointing out informal testing results. When I looked up again, her head was nodding. I think it took her all of two minutes to fall asleep and start snoring while sitting up. I frantically looked around for my teammate and motioned for her to come over. Whispering together, we were at a dilemma as to what to do. I finally got brave enough to call her name loudly and she woke up. Once she got her bearings, she picked up the Mac-Donald's bag, thanked me, and got up and left. Later, my teammate pointed out that my hair was also adorned with a piece of lettuce and even a little special sauce. The rest of my conferences that spring were thankfully uneventful. I was just about to finish my first full year of teaching under contract.
I almost made it to the end of the year without any other memorable event. One afternoon, I was busily getting a math activity ready while my teacher assistant took the children out for recess. After about ten minutes, I noticed her banging loudly on the window of our classroom trying to get my attention. She frantically motioned for me to come outside to the Kindergarten playground area located right outside of our building. I couldn't believe what I saw. We had one of those old swing sets that you used to be able to find in every back yard. The shortest and I might add most aggressive child in our class had planted himself on top of the swing set. Not only had he managed to balance, but he was also relieving himself all over the little girls playing in the sand below or swinging. They were screaming and he was laughing hysterically. As I approached him, he started to aim at me. I calmly told him not to even think about it. He spent the rest of the day in the Principal's office while I called my urine soaked charges' parents. I had a splitting headache that afternoon as I dragged myself home.