Today was my scheduled day to read picture books to our daughter’s first grade class, a fact I remembered minus one important detail, the time of the reading. After working in my home office for a few hours this morning, I checked to see what time I was supposed to be at the school, fairly certain I had an hour or so before I’d need to go. I sifted through my inbox until I found the right email and then — NO! The e-mail said I should be in the classroom ready to read at 10:15 a.m. It was, at that very moment, 10:02 a.m.
I had exactly 13 minutes to get dressed, brush my teeth, fix my hair, put on makeup, find picture books to read, drive the 7-minute route to school, sign in at the front desk and sprint down the hallway to my daughter’s classroom. Clearly, someone did not get good grades in time management.
I flew to my closet, threw on the first presentable shirt and jeans I could find, grabbed my makeup bag, a breath mint and a handful of picture books and careened out of the garage headed toward school. Even though I knew it would make me a few minutes late, I spent a couple minutes in the parking lot dabbing concealer on the dark circles and dusting powder on my face, followed by a quick smear of lipstick and a dash of mascara.
I knew, from a past experience reading to a group of elementary students, even little kids will notice if you don’t look quite right. When our oldest was in kindergarten and I read to his class, I skipped putting makeup on that day and one very observant 6-year-old boy — who had not yet developed that all-important social filter preventing us from saying exactly what we’re thinking — called me out for it. “Are you sick or something? Why is your face so white?”
So today I sidestepped that problem by putting on just enough makeup so it wouldn’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost had come to read to the class. My daughter’s face lit up when she saw me standing at the classroom door, and that made all the rushing around more than worth it.
The reading went well, mostly because I’ve learned what to do and what not to do while reading to kids age 7 and under. It sounds mean, but it’s best to pretend not to see the kid who raises his hand about halfway through the book.
Because if you stop reading and ask him if he has a question, he will start telling you how his Aunt Susan has a dog just like the dog in the book and she lives in San Antonio and they went there one time and she said her dog is really naughty because he ate some crayons one time and she was so worried about him and took him to the vet and the vet said dogs should never eat crayons but then he pooped out the crayons which he thinks was maybe a blue one and a green one and Aunt Susan’s dog was okay after that but the crayons weren’t okay.
That one sentence will take him at least 7 minutes to finish, and when he finally pauses for a breath, there’ll be a cascade of “eeeewwwww’s” from the girls and a bunch of “That’s awesome,” from the boys. Then at least four other kids will remember something gross that their own dogs did and they’ll be dying to tell you about it, which will begin an avalanche of distraction from which there is no recovery, unless a professional like the teacher steps in to rescue you.
So I pretended not to see the kid with the eager little arm in the air and went right on reading and turning pages, pointing to pictures and putting as much energy and fun as I could into the story until circle time was over, the kids lined up for lunch and I went back to a much easier day job.
Rockwood is a syndicated columnist. E-mail her at email@example.com.