Fire Ants

The most humbling experience one can undertake is to spend two hours in the elementary school during lunch.  This narrative is intended to poke respectful fun but also express sincere appreciation for a snapshot of the day in the lives of an education employee.  To set the tone, one must have playing in his or her head “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy."  With no regard to personal space or time, the “Fire Ants” (better known as Pre-K) enter into the lunch room.  You are tasked on the day that you decided to offer duty free lunch to all the elementary school teachers (What were you thinking?), to ensure that they, along with the other grades (K-4) receive a wholesome nutritional lunch and leave with some ownership of responsibility in respecting how to clean and care for the area they occupied (laughter).  But I digress, the Fire Ants have entered.  Task number one (Mistake #1), by late September, is to assume they know their lunch number.  That’s a big negative there space ranger.  However, this wonderful Angel (the lady at the lunch register) has already invested in each child’s life, and with love and compassion bails you out by knowing their number and impresses you by calling out their name.  OK (Whew) now all we have to do is take a styrofoam lunch tray with juice, milk, and food products to our table.  Surely we have mastered an awareness of our body, its relationship in space, and tactile kinesthetic skills to easily navigate this task (Why are there so many mops, dustpans, and brooms over in the corner?).  Well, we did this with 87% accuracy with the almost 40 students that are the Fire Ants (Whew!  Ok. Eat!  Wait, what?  Open what?).  Now comes the plethora of opening tasks.  No worries!  Raise your hand if you need help opening your (Here we go) juice, milk, ketchup, string cheese (Who in their right mind gives this to the Fire Ants-I can barely open that string cheese myself), plastic around the utensils, strawberries, and fudge popsicles.  What do you know, this is also performed with 87% accuracy!  You are not alone though.  Because you are thought provoking, you have other administrative leaders who assist with this task as well.  Slowly, with love, care, and listening to comments about puppies, who are you, and him said I was mean, you manage to get everything opened.  With a great sense of accomplishment, as you consider expletives, you open the last string cheese.  Then it happens, you look back behind you and realize (Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh my!) it is almost time to clean up and the Fire Ants have eaten strawberries and fudge popsicles.  The burritos are beautifully untouched on each plate (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is getting louder). We won't even go down the road to where the vegetables are, and there are several juice spills.  You rally the administrative troops, have a quick time of prayer, and begin to put up lunch trays in preparation for the next group (Bigger Fire Ants-Kindergarten).  The process is repeated with a bit of knowledge to maybe get at least one bite out of the burrito.  You also notice with the exchange of each grade as you pass them off to the superheroes that we know as their teachers that the teachers, with a coy smile, ask, “How did it go?”  Of course, you lie and say no problem easy peasy.  You know that they know the truth and are humbled that these superheroes are able to do this on a daily basis, and then it hits you.  Oh yeah, they are also teaching these youngsters to Read, Write, and do Arithmetic.  As the age of each grade that follows continues to improve in their abilities to open items, efficiently eat their meal without much prompting, and take great care in cleaning their area and respect the space of each other, you realize that it does truly take the village to raise the child.