Entry #20 (2013)

“Bring us into your world. What is something about your work (past or present) that outsiders typically don’t understand? It can be something required by the job, something that happens on the job, something you feel about the job—but whatever it is, do not exceed 800 words.

“I cannot WAIT to drop off this little monster so I can have four hours all to myself! “

“I know, right? Boy, I feel sorry for these preschool teachers, cooped up all morning with them. Ella, hold STILL! Honestly…”
I welcomed Ella into class with a smile and a hug. She smelled of baby shampoo, chocolate, and children’s Tylenol. I wished her mom a good morning, and turned around just in time to see Tyler throw a block at Aiden. Hard. Monday was upon us, and it was time to start the day.
We sat in our circle on the brightly colored rug that would never come completely clean, me and ten extremely wiggly little people who all happened to be three years old, and talked about Learning To Cut With Scissors. When you are three, scissors are the ultimate forbidden fruit: you might cut yourself, your hair, your clothes, your mom’s new couch, your brother’s hair, your friend’s hair, your shoes, (do you have ANY idea how much these cost!,) your friend’s clothes, the dog’s hair, the cat’s… no, probably not the cat. Parents viewed my introduction to scissors with an amusing combination of relief and disbelief that I could be so cavalier and reckless (and thanked God they didn’t have to do it themselves).
So there I was, ready to gently direct an abundance of free-cutting mayhem with three pairs of small blunt-nosed Fiskars and papers of various colors and designs. I had cars traveling on roads with dotted lines to cut, I had traced half a heart on paper so I could show how to fold paper in half and magically produce a whole, raggedly beautiful heart that Of Course Your Mommy Will LOVE! There were circles, triangles, and even scraps to cut into confetti. Pure treasure for your average preschooler who had never gotten permission to destroy something before!
I looked up, beaming, right into the blackest scowl Ella could offer. Ella was a beautiful child, with an usual combination of blond hair and brown eyes. Normally sunny in disposition and the youngest of three, her world had been rocked by the unexpected, (and to Ella, unwelcome) news that there would be a new sister in the house soon, and that Ella would no longer be the baby. I don’t know if she really comprehended what this meant exactly, but one thing was certain, and it was that she Did Not Approve. At All.
All her frustrations at home seemed to come out at school. Once happy-go-lucky, Ella now wept at the slightest affront. Once an enthusiastic eater, now she picked at her lunch and whined that she didn’t like anything, no matter what her hugely pregnant mother packed to try to tempt her.  Lately, she Did Not Like the Scissors.
Ella could not cut along the lines, and it infuriated her tremendously. She met my assurances that she only needed practice with an expression of disbelief usually found on the face of a teenager who has unjustly been asked to clean his room on a sunny day. No matter how I tried to help, I was met with a stony, “I CAN’T do it! I WON’T do it!” Such fury was contained in her small body, arms folded, and glowering angrily.
I was ready, today, however. I had decided to try something new, and I hoped it would work. Seeing that no one else had come over to Cutting With Scissors yet, I decided to just let Ella talk, and if she wanted to pick up the scissors at the same time, that was fine with me. Ella told me about the new baby furniture going into her room that she would be sharing, and how she would have to be quiet when the baby came, she told me that her mom was tired all the time and didn’t want to go to the park much, and other things of that nature. As she talked, she began to play with the scissors, and then to cut out one of the pictures on the table, seemingly unaware.
I held my breath as I watched, and suddenly, a look of pure astonishment flooded across her features. “I DID IT!” Ella shrieked loudly, badly startling Tyler, who began to cry. “I CAN DO IT! WATCH ME!” The look of joy on her face… words fail me.
Ella cut paper all morning, ate all her lunch, and ran happily to the arms of her mother with a big envelope of every piece of paper her scissors had touched. She ran back to give me a slightly sticky hug, and went out the door happily chattering to her stunned mother about how she had Learned To Cut With Scissors.
Best four hours of my day, hands down.

Back to the other finalists.
  1. I love this! Who really knows the minds of three year olds? I can only imagine from the teacher’s perspective. What a gift you gave Ella in that alone time and the “talking” – and so lovely that you walked away with the gift of a positive moment as well.

  2. This is the first entry that brought tears to the edges of my eyes. Working with kids is akin to raising them part-time: day care/nursery school teachers help children through growth phases, spelling parents so we can work or have a moment to ourselves. Our writer, here, shares a breakthrough that changes everything for one girl. We all can tie our shoes, but was it Mom or a care provider like this that showed us? Very nice work.

  3. […] also to the other finalists: Dan Madden, Julie Hall, Tasha Huebner, Tisha Deutsch, Rene Saenger, Jenny Hough, and Delcie Pound. I enjoyed all of your entries, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge the […]

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