Kindergarten Reflections: The Bailey Year, All Cracked Up

(Originally posted March 31, 2011)

Every now and then the sun dawns on a day that will be etched in ones brain until the end of time.  Usually those brain-etched days are reserved for a wedding, the birth of a child, a long-awaited homecoming.  Even among Kindergarten teachers, I dare say that you wouldn’t find a whole lot of brain-etching memories surrounding a room full of 5 year olds and a cooking lesson.  Not so in my collection of Kindergarten memories.  One of the days forever seared into my cerebrum, holding top honors on the list of ‘Days I will never forget if I live to be 1000,” just so happened to be on Green Day,  a mere five days into the illustrious Kindergarten school year of Miss Bailey Elizabeth Norsstrum.
As a fun school year opening theme, the Kindergarten classes would focus daily instruction and activities around a color.  Each day, children would wear the designated color as well as bring a show-and-tell to match the color of the day. On Red day, we would read about Clifford the Big Red Dog and craft festive, floppy dog ears to wear home at the end of the school day.  Blue day activities would center around the children’s literary classic, Blueberries for Sal, followed by making blueberry muffins from scratch.  Not every color day would have a big cooking activity like the muffins. That honor, bestowed on the color Green, would usually fall on Friday.  
The end of the first week of school, Green Day was celebrated by reading Dr. Seuss‘  beloved childhood text, Green Eggs and Ham.  A chorus of young, shrill voices would happily chime in unison by stories end, “I DO NOT LIKE THEM SAM I AM!!”  Well, it doesn’t take a whole lot of guessing to figure out the BIG cooking activity culminating our collective wearing of the green.  
At Denton Creek Elementary in Coppell, Texas, Room A-108 was my “home away from home” for several years.  A-108 really did seem like home in many ways…it came with its very own restroom (sometimes a bit TOO close by, but thats another blog entry…), separate carpeted and tiled areas for varying activities, a wall of useful cupboards and a large storage closet (with a mirror thoughtfully mounted inside the door for the teacher to check his appearance prior to Meet the Teacher night and Open House!), and the feather in our Coppell Kindergarten cap–the Kitchen!   Four burner cooktop, full size wall oven, double sink, and Sub-Zero refrigerator made us the envy of our non-Coppellian early childhood teachers. The kitchen opened up a world of teaching options and I did my best to make the most of it!  Making Green Eggs and Ham was just as easy as snapping our tiny 5 year old fingers…(and 4 year old fingers…)  At least it was SUPPOSED to be that easy!  
Sun rising on that Friday morning seemed no different than most.  Of course at the end of the first school week, Kindergarten teachers far and wide could be found dragging their heels, pouring a third cup of coffee, and counting the hours until that most anticipated weekend would begin.  In my case that morning, I gathered a few extra kitchen items from home for the days big cooking event.  Every year, I would have to remind myself WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING when it seemed like a good idea to make GREEN EGGS AND HAM on this of all days–Friday of the first week?? But hey…it’s always turned out to be a quick, easy prep, fast clean-up and most enjoyed activity for the children.  No need to worry…this year would be like all the others.  Right?  
Wrong.  Brain, get ready to be etched, for Green Day with Bailey was about to begin!  Overall the day was mostly uneventful.  Usually by the time the fifth full day of school rolls around in Kindergarten, it is noted by tired children, a few telltale tears of tiredness (most from the children), and a teacher whose sails aren’t quite as full of wind and energy as they were on day number one!  On this particular day, no major event had transpired that would warrant an email to the teacher’s “real” home with orders to add a second bottle of wine to the fridge.  At least not yet…
In my classroom, for activities such as preparing Green Eggs and Ham, it is most important that each child have an active part in the preparation, whether stirring, pouring, monitoring cook time, etc.  With eggs on the menu–and they were not to be boiled–cracking 22 eggs was first on the recipe card.  Having been around the Kindergarten block for a few years, management of this type activity was fairly effortless.  Around a large flower shaped table, all my little kiddos peered over taller shoulders and leaned in close to have optimum viewing  and vie for a turn early in the process.  As I gave the instructions for how this egg cracking scenario would play out in our quest for Green Eggs and Ham, Bailey kept squeezing her way in and out between her classmates knowing that her rightful place was first in line to crack…an egg.  
“Bailey, please move back in your place next to Morgan.  That is where you were standing and that is where you need to be.” 
In my instructions to the class I demonstrated how each of them would carefully take the egg from the carton, and OH so gently tap, tap, tap the egg on the table and once the audible <CRACK> , Mr. Creel would quickly take the egg and finish breaking the egg out of the shell into a large mixing bowl.  Then, the great egg cracking commenced!  The silence was truly palpable as each child tapped an egg on the table, and then a collective sigh of achievement as the desired sound rang flat on the hard tabletop.  
“Bailey, cutting in front of your friends will NOT get your turn any sooner.  MOVE back to your place beside Morgan.  Look at the other children–what do you see? (Standing around table, not moving from place to place, and several quite annoyed looks from kids tired of Bailey squeezing inside personal space which was not her own.) “People,” Bailey responded.  I matter-of-factly stated, “Would you please try to stand like those people–still–next to Morgan? The next time I have to speak to you about moving ahead in line, you will find your place at the very end of the line.  Do you understand what I am saying?”  Bailey sheepishly nods her head and gives a small pout.  
*Words of note:  This is the time when most other children would cut their losses and accept the situation as is.  Not Bailey Elizabeth Norsstrum.  The human obstacles surrounding her were certainly not becoming the pawns on the chessboard of her universe as anticipated, nor was she where she aspired in the egg cracking line-up.  Bailey Elizabeth was not to be outdone!  So she squeezed, and pushed again.  Guess where that got her?   
Moving Bailey to the last spot in the line did not result in total meltdown, which I was fully expecting and began grinding the enamel from my teeth in preparation.  A pouting lip worthy of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float, crossed arms, marching feet and a huffy “Harrrrummph!”  were the dramatic effects chosen.  I think Bailey was beginning to see how life in A-108 was to play out:  when a line was drawn and she crossed it, consequences set out beforehand would follow in quick succession. Each and every time.  No kidding.  I think Bailey was beginning to see that if she lit into Tactic #6 at full tilt just now, cracking an egg for her would be but a wishful thought and nothing more.  She was absolutely correct.  
The egg cracking resumed and our large bowl began to look rather amusing with so many little yellow orbs swimming around!  Yes, there were a few orbs not completely contained as nature had intended due to a few overzealous table taps.  Yes, a few bits of shell had to be scooped out.  The biggest success was that of happy children enjoying learning, sharing and taking turns.  That made it all worthwhile! 
As Bailey slowly moved around the table, marking the last of the children to add an egg to the bowl, I began to notice the parade float lower lip had deflated somewhat, arms were fidgeting, and thankfully uncrossed, marching feet had resumed standard bouncing.  Bailey was smiling ear to ear by the time she had reached the coveted space of “NEXT IN LINE!”  The thought crossed my mind that at LEAST Bailey had the benefit of watching 21 students before her tap an egg so she was quite clear on what to do.  **Here is the place where I insert the only phrase appropriate… FAMOUS LAST WORDS. 
What happens next was so sure and swift that it can only be described as the proverbial train wreck we are helpless to stop and must watch the ensuing carnage erupt before our very eyes. 
The closer Bailey creeped toward her egg cracking turn, the wider the smile became on her face.  Why, by the time the child before her stepped away, leaving only our resident four year old with a smile as wide as a Cheshire cat, even I was smiling broadly, wistfully thinking to myself, “You know, after a few more weeks of adjusting, Bailey is going to be just…”
…and then it happened……
Literally, in the blink of an eye, before I could get the word “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!” out of my mouth, in one fell swoop Bailey took an egg from the carton, lifted it as high as her arm could reach, and WHAM!!!!!!!!  Bailey brought the egg down to the tables hard, unforgiving surface with the force of that proverbial train wreck.  No gentle tap, tap, tap… Nope, Mr. Creel would not be needed in effort to “finish” cracking Bailey’s egg.  Egg covered the front of my shirt, my pants, my right cheek.  Children in splatter range were spared no mercy from the pulverized egg.  Even the classroom wall behind me took the fall for more projectile egg innards.  I sat there with my mouth hanging open in utter disbelief at what had just happened.  BUT WAIT…THAT’S NOT ALL!!!!  Then, standing in front of me with a crumpled egg shell shedding the final drips of its former interior, Bailey bats her tiny four-almost-five year old eyelashes, (I swear I could see her trying to hold back that Cheshire feline smile!!), and says in a sheepish, though very audible voice, “My Mom and Dad don’t let me crack eggs at home….”
Really.  No kidding?  Well, let’s add your Kindergarten teacher to that list, shall we?!?
Four years old.  Green Day.  One egg.  Sam I am.  Brain freshly and forever etched.   
I wonder if applications are being accepted for greeters at Wal-Mart?      

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