The Afternoon Break Incident
A report of the incident which happened at 1:35 on Thursday:
Mr. Richards, Kindergarten T.A.
I will start by saying that the hour and a half after lunch was brutal. My co worker, our head teacher fought a valiant fight. Two parent phone calls were made. Three cryers were sent out to “wipe their faces and come back when they were ready”. In the brash heat of the day she gave them all a spelling test and read through two decodable books; she had battled the beast of 31 but now they all roared and it was time for Afternoon Break.
We lined the kids up and, of course, they talked and jumped around in small circles and kept whispering while bumping into each other and still talking talking talking. All this created a chaos that needed to go outside. Two children, a boy and girl, got hurt on the way to the door to line up. They were trampled by their ecstatic classmates. This commonly happens and this is a chaos that needed to go outside. And so me, and the 31 kindergarteners poured outside, through the lunch room where of course, someone had to test their legs by jumping off of one of the lunch tables and up into the air. Three copy cats tried to follow until I started the countdown, Five! I shouted. They formed a somewhat more agreeable line but they were still talking. Talking. When we got to the end of the lunchroom they all stopped as they were supposed to but then four of them found themselves in a heated debate.
It sounded something like this:
I WAS FIRST!
NOO! I WAS!
NOO! I WAS!
NOO! I WAS!
NOO! I WAS!-
This could literally go on for days if I let it.
IM FIRST! I yell. I stepped out in front and that seemed to make sense to them so they followed me, though they all pushed to the front like unstable soda in a bottle.
When I finally give the word, they run out and it’s like seeing fish set free into a cool open stream, where they can swim not just left and right but up and down, and deep down. They run and scream and they’re finally able to put all their power to the fullest so they explode as they run out into the yard in wide circles and propel up onto the playground with gracefully awkward strength like it was Mount Everest. I have to admit it is a beautiful thing.
And it lasts for about four seconds.
MR RICHARDS! MR RICHARDS!!! MR RICHARDS!! (In a whining tone)
Wood chips, which cover the bottom of the playground, begin flying violently in several directions. Someone had fallen and was crying. I thought there might have been blood, but that doesn’t stop two kids from jumping over him to tag each other. Immediately another cry came from over in the corner of the asphalt yard. Somebody tagged too hard and sent someone shooting forward onto the ground. It’s like I work with a bunch of little Bam-Bams who don’t know their own strength. Another cry back over at the edge of the playground where the wood chips meet the asphault: Someone wouldn’t let someone else play jumprope. This led to fighting over the jumprope which led to nobody in the line being able to play which led to six girls chasing each other around violently for the jumprope. All I could do was watch them run away and pray that they survived because that one child who got hurt on the playground earlier was now in my immediate presence, and they were bleeding. Two of his friends took it upon themselves to tell me what happened in great detail and with great volume, at the same time. And of course, it would only be fitting that as that was going on, the one who had been tagged too hard came into my presence as well, crying louder, bleeding more, and he had too friends too.
Do you kids know who Bam-Bam is?? I asked with great seriousness.
They all stopped crying to answer: No.
They looked at me as if I were the strangest man on Earth. Then they started again.
The next onslaught of voices came too quickly and violently for accurate record but it was something like this. Someone wanted to use me as base for tag. Another was still mad at me for calling their mother in the morning and moving their behavior clip down a peg and showed that rather effectively by glaring at me like a prison inmate and standing directly in front of me so I wouldn’t forget. Three of them climbed the forbidden tree. I inspected the first one that fell’s wounds and sent him with an entourage to the office. The second started playing again before I could get to Him; I assumed this meant he was alright but I began to hear talk that he was starting to pull someone’s hair. These rumors went unconfirmed. Another disturbing trend was the mob (for lack of a better word, I use that one. Please accept my apologies) to form. Apparently they were playing some untitled game that required many children to run as one violent stalking group, first in circles, then around the playground and sometimes up onto the playground. They moved with one mind, again, as a school of fish accept this time it wasn’t beautiful.
It was at this point that, one, I began to hate the sound of my own name and two, I began to feel like a character in Lord of the Flies.
This day seemed harder than most usual days and yet, nothing was unfamiliar. It was at this point that I prepared to call out KINDERGARTEN!! HAAAAVE A SEAT!!, which meant that they would sit on the edges of the playground while we had a discussion about the importance of being calm, thinking about things before we do them and remembering that there is a line between fantasy and reality that dare not be crossed. I planned to even explain who Bam Bam was. I prepared to make this call, but didn’t get too because that was when the incident of which I am writing occurred.
As I started to shout KINDE- !, there appeared, I assume from the sky, a crow, roughly about the size of a German Shepherd. I make no exaggerations about the size. If the bird were in any way normal, I assure you I wouldn’t be writing this report.
I should begin by stating that the children, especially the girls…..No, wait all them, the boys too, all of them scream and run whenever they see a crow. They’ll chase 12 pigeons out of the lunchroom but they scream almost instinctually when they see a crow on the roof. So, it goes without saying, though in this case I will say it, that the sight of the 70 pound crow sent our kindergarten class into a new kind of hysterics, the likes of which I have never seen and never indeed hope to see again. The bird at first let out one call, a CAW that was piercing and ugly. It seemed like he was trying to alert us that the beginning of a strange situation was indeed happening. It is my guess that he was just as shocked at us as we were of him.
Now, the direction of the class was split almost evenly: half of them leaving the playground and running away toward the yard (for the bird had landed about 10 feet to the left of the playground) and the other half (or most of the other half as we will soon see) ran to me, to tell me; they ran to tell me that a big bird had landed on the playground. They screamed it, as I stood wondering what phenomena had brought this upon us today and trying to remember if a situation like this was dealt with in the Staff handbook. I think it is an interesting fact about these little people; that they will take it upon themselves to inform you of anything. If a palm tree sprouted legs and began to walk up Western Avenue, even as you stood and watched it walk away, they would loudly make known to you what was going on. Well this group that had decided to tell me that a giant bird was on the playground, a few of them also decided to grab my clothes as they told me, which made it even more difficult to think; still I tried.
At the beginning, the bird stayed relatively in one area, its motions sporadic but not immediately aggressive toward anyone. It seemed to be wondering what was wrong with us and why we happened to be surrounding him today. My first play was simple and I think according to the school handbook: I would call the children to me and we would line up and go inside the school to avoid the giant bird. This didn’t work for several reasons. Earlier, I mentioned a group that was neither in the percentage that ran away nor in the percentage that ran to me, they were a small minority. This small band, mostly boys and one girl, took it upon themselves to try and assert dominance against the bird and ‘shoo’ it away, if you will. They had decided to become a rogue group that would fight the bird without any permission (this is one of the reasons I like having talks about the line between fantasy and reality).
It is this group who caused, no, no they Forced me to have to take up courage and move toward the bird. My words were something like this:
HEY!! COME HERE’! COME! HEREE!! WHY WOULD YOU RUN AT A BIRD LIKE THAT!?
HEY!! PUT THAT DOWN! PUT IT DOWN! GO OVE-!!
HEY!!! COME HERE!! GO OVER WITH THE OTHER KIDS!! GO!!
There is a strong heated anger I feel when children attempt to help without helping and it was in this anger and concern that I found myself closer to the beast. Though he was not taller than me (though two feet is large for a bird), I could feel the fact that he had a large size and that it was unnatural, maybe even to him. The most important fact to note was that now, the bird seemed genuinely agitated. And yes, of course, that one child who you often hear about in your office (Yes that one), I had to literally grab him before he got to the beast’s beak. Grab him. He was convinced that his kung fu was enough to defeat the bird and who knows, maybe it was, but it seemed right to pick him up and run him over to the lunch tables where, Ill be honest, only about seven children had followed me.
I should note two things: One, that the bird had pecked me at least once on my arm and that it was slightly bleeding and two, that instance I have just described may have been one of the scariest moments of my life.
I was at this point mad as well as confused. I was mad because, because they weren’t listening. They wouldn’t listen to my words. I understand that there was panic and fear with most of them but, let’s be honest some of them were doing cart wheels and laughing during the whole ordeal (also, some of them had taken to climbing back up the playground to get a better view of the bird). It was so frustrating. Then I had this thought: Is this what Jesus feels like, when people won’t listen to Him? When He tries to warn us of dangers of sin and we won’t listen, is this what it’s like for Him? You know of my faith and , believe it or not, this is what was running through my head whilst 33 of our Kindergarten students ran in all different directions panicking laughing, screaming, fighting and Talking all because a 70 pound crow landed on our yard.
Oh yes, and don’t forget our two little friends, the sisters who aren’t really sisters, who ran into the office and alerted the office manager therefore letting the rest of the world in on our situation. It is because of them that help was able to come but, I’ll be honest, I wanted to make the bird fly away. All of the elements added up in my head: It was hot, the kids were noisy, the kids wouldn’t listen, some were hungry, some were crying and some were still trying to fight the thing. And all this during our afternoon break. I thought if I could make the bird fly away then maybe, eventually, we could move on with life. This seemed like the right thing to do. So I ran at it. There are certain moments as a teacher’s aide where you feel great power: When you raise your voice at someone who has clearly done wrong, when you lift a box that none of your children can lift and they look at you like you’re John Henry and moments like this, when you’re staring down an abnormally Giant Bird. I ran at the beast and in all honesty I felt it was my duty to. Also, I was mad, and if someone had to pay I assumed it should be this seventy pound crow.
I tried with swift kicks to send it off. It spread its wings, it cawed loudly.
The children screamed :
GO MR. RICHARDS! GO MR RICHARDS! Like it was ancient Rome.
Another kick but the beast stood its ground, this time it struck at me with its beak, hopped forward then back, flapping its feathers violently.
GO MR RICHARDS! GO MR. RICHARDS! Something didn’t feel right.
One last kick from me, which was with force and I admit a good kick, but the bird remained on the ground. He wasn’t budging. Then behind me I felt our friend, waiting for me to tag him in so he could finish him off. I realized that I was wrong. I was foolish. I made the mistake of thinking, like many of the boys do, that I was Mario. I’m not Mario. I need to remember the line between fantasy and reality too. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly a thought within me: Something like:
‘Gather the Kids and Leave.’
Sorry God, You’re right. Help me please.
I scooped our friend up and ran back to the tables and even farther back to the corner of the playground. Those same seven followed me. I said:
All of you, Sit! Especially you (our friend) Sit!
They sat. Now for the rest of them. I stood up.
KINDERGARTEN!! OVER HERE LIIINEE UPP!!! IM COUNTING TO FIVE!
Some start to come. FIVE!
Others now realize and start to come. There are still stragglers. FOUR!
Now the ones on the playground realize that they only have limited time. THREE!
The walkers start to run over. I have an almost decent Kindergarten line. TWO!
They are all mostly there except for our constant stragglers, but they are away from the bird, instead they are trying to play basketball for some reason. ANDDDD ONE!!
I didn’t lose a one. God didn’t lose a one. Thank You Lord. They were still jumping around in small circles and kept whispering while bumping into each other and they still kept talking talking talking, but we didn’t lose a one.
Loook Mr Richards! The Biirrd!
And that was when our friend the crow spread its wings and faced away from us. At this time was when the maintenance man and the sisters who aren’t really sisters came outside. We all watched as the beast then looked up and flapped himself up and away. And then he was gone.
Alright Kindergarten, time to go inside! I said.
What?? Whyyyyy?? They all asked this. They all asked why we were going in.
Because a giant crow just terrorized us and it’s time to regroup.
What?? They all asked.
Because its time to go in and pack up our behavior charts. You still have reading to do.
They moaned sighs of discontent and then almost every hand went up into the air.
CAN I USE THE BATHROOM?? They all asked this and continued asking this as we went inside but I doubt you want to have that on your report.
So that is, with perhaps more elaboration than you wanted, what essentially happened. If there are any questions, feel free to call me on my cell phone, I will be taking a personal day tomorrow.
Added note: I felt bad afterwards for kicking the bird. I’m not sure why or if I should have but I felt I should just write that. If you want this edited, let me know.