Last school year, I had a pretty steady set of students who – for any number of reasons – stayed after school and hung out in my classroom. They played video games and/or watched movies while I plowed through the grading process. Often, we’d have Jack in the Box “Taco Parties” which would involve 20 minutes of waiting for tacos, 30 minutes of consuming tacos, and a night of regret and self-loathing. Those were the days. Some of those students graduated, some are still enrolled, but through a quarter-and-a-half, no one stays. During the first quarter, I stayed in my classroom late, plowing away with a movie on, but alone. It’s depressing. So eventually, I just started going home instead, grading during my prep periods, in the morning, and at times during those 40 minutes when I am required to stay past the final bell. I guess the lesson is that great stuff like Taco Parties just kind of happen.
Wouldn’t you know it? I’ve got a new After School Crew. Generally, I’ll head home and pick up Madison from A-Plus. Sometimes if it is extremely hot and/or I am parched, we will swing back around to the gas station for an Icee and a snack. Madison and I have a little hangout area on the side of the building. It’s shady and just the right size for two. Or one-and-a-half.
If I don’t have to cook because we’re going out or we’re eating leftovers, then we’ll put our things down, take bathroom breaks, get a quick snack, then head back outside. Our usual activities consist of playing baseball, blowing bubbles, drawing with chalk, taking Abby on walks, and snapping pictures. I usually let Madison make the call. Yesterday, she chose chalk. We’ve even got special “chalk time” glasses.
Abby is also a member of our team because whenever we try to leave her in the house and she can hear us outside, she does this pathetic little half-bark, half-yelp thing that roughly translates as “C’mon, you guys!” in a high-pitched voice. Once, Lynnette was home getting dinner ready so Madison and I left her upstairs with moms. When Lynnette came downstairs to get us, she told us that Abby had been “crying” the entire time at the top of the stairs. I certainly understand; I would hate to feel left out, too.
Abby loves getting outside so much that all you have to do is say the words “walk” or “outside” and her tail starts moving a 220 miles-per-hour. Lynnette and I started having to spell out W-A-L-K like we did for Madison back in the day, and sometimes, I think Abby’s already figured that out, too. If I move towards the cabinet where her leash is kept, she loses her mind. If I actually pick up the leash, she starts jumping up at me before hurling herself onto the couch and flipping over on her side while tilting her head back. It’s like she’s making it as easy as possible for me to put the leash on her. It’s hilarious because when we tell Abby to sit, she will – but never for long. It’s like she interprets “sit” to mean “tap the floor with butt.” But for the leash? She gives it up. She’ll lay there calmly (except for the tail) until the leash if attached.
In addition to our fun and games, the After School Crew does homework. Madison’s Tuesday assignment required her to create C-V-C (consonant-vowel-consonant) words using paper tiles featuring letters. Lynnette cut out the letters and then assigned me to go through the exercise with Mad. I asked Madison if she knew what vowels were. She said she did not. I wrote the list. I told her that C-V-C words were sandwiches with vowels in the middle. That seemed to help. She started by selecting a meat/vowel, then adding the bread/consonants. When one of the pieces fell on the floor, she said “There goes a bread.” Sweet.
She got through the first two on her own, creating the words “cat” and “dip.” “Uh, oh,” I said. “What?” Madison asked. “I see a C-V-C word you hate!” I answered. “Where?!” she asked. “I can’t tell you; you have to find it,” I said. Madison scanned the counter for a few moments. I love watching her eyes when she does stuff like this. And then she started laughing. She continued laughing even as she moved the pieces to form the word “nap.” I hate N-A-P!” she said, giggling. “Great job!” I said.
The final part of the assignment required her to draw the words she had created. She drew a cat’s face, a small thing of ketchup for “dip,” and a dog sleeping on a bed because she absolutely refused to draw herself taking a nap. The last word she made was “dad.” “That better be a handsome drawing,” I said. “It will be,” she said.
I watched as Madison drew the lines for spikes of hair. The face was round, but not rotund. A skinny neck protruded from the chin; arms protruded quickly from the neck. It was going swimmingly. Then Madison drew a torso in the shape of a pear. “No!” my ego shouted. She giggled as she drew the legs and feet. Lynnette looked over the page. “Yeah, that’s right,” she said.