Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Footloose with First Graders

“Who’s excited about spring break?”

“Mmmmeeeeee!” A chorus of first grade voices rang out in unison.

“What are you excited about doing?”

“I want to ride my new bike,” one enthusiastically chimed in as he took a sloppy bite of his barbecued chicken leg.

“I’m gonna watch so much tv,” another one added with a giggle.

“I’m going to the park,” floated from another after a big gulp of chocolate milk.

The first grade classroom at my school is one of my favorites. The teacher has amazing classroom management and runs a tight ship. She demands respect, and her students uphold the norms of behavior simply because she expects them to do so. I never have to worry about her class being chaotic or her lessons being haphazardly thrown together. Her student achievement data is getting better year after year. Most importantly, though, these kids are six years old, and this is just a fun age to be around.

“Are you going to eat lunch with them today?” The teacher joked as we chatted briefly in the hallway.

“You know what? I think I will actually.” I hadn’t planned on it. In fact, I had way too much work to do for that to be a part of the plan.

It had been a long time since I ate with a class, though. I’d been running around like a crazed chicken. I’d been doing teacher observations, supporting with student discipline, covering classes when we don’t get subs, sitting in meetings, and all the other things principals have to do just to stay afloat. But actually sitting down and having a meal with the kids? It had been months.

I listened to stories about siblings, helped with opening packets of salad dressing, and laughed about how the “kindergartners always waste their milk” (oh, how soon we forget) and decided it was time for me to head back to the real work.

“You’re not going to do recess with us?” There was genuine sadness on their faces (or maybe I just imagined that because recess sounded more fun than the memo I needed to type in my office).

“Of course, I’m going to recess with you!”

I learned that there was a talent show happening at recess because it was raining outside. But one of the perks of being the principal is that you get to override those decisions. Talent shows are very controlled events, and only one or two students get to display their talent at a time while everyone else waits patiently as audience members for a turn if it even happens.

“But I want to dance,” I whined to the recess team. I was embodying my first grade self as I looked up sheepishly.

“Oh, you want to dance in the talent show?” They laughed. (Why don’t more people appreciate my dancing prowess?)

“No, I just want to dance, and I want to dance to old people music like Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” They laughed harder.

I convinced the kids to behave and transition quietly to the auditorium. Word had spread about dancing with the principal at recess, so there was lots of excitement and practicing of dance moves in the lines. Even those milk-spilling kindergartners were eager.

whitneyThe recess team got the music cued up on the big speakers, I hit the stage, and about 20 kids were selected to join me for some 80s grooves.  I sang loudly and danced unabashedly (because six year olds don’t care about the quality of your moves), and allowed all the hurt and frustration and uneasiness of the last few days to float away.

The next three songs were more modern (after all, it was their recess, not mine), and we rotated the kids on and off the stage to dance. The kids and I laughed and danced and hugged and danced and bounced and danced until we were all a mess of sweat and joy.

“That recess was lit!” one little boy exclaimed when it was time to line up.

We opened the doors to the auditorium, and a rush of air washed cooly over us all. The kindergarten and first grade teachers laughed when they walked up to retrieve their students, noticing the red cheeks, exhausted breathing, and gallons of sweat pouring off of us. My dress was soaked and clung to my back like it did when I left the frat parties in college…

When you’re going through a storm, sometimes all you can do is fight the waves and try not to topple over. You’re consumed with survival. You’re dogging golfball sized hail,  falling and getting up, falling and getting up, over and over again. You’re so tired and stressed out, but you don’t even realize it…until you find yourself, quite unexpectedly, dancing on an auditorium stage like a maniac to a Whitney Houston classic in your smart sweater dress and high heeled boots with a bunch of five- and six-year-old kids.

I love that God sends rainbows after the rain.


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2 thoughts on “Footloose with First Graders

  1. Find some kiddos to dance with…I promise, it will get a little better!

  2. Paige Bonner on said:

    I needed this today ❤️

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