I have had grand goals of getting posts out about my holidays and all, and I though last week would be the time to do it.
Boy, was I wrong.
I spent last week working as a reader, scribe and invigilator (proctor, I think it's called in the States... the one who makes sure people don't cheat, and start and finish on time) for the first week of exams on campus. It's good money, and I don't mind it, really. I have good handwriting, I can read well and clearly, and I'm a stickler for rules. All around that makes for pretty good qualifications for this job.
I had forgotten, however, how physically difficult it is to write-- with a pen, not on a computer, as that is a different matter all together-- for hours on end, under the stressful time constraints of an exam. My hand hasn't gotten that kind of a work out in ages!
See those blue books? Those are where the answers go. Of course, some students have me write more than others, depending on how much revising they've done or how much of it they've retained. But still. Whew. I had two exams everyday except for Wednesday, when I only had one. And most of them were back to back. In subjects ranging from law to chemistry to business. Two of them I got to sit and do nothing... better to be there and not be needed than the other way 'round, I say. But mostly I was working hard for the money.
See that pen? It's the second one I've used during the exams. The first one was nicked by a student after one of the exams-- accidentally, of course. She borrowed it to sign my timesheet, and after she'd gone I realised it had gone with her. I was totally bummed, but I saw her for another exam the next day, and she still had it in her bag! So we laughed about it, and I got the pen back. I offered to let her keep it, because all I really wanted was the squishy purple bit. She didn't take the pen back, but I switched out to another one anyway, just in case.
See that squishy purple bit? That little grip has been a lifesaver to me, during this exam period and throughout my many, many, many hours of notetaking and research. I love that little sparkly purple squishy grippy thing. I was very sad when I thought I'd lost it (along with the nicked pen), and thrilled when I got it back! And not just because it makes writing more comfortable....
The spring before I moved here, I was substitute teaching in the local county schools (as well as living with a friend and keeping her five-year-old during the days I didn't work, but that's another story....). A friend of mine from church was having shoulder surgery, and needed a sub for her classes for two weeks at one of the elementary schools. She taught special ed, and did math and reading with first through fifth graders with learning disabilities. Knowing that I was subbing, and since we are friends, she asked if I would be interested. I jumped at the chance! I loved subbing for the elementary schools more than the older kids, and it sounded like a lot of fun (as well as some more serious cash). She walked me through her routine, showed me where all her resources were, and brought me in on her last day, a Friday, to introduce me and let me see the whole day in action.
On Monday, I started my two weeks. On my own. I was a bit nervous at first, because she didn't leave lesson plans for me beyond the first couple of days. She was trusting me to figure it out, and figure it out I did. It was fine. And the kids were great. I really loved it, and didn't even mind that I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to be in school on time. =) I was actually quite sad when my two weeks were over, even though I was glad my friend had recovered enough to come back to work. It was fun, after that, to run into some of the kids in stores or in town and have remember me and come over to say a shy 'hi'. I just love kids that age.
I haven't forgotten about the purple squishy thing. This story is all about the purple squishy thing. It's special to me, because it was a gift from one of those kids. He was in my first grade (first period) math class, and stuck around for the next hour's reading class. He was such a sweet little guy. On my last day, he came into class with a handful of new things he had just bought at the bookstore-- pencils, cap erasers, a ruler, and two of those grippy things. He was excited to show them off to me, and I was duly appreciative. After that class, while we were waiting for the next group to arrive, he was sitting with me at the little reading table.
"Do you like purple?" he asked.
"Yes, it's a favourite of mine," I answered. He shyly rolled the grippy thing across the table to me. "I bought this one (a red one) for me, and this one for you, because you have been so nice."
"Thank you, but you didn't need to buy me anything-- I have just enjoyed being here with you and everyone."
"I want you to have it anyway, please," he said, "to remember. I like to have things to help me remember people and places, and I thought you might, too." I could tell that this little guy didn't have much money to spend, so even a little grippy thing from the bookstore was a precious thing. I also remembered the feeling of being able to buy 'fun' things at the bookstore as a kid, the things that the other kids took for granted... and I didn't, because sometimes a quarter is a lot of money. I knew that this wasn't just an empty gesture, and I was genuinely touched that he had put the thought and resources into getting me a gift.
"Thank you so much," I said. "It is good to have things to help us remember, and whenever I use this-- which I will a lot, since I'll be going back to school soon myself-- I'll remember you, and my two weeks here at this school."
Which I do. Every time I use it.