How’s that for an appetizing post title? But that was my day, in a nutshell.
I figured out why this year has been so hard, and is going to be hard for a while longer: my students are the least-prepared group I have taught in years. They are not traumatized, or disturbed; they don’t have major behavior problems, and are not super disruptive, like some kids I’ve had. They are sweet. But they are very low in basic skills — writing, drawing, recognizing their names or their cubbies, cutting, walking in line without crashing into each other, listening, paying attention, solving problems, even just looking when you say their names, and never mind the things like numbers or rhyming or letters….They don’t know how to deal with sneezes, either. One boy had a big sneeze and had a huge string of snot hanging down to his mouth, and no idea what to do next. I had to show him the tissues. Sigh.
Also, they are like toddlers in the way that they put their fingers in their mouths. Or their noses. About half the class wipes their noses on their arms or sleeves, picks their noses, chews on their shirts, and sucks on their fingers. I cannot get them to stop.
Then there is one child who is urgently compelled to do these things, plus suck on toys in the room. And today he actually licked a baby doll’s head all over when he was in the dramatic play area. This was after he had already had to wash his hands several times, and had to wash several toys he had mouthed. No matter what we say, it makes no difference to him. I gave him a chew necklace that the OT made for me, but unlike in previous years, it doesn’t help at all. He is so messy that when he chews on the necklace, he gets saliva all over it, and then he handles it with his fingers, or just puts both necklace and fingers in his mouth.
I was so frustrated with him (I said, “please don’t wipe your nose with your hand,” and immediately after that, while still looking at me, he wiped his nose with his hand again) that I was starting to get short with him. And I was so grossed out by his germ fest that I didn’t even want to be near him after a while.
I know, he’s only a four year old boy. And his mom says he is showing new, negative behaviors at home, so he is clearly showing signs of stress about being in school for the first time. And he is a sweet kid, who is not shoving things in his mouth on purpose to spite me.
So I went home and told my family that I was feeling disgusted by my preschoolers’ germs today, for maybe the first time ever in my teaching career.
Tomorrow will be better, right? (Oh, and do you have any advice for me? If I can’t solve this, we will all be sick, all winter long.)