Friday, February 20, 2009

I didn't get my spaghetti and meatballs.

Field trip day! I love field trip day. I love taking seven kids who I'm not sure I have any control over in the classroom, and moving the whole shebang outside.

Walking to the bus -- "walking" being relative, of course -- is an adventure. My tallest student is in the lead, at a run. A few feet back is student #2, who has been out sick all week. He helpfully volunteers information about his mucus to a passing teacher. Meanwhile students #3 and #4 have veered off from the group because there is a) a cool reflection on a windshield, and, b) a dropped piece of bubble gum.
I am rushing to catch up, so students #5 and #6 have decided it is the perfect time to lag behind. They rattle the doorknobs to classrooms and shuffle their feet. And student #7? Holding my hand and being sweet as pie, of course. I think they must consult one another before major outings. "It's your turn to be the good one today! If we're all bad, she'll make us skip movie day!"

Remarkably, we make it onto the bus and get seated. One student grabs another and chucks him like a Frisbee out of her favorite seat. I have to sit with her and have a conversation about bus manners. For the third time. This week. By the time she utters a grudging apology to her stand-in Frisbee, Mrs. J has the bus moving and we're pulling out of the parking lot.

A truckload of teenagers careens around the building and almost takes us out, eliciting a scream from the half of my kids who notice. The other half continue to enjoy their own personal worlds, much safer and calmer than the bus.

At the restaurant, one student who is being allowed off her diet for today launches herself at the complimentary chips and salsa, polishing off four before I can stop her. She takes a bite of one chip, then dips it again into the salsa, immediately claiming one whole basket for herself. When her chip supply runs out -- as far as she knows, although I have sereptitiously slid about half the chips from the basket and whisked them into my napkin -- she grabs the salsa bowl and upends it, gulping the salsa like spring water. Beside her, her classmate grabs the lemon from my sweet tea and takes a bite, then begins to cry.

We order using pictures. This is to say, the students order using pictures, and I am so busy helping them choose and articulate their choices that I nearly forget to order for myself. When the food comes, Salsa Girl takes one sweet bite and smiles at me, as though to remind me that she does, in fact, possess table manners. I turn to help Lemon Boy, who has taken a huge bite of sour cream because he isn't sure how to mix the ingredients of his Taco Salad. Together we break the shell into manageable bites and stir them into the lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole. I turn back to find that Salsa Girl has completely finished her enchilada and rice. She is on the last bite of beans. In amazement, I glance back at Lemon Boy, who has taken the tomatoes from his taco salad and dropped them square on my quesadilla.

Across the table, one of my verbal students is attempting to order a side of spaghetti and meatballs. All week, she has been singing a song about this particular dish, and now she is determined that this restaurant will serve it. In front of her, a perfectly good enchilada grows cold. She is near tears. I rescue the poor server, who appears near tears himself, and talk her into trying the food on her plate. She lifts one tiny forkful to her lips. Then prompty takes three bites and forgets all about spaghetti.

When dinner has been eaten and spills mopped up, each student takes a turn visiting the cashier with her changepurse, counting out the bills and coins for her meal. No one can remember the name of what they ate. They tell the cashier, "I had that thing. The one that was wrapped up." Or "I ate something that was green and yellow." Or "I didn't get my spaghetti and meatballs."

Outside, we pile onto the bus again. I run interference with the student who likes to play Frisbee with her classmates. By the time we reach the school, I have burned off every calorie I packed in, and then some.

The minute we reach the classroom, Salsa Girl turns to me and beams. "Want cookie," she signs.

We are never leaving the building again.

(Till next week, of course.)