The parachute lesson
Posted on October 11th, 2013
o you want to be lamer than babies?”
Peaches’ shouted exhortation to her fellows really wasn’t as harsh as it reads. We had gathered in our front yard—The Three, a young friend and I—so that they might help me prepare for a four-day stint as a PE teacher for kindergarteners. The children had assumed the roles of, well, children while a bed sheet stood stead for the parachute that would be my only hope of maintaining order through 16 classes during my time there.
“You didn’t tell me that some of the children wouldn’t come out from under the parachute when I told them to,” I observed resentfully.
We would run through the games I planned to play with the students until I understood them myself. It would be fun for all, I promised, instructional only for me.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that, when taken out of context, a sheet can be pretty exciting on its own. This combined with Roy’s expressly stated intention to assume the role of the one child in every class hell-bent on destroying order for the entirety of our run-through produced shrieking madness just a few steps beyond my front door.
There was running, tagging and crying; honestly, it was hard for me to concentrate on the games we were playing because of the interpersonal drama. Peaches’ question about whether or not her peers in play intended on acting their ages went unanswered because they weren’t. After one last game of ‘Sharks and Minnows’ (full disclosure: the shark got me every time), we returned to the house out of breath, a few noses out of joint.
In classes the next week, I reaped the benefits of the weekend warm-up with my own children. I confidently announced to the students what parachute games we would play. My understanding of the activities vastly improved by having participated in them myself, I was able to explain the rules in a way that maintained my thinly-held position of authority.
“You didn’t tell me that some of the children wouldn’t come out from under the parachute when I told them to,” I observed resentfully at the end of my first day.
“We thought you knew that,” Roy responded, nonplussed.
And when he put it that way I wondered, really, how had I not? It wasn’t as if they hadn’t shown me as much: that my work would lie not in the mastery of rules and their effective conveyance but in the kind of reception I was able to muster for the unexpected—the falling in faith for which no parachute is required.∗