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Volunteer at elementary school; you'll feel smart

By: Tony Overbay Special to The News Messenger
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Hey you fathers out there, feeling a little overwhelmed? Maybe a little down in the dumps? Do I have the cure for you! Volunteer to be a Watch DOG at your kid’s school and, before you know, it you’ll be adding dozens of points to your own self-esteem by kicking a ball farther than anyone on the playground. You’ll be showing skills on a miniature basketball hoop to boys who ask you why you aren’t playing for the Kings (go ahead, insert a Kings joke here. And if you manage to avoid helping out with math or grammar, you may even leave thinking that you’re a bit brighter than typically given credit. Last week, I took my annual pilgrimage to Foskett Ranch Elementary School to be a Watch DOG(S) for the day. The DOGS stands for “Dads of Great Students” and the word “watch” is by name only. From the time the kids arrive at school until the end-of-the-day bell rings, you’re knee deep in tiny scissors, desks, paste, hand sanitizer and good old number-two pencils. Oh the pencils! Apparently I missed the stall technique I saw in action in multiple classes, the purposeful snapping of pencil lead that leads to a need to get up and either a) sharpen one’s pencil or b) get another one altogether. And while one is up, he or she might as well get a drink. And if one gets a drink, well, it’s only a matter of time before duty calls so he or she might as well head off to the bathroom. And I can only imagine the distractions on the way to, and from, the bathroom. It’s a live version of the book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” My favorite time of the day was lunch time. You get to cram yourself into a tiny table, elbow-to-elbow with kids working on their Kool Aide mustaches, making trades for Ding Dongs, Cupcakes and a variety of other items that I never realized we were depriving our son of taking to school. Forget cigarettes in prison or animal pelts in the Amazon. In the lunchroom, candy is currency and I almost expected to be led to a pint-sized Don sitting in the corner taking his cut of my Hot Tamales while working out a trade for a fun sized, “is-that-left-over-from-Halloween” Snickers. Now, before I’m no longer welcome in the pickup line after school, let me be clear that this paragraph was written purely for comedic purposes. No trading is allowed in the lunchroom. (But thank you for the Snickers – you know who you are.) And talk about pressure! I’m not referring to Mrs. Noriega’s grammar review, quick, what’s an adverb? I’m talking about the number of kids asking me to poke the straw into a juice box. I was succeeding at about an 80 percent clip, which means two out of 10 kids saw their pointed straws come busting out through the side of the pouch. Another highlight of the day was spending time with the kindergartners. I arrived on the 100th day of school and 100 day projects were in abundance. Kids wearing necklaces consisting of 100 pieces of cereal (only 98 left on Tucker’s necklace, thanks for the Fruit Loops!) and posters and signs galore adorned with 100 of anything, from bottle caps (almost as rare these days as a vinyl record) to pieces of used dental floss. When I walked into the kindergarten classroom, the kids appeared to be working on 100 cupcakes. Chocolate icing covered their tiny faces. They were extremely excited and bouncing off the walls. I was a playground monitor and was amazed at what a difference in play between these 5-year-olds and my own third-grade son. Kindergarteners were princesses and superheroes, third-graders were all about the Charlie Sheen (winning!) whether it was in four-square, jump rope, tetherball or basketball. When the kindergarteners came back in from the playground, the teacher suggested a “wiggle song” to help them get their wiggles out. One student was chosen to pick. “Who let the letters out!” she screamed. To the tune of the Baha Men’s, “Who let the dogs out?” came an entire class full of kids yelling, “Who let the A out, ah, ah, ah,” followed by, “Who let the B out, buh, buh, buh.” I smiled, wondering if the Baha Men ever thought their tune would be used to learn letter sounds rather than just haunt people’s subconscious after leaving any sporting event. But then as they moved up the alphabet, I saw clearly where they were heading. No, they couldn’t, could they? “Who let the P out?” Yes, they did! I looked around the room at the other parents helping out in the class. I can’t keep it in. Who let the P out? Kindergartners? Anyone? I noticed a couple of the boys looking at each other and giggling. And at that moment, I realized that despite my exploits on the basketball court and in the lunchroom, my mind was clearly right back where it was when I was in kindergarten. Tony Overbay is a 19-year Lincoln resident and father of four. Tony has written humor columns for The Lincoln News Messenger for 12 years, many of which can be found at tonyoverbay.com.