It was the end of the day. My last class was with a group of Grade Five kids. I often ask one or two of them to help me clean up – just erasing the whiteboard, stacking the chairs, maybe wiping down the individual whiteboards or ensuring that all the laptops are properly put away in the cart. Nothing too onerous or time-consuming. They’re always happy to help, and as we tidy up together, we chat.
Of course we chat. It’s what I do best – just ask my mother. It’s a good way to connect with a kid on a totally different level, to get to know one another a little better.
So Ivan was erasing the big whiteboard. I was piling up the chairs.
“Madame?” he said to me.
I answered, “Oui, Ivan?”
We were speaking in French (obviously), but I’ll just transcribe the rest of this in English.
“Do you do a job?”
I thought it was a trick question. “Um … do you mean, do I have a job?”
He nodded. “Yes. Do you do a job?”
I still wasn’t quite sure what he meant. So I decided to go with the obvious meaning. “Yes I have a job. I’m a teacher.”
Ivan nodded again. “Oh, ” he said, in that conversational tone that adults reserve for “isn’t that interesting” when it’s really not that interesting. “Do you have money?”
Did he want to know if I had money in my wallet right now? Or maybe was there currently money in my bank account? Was he planning to audit me or something? I needed more clarification.
“Do you mean, do I get paid to do my job as a teacher?”
Ivan nodded a third time. “Yes. Do you?”
“Yes, Ivan. I get paid to be a teacher.” I was thinking, where on earth was this going already???
“Oh,” he went on. “I didn’t know that.” Pause. “I’m finished erasing the board.”
I thanked him, and off he went back to his classroom.
So this ten-year-old boy didn’t know that my job is to be a teacher and that teachers actually get paid? Really? This boy whom I have had in my reading class for almost three years straight now? What did he think I’ve been doing with him all this time – cutting his hair or colouring with him, perhaps? Did he think that I hang around the school every day because I have nothing better to do?
Makes me wonder what he hears and sees when he goes home after school …