Winnie The Five Year Old

Winnie is five, and he hates me. He hates me.

One little moment, out of the twenty other chances during 60 minutes of class. He and Mickey had been fighting all evening. When they fight, we don’t have fun. When they fight, we can’t play games.

One year ago today I was on a mountaintop in Colorado, saying yes to my husband when he proposed. Today, at sunset, I am watching Winnie as he screams, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” at the tops of his little lungs. When he throws the book, I am careful to casually step out of the way.

He has good aim for a five year old. Have to give him that.

“NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!”

“Winnie, that’s another bye-bye star. You can’t throw books. That’s not safe.”

The TA is completely useless, having just stepped out of a university classroom approximately ten minutes previously. She hasn’t been helping much during this class, except to say things in Chinese to the students when I expressly asked her to speak in English. We were reading a story before the shit hit the fan. I’d turned my back for two seconds to ask her to stop handing out the homework until they line up for dismissal. She didn’t get it. I’d had to say, “Stop that” a little too firmly to get my point across. Holding the attention of ten five year olds is not the easiest thing in the world.

Winnie, for his part, is now beside himself. I see the wheels turning. I raise my eyebrow, not daring him. Communicating, “Oh, you’d better not.” Winnie does it anyway.

He seizes his desk, backpack and all, and throws it a lot harder than a five year old ought to be able to throw a desk that’s head-height for him.

“Nope. Nope. That’s your last star gone. Winnie, you must now leave my classroom.”

Winnie is stomping around and screaming at the tops of his lungs in English. That’s a small victory, I suppose. The other children are terrified. Mickey, who also lost a star in the initial scuffle, is looking a little too damn pleased with himself…two stars or no. I pick up Winnie’s bookbag and head for the door, shooing curious grandparents away with a few gruff utterances of ‘Excuse me!’

Winnie has now settled in for a good cry. I continue to insist that he leave the classroom. For five minutes, the standoff continues. Somehow, three grown women are unable to force a five year old child to leave a room. I wonder vaguely if this would ever have happened 100 years ago. Or 50. Or 22 years ago, when I myself was five and about to go to kindergarten.

“Winnie, come here now.”

“NO!”
“Winnie, this is completely unacceptable behaviour. This is a no.”

“NO! NO!”

“Winnie you must leave the classroom. You cannot behave this way. You must leave now.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

A change in tactic: “Winnie, you’re not in trouble (You totally are). I just want to talk to you.”

“NO!”

Still emphatic. Fine. We’ll do it this way.

“Boys and girls,” I start in a calming tone, “Now it’s time to put away our books. Put your books inside your bag, please. Put your books inside your bag and make a line. Make a line, please.”

When there is some semblance of a line forming in the doorway, I begin the star-to-sticker questions. In my classes for elementary-aged students, three stars for behaviour, doing homework, and/or answering questions are traded for one sticker on my board. Winnie is now truly beside himself, yelling abuse at me in between sucking on two fingers to attempt a self-soothe. Coco is slowly putting away her books, worrying over Winnie with wide eyes.

I hope the peer pressure of the line and the prospect of going home will calm him, but that doesn’t seem to be Winnie’s MO. He is so upset that he doesn’t even notice the fact that all the other students, save two, got no sticker at all. None. The class was collectively so naughty that only two people were able to manage and maintain three good efforts. This is highly unusual; my classes generally get full marks on stickers every lesson.

Winnie is shouting abuse at the other students now.

“Nope, Winnie. We’ll talk in a few minutes. Coco, how many stars do you have?”

“Two.”

C’mon, Coco. Every week we do this in complete sentences. Today is no different. “I have two stars.”

“I have two stars,” she echoes.

“Sorry, Coco. No sticker today, then.” Coco is bummed, but not despondent. Winnie’s dad has joined us and sat down near to him in the back. Winnie is angrily staring out the window and sucking on his fingers with a malice only little children can summon when they feel somehow wronged. He clearly is punishing himself at this point.

“Ok boys and girls, what’s your homework?”

“Page 25!!!!!”

“Ok then, bye bye! See you next week!”

They file out of the classroom, relieved to see their slightly worried grandparents and head out the door. I say goodbye and clean up my stuff, before heading over to Winnie.

“Listen, buddy. I’m so sorry that you feel so bad. But you can’t throw books and chairs. It isn’t safe.”

Winnie’s dad translates for me. Winnie seems to have cried himself practically sick, and is making gagging sounds in between glaring out at the traffic below.

“You are such a good student! You’ll get more stickers, don’t worry!”

Winnie cannot seem to imagine anything beyond this painful moment of no stickers.
“He just really doesn’t like to lose,” says his dad in perfect English.

No, really? I think. He may be the sorest loser I’ve ever seen. Still, I feel bad that he hasn’t been able to stop feeling so bad.
“Next week I’m sure you’ll get a sticker. Maybe even two. Ok?”

“NO!”

“Ok. I hope you feel better.” I turn to his dad. “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry. He’s ok.”

“Yeah.”

I clean up my classroom stuff and shut down the computer.

“Bye now, Winnie. Feel better!”

About the post

TEFL

One Comment

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  1. Incredible self control on your part, Coleen! great work, and good story.

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