One of the first things they tell you when you are learning to teach young children is to give plenty of warning when things are about to change. It’s all about the transitions. So students can be prepared to set aside their paintings and stories and arguments and, for God’s sake, use the bathroom ONE AT A TIME, before it is time to move onto the next event in the overstuffed daily schedule. Get ready. It’s almost time to stop. Here it comes. Organize your things. And… NOW! Please run around like lunatics with scissors pointed out and shoelaces untied, screaming as loud as you possibly can. Well done.
In theory, the Five Minute Warning should work like a charm. Give kids time to mentally prepare to change gears. Let them plan how to spend the next five minutes wrapping up their life changing playdo sculpture, which will soon be squashed into oblivion and stuffed back into a Gladware container until tomorrow. In practice, does it really work? Well, I’ve seen it work. Sometimes. It depends on the individuals, the class size, the circumstance, the teacher, the delivery of the message, and the expectations (and consequences, if necessary). So it’s entirely uncomplicated. Really.
Flash forward 19 years. Graduate School, and the pipe dream of an uncomplicated classroom and life, is a distant memory. I now resolutely stick to my philosophical roots and give the Five Minute Warning. I am not at school. It’s Sunday and my 12 year old son, Red Bull, needs to put down the Wii and get ready to go to Sunday School. I know he will need some warning to prepare for departure, so ten minutes out, I give the Five Minute Warning. Pretty sneaky, I know.
His sisters, MelloYello (10) and Sprite (6), have already put in their time at the early bird session and are now at risk of waiting in a parking lot alone while Red Bull steers his way around the basement to crush that darn Luigi. Five minutes have passed.
“Red Bull, Let’s go. Time’s up!” My request is met with silence. Didn’t see that coming. Our conversations mostly consist of me asking, then yelling, then threatening as Redbull is stoically silent throughout, hiding in some dark recesses of our palatial estate, hoping I will never find him. “Your sisters are stranded in a parking lot. Move it.” Would it help if I stepped away from my computer to parent this boy? Perhaps, but that is beside the point. Sort of.
Finally. “Okay mom, I’m just finishing up.” Stomp, stomp, stomp up the stairs.
“Ready?” I have vacated my seat and am poised by the door sporting a fetching not yet washed ponytail, wearing my “weekend” uniform: favorite jeans older than some, but not all, of my kids (which husband, Mr. Snark has gently suggested I might consider retiring. He means well.) and the requisite three sizes too big Target men’s department fleece half-zip. I’m working it, though. In my own sadly misinformed way.
“Just a minute. I have to go to the bathroom.” Trust me. These are the last words you want to hear from Red Bull when the clock is running. So anyway, five more minutes later we are out the door. It is 10:39. We are due to pick up the girls at 10:40. Whatever. Turning at the traffic light nearest our destination, I wait to make a left so three other late parents can cut me off first. Then I notice the other two cars, trailing closely behind. It is 10:44. We are all late. So at least Sprite and MelloYello have plenty of company in the cold and not so desolate parking lot.
So I’m thinking those five minutes could have been better spent without the whole warning scenario. Maybe just some yelling and duct tape next time.