Mr. Janson counted the minutes until Christmas vacation. Being an aid to teacher Mrs. Seymour inspired him to take night classes at the local community college. Mrs. Seymour's maternity leave thrust him into a six week substitute position, leaving him wishing his aspirations focused on something less taxing... like ditch digging. He had earned sixty college credit hours and was now a certified substitute for the Emory Hills School District. Before becoming a substitute, photocopying color sheets, taking youngsters to the bathroom, and serving snacks had been the extent of his responsibilities. Now that he filled the teacher’s position, four weeks of five year olds opened Jeremy's eyes to the rigors of being an educator.
Jeremy strolled around the room praising each child's artistic masterpiece. However, many of the children colored and glued too quickly. He realized creativity was needed to keep the kids from running wildly in anticipation of Christmas break.
"Boys and girls, please come over to story time circle," encouraged Mr. Janson.
The children rushed to their carpet squares, excited to have a second story time of the day.
"What story are y’ gonna read this time?" inquired Billy Whitlow, picking his nose.
"Yeah, what story?" the rest of the class chimed in.
"Well," began Mr. Janson, "I thought we could share what we’ll be doing over Christmas break. Who wants to go first?" he questioned, while pulling identical twins Timmy and Jimmy away from the aquarium sanctuary of Lizzie the class iguana.
Several hands shot into the air and began waving wildly.
"Ok, class, settle down. Everyone will get a turn," he said surveying the circle. "Let's start with Emily. What will you be doing over Christmas break?"
"I’m goin’ to my Pawpaw and Mawmaw's house in Texas. We're gonna fly down and stay for a whole week! Do y' think Santa will know I'm there?"
"I'm sure he will," he assured. "Casey, your turn."
"I'm going t' my granny's to! But I don't have t' go to Texas. They live next door! Daddy sometimes wishes we could move somewhere else. He says grannny shouldn' ever cook. In fact, he said he'd rather gnaw on his toe nails than eat granny's ol' meat-loaf."
Mr. Janson jumped in. "Ok, then. Thanks, Casey. Jonathan, what are you going to do over Christmas Break?"
"We're goin' to the Great Bear Feet."
"You're going where?" Mr. Janson asked smiling.
"I heard daddy makin' special reservations on the phone. He told someone we was goin’ to the Great Bear Feet."
"Ewwww," Samantha piped up. "Bear feet are gross. They have hairy toes."
"My granny has hairy toes," Casey added.
"Hold on class, let's not get out of control," Mr. Janson said glancing at the classroom clock. Good, he thought, only ten minutes remaining. "Are you sure, he said Great Bear Feet?" he asked Jonathan.
"Uh huh, and I know where it's at,” he paused and looked around the circle. "I heard daddy say it's down under."
"Their down under what?" Carter questioned.
"I dunno. I jus' know that the Great Bear Feet are down under."
“Why would y’ wanna see bear feet?” asked Tyler rocking on his heels.
Mr. Janson grabbed a globe off the bookcase. He knew the destination of Jonathan's family. The class watched Mr. Janson point to a place far away from the United States. "This is Australia. We call it the land 'down under'. And here, off of its coast, is a place called 'The Great Barrier Reef.' People go there to snorkel and scuba dive; to have a relaxing vacation. I’ve heard it’s beautiful!”
"So, I'm not goin’ to a place with hairy bear feet?" asked Jonathan sounding relieved.
"No, " assured Mr. Janson.
"I still might see my granny's hairy toes," added Casey looking disgusted.
The remaining children quickly shared about Christmas plans and destinations. Finally, the final bell rang. Parents filed in to pick up their children. Several kindergartners skipped to Mr. Janson handing out high fives and Merry Christmas wishes. Jonathan sprinted to the pegs and snatched his coat. His mother buttoned it and they made their way toward the exit.
"Bye Mr. Janson. Merry Christmas!" shouted Jonathan.
"Merry Christmas to you and have fun at the Great Bear Feet," he teased.
Jonathan's mother's face registered surprise. Jonathan giggled. "C'mon mom, let's go. We c’n talk about bear feet in the car!"
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