Miss Minnow is in my first class on Wednesday. She’s six years old, and when she grows up she wants to be Nicolo Machiavelli. She’s very smart, very cute, and very manipulative. When Miss Minnow is in a bad mood, she wants everyone else to be in a bad mood, too. So she modifies the situation.
One of the other girls, Spaztastic, is Minnow’s age, but as suggested by the name, is hyperactive and not big on thinking things through. She also gets upset when she starts losing a game. The other girl, Blue, is younger than the other two and a little slower, but really, really wants to Be A Good Student. This means that for most of the class, she’s focusing all her limited attention on me – she doesn’t notice when Spaztastic is about to freak out. And she claps her hands and gets all happy when she gets something right or wins a game, which invariably infuriates Spaztastic.
So what Miss Minnow does when she’s angry is, she tries to fix the games so Blue is winning. Because she’s the only one of the girls with a functioning attention span (and I’m probably busy pulling Spaztastic down off the curtains), she doesn’t have much trouble doing it – we’ll be playing marbles, and she’ll wait until Blue’s looking at me and Spaztastic’s trying to sneak across the room to get her crayon box or something, and she slips some of her own marbles in with Blue’s.
And when Blue’s turn is over, Blue looks down at her marbles and says happily, “Blue is winning!”* And Spaztastic pouts ominously, glares at her, and throws something at the wall.
When she’s in a good mood, she doesn’t want to have to hear me yell at Spaztastic and harsh her buzz, so she fixes the game in the other direction – she makes sure Blue never gets more than one point ahead of Spaztastic. This requires some more delicacy, because unlike Blue, Spaztastic can and does count her points – obsessively, even. She will eventually notice that they’ve been moving around, even if she never actually catches Miss Minnow at it. She can’t figure out whether to blame Miss Minnow or me (it doesn’t occur to her to blame Blue), but either one is clearly insupportable.
So what Miss Minnow does is, she keeps winning herself (she never has any trouble with this), but then visibly gives her own points to Blue, who will happily accept them because Miss Minnow is her hero and she likes getting “presents” from her. This allows Spaztastic to consider the definition of “winning” the game as something more fluid, so she eventually stops keeping such careful count of her points, allowing Miss Minnow to start slipping them in.
For Miss Minnow’s bad moods, I switch to games where no one wins, but for the good ones I’ve just been letting her manage things. Hey, she’s developed a strategy for quieting Spaztastic down for five minutes. I have no complaints.
Miss Minnow heard me speaking Japanese to her Mom at one point, and really wants to get me to do it during class, or at least to prove that I understand words more complicated than “English,” “Japanese,” and “homework.” I’m not supposed to do that, but if I’m distracted and a kid talks at me in Japanese, I sometimes forget.
So last week, while I was grading homework, Spaztastic tugged on my arm and gleefully showed me how she’d covered her entire coloring sheet with pink. I said, “Heeee.” (Approximate translation: “You iz weird, honey.”)
Miss Minnow said, “Teacher just spoke Japanese! She said “heeee!””
I said, “No, no! That’s English. It’s, uh… it’s Canadian English. I said “Eh.” Canada English.”
Blue said, “Canada!”
I pointed it out on the map. “Here. Near America, on top of America.”
Miss Minnow explained helpfully to the other two, “Canada is a very cold place. Winter there is really cold.”
I said in English, “Excuse me? You live in Niigata. Winter’s cold here.” I said this without expecting them to understand it, but apparently the word “Niigata” rendered the comment comprehensible to Miss Minnow – she smirked at me, and I realized I had just totally proven I could understand their conversation.
I hope Miss Minnow uses her powers for good.
* Little Japanese girls seriously do refer to themselves in the third person a lot, it turns out. I’d vaguely thought the extent of the phenomenon was fictionalized by anime for purposes of cuteness, but no.