Five times: “I’m not hungry anymore.” After announcing this, the children present their lunch boxes still containing, for example, two sandwiches and ten grapes, or one and a half rolled crêpes and a sandwich.
Six times: “Could you draw me a red Ninjago?” For those unfamiliar with this Lego theme, Ninjago is about six ninjas in coloured suits fighting evil.
One time: “I don’t want to play with him.” The child in question prefers to do puzzles alone.
Countless times: “Miiiissssss!”
As Miss Rebecca is on lunch break with her colleagues, International Business student Carlijn Jansen takes over her class. For forty-five minutes, she’s in charge of supervising over twenty pupils, ranging in age from four to six. Most of them are Dutch, but there are also two children with Spanish roots and even one with Romanian roots. “The first few weeks were difficult; they didn’t speak any Dutch, so communicating with them involved a lot of gesturing. It’s been a few months now, and they’ve made so much progress!” Sometimes Jansen secretly says something in Spanish if the child really doesn’t seem to understand what she’s saying. “I’m not supposed to do that”, she says with a wink.
The children spend the first fifteen minutes sitting at their own desks to eat their lunch, after which they do puzzles, draw or play with K’nex building toys, beads and My Little Ponies. There are also a few aimless wanderers who don’t really know what to do, except put fluorescent rubber bands in their mouths or bother a drawing classmate.
They’ve already been outside, says Jansen: “Their teacher takes them for outdoor play.” She sits down on a toddler chair next to the Observant journalist.
On the other side of the room, a pupil is slowly eating a cheese sandwich. Children regularly stop by to present their lunch boxes to Jansen. “For inspection. We don’t want them to go play without having eaten anything at all.”
Do they have to finish all their food, Observant wants to know. “I usually ask them what they’ve eaten and if that’s enough, it’s fine.” The most common leftover item: bread crusts.
Working for forty-five minutes, three times per week – isn’t that too little, or inconvenient? “I also work as a waitress, but I think this is a perfect job. I earn 100 euros per month. I know a lot of students who do this.”
Jansen has been a familiar face at Montessorischool Binnenstad for two and a half years now. At first she supervised various grades, including older pupils. She has a soft spot for the younger ones. “They’re so much fun, cute and honest. I’ve been asked if I wanted to come to a birthday party, or to come over for a play date after school.” The children don’t seem to understand that Jansen herself is still in ‘school’ as well, she says. “And they definitely don’t understand the concept of a university.”
“Miss, could you draw me a Ninjago right now?” This is the fourth time the boy has asked Jansen for a drawing. “You’ll have to wait a minute, I’m finishing my conversation first.” Jansen is patient: a good quality for a primary school teacher to have. “I wouldn’t be able to do this full-time. Forty-five minutes is fine”, she laughs.
She walks to a desk, grabs her phone and has the boy pick out the ninja he wants. In the meantime, she tells three pupils off for pointing self-made ‘guns’ at each other, which isn’t allowed.
The boy scrolls down the cracked screen of Jansen’s phone. He takes his time; the queue is growing. All Ninjago fans, although the smallest child needs another moment to contemplate his decision: “I don’t know yet.” He ends up picking a ninja.
It’s 12:40 p.m. “Boys and girls, it’s time to tidy up the classroom! Miss Rebecca will be back when the long hand points at the nine.”
Outside, the student gets on her bike to go to the university library. She has an exam coming up: financial management. A time-out from ninjas.