I know what you’re thinking: what about the girls? That’s another post for another day.
A male student walks by my classroom wearing a sports jersey or sweatshirt. I see the shirt and make a disparaging comment about the team. He grins and walks away. This is rapport. I will see the same young people walking down my hallway on a daily basis as I stand in the doorway of my classroom between classes. Some of my best student relationships have started with my “picking on” a student about something harmless. Here in my part of the world, we play football at a young age, so the team names and jerseys make the the kids look like miniature NFL players. If it’s a team from another region of the country or even state, I make a comment like, “Really, the Bears? Why in the world would you wear that here in Dallas Cowboys country? That’s a dress code violation!” In former years, I have actually taken a student to the assistant principal’s secretary (keeper of dress code) to show an “infraction.” One of our administrative assistants was a huge Oklahoma Sooners fan, so any student wearing Texas Longhorn gear was subject to scrutiny. The kids love this extra attention. Some will even walk by a little more often than necessary just so I will say something to them. I find out my victims’ names and keep up with them as the year goes by. If I see one of them upset or in pain, I transform into Mama Grizzly. No one messes with my cubs!
I have one student whose locker caused him distress this year at the beginning of the year. Once we got that little problem fixed, I told him that he owed me brownies if I couldn’t get it opened after he’d tried once again. I had to use my locker key to open that silly thing. I would check on him and ask about my reward. He has now become the infamous Dr. Destructo! Dr. Destructo always has an evil plan brewing, and he’s given me some story about the ingredients for the brownies taking ten years to grow. I think he’s stalling. I can see him start smiling as soon as he sees me in the hallway. I mentioned that since it was the start of a new year, he ought to try to be good. His response was negative. He indicated that he’d resolved to become even more evil. I guess I’ll wait twenty years for those brownies now.
One former student stands out in my mind because he reminded me that I like baseball. Mr. Baseball would read his library books sitting like a comma. The desks in my room have chairs attached, and he didn’t like to sit in them the right way. He had a rapier wit and would crack me up laughing with various antics. He enlisted his mom to help out with the canned food competition we had that year at school. I always seemed to come home with some story about what he’d done that day to the point that my husband wondered if I wanted to adopt this kid. “Yes!” We did a baseball research project because of him although I never told anyone that reasoning until now. I can see him grinning as he would come to my classroom even now. I had asked my teaching partner if she had any kids who would benefit from being in my Pre-AP class, and he was one of the transfers. I guess the LORD knew I neeeded some more laughter in my life. The last day of school found me upset as usual. I hated to say goodbye. Even when he’d left my class, he’d stop by if he had some time as a band aide. We talked sports or life, and it was cool. Mr. Baseball is now old enough to drive, but because of the bond we established, I am always glad to see him and give him a hug. Any time I see his mom, I ask about what he’s doing. I will always want to know what’s happening with him. He has a younger sister who you’ll hear a little about next time.