When I resigned from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, my students threw me a surprise baby shower. My principal told me I had an ARD meeting to attend that last morning at 7:45 A.M. I mentioned it to my husband and got myself ready. I go to the room thinking it’s in an odd place, but who knows? The room is full of students and baby gifts and love. I hadn’t any idea, and the memory still warms my heart. One of the gifts was a stuffed lady bug. For some reason, my classroom ledge had been the graveyard of ladybugs. The young lady who gave this to me reminded me of my effect on the bugs as she gave me the variety I couldn’t possibly harm. I laughed. My ladybug is now in my classroom as an homage to that young lady.
Later that same day, I was alone gathering my stuff in my room when I heard voices. I looked up and saw four of the toughest boys in seventh grade in the doorway. Smiles wreathed their faces as one presented me a teddy bear for my baby. They had come to tell me goodbye. I hugged them and thanked them. As we were chatting, my principal and assistant principal popped by. They later told me they were worried since I was alone in my room, and they’d seen the boys headed my way. One of the boys had been on crutches but managed to hop down that hallway on his good leg to see me. These are the memories I must recall on my down and dreary days when the comment of one student sets me on a road to depression and sadness and general “woe is me” feeling. I also recall that during fire drills, an eighth grade tough boy would find me and escort me down the stairs so I wouldn’t fall. Despite their tough exteriors, I know those kids loved me as I loved them.
During that last year before momhood, I had a boy I nicked named Pharaoh because he lived in the land of denial. I threatened to ship him to Egypt in a box with one hole for breathing. As time went on, I said the hole was quite small. Pharaoh smiled and made a straw-sipping sound indicating that he’d just pack a straw with him to get his oxygen on his journey. I laughed at his wit, but I didn’t send him to see the Nile in person.
I used to take a black ink pen and draw a capital letter I on the back of students’ hands to give them a “black eye.” Parents who got my humor didn’t mind, and the kids loved getting their black eyes in my class. In my second teaching stint, I put a black I on a post-it note and handed to one of my young charges who just needed to be set straight about who’s the boss. The next day, he came to me and said, “Mrs. Johnson, you need to go to the nurse. You have pink eye.” Yes, he’d drawn a black letter I on notebook paper then outlined it with pink highlighter. I think it got lost a few years ago, but I still laugh about my basketball artist.
I used to tell kids they couldn’t go to the bathroom unless their eyes were yellow. One kid came up to me with two letter IIs drawn on the back of his hand with yellow highlighter. I could hardly stop laughing as I told him to go to the restroom. His father had helped him with that one. For my “revenge,” I’ve made laminated potty passes with an outhouse pictured on them. The ones who understand my humor chuckle as they head down the hallway. Don’t worry, it’s a clip art picture from Microsoft and harmless in appearance.
I’ve demanded money from the kids to tell their parents good things about them. I do this at every open house we have in the spring because I really know my babies by then. One kid came to school the next day with a fifty dollar bill; however, it was from his Monopoly game, so it was useless. Now, I’m hep to them. I tell them I want real money, not the kind from a board game. They laugh and keep on going. I’m still waiting.
A few years back, I told one boy he was dead meat on a stick. Without missing a beat, he said, “Oh, I’m a corndog!” “That’s right, and you know what? I eat corndogs with mustard!” I’ve kept an unopened jar of mustard on my desk ever since to remind them that the day is coming when I eat my corndogs—excuse me—students. Hee hee hee! The current one expired last month, but I ‘m convinced mustard doesn’t go bad. Some kids have tried to bribe me with ketchup, but I deny their request. I like mustard, thank you very much, and if you’re the corndog, you won’t care what I put on you. That’s the way it works. I love my kids!