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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Felicity and the Birthday Cheese

By Marcia Mayo who blogs at Well Aged With Some Marbling

I love teaching second graders at least in part because they are still cute and sweet with their snaggly teeth belying the beauties they will become. They are also quite funny, primarily because they are just making that big step from childish misconceptions to grown-up logical thinking.

These little folks are real rule followers, black-and-white understanders with little interest in or grasp of the nuances of everyday life and personal interactions. It’s this combination of gapped-toothed countenance and developmental stage-stepping that makes them so much fun to teach.

I have quite a few funny second-grade stories but I’m going to relate just a few here.

Jackson is one of my all-time favorite kids, a truly unique human who will use his great intelligence and quirky ways one day to show the world a thing or two.

One afternoon, the year I taught him, I’d stayed late to help a mother who was hosting her son’s birthday party on our school playground. Most of the partiers were little boys in my class and when I arrived on the field, they were busy playing a faux football game that primarily consisted of tripping and knocking each other down.

I quickly decided that the best thing I could do to help the mom, who was busy putting the hotdog picnic together, was to keep the kids from killing each other. So I intervened in typical teacher fashion, reminding them of the rules of the playground.

At that point, Jackson ran up, looked me straight in the eye and said with perfect deadpan delivery, “This was a whole lot funner before you got here.”

Another great Jackson story happened some time toward the end of that same year. I was having my students do some basic research using an old-fashioned but still important source of information, that being the good old encyclopedia. I'd counseled them to choose a topic before going to the stack of Britannica Jrs I'd imported from the school library. In fact, I’d told them to come to my desk to run their topic by me before choosing a book to use.

Most of the kids were somewhat patiently standing in line waiting to tell me their topic but Jackson, being the bottom-line guy he is, was nosing around the A volume which, of course, was the first book in the set.

When I realized he’d skipped a step, I called out to him and told him that I wanted him to have a topic in mind and not just to pick the first thing he came to. He assured me he’d thought hard and had made a good decision and wasn’t just choosing the first thing he saw.

A few minutes later when I asked what his topic was, he informed me with absolute seriousness and commitment to the task at hand that “aardvark” was what he'd decided to research.

I also have a couple Samantha stories. Samantha, who was in Jackson's class, is bright and creative and already her own person. She’s also quite mature and outspoken, intent on figuring things out and then articulating her thoughts to us all.

One morning near Valentine’s Day, our sharing time somehow turned to how the kids’ parents had met. Some had encountered each other in college, others on blind dates, a couple while traveling in Europe. Samantha told us her parents had met at AA.

A while later, we were talking about the Trail of Tears and what a sad time that was in American history. I was trying to get the kids involved by asking them how they would've felt if they’d had to pack up and leave home and walk such a long distance. I asked, “What if, while you were walking, your mother got sick and wasn’t able to go on and your father had to carry her?”

Samantha responded with, “Well, my parents are divorced so I don’t think my father would carry my mother. Plus, she’s a lesbian.”

A few months back, Mrs. Fleckner, one of my colleagues, came into my classroom to tell me something. Her classroom is just a couple of doors down from mine but because of our schedules, my students don’t see her very often. Mrs. Fleckner was also quite pregnant at that time, and I could tell by the kids' faces and open mouths that they were surprised to see her in this particular state.

So, just after she left the room, I said, “Yes, Mrs. Fleckner is going to have a baby.” After a moment's silence, one of my sweet angels asked, “Does she know it?”

Which brings me to Felicity and the birthday cheese. As my birthday approached a while back, the kids all seemed to know, although I swear I didn’t tell them. Anyway, during our break times, there was a good bit of whispering and picture drawing from the girls (but not the boys who lean more toward building tall block towers and then knocking them down).

Felicity, who is a gorgeous and very quiet little girl came up to me during one of our break times and wanted to ask me some questions about my favorite things. It went something like this:

What's your favorite color?


What's your favorite breakfast?

Muffins. (I was trying to give her answers she to which she could relate.)





I could tell this wasn't going quite the way she wanted, so she started narrowing down her questions.

What's your favorite cheese?


What's your favorite sucker?

What are those suckers with the bubble gum in the middle? I like those.

Blow Pops.

Yes, Blow Pops are my favorite sucker.

The next morning, before school, Felicity stopped to ask me if I also like orange cheese. I said yes.

At break that day, when I returned to my desk, I found a piece of drawing paper with "I love you Dr. Mayo" on it. Under it was a slice of cellophane-wrapped orange cheese and a cherry Blow Pop.

One last story. This one is about Frank and it will lead me to my ending.

I was watching Frank the other day while I was teaching math. Frank appeared to be in great agony as if my boring lesson were causing him real physical pain. He started out by laying his head back on his desk after turning around so he could at least pretend to look at the board.

Once his head was on his desk, he let it sort of loll there, kind of rolling around like a big old marble. As I was busy helping my students understand the differences between centimeters and inches, I thought to myself, Frank is getting ready to roll his head right off his desk and fall out of his chair.

One minute later, there he went, landing on the floor in an embarrassing heap and then jumping back up, pretending, like a cat, that he'd meant to do it.

All of the above serves not only to help me remember what a great and entertaining job I have. It also reminds me that elementary school teaching is the only profession, other than bartending, where people fall out of their seats on a daily basis.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Love it, love it!! It brings smiles now and brings back so many memories of the days I taught 1st grade. There is nothing like it.

Reading of Frank's "fall from grace...er, place" is a wonderful way to start the day. It is just so typical "boy!"

Thanks for a good laugh!

Marcia, absolutely wonderful. Did you ever hear of or from Jackson or Felicity over the years?

I just love kid stories. Art Linkletter's show "Kids Say the Darndest Things" stays in my memory. I still remember some of the answers Art got from these guileless moppets.

My own children provided me with laugh lines of my own. My daughter was 3 years old when she came up with one memorable line. I had worked all day preparing dinner for company that I wanted to impress. The house was clean, dinner in the oven and when I went through the hall to go change for company I discovered that my son had tracked gravel and dirt all over the hall and my daughter had littered the living room with toys. I came unglued and said,"You children can mess up more in ten minutes than I can clean all day." My imp leaned against the door jamb, calmly looked up at me and said, "You know something, Mama. You never should have had children."

My favorite kindergarten story happened near Christmas. I asked the children if they were having special foods. Mario was waving his hand vigorously. I expected to hear about a wonderful Italian meal. "My mother is making green jello," he proudly announced. I stifled a giggle.

DELIGHTFUL stories, Marcia. Tnx.

Aren't second graders wonderful?

Little Judy used to come into the shop where I worked to visit her Dad.

One day she was sitting at his big desk with her chin in her hand,just staring into space. I said to her,"What are you thinking of, Judy?"

She replied with a dreamy look in her eyes."I'm trying to decide whether to invite my college friends to my wedding."

I envy you your job,Marcia and loved your stories.

Wonderful stories, Marcia. How I love the perspectives of children. It is a much needed reminder with all the doom and gloom these days that culturing and nurturing the love of a child is really the highest calling one can answer to. Thanks for the work you do and the smiles this morning!

One of the joys of my life was teaching a Creative Writing class to hs students, who were deemed "unable to graduate." Only took me 2 weeks to see I had to ignore all hints from their teachers, bear up under snide comments from some students and simply ask them to write about themselves, last night, last year, favorite memory, scariest memory, etc...I used handouts of Anna Quindlin columns I had enjoyed, sports columnists I followed and news stories that grabbed me because of any reason..After a while, almost every term, some student would write to tell me that he/she had a friend who was in the class before and said they should stick with the class because they had learned to write, even though I was a major "ball-breaker & mean woman" and didn't even care that most of the students hated me, the class, etc..Those twice weekly 45 minute classes gave me entree into lives that could bring me to tears on the #2 train home to Brooklyn or ear to ear grins on the same train when some l8 year old boy found his voice and I could feel even he knew it from the beginning of an essay to the end...I often wonder what happened to some of those story tellers...thanks for your good work Teach!

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