Posts Tagged ‘Tales from the Classroom’

As a teacher you get the occasional invitation from a student to attend one of their out-of-school activities. It might be an athletic event (I’d go sometimes) or a birthday party (I’d never go), maybe even a church play or something like that. Anyway, I’d try and go if it seemed important to the kid.

Back when I was teaching 6th grade a little girl named Erica asked if I’d like to come to her piano recital. It was going to be on a Sunday afternoon, so I said sure, why not? I figured I’d drop in for a few minutes, watch her little performance and be on my way.

Hey, a little support is always a good thing with kids, right?

Sunday arrived, and the recital was to begin at 1:00 PM in a local church. I got there a few minutes early, grabbed a program, and took a seat in one of the back pews. From the front row Erica saw me, and when her face lit up I was glad I’d come. It was then that I glanced down at the program to see when she’d take the stage. The first ominous sign was that they were beginning with the real little kids and moving up chronologically. Trust me, there were some real little kids there. The second thing I noticed was that the list of performers was a long one. Oh well. I planned to give her a thumbs-up after she was finished and sneak out anyway.

I ran my finger down the list, looking for Erica. Down and down I went until I found her name . . .

27th out of 27. She was the last kid on the list.

I sat through all 27 kids that day. I thought of leaving and coming back, but she kept glancing back at me and I was afraid if she saw I’d left she’d assume it was for good. So, I listened to 27 different piano recitals from kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. I heard Amazing Grace, Do Your Ears Hang Low?, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Itsy-Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, the ever-popular Bingo (3-times), and a slew of other children’s songs.

By the time Erica’s turn came it was almost 4:00, and my ears were numb to the music. All I wanted to do was listen to her version of Mary Had a Little Lamb or The Entertainer or whatever the hell she was going to play, applaud politely as I pretended to love it, and rush home to catch the second half of the Bengal’s game.

But then, she started playing her song.

Let It Be.

A Beatles song she’d learned for me.

That’s why she’d asked me to come, and that’s why she’d kept looking back at me.

Turns out I didn’t have to pretend. It had been a long day, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth every minute.

And I wish I didn’t. Here’s the lowdown . . . 1

Years go when I taught sixth grade I had a kid named Donnie whose father didn’t have the best of reputations. Nice guy and all, I got along with him just fine, but I’d heard several rumors about him. Most involved, shall we say, certain shady business practices involving substances that are illegal in these United States of America.

I usually laughed it off when I heard such innuendo, because without proof I ignore that kind of stuff. That’s how I roll, kids. Hey, I’ve had rumors spread about me that would curl your toes, buckle your knees and make your jaw drop to your belly button. If you want to know what some of them were feel free to ask, but I’m not writing them down here for fear it would reignite the smoldering embers of my past.

On a related note, those last two sentences were straight fire, weren’t they? Damn I’m good.

Anywho, back to the father with the less than stellar reputation. I refused to believe the rumors, but one day evidence indicated that they just might just be true.

You see, one day early in the year I was having a discussion with my class about their summer vacations. Kids were telling me about going to Disney World, Myrtle Beach, all the usual summer haunts. Some just went on long weekends to Kings Island or Cedarpoint, and I made sure to let them know it was cool if their family had decided to stay home rather than take a typical vacation.

Note: Some folks call sticking close to home a Staycation. I want to punch those people in the solar plexus.

It was near the end of the discussion when I turned to Donnie. He hadn’t raised his hand so I called on him . . .

Me: “Donnie, did you guys go anywhere on vacation or just stay home?”

Donnie: ” Not really. Dad and I did take a trip for a couple days though.”

Me: “Really? Where’d ya go?”

Donnie: “We just went down to Texas for a couple of days. Dad had to run over to Mexico but he came right back.”

Me: “Alrighty then. Hey, who wants to go to recess early?”

Hey, I’m a pro. Nothing to see here. I knew when to cut and run. And you know, I didn’t want some cat named Carlos showing up at my door with an AK-47.

Yikes.

Well, almost.

Pretty good depiction of Hud that day.

Pretty good depiction of Hud that day.

As every kid I ever had in class knows, I always had my room filled with an assortment of crazy stuff like toys and noisemakers and posters and stuffed animals and other wacky thingamajigs, doodads and whatchamacallits. Kids were always bringing me new toys.

With this in mind, one day one of my students brought me a cool Nerf Sword. I was standing by the door to my room one morning, and he just handed it to me as he walked by (for you trivia buffs, the kid was named Hairball). Of course I was thrilled because, well, who wouldn’t want a Nerf Sword to beat students over the head with?

With great joy I immediately began looking for suitable prey. It so happened that a kid named Hudson was destined to become my first victim. He was among the line of kids walking by me into the room, and why he was The Chosen One I’ll never know. Luck of the draw I guess. Plus the kids I liked got picked on the most, ya know?

Anyway, as he sauntered by I reared up, held the sword high and smote him upon the head with great force. Seriously, I walloped him right on the crown of the old melon.

After contact, though, I realized something was amiss. I never felt the soft, delicate, satisfying whack of a Nerf Sword. It seemed more, I don’t know, solid. Plus it sounded as if I’d hit a granite countertop with a croquet mallet, so there’s that.

It was only then that I checked out the sword blade with my hand. In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve done this prior to whacking a 5th grader over the head with it, but I was ecstatic over my new toy. What can I say?

Alas, it turns out the Nerf Sword was only Nerf on the outside, and on the inside it was, well, some sort of wooden bar or something. Perhaps a type of lightweight aluminum alloy. Whatever it was, it was hard and unbendable.

Well, apparently neither was Hud’s head. I became aware of this because, after the crack of the impact he stopped, turned to look at me, and sort of staggered backwards into a classmates awaiting arms.

The watching crowd’s reaction went from amusement to shock to horror, all in quick succession. There may have been some revulsion thrown in as well, I can’t be sure. Oh, and a few kids with the coldest hearts were still laughing.

Stunned (but not as much as Hud), I apologized profusely and made sure he was OK. Lucky for me there was no huge lump emerging, nor was there any sign of blood. That said, we watched for signs of a concussion the rest of the morning, just to be certain. Other than Hudson asking where he was a couple times and at one point requesting a Ham and Cheese Omelette and a Strawberry Milkshake, he seemed fine.

I kid.

Seriously, I counted my blessings for having had Hud’s mother in class years before, though. She was familiar with my shenanigans and was unsurprised that I’d nearly knocked her first-born unconscious with a large weapon. In fact, she found it hilarious.

Thank God for that. In this day and age teachers have been fired for much less.

Bottom line, Hud survived and so did my career. I guess I have Hud’s hard head (for surviving the blow) and Hud’s mom (for not pressing charges) to thank for that.

Note: If I ever start a punk rock band it shall be known as Hud’s Head. Not even kidding.

And no, I didn’t know, and that’s the point of this story. I’ve wanted to tell this for awhile, but every time I tried to write it I stopped and put it on the backburner. I don’t know, it just sounded self-serving and pretentious somehow. Still, I felt as if I needed to write it. If nothing else, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from it.

A couple months ago I stopped in at a small store in a town where I once taught. Nobody else was in the store except the cashier and I, and after I picked up what I needed I paid for it at the counter. But as I was about to open the door and leave I heard a voice . . .

“Mr. Shoemaker?”

It was the cashier, the young lady I’d just spoken with when I’d checked out. I walked back to her and the following conversation took place:

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

“No, I’m sorry. Have we met?”

“Yes. You were my teacher in 8th Grade.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. You know, I’ve had so many kids over the years and it’s hard to remember all the names.”

She then proceeded to tell me her name, and I sort of remembered her but not really. I had a vague recollection but it was 25 years ago or so. Like I said, as a teacher I’ve had thousands upon thousands of students. Hence, it’s really, really hard to remember every single one of them. It’s easier for kids to remember us, as they only had a few teachers.

We then had a short conversation, laughing about the old days and generally catching up. As I was about to leave she asked if she could come around the counter and give me a hug, and I said absolutely.

The hug was a long one, and it seemed, I don’t know, a little too emotional for the moment. But just as I was about to ask if she was O.K., she whispered my ear . . .

“You saved me, you know.” 

I was sort of taken aback, as I had no idea what she meant. I figured I must have given her some advice or something years ago and it had helped. But I wasn’t sure, so I had to ask . . .

“I did? What do you mean?”

It was then the words came pouring out . . .

“One day I came to school with a bruise on my cheek. After the bell rang and we were leaving, you asked me to stay back for a minute. You asked what had happened and I told you I’d run into a door. You just cocked your head and looked at me without saying anything. I went home and thought about it that night. The next day I went to see you and told you my father had punched me and that he’d been beating the hell out of me my whole life. You asked if I’d been to the guidance counselor or principal and I told you I had, but nothing had changed. You just said to hang on and be strong, that you’d think of something. That night, as I was eating dinner with my family, there was a knock at the door. It was you. You asked to speak with my father outside, and you were both gone for what was probably a few minutes but seemed like forever. I was scared to death. Later my dad came back in and sat down as if nothing had happened. I don’t know what you said . . . but he never touched me again.”

I was shocked. I had no recollection of any of this. I asked her if she was sure it was me and she said this:

Oh, it was you. I’ll never forget it.”

The tears in her eyes told me that she was right. But how could a man forget such a thing? How could I possibly forget going to a student’s home and confronting a father? Was I crazy enough to threaten him physically? Did I tell him I’d go to the police? It was a long time ago, and I honestly have no idea.

Whatever I said or did, I’m glad I did it.

I don’t really know the point of all this, other than I guess we need to understand the fact that sometimes we do things that have significant impacts on people’s lives, even if we don’t realize it.

And teachers, never forget that everything you do or say can have a lasting impact on your students.

Even if you don’t remember it.

Angry-KidYears ago we used to have ½-Day Kindergarten at our school. Some kids came in the mornings and others in the afternoons. Anyway, there was a tough little Bainbridge kid named Chucky who went through kindergarten doing the morning schedule, then returned the next year for 1st grade.

On his first day of school for 1st grade, Chucky’s class broke for lunch but he went to his locker and began packing his stuff to head home. A teacher (my sister actually) walked up, saw what he was doing, and the following conversation ensued:

Hey Chucky, where ya goin’?

“Heading home. School’s out.”

“Uh, Chucky, you have to go full days this year.” 

First, a stunned look. And then . . .

“WHAT? WHO THE HELL SIGNED ME UP FOR FULL DAYS?”

Apparently Chucky’s mother had neglected to inform him of the whole schedule change thing.

Tough day for Chucky. His whole life changed in the blink on an eye.

So I was subbing the other day and I was letting some junior high students go lifeto the gym for their Science Project interviews. As one of the kids, Ray, was walking by we had the following conversation:

“Ray-Ray, are you ready for your big interview? All prepared and whatnot?”

“Nah. I’m just going to wing it and hope I get lucky.”

Ah, Ray-Ray. Unwittingly, you just described so many people’s lives in a nutshell.

Kids, man.

 

Years ago I had a junior high kid named Carly who didn’t like me very much.

Not Marley's mother.

Not Carly’s mother.

For some reason there was a personality clash between us and I don’t really know why. Hey, it happens from time-to-time.

Anyway, her mother called and asked for a conference and I said sure, come on in and we’ll try and figure this out. Well, mom shows up without Carly and she was angry. She was really worked up, man.

And then she said this:

You two had better work this out, and soon. I want you to sit down and talk with her immediately.”

I don’t know, something about the way she was ordering me around maybe, but it didn’t sit well with me. Plus she hadn’t been real respectful from the minute she walked in. Anyway, I responded thusly:

“Number one, I’ve already talked to Carly. Several times. I’ve praised her, cajoled her, been stern with her, everything I can think of. Nothing has worked. Number two, ‘we’ don’t have to work out anything. Carly does. I have 160-students to deal with, and students only have a few teachers. I can’t adjust to every single one of them. Students have to adjust to their teacher, just like they’ll have to adjust to their college professors or their bosses someday.”

For a few seconds, silence and and a cold stare. And then, this:

“You know what? You’re right. I never looked at it that way. I’ll have a talk with her.”

Then she got up, shook my hand, and walked out.

Well hell, that went better than expected. And you know what? I never had a problem with Carly again. I guess reason sometimes does work.

And having an open-minded, understanding parent helps too.

Back in the early 1990’s I was teaching 7th and 8th grade kids at a small school 7ygtt56ggin Rainsboro, Ohio. The school was out in the country, which will be relevant shortly. Anywho, since we’re getting close to Christmas I thought I’d retell the story . . .

‘Twas early December and alas, my room had no Christmas Tree. Of course we couldn’t go without one, so a nefarious plan was hatched.

For reasons known only to me at the time, I sent three 8th grade boys into the woods behind the school on a Christmas Tree search. Oh, and I might mention they were armed only with a hammer, which I’d found in my desk. What can I say? It seemed like a good and funny idea at the time.

They’d been gone about 45-minutes when one of my students yelled, “Mr. Shoe! They’re back!” We all looked out the window and sure enough, there they were, dragging what appeared to be a beautiful 6-foot Douglas Fir behind them. As they drew nearer you could see where the bottom of the trunk was splintered from when they chopped the tree down with the claw end of the hammer. Long story short we fashioned a tree stand by cutting a hole in some books, decorated the tree with some really ugly ornaments, and we were in business.

It was only after we returned from Christmas Break that I learned where they’d found the tree.

In someone’s backyard.

Oh, and one more thing. We had to get rid of the tree eventually, so I had another genius idea. We took the tree out to the playground and, while still in its stand replete with all its ornaments, ignited it and watched it burn.

And as it did, we all sang, “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, Oh how we love to burn you.” 

It was a memorable moment, trust me.

Folks, I swear this happened. I have witnesses.

How I kept my job back then is still a mystery to me.

Busted by Frank

Posted: November 24, 2015 in Classroom, Education, Humor
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damnI was a High School Athletic Director at the time, and I was making the rounds passing out some paperwork to my coaches.  One of my volleyball coaches taught 3rd Grade, and I have to say she was, well, pretty straight if you will. In fact, she was really uptight about some of the very things in life that yours truly indulges in from time-to-time.  Keep this in mind as you read the conversation that took place between me and a little kid named Frank as I walked into her room:

Frank: “HEY! I saw you in the liquor store!”

Me, startled: “Huh? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Frank: “Yeah, it was you. It was on Thursday in Greenfield. You were at the liquor store.”

At this point I remember that I was in fact in Greenfield on Thursday, and was, yes, at the liquor store. At this point I’m not sure why but I felt compelled to cover my ass. Perhaps it was the uptight teacher standing there and I didn’t want to be teacher’s lounge gossip fodder. Anyway . . .

Me: “Oh yeah, a buddy of mine owns the place so I was stopping in to say hello.”

Again, I’ve no idea why I felt I needed to lie to the kid but he had me on the ropes. Alright, I admit it.  I panicked. Anyway, the kid wasn’t convinced…

Frank, skeptically: “Huh.”

At that point I’d given the papers to the teacher and was on my way out. Hey, I felt I was good to go. But as the door was about to shut behind me I heard this:

“That’s funny. I thought I saw him buying vodka.”

Busted.

Damn kid was probably flunking 3rd Grade but he remembered every detail of my trip to Joe’s Party Shop.

Sigh.

 

juew221So I was subbing at school today and, as always, a funny thing happened.

Before I begin you have to understand that we have an ROTC program where the students are trained to be leaders and whatnot, wear uniforms and generally do a lot of cool stuff in and around the school. Among a ton of other things they’re taught to stand straight, speak respectfully and exhibit all the other traits of a good soldier. It’s a great program.

That said, today I noticed a couple of doors were propped open at the end of a hallway. Since it was about 35º out, this seemed inappropriate. There were a few kids standing around, including an ROTC student. I walked up and, preparing to admonish him, asked why the door was open. His reply?

“Somebody farted, sir.”

He said this with such seriousness and respect that all I could do was nod my head and say this:

“Very well then. Nice work.”

Then I turned and walked away. Hey, he seemed to have the situation completely under control.

Just another day in the hallowed halls.

 

 

As is often the case with these things, I’ve no idea where I came up with the idea. I believe it all started when I was teaching at Greenfield Middle School and a pretty good kid did something stupid. It should come as no surprise that this happens often, good kids doing dumb things. Anyway, I didn’t want to punish the kid too severely for what he’d done, just rip his ass and scare him a little bit.

However, for some reason I gave this student three options regarding his discipline. His options were:

1. He had a week of detention.

2. I’d make a call to his mom and dad.

And for reasons unbeknownst to me . . .

3. He had to promise to salute me every time he saw me for the rest of his life.

Yeah, I know. Makes no sense on any level. I’ve never been in the armed forces or anything. Like I said, the kid made a dumb mistake, I don’t even remember what it was. I wanted him to remember what he’d done without really getting him into trouble, ya know?

And of course he picked #3. Who wouldn’t? For the next several years every time I saw this kid in the hallway, at sporting events, anywhere, he stopped and saluted.

Bottom line, I used this form of “discipline” several times over the years at Greenfield, Rainsboro, Twin and Paint Valley. You’d think in most cases Option #3 would be forgotten pretty quickly, right?

Wrong.

Here are some examples of students sticking to their promise . . .

When the kid I just mentioned was probably in his early twenties, I was stopped at a stoplight in Greenfield and the girl I was with said, “Uh, Dave, what’s that guy doing?” I glanced over and there, catty-cornered across the street, standing on the sidewalk, was my guy. He was standing at attention, saluting me.

Once I was coaching a varsity basketball game at Paint Valley and something caught my eye across the court. There, standing at mid-court, was a 30-year old man saluting me.

Another time I went to a funeral in Bainbridge, had left the funeral home and was pulling into the graveyard for the burial. There, standing by the entrance, was one of the funeral home workers, saluting me as I passed.

I was once at a restaurant in Columbus with a group of people. At one point everyone at my table got sort of quiet. I looked up to see everybody staring at something a couple tables away. Yep, there was a former student, standing quietly, at attention, and saluting.

Perhaps my favorite memory is this one –  while visiting friends at the beach one summer, I took a moment to step out on the balcony of their condo to take in the view. At some point I glanced down, and there, standing in the surf and saluting, was a former student.

What were the odds?

All these salutes in weird places were from former students who’d taken Option #3. The odd thing is, nobody ever yells first or anything. They just stand there quietly, waiting patiently for me to notice them. Odder still is the fact that other people notice them first. It’s often another person who points them out to me.

So, if you choose to attend my funeral someday (and I hope it’s a l-o-n-g way off), don’t be surprised if the occasional person stops at my casket, smiles, and gives me a short salute.

After all, they’re just fulfilling a promise.

So I subbed in the elementary again today and, as always, I have some gems to report. Let us proceed . . .

1

Perhaps James was correct.

While in the gym before school I noticed one of my former students walk in sporting a different hairstyle. He used to go with the Bieber look but is now parting his hair on the side. I turned to a kid named James who was standing beside me and the following conversation ensued:

Me: “Hey, I see Ray Ray is going with a different look.”

James: “Yeah, he’s wearing his hair like those people in England.”

Me: “Huh? He’s just parting it on the side.”

James: “Yeah, like those British people do.”

Uh, O.K.

Sometimes it’s best not to ask.

Later on, I was in class and overheard some little 2nd grade girls badmouthing a teacher. I stepped over and firmly admonished them, telling them that type of talk wasn’t appropriate. They all nodded their heads and seemed to understand. Then, a few minutes later one of them walked over and said this:

“Mr. Shoe, is it O.K. to think those things inside my head?”

Yes, honey. We all think bad things “inside our heads.”

Finally, we were out on the track when a 4th grader I didn’t know went running by me in what appeared to be an exaggerated, weird gate. I laughed, pointed, and proceeded to insert my foot directly into my mouth:

Me: “Haha! Hilarious! Nice running Ryan! What animal are you imitating?”

Ryan: “What? That’s the way I run.” 

Me. “Oh, uh . . . cool.”

Well, hell.

Note to self: Hold tongue when commenting on freakishly oddly running children.

Just another day as a substitute teacher.