There are certain things that my former students said that I can still hear them saying in my head, twenty years later. Some of them are funny, some of them are definitely not. I can also still hear some of the things the parents said. I know that I have forgotten so much more than I remember, but it’s so funny what has stuck in my head all these years later. I am sure that I heard funnier and meaner things, but these are the things that I remember on repeat.
I taught third grade my first year of teaching. I had a little girl who I can remember very vividly. I have no idea where she is or what she is doing now, but I am sure she is good at it. That girl had leadership skills. She was not the top student in the class, but she knew who the top student was and she knew who the struggling students were, and she knew who did and didn’t do their homework, and she knew who rode which bus, and what every person had in his or her lunchbox. She could put anyone in his or her place, including me. She did just that, many times.
Melanie (not her real name): Miss Reppert, what in the world happened to your hair?
Me: I got it cut, Melanie.
Melanie: Well, I hope it grows fast, because it looked a lot better before.
Melanie was also very concerned about my age and my marital status.
Melanie: How old are you, Miss Reppert?
Melanie: Are you married?
Me: Not yet.
Melanie: Oh my gosh! You are really old! My mom is way younger than you and she is married and has three kids. Do you think you need to wear prettier clothes? My mom wears more dresses.
I also had a few memorable parent conversations that first year. One of my very favorites (but not at the time) came in the form of a phone call at 10:00 P.M. I was getting ready for bed when the phone rang and it was Amber’s (not her real name) mom. It seemed that eight year-old Amber refused to go to bed and her mom wanted me to get on the phone with her and make her go to bed. Mom also wanted tips on how to make children go to bed at an appropriate bedtime. Mom had recently married, and her new husband was not pleased that Amber did not have a bedtime and just wandered around the house until she was so tired she fell asleep. I was single with no children. I didn’t feel particularly qualified to give this mom parenting advice, however badly needed. But, I was very tired and I wanted to go to sleep, so I did speak with Amber and I told her to go to bed. If you are wondering if Amber’s mom continued to call at night when Amber wouldn’t go to bed, she did. But I let my answering machine pick up. I was new to teaching, but I was learning really fast.
After that one year, I moved to another district and started teaching first grade. I heard some of the wildest things ever from first graders. Pretty much daily I would have to stop a child and say, “I don’t think this is a story your mommy and daddy want you to tell at school.” No secrets are safe with six year-olds! I had a student named Zach (not his real name) who really acted more like a preschooler. He did not call anything by its real name. He called Santa “HoHo.” Cats were “meow moews.” You get the idea. Well, one day he was absent due to a family emergency. That sounded rather serious, so when he returned the next day, I took him aside and asked him about the day before. I asked him if anyone was sick. He said no. So, I asked what he had done the day before. I KNOW it’s not funny. But you had to hear his little preschooler voice tell the story. He said, “Me and my momma went to Illinois to get my daddy. We walked right up the sidewalk and knocked on the door and told him that he should not be staying with that woman. And we brought him back home.” Not at all what I had expected him to say. I was not sure how to respond. I tried to comfort him and I did speak with the counselor. He and his momma made a few more trips to retrieve Daddy and then Grandpa moved Momma and Zach to his house. Momma started wearing mini skirts and high heels to the book fair. Sorry. I’m a horrible person. But six year-olds tell everything!
Now I work with teachers. You would expect that working with a large group of professionals would not provide much in the way of memorable conversations, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have mentioned before that teachers tend to take on the behaviors of their students. So. true.
Me: Are you okay?
High School Teacher: (literally on the floor doing crunches in the corner of the room while the rest of the teachers read an article and worked in groups to make a poster of their take-aways) I don’t like that activity you planned. I don’t like things like that.
Me: Ok. Well, what are your take-aways from the article?
High School Teacher: I don’t have any. I knew all of that already.
Me: Perfect! You can be our resident expert. I’ll let you start off the discussions since you already know so much about the topic.
At least he stayed awake. At one of my first professional development presentations, I was working with a very small group of teachers. We had been working for maybe five minutes when one of the teachers crossed his arms over his ample belly and proceeded to fall fast asleep right there in his chair. He wasn’t just dozing, either. He started snoring. I assumed that he would jostle awake as we continued working around him, but no. We did all kinds of things and he snored right through it all. The other teachers acted as if this was completely normal. We counted off to make groups, and they just skipped him. When we passed out papers, they put his in a nice pile and kept passing. We all got up and did a Kagan structure or two. He sat right through it. I would have sworn he was dead if he had not been snoring the whole time. Then, right at lunch time, he awoke. He snorted and sniffed and stretched and left for lunch with everyone else, without a word. I know you’re dying to know if the principal was there or if he/she saw it. The principal was there most of the time. You can’t make this stuff up.
To protect identities, I cannot even share my most outrageous stories. But these are still some of my favorites. They were not very enchanting as they were happening, however. This is something I have to remind myself on my most irritating days. It’s easy to get all riled up, but it’s usually not worth it. It’s much better to see the humor. Having a good day is often a choice. I try to choose it as often as possible.