Overheard in the Classroom

Friday was one of those days when I felt like I had about a hundred children in my classroom. Actually, I had only nineteen instead of the usual twenty, since one student was absent. It wasn’t that the remaining students were more mischievous or energetic or needy than usual. I guess it was just a variety of factors that kept me running. Plus, it’s that time of the school year when everything seems to be racing downhill toward the finish line while I brace myself and try to keep the wagon from rolling out of control.

This is what my desk looked like on Friday at the end of the school day.

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But amid the chaos, don’t miss the gift I got on Friday: the wooden cutout of my name, given to me ever-so-shyly-but-proudly by the quiet little guy who is destined to become a woodworking artist. We can just quietly ignore the misspelling of my last name. (Why, as an elementary schoolteacher, must I have a last name that so blatantly disregards the basic rules of English grammar?)

And that’s life. The sweetest gifts amid the daily grind. Humor amid the frustration. With that in mind, here are a few stories from my classroom.

***

We open each school day with prayer, and usually I let the children share a few prayer requests. This needs to be carefully controlled so that it doesn’t just turn into storytelling time. We pray for the grandma who is in the hospital and for the little brother who has chicken pox and for the neighbor man who is not a Christian.

One day someone mentioned some people who had been hurt in an accident. Immediately hands shot up all over the classroom, since many of the children had heard about the accident. After letting a few students add details to the story, I said, “Ok, we’re going to pray now. If you want to tell me more about the accident, talk to me at break time.”

Half an hour later, in the middle of math class. . .

Teacher: “So, if sixty plus thirty equals ninety, and three plus two equals five, what is the is the answer to sixty-three plus thirty-two?”

E (after waving his hand eagerly): “Um, my grandma knows those people who were hurt in the accident.”

Math class came to a screeching halt as I decided it was time for a vocabulary lesson. “Class, I’m going to teach you a big word. Are you ready? The word is irrelevant.”

***

I teach Logic 101. I guide my students through complicated reasoning, such as, “If I run across that muddy field, then my shoes will become very muddy. And if I go inside with very muddy shoes, it could cause some problems.”

Yes, you guessed it. We did that lesson on the day I ended up with a very muddy classroom. “You see guys,” I said, “There’s this thing called Thinking Ahead.”

I know. Such a concept nearly blows the nine-year-old male mind. But at least I tried. And it always makes me want to roar with laughter when I think of the look on my boys’ faces when I gave them that little speech.

We’re also working on this: “If I hurry through my work today, I will end up with twice as much work tomorrow, since the teacher makes me correct mistakes. So I may as well take my time and do it right the first time.”

Mind-blowing indeed!

***

A lunchtime conversation:

E: “T kicked me during prayer!”

Teacher: “T, what was that all about?”

T: “He was making faces at me!”

Teacher (resisting the urge to laugh out loud): “Well, E. . .”

E grinned sheepishly, and that was the end of that conversation. Let’s just say that there are reasons why the teacher often prays with her eyes open.

***

After doing the dress rehearsal for our school Easter program first thing in the morning, my students were not enthused about having classes. They were sighing as I passed out the math speed drills, and someone moaned, “Do we have to have math class?”

“You’ll survive,” I said. “Anyway, I never heard of anyone who died from doing math.”

K raised his hand eagerly and in his best tall-tale voice exclaimed, “BUT, my UNCLE GOOFY died of doing math, because he swallowed his PENCIL while doing a speed drill!!”

The class roared with laughter. I laughed with them and then did my best to calm everyone down to start the speed drill. “On your mark, get set…”

Oh dear, L was waving his hand with a distressed look on his face as though his pencil was broken or something. I answered his hand. Immediately the distressed look left his face, and a mischievous grin replaced it as he said, “Well, MY Uncle Goofaloppagus died from doing math because he swallowed his PEN while doing a speed drill!”

***

Perhaps I should conclude on a more serious note.

A co-teacher of mine came over to my room before school to ask my advice on a problem she had with a student. After bemoaning the problem, she said, “If only we didn’t have to fight for souls!”

“You hit the nail on the head right there,” I replied.

 

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