Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Visitor

            “ . . . acting like this.  You need to calm down.”

            I looked up from my computer to see who was talking.  The principal stood at my door with a small boy standing by her side.  I did a double take because the little boy looked exactly like Macaulay Culkin from “Home Alone.”

            “Hello Mrs. Jones,” said the principal.  “This is Edward.  He’s a 6th grader and needs a place to sit for the next hour.  With all the construction it’s too noisy in the office, and I wondered if it would be OK for him to work in here.”

            So much for a plan period.  “Sure,” I said brightly.

            Edward walked over to a desk and set his books down.  The principal mouthed “Thank you,” and walked out.  I turned back to my unfinished report.

            The room was quiet for about two minutes until I heard a high whinny voice say, “You teachers are all alike.”

            I looked up.  “Pardon me?”

            Edward was glaring at me, breathing fire.  “You all hate me.”

            I raised my eyebrows.  “Edward, I don’t even know you.  Why would I hate you?”

            “Because you’re a teacher!” he snapped.  “Teachers hate me.  You all want me carted off to the looney bin.”

            Edward looked like a little bull huffing and puffing.

            “Ohhhh . . . I don’t think so,” I said.  “Is that schoolwork you have there?  Why don’t you try working on some of it?”

            Edward spit his words like darts.  “I can’t.  I’m mad.”

            I tilted my head, studied him a moment, then shrugged.  “OK,” and turned back to my computer. I ignored the heavy breathing for exactly 60 seconds.

            “Aren’t you going to try and calm me down?”

            I finished typing a sentence then turned to him.  “How would I do that?”

            “I don’t know!  You’re the teacher.  It’s your job.  You’re supposed to calm me down.”

            “Uh . . . ,”  I looked around my room searching for an answer.  “Maybe if you just sit quietly you’ll be able to calm yourself down.”

            Edward’s eyes blazed.  “You all just want to send me away so you can have . . . have a party!  And you’re going to . . . you’re going to drink lots of whiskey.  And you’ll all get . . . alcohol poisoning!”

            Oh, the principal owes me on this.

            I got up from my desk and walked over to Edward.  “How ‘bout we look in your planner and see what homework you have written down.”

            Edward slammed his books onto the empty desk next to him and opened his planner.  The week was blank except for three tiny letters on tomorrow’s date.  RPD.”

            “What does this mean?” I asked tapping the letters.

            Edward bent his head down until his nose almost touched the planner.

            “R . . . P . . . D . . .” he whispered.

            He raised his head slowly and scrunched his face, concentrating.  Then he slowly said, “Reading . . . project . . . due.”

            “You’ve got an outside reading project due tomorrow?”

            “Yes.”  Edward’s face relaxed.  He had solved the mystery.

            “So you’ve gotten a book and read it?”

            Edward bent over again and studied the letters.  Suddenly he jerked his head up.  His eyes were wide, panicked.

            He slapped both hands to the side of his face and hissed, “I’M SCREWED!”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Quarter Mile From Home

I have a beautiful bike trail a quarter mile from my house.


When I first moved here, I missed the solitude of walking on country roads.

This trail not only has quiet solitude, it has shade.

And hills.

And bridges.

Every five minutes or so a bicyclist may pass you.  “Coming on the left.”  But you’re mostly by yourself.

There’s a beautiful park at the point where I turn around and head back home.

I only discovered this trail two months ago.  For almost seven years I’ve been a hamster walking on a track in a gym.

When your head is down because things have changed too fast, or you’ve lost something, or you’re just sad, you tend to miss some pretty beautiful things right in front of you (or a quarter mile away). 

Get your head up.  What are you missing?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Homework Check - Contact Hour 1

Monday – Contact Hour 1

            “Guys, none of you have your math homework done today.  What’s up?”

            Javier’s hooded eyes flicked slowly back and forth as he said evasively, “I couldn’t get on the assignment.  Our computer’s all messed up with a virus.”

            A flush crept up Kevin’s neck.  “I didn’t know how to do it.”

            David was frantically thumbing through the zippered binder that his mother was calling his trash can.  He looked up in astonishment.  “We had homework?”

Tuesday – Contact Hour 1

            “Gentlemen.  Let’s go over your math.”

            Javier morphed into the “Godfather” - tilted head, exaggerated frown, slowly scratching his neck with the back of his fingernails.  “I’m banned from the computer at my house.”

            “If you’re banned from the computer, then you need to take your actual math book home.”

            Javier maintained character, but stopped scratching and conceded the point to me with his index finger and a slight raise of his eyebrows. 

            Kevin’s breathing deepened and became labored.  I wondered if his inhaler was close.  “I did the first one, but then my mom said it was 10 o’clock and I had to go to bed.”

            “When did you start your work?”   

            Kevin moaned softly.  “At 6:30.  Right after dinner.”

            Wrinkled papers already covered David’s desk, but he continued pulling more from his binder.  Papers fell to the floor.  I stood watching a paper earthquake in progress.  “I had it done.  I swear.  It was right here, but I can’t find it.”

Wednesday – Contact Hour 1

            I looked wearily at my charges.  “Homework?”

            A slow grin began on Javier’s face, and I knew what was coming.  “I . . .”

            I joined him in his reponse.  “. . . forgot your book.”

            Kevin smiled as he handed me two neat pages stapled together.  “I have mine done!”

            “That’s wonderful Kevin,” I said rewarding him with a big smile.  But it dropped off my face as I looked down at two pages filled with crisp, neat, adult writing.

            “Did anyone help you with your work?”

            “Yeah,” Kevin beamed.  “My dad.  He’s an engineer.”

            David’s binder lay open.  The bomb had detonated and papers covered the desk.  He held out his empty hands and sadly shook his head back and forth.

Thursday – Contact Hour 1
            “Homework!” I snapped.

            Javier looked up smugly as he tapped the paper on his desk with his index finger.  

            I looked down at the half page of work.  “You only did problems 1 to 3.  The assignment was for 1 to 11.”

            “We have church youth group on Wednesday night.”

            Yeah, right.

            Kevin’s head was down as he slowly shook his head back and forth.  “Dad had to work late.  Mom said she doesn’t know how to do our math.”

            David pulsed side to side as he proudly held up a piece of paper and hip-hopped, “I’m good.  I’m good.  Oh yeah.  I’m good.”

            My head began nodding in time with his shoulders as I reached for his math paper.  “This is your report from yesterday’s Science lab.”

            I could almost hear the needle on the record scratch as David stopped dancing.  “Wait. What?”  He took the paper back from me and studied it.  “This is my Science paper?  Oh man!  Did I give my math to my Science teacher yesterday?”

Friday – Contact Hour 1

            I looked out at my group.  “Anyone?”

            Three boys sat at three desks looking back at me.  Sitting neatly in the middle of each of their desks was a piece of paper filled with numbers.

            I slowed walked down the row examining their work.  Every assignment was complete.  Javier looked up with a kind smile clearly conveying great respect for his hard working teacher.  Kevin looked up with a proud smile as I noted the page filled with his own writing.  David looked up with a calm smile as I looked down on his clean, neat, wrinkle-free paper.

            Suddenly, the annoying buzz of my alarm going off woke me up, and I rolled over.  “6:00” blinked in red.  Time to get up.


Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day of School

            Well at least his foot isn’t jiggling a mile a minute.
            I looked down at Javier’s pink Addidas socks and black shoes.  His legs were crossed, his head was resting on folded arms, and his eyes were closed.

            “How’d your first day of school go guys?” Three boys waited for the final bell in the eighth grade Learning Center.
            “All anyone talked about was rules and rules and rules,” David crecendoed.

            I smiled sympathetically, but kept my eye on Javier wondering what it would take to get his head up.
            Did his ADHD meds ever kick in?  He’s a lot bigger this year.  Is this a crash? Is he taking anything this year?

            “Guys, I told you first hour that today is all about classroom procedures and making sure you have your supplies.  The hard stuff starts soon enough and you’ll wish for a day like today.”

            David unzipped his large three-ring binder and put his pencil into the small zippered pouch inside.  The pouch already bulged with a dozen pencils.
            They’ll be gone by Labor Day. Where do they all go?

            “Kevin,” I turned to the third boy, “You haven’t said anything.  How’d your day go?”

            Kevin’s eyes widened and a flush began creeping up his neck.  David twisted around in his seat to stare at Kevin.  Javier continued to sleep.

            “Uhhhhh,”  Kevin’s eyes darted. “Fine.”

            “Any problems or questions?”

            The blush continued creeping up and darkened.  Kevin’s eyes flicked from me to David and back to me.  His mouth pulled into a tiny, timid grin.

            “No,” he whispered breathlessly.

            I studied Kevin wondering how long it would take to peel back some of his shyness.

            “OK.”  Pause.  “Good.”

            I waited a minute then turned back to sleeping pink socks.

            “Javier.  Tell me about your day.”

            I watched his back and shoulders slowly rise as he pulled in a deep breath then heaved it out in a laborious sigh.  He raised his head and stared at me languidly through hooded eyes.  He finished a second grand sigh, then tilted his head and studied me.

            “Mrs. Jones.  You know how in this school there are some really boring teachers?”

             “Yeeeaaah,” I said.  “I know.”

            A grin tugged on the corners of his mouth.  He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head toward me.
            I dropped my mouth open and sputtered, “Are you saying I’m boring?”
            Javier’s eyes sparkled as he raised his eyebrows higher and tilted his head a second time towards me.

            Welcome back!