Tag Archives: education

Of Blind Hogs and Acorns

Standard

https://i0.wp.com/www.boommybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Blind_Hog-200x300.jpgIt’s been six years since I left my career in education and I have a confession to make — even though I loved my students and did the best I could by them, I pretty much sucked at being a teacher and I wasn’t much better as a school librarian. It wasn’t for lack of trying or preparation; I joined NCTE and read English Journal faithfully the entire time I was an English teacher. When I was a librarian, I payed for School Library Journal out of my own pocket instead of using the school’s funds. I tried to help my kids and my fellow teachers, but I just didn’t have the gravity and ability so many of my colleagues did. My students never gave me any trouble and I always had one of the lowest discipline incident records each year, but I’ve never managed to shake the nagging feeling in the back of my mind — even after all this time — that I was subjecting students to a type of slow torture by force-feeding them Beowulf and Macbeth or short stories and poetry.

I wanted to get them writing, so I tried some writing workshop tactics without anywhere near the success Nancy Atwell promised me I would have in In the Middle. I just wanted them to find their own voices. Teaching research papers wasn’t much better. After I worked and worked with them on finding information and warned them about plagiarism, I still got at least one paper each time containing “see illustration on pg 103” somewhere in the middle of uncited sentences containing words I knew my young ones couldn’t define with a dictionary and a scientist to help them out.

The kids didn’t drive me out of the classroom and the library though. That was my own lack of political ability and tact. I never was a “good little solider” able to do what someone told me without comment. So, I butted heads with authority time after time after time and inevitably, I ended up allowing my battleship mouth to run over my rowboat butt. So I finally hung it up after being shown the door six years ago in my last position.

I’ve lived daily with the feeling of failure. I had every intention of staying in one room at one school and retiring after teaching grandchildren of former students or when they condemned the building around me, whichever came first and it just didn’t happen. Still, even a blind hog finds a nice juicy acorn every now and then and when I was feeling particularly low yesterday, a former student of mine replied to a post I’d made on Facebook about the ten most influential books in my life. Once I read it for the tenth or twelfth time I got to thinking maybe I wasn’t quite as horrible as I thought I was.

Here is what one of my boys — who I remember as a chunky little freshman with a complete inability to sit still very long at all — wrote on my Facebook wall. As you read it, keep in mind I had no idea he was fighting some of the battles he was waging and though I remember him well, I can’t recall giving him the book no matter how hard I try but he sure does.

Coach, I figured out why back in school I hated to read and you were the only teacher to actually take the time and say I have a book you might like to read and it was J D Salingers Catcher in the rye. Think thats how you spell it. After all these years and quite a few books and audio books cause i still struggle with reading. That book always sticks out in my mind. Oh the reason was im Add and Dyslexic. My favorite author now is Dean Koontz. I have alot of his books and alot of his audio books. I think if it wasnt for you showing me that book and how interesting books can be that I wouldnt read or listen to books now. You opened my eyes and encouraged me to read and open myself up and let my imagination make the words come alive and paint a picture of what I was reading. I have a 13 yr old son who is ADD and Dyslexic and he is the same way I was. He’s in the 8th grade now and i think next yr im going going to get that book and let him read it because it was the 9th grade when you gave me that book to read. I saw this post and figured i would comment. Thanks coach hope all is going well with you and your family…https://i2.wp.com/www.planetthoughts.org/userfiles/image/2011/Aug/starfish.jpg

You really don’t know . . . you really just never know. Maybe I’ve been a little hard on myself. Maybe never having a “Teacher of the Year” plaque on my wall isn’t as important as I thought. I still think I pretty much sucked as a teacher, but looks like I managed to get one starfish back in the water. Funny how the biggest boosts sometimes come along at the lowest ebbs.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Advertisements

Ten Years or Another Lifetime? Most Nights, I Don’t Know.

Standard

Read ’em and weep. I know I did.

I was on my way to being very chipper and upbeat this morning until I looked at the calendar and saw the date was October 23. I had almost forgotten . . . the key being ALMOST.

Ten years ago this afternoon, at 1:00 PM to be precise, life handed me the mother of all lemons. Actually, that’s a little too “cutesy.” The long story is ten years ago this morning I took one of the Magnificent 7, which is my euphemism for the seven events that radically changed my life for the worse. Each of the seven were hammer blows against my emotional well-being and each of the seven — in seven different ways — shattered me mentally and emotionally as easily as a cinder block dropped from a highway overpass will shatter a vehicle’s windshield and with about as much warning. Ten years ago today, following a short and slanderous hearing at 301 Camperdown Way, I was summarily and officially dismissed from my teaching post at Woodmont High School.

The short story is I was lied to and about, publicly humiliated, then fired from teaching. I’d been exiled from the one place where I’d normally felt safest, happiest, and strongest. For the first time in my life, I had been kicked out of school.

I plan to post all the documents I still have from the hearing and the aftermath. When I do, you can read them for yourselves. I don’t have the mental energy to type out that story here. I love this blog. It’s not much, but it’s mine and I’ve tried to steer clear of controversy and painful memories, but to deny the scars is to deny the events which caused them and any event that makes you seriously question whether or not you really want to go on living in a world where things like this can happen to you is much too important to be ignored.

I haven’t had many things happen to me that have affected me as much or as long as getting fired did. It was two years before I was able to get back into teaching for good and I wouldn’t have gotten a break then except my alma mater needed an English teacher and the assistant principal had been my Geometry teacher and the principal had student taught my senior class in something or other. They knew me personally so they didn’t really look at anything from “The File.”

It wasn’t the same though. For one thing, Thomas Wolfe was absolutely right when he said, “You can’t go home again.” Teaching in what had been my AP English classroom in my senior year forced me every day for 180 straight days to confront ANOTHER one of the Magnificent 7 so when a library job opened up one district over, I took it.

So, it’s been ten years and the pain is just as fresh in my mind now as it was then. I can still taste the metallic tang of pure adrenaline fueled fear in my mouth when I think about the hearing. I can still see the faces of the “witnesses.” More than anything though, I can still hear the thunderous silence of the people I had called friends and colleagues for almost nine years. I had helped these people in more ways than I can imagine. I’d tried to be there for them, but when I was strung up and dangling, none of them . . . NOT A SINGLE ONE bothered to vouch for my character.

I remember leaving the district office with Budge in tears and Mama in a rage like I hadn’t seen on her face since I was a third grader and Ray Bates’ mother (God rest her soul) grabbed me by the collar and shook me because I had finally stood up to Ray’s bullying. People have asked me if I was angry and I always tell them I was too concerned with keeping Mama and Budge from getting locked up to be angry. I just wanted to get home.

Thirty minutes after leaving the pillory, I went back to the school and to the room I’d called home for so long. It was a mess because the string of subs who had kept the class during my six weeks suspension while I awaited a hearing hadn’t been able to control my hellions or my brilliant AP History students. While I was gathering my things, the assistant principal who had been the main “detective / witch hunter” for my case came into the room and asked me “So how’d things go?” I still thank God and 300 mg of Effexor CR for not decking her in her smug little mouth right then. As it was, I snatched my posters from the wall, took a few folders from my filing cabinet, and collected my most prized belongings from my beautiful desk that my friend Brian Ashley had helped me restore five summers before , then I walked out.

I’ve never been back.

Now as a sorry excuse for a Christian, I do not believe in karma, but sometimes it is tempting when I consider this. None of the three students whose complaints against me triggered the whole debacle ever graduated from high school. The principal who threw me under the bus didn’t make it through the year herself but was dismissed in disgrace partly because parents complained to the district office about her attending home football games about “two and a half sheets to the wind” as we say in the country. The superintendent who was such a jerk over the entire thing was fired by the school board within a year, partly over allegations of misconduct with a couple of female principals and partly for just basically being an ass of the 33rd degree. Finally, the district lawyer who prosecuted my case was fired and arrested a few years later after a district computer technician found alleged child pornography on the computer in the lawyer’s office. The child porn charges were eventually dropped because no one could prove the boys were underage, but the computer crimes stuck and he may still go to jail.

Coincidence or karma? You decide.

Love y’all. Keep the faith and the feet clean.

On the Origins of a Vile Institution

Standard

Gloria Steinem famously quipped, “The truth will set you free . . . but first, it will piss you off.” Hopefully, this will stir some emotions in any of my former colleagues who may still read me from time to time. I’m saying what you can’t so print this out and leave where the “right people” can find it. Because, my teacher and librarian friends, TADA! It’s back to school time and that can only mean one thing — days of MEETINGS and, even worse, INSERVICES!!

Never a good sign of productivity ahead.

Probably the most hideous part of any year for a teacher is the “Read the Handbook” Meeting on the first or maybe the second day of school. If you’ve ever taught, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s where the principal gathers everyone together in — usually — the library and serves stale doughnuts and OJ or weak coffee. After a little small talk, he or she says, “We’ve revised some policy this summer so if you’ll open your handbooks . . .” and three hours of droning monotone, the verbal equivalent to the Chinese water torture, begins. Geological ages later when everyone is finally released to get rid of the coffee or OJ borrowed earlier, the only policy change is tennis shoes are now allowed on Fridays with “school spirit related” t-shirts — but still no jeans.

Have principals never heard of this wonderful invention called EMAIL? Anyway, no one really cares about the morning meeting because they are all headed in a mad dash to the two or three restaurants to grab a bite of lunch with their respective cliques so they can get back for a “very important and informative inservice” that will last the rest of the day and most of tomorrow.

Beginning of the year INSERVICES! You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. In my 15 years of mediocre teaching, I dreaded BOY inservices and meeting worse than a proctological exam. At least the doctor gives you a little “magic pill” to reduce the pain and degradation of the experience.

So, for the last few years since I “retired” from teaching, I’ve tried to trace the source of these instruments of the devil and I’ve finally found out enough to publish my findings. I hope you help me pass the truth along so others can be as pissed of as we are at the monumental wasting of our time.

Typical BOY meeting

First, we have to consider the birth of the inservice. I’ve concluded from my research that inservices are born out of desperation and/or greed. Some teacher struggling along somewhere puts together a unit or tries a made up classroom management system and — glory be, Jehovah — the dad-blasted thing actually works! It works so well a couple of other teachers on her hall try the idea and, OMG! It works for them as well. This is about the time someone says to the original teacher, “You know, this is SO brilliant! You should write a book or make a DVD lecture series so other teachers all over the world can share in this Red-Sea-parting level miracle of pedagogical genius.” So the teacher does just that very thing and six months to a year later, voila! A brand new educational “idea” is born and marketed as “the next great new thing.”

I was and remain cynically skeptical of any educational “new thing.” I desperately want to see these places where all this amazing teaching and learning takes place. If you dig around long enough, you find the majority of these authors have something in common — their schools aren’t anything like yours. They’ll pitch their goods to “poor” schools because their program was developed “the deep inner city.” Well, technically that’s a true statement but they leave out the part where the school is actually a magnet school or a charter school or something other than a real, live tough as nails inner city school.

Still, all these books would remain on the shelves of professional libraries everywhere for brand new teachers struggling to buy with those first meager paychecks hoping to catch lightning in a bottle if it were not for the second member of this dastardly duo — principals, ap’s, or vp’s. The school or district administration finds these programs and that’s when the trouble starts.

See, here’s the thing about administrators in the majority of schools most people don’t like to talk about — they couldn’t teach. I know of exceptions, but they are exceptions. For the most part, the average assistant principal is a former teacher who was really just not very good in the classroom. Usually, they know this fact about themselves but by the time they get it figured out, it’s four years, a mortgage, a car payment, and a kid or two down the road. They have neither the time nor the money to pursue another career which would need a totally different degree so they scrimp and sacrifice for three semesters and two summers to get their principal’s certificate.

Okay, great for them. I admire them for staying some course, but here’s the problem — once they leave the classroom, they almost immediately forget what it was like being a teacher. To make matters worse, if said AP is good enough at “butts, buses, and books,” he or she is probably going to get a school of her own to run. By this time, you have a person eight to ten years out of the classroom (where they pretty much sucked anyway) but they are making decisions affecting what every teacher in the building is doing!

I once swore I’d never use a lolcatz in my blog, but sometimes you just take what they give you!

In a worse case scenario, you have an ex-coach who’s a likeable enough guy but he majored in PE twenty years ago and will gladly talk your ear off about being the backup running back on his high school’s state championship team or about walking on to the Clemson University football program and he actually got in a game in the 4th quarter of a rout and TACKLED someone! Now this guy, who knows much more about whistles than literature, gets word from the district he has to provide X number of hours of inservice for his teachers. So he picks something based on what he saw at a conference or a seminar somewhere. The package was awesome and the presentation was slick and, after all, IT WORKED FOR THEM!! So, we’ll bring everyone in for coffee and doughnuts and drag them eye-rolling and head-shaking through HOURS of what might be an excellent program — IF our school was LIKE THEIRS!!

So there you have it in a nutshell — you have to sit through hours of BOY inservice totally irrelevant to your teaching situation while the whole time you are dying a little inside because “Meet the Teacher” night is two days away and yesterday was the first day you could get into your classroom because the waxing and painting crews from the district ran two weeks behind this summer! You have nothing run off that you need and your room is a mess, but your AP found this “great” program at HIS conference or seminar and showed it to the REST of the administration . . .

So here you are . . . miserable, tuned out, and desperately wanting to get your desk in order so you can be ready to do your JOB on Wednesday when the children (anyone remember THEM?) come back.

Folks, you have my sympathy. Know that, as always, I love y’all.

Keep those feet clean and good luck.

 

 

Julius Caesar Act III scene ii

Standard

One would have to be in a coma or outer space to have missed the monumental scandal surrounding Penn State’s football team. In brief, for my sub-rock dwellers, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was accused, then convicted of multiplied multitudes of sexual assaults on young boys who came to Penn State’s campus to participate in Sandusky’s Second Mile football camp. If every accusation against Sandusky — not just the ones he was convicted of — is true, he is likely to be one of the most prolific pedophiles since Giles de Rais.

Sandusky preyed on these young boys for two decades, but in the end, he is not the only monster in this scandal. Penn State’s athletic director and the school president were found by an independent investigation to have covered up the accusations and kept the entire series of events under wraps for that same twenty year period. As a result of their complicity, the NCAA today imposed the most severe penalties on a university sports program since Southern Methodist University received the “death penalty” in 1985. Penn State — one of the proudest and most storied football programs in the history of collegiate football — is banned from post season play (no bowl games) for four years, is fined $60 million dollars ( roughly the gross receipts of one year of Penn St football), loses 20 scholarships for four years, must spend five years on probation, and, most crushingly to the school’s historical legacy, must void 111 football victories. Essentially, the NCAA is saying in the eyes of the record books, Penn St went 0’fer for the last 14 years. The final penalty — voiding the wins — does something even more painful to the Penn St family, it drops legendary coach, the late Joe Paterno, from the #1 position of all time Division 1 wins.

Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer (or a broken heart)  in January, was a football coach at State College of Pennsylvania for 61 years, over 40 as the head man. To put that in perspective, he was coach for more years than my parents have been alive until their next birthdays. JoPa was more than a coach; he was an institution. Over six decades, he made his mark by “winning the right way.” Penn St was never seriously investigated by the NCAA because no one saw a need. The entire country knew that JoPa ran a squeaky clean program. Other massively famous college coaches such as Bear Bryant, Barry Switzer, and Pete Carroll are all known to have cut corners in their programs so they could consistently be on top. JoPa made his reputation by NEVER cutting corners. In 61 years, Paterno graduated more of his players than most other big time football programs. He always claimed he was more interested in molding young men in to adults of character than he was wins and losses. When he became head coach in 1966, he announced his “Grand Experiment” to blend academics and athletics in ways no other major college sports program ever had. In large measure, he was wildly successful and through the years, his players and former players breathed his name like something holy.

Besides being the winningest coach, JoPa was also known as a tremendous benefactor and philanthropist for the university. Over his years as coach, Paterno and his family gave MILLIONS of dollars to Penn State, not just for sports, but to further academic excellence as well.  In 1997, Penn State recognized Paterno’s contributions to the university’s academic programs by renaming the school’s library — the heart of any academic institution — after the coach.

Unfortunately, none of that matters anymore.

See, JoPa wasn’t just a coach, he was an educator, and educators at all levels from preschool to undergraduate college live by a code. Doctors have the Hippocratic Oath. Lawyers have the oaths before the Bar Associations. Teachers have a three word phrase — in loco parentis — Latin for “in the place of parents.” Educators are given charge of parents’ most important and beloved possession, their children. We (and I say we as I taught for 15 years) are supposed to guard those young people as if they were our very own. In many cases, we spend more time with those young people than the parents do. For coaches, this is especially true.

For all his speaking of a Grand Experiment, for all his claims of “winning the right way,” and for all his wonderful acts of giving, Joseph Paterno — head football coach extraordinaire — forgot in loco parentis. As a result, AT LEAST 56 young men lost their innocence to a predator on his watch. He kicked the can on down the road by telling his boss the AD and HIS boss the school president what he knew, but educators have a higher calling. We don’t just WIN the right way, we DO THE RIGHT THING. He did what he thought was all he needed to do — he fired Sandusky and told what he knew, but that’s where he stopped. Once JoPa saw his information had been ignored, he had a DUTY to tell that story until someone listened and acted. If that meant going to the police himself, that’s what his duty as an educator demanded, but he didn’t.

Sadly, for all the good Joe Paterno did, none of it will likely be remembered and what is, will be forever tainted by the scandal. All his good is now eaten up by ONE bad call. A generation of players will remember him fondly, but the lasting legacy he had worked so hard to set up is dashed. His beautiful statue was ripped off the wall of Beaver Stadium and placed in cold storage, perhaps forever. He is no longer the winningest coach. A lifetime of good undone by a wrong decision. JoPa was a good man who made a bad choice.

I fear that Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar may ring true for JoPa as well:

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean.

Written Up for Murder

Standard

 

This is an actual blank discipline referral from an actual school district in this state.

 

In the Michael Keaton / Jack Nicholson version of Batman: The Movie, Nicholson’s Joker wonders aloud at one point, “What kind of a world do we live in where a man dressed as a bat steals all my press?” A valid question.

Here’s mine: What kind of a world do we live in where our schools’ disciplinary documents contain spaces for offenses like “forced sexual offense,” “drug trafficking”, and — most shockingly — “HOMICIDE.”

Let that one sink in for a minute. HOMICIDE. Murder. Right between “Hall Pass Violation” and “ID Violation” sits the blank for Homicide. I don’t know which is more surreal and disturbing, the fact that the line marked Homicide exists at all, or that administrators today face the very real possibility of having to check that blank.

I realize some policy item likely dictated that Homicide be included on the referral form. After all, these forms are vetted by lawyers and we ALL know what happens when someone lets a lawyer make changes to any document. Thomas Jefferson was a farmer; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is one large sheet of parchment in length and all the lines are legible. Had a modern lawyer written the DOI, it would have been the size of War and Peace by Tolstoy and that would be on Bible paper in microscopic font.

Still, it’s a sobering thought that one evening over the TV dinners, a parent could turn to little Johnny and as, “So, son, what happened in school today?” only to get the reply, “Oh, Chris stabbed Mikey to death with a pen. He got written up for Homicide so I don’t think he can come over tomorrow to play.”

Facetious? For now maybe. School murders are a reality in the worst parts of the inner cities now. How long will it take to migrate to the ‘burbs and on out into the country? Things are bad in education these days, but for most of us, we only need to look at a referral with a spot for “Homicide” to realize matters stand to get much worse and for all those who think to themselves, “That’s bull. Stuff like that won’t ever happen here,” remember how many times that phrase has been given the lie throughout history. It not only “could happen here,” but the Law of Averages pretty much guarantees it will at some point. Let’s hope we’re all gone before then, though. PASS testing is bad enough.

Love y’all and don’t forget to wash your feet.

Coo coo ca choo, Mr. Brady!

Standard

Mr. Brady circa 1989. He taught me Algebra II and Calculus. Finest math teacher ever.

Fate, if you believe in it, is an odd and capricious thing.

If Larry Brady had been able to fold proper paper airplanes, I would never have learned calculus in high school, so I would have been forced to take it in college — most likely with a thickly accented professor — and failed it miserably thereby not finishing my degree and likely dooming myself to a life of more misery and failure than I already have endured.

I guess one could safely say I owe a lot to Mr. Brady.

Budge and I were talking about math last night. Why, I don’t know. It’s one of those strange conversations married people have. Anyway, Budge HATES math. I blame Dad. Patience is not one of Dad’s cardinal virtues. He scarred her for life when he tried helping her with her algebra homework.

So we were talking about different kinds of math and Budge mentioned that she didn’t understand trigonometry. In about 15 minutes, I’d explained to her what it was, who used it, and why. I also gave her a rundown on mnemonics for the main trig functions. She wanted to know why it was so easy for me to learn and remember all this when she’d had such an impossible time with her high school math classes.

I answered her, “That’s easy; you never had Mr. Brady for a math teacher.”

As he explained to us in class in one of the precious few moments we managed to bump him slightly off topic, had Mr. Brady managed to conquer paper airplane origami at North Carolina State University, he would have pursued a degree and career as an aeronautic engineer. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the hang of folding the paper the way this particular professor wanted it folded so he changed his major to mathematics and ended up, somehow, as a teacher. I’m not certain on the mechanism of fate, but I do know that fortuitous alignment of the stars resulted in a generation of math students at Laurens District 55 High School being blessed without measure by putting one of the most gifted instructors to every pick up a blue Marks-A-Lot overhead pen into the classroom.

Lest anyone reading this think Mr. Brady was so memorable because he was easy, happy-go-lucky, loosey-goosey, and tried being our friend, PLEASE get a grip. Mr. Brady had a dry sense of humor, genuinely enjoyed teaching, and loved three things above all else — basketball, math, and his two daughters, one of whom was my classmate.

He was friendly, but he was a teacher first. He was one of the most organized human beings I ever met — at least in the classroom. Most of all though, he was decidedly NOT an easy teacher. Earning Cs in his class was honorable, Bs were a sign of hard work, and As — well, As in Mr. Brady’s class were the Maltese Falcons of the LDHS55 math department.

What made Mr. Brady unique was his ability to teach any concept, no matter how abstract or outrageous, to anyone. I am convinced, within two semesters, he could teach a lab rat to play “Ode to Joy” on a miniature grand piano. He knew no less than five ways to do any problem. If, by chance, a brain-dead stoner in one of his classes couldn’t “get it” using one of those five ways, Mr. Brady didn’t get mad or frustrated — he made up a sixth way on the spot, just like he made up all his classroom examples — on the spot. Now, in case that doesn’t impress you, try making up a problem involving L’Hopital’s Rule on the spur of the moment to get an answer that is neat and easy to use as a teaching example.

He was amazing.

Lest anyone think Mr. Brady was one of those Ivory Tower Birds who could only teach the cream of the crop, be advised that he taught EVERYTHING in the math department. Remedial Mathematics to AP Calculus, he taught them all with the same passion and expertise. He was one of the minuscule fraction of teachers who could — and would — teach all students well and without complaint.

We spend a lifetime trying to forget some teachers. Others, we remember, but for all the wrong reasons. We recall many personalities, but precious little of the subject matter they once imparted to us. Mr. Brady wasn’t like that at all. I suppose the best way to finally impress upon you the man’s ability as an educator is to reveal that I made a 3 on the AP Calculus “AB” Exam at the end of his class. I can’t remember how many of us passed with a 3 or better, but it was a typically phenomenal ratio for his calculus classes. He taught me so well and so thoroughly that I still maintain some knowledge of calculus today — 21 years later — having never found a reason to use it.

The man was good. He was a teacher par excellance and I hope that, wherever he is today and whatever he’s doing (he’s retired, but that’s all I know), he’s reaping a generous reward for making two otherwise unbearable years a little brighter for me.

Good on ya’, Mr. Brady, wherever you are!

Love y’all and don’t remember to wash your feet.

Author’s Update September 6, 2006: When I first published this entry on my blog, I sent a copy to Mr. Brady’s daughter, Sally, to pass on to her dad since I didn’t know where he was living or any of his contact information. Sally wrote me back telling me how much she appreciated the tribute, but that she would be unable to pass it on to her father. Unbeknown to me, and to my great and lasting sorrow, Mr. Larry Brady — finest math teacher ever to pace the classroom — passed away in January of 2006 after a series of strokes. I had no idea.  Resquiescat In Pace, Mr. Brady, and thank you so much.

We Have a Runner!

Standard

I always loved the First Day of School when I was teaching. Something ALWAYS happened and the events ran the gamut from tragic to downright surreal. As good as my first day stories are; however, they can’t touch the stories Budge comes home with each and every year.

Budge teaches 4th grade six minutes from our house, which I always thought was extremely unfair, but these days it means more sleep for both of us. Anyway, she has a plethora of great tales because, well . . . let’s be honest, the little ones are a sight cuter than the older, bigger models I was used to dealing with.

One year, she and the rest of the 4th and 5th grade teachers were stationed at the intersection of their halls with the main hall directing traffic and making sure everyone got to the right room. The crowd had thinned out noticeably when one of the teachers, Mary, caught site of a backpack wearing a little boy. He couldn’t look up for the size of his shiny new Jansport pack, but he was obviously WAY too small for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade and that was all that was down on this end of the building.

Mary stopped him and knelt down to look at him and she said, “Now what grade are you in young man?” He replied, and I’ll attempt spelling his pronunciation, “Kinoorgaren!” Apparently, he had been standing in the huge mass of students waiting for the instructions to start to class from the atrium holding pens when everyone started to move. Since he could only see the floor beneath his feet and just a few feet beyond, he fell in with one herd and followed along . . . to the COMPLETELY wrong end of the building. K5, 1st, and 2nd grades were on the other end of the main hall, at least a good football field away. When Mary and one of the other teachers gently turned him around and adjusted the straps on the bookbag so that he had a full field of vision, they pointed to his correct destination . . . and he sat down and began crying tears of heartrending grief. Budge said she felt so sorry for him because, to one his size, that was and expeditionary length hike.

Ruefully, he stood up, dried his tears, and set off towards the far reaches of Robert E. Cashion Elementary, a regular little Admiral Perry or Shackleton resigned to his fate. Luckily, he had been missed in his class and one of the dear, sweet, long-suffering K5 aides had been dispatched to recover him. She intercepted him about a third of the way into his journey and, taking the bookbag from him and extending her hand, which he gladly took, lead him to the land of coloring book, cookies, and sandboxes.

Now, as touching as that story was, this one is downright sidesplitting to me. I hope it doesn’t fall into the “you had to be there” category for all y’all.

This first day had gone without incident for the most part, but after lunch, the school secretary came on the PA in a somewhat strained if not downright panicked voice and said, “Mrs. Wagner (the assistant principal), please go to the first grade hall IMMEDIATELY.” Jen had gone to the same high school as Budge, albeit a few years ahead of her, and had run track. That fact, and the fortuitous choice she had made that day to eschew here usual high heels for more sensible flats, saved the day.

To quote several of my favorite students, “What had happened was!” Budge later found out was one of the first graders, a little boy, apparently didn’t care much for school. The day had progressed along quite well as the afflicted teacher pointed out. She’d been going over stuff, they’d had a bathroom break, and generally engaged in many of the time-honored tasks of the first day. One particularly diminutive tow-headed lad; however, had politely raised his hand at least three times and announced to the teacher, “Ma’am, I’d like to go home now, please. I don’t much like it here.” Well, she had been kind to him and explained that he’d need to stay since he was a big boy now and had many things to learn.

Lunch had come and gone and the class was back to working when the little one again said, “Ma’am, I really would like to go home. I’m tired of sitting.” Again, his new status as an engaged learner on the way to becoming a productive citizen was pointed out to him upon which he nodded and the teacher went back to going from student to student engaging in some task. Her teacher radar went off and she jerked up just in time to see the classroom door quietly click shut while a sea of horrified first grade eyes looked on.

Normally, this wouldn’t be cause for alarm, BUT, this particular classroom was next to one of the six emergency doors in the school. Sure enough, she heard the buzzer go off as someone tripped the alarm. Obviously unable to leave the ninety and nine to go look for the one lost lamb, she called the office in an absolute state of mortification resulting in the aforesaid PA announcement and Mrs. Wagner’s re-entrance into the world of distance running.

When Jen got to the classroom, the teacher gave an instantaneous summary of the foregone events and out the door Jen went. Just in time as it turned out. Even though this little one was quite short of leg, he was determined in his course and steadfast in his decision– having asked nicely four times and being refused — to GO HOME. Budge’s school sits about fifty yards off a main county road. Fifty yards is a long way for a little guy, but e’en so, his new school sneakers had already touched asphalt and he was looking both ways to get his bearings by the time Mrs. Wagner caught up with him.

Being an extremely well-mannered youngster, he didn’t put up any fuss when Jen called his name and held out her hand. He merely took the pro-offered palm with a sigh only the thwarted can know, and allowed himself to be lead back to the office. Lest you be worried for the child’s safety, he was not punished. Mama was called and excused herself from work long enough to come to the school and sternly, firmly, but very lovingly explained to our erstwhile adventurer that he must, in fact, remain in school for the majority of the next twelve years. She praised him for being polite but reiterated that, polite or not, he was NEVER to duplicate his actions again. Then, with a hug and kiss on the forehead, Mama returned to her office and the little lad, in the company of Mrs. Wagner, returned to class, where he did, in the end, have a good year and proved to be a capable and intelligent student who was eventually quick with the answer — from the back corner of the room opposite the door.

After all, no need to take chances!

Have a great year all teachers.

Love all, y’all and don’t forget to wash those feet!