It was a foggy September morning and I hoped at least one student would recall today’s seldom-used weather word. “I noticed something different about the weather on my way to work today,” I hinted. “Jeremy, you’re raising your hand. What is the weather word I’m thinking of?”
Jeremy looked puzzled. “Mrs. Guffry, whe do you wook?”
Since he wears a tool belt, kindergartners think the custodian is the only worker at school. But by the end of that foggy September day, feeling the effects of a hard day's work, I flopped onto my bed, exhausted. “Maybe it’s time to retire,” I reasoned out loud.
Sitting up, I began brushing my hair, but the brush caught and pulled. My hair was a sticky mess! Then I remembered. After snacks, Tony had squeezed the Go-gurt tube he carried just as he passed my desk on his way to the trash can. Green slime had suddenly shot out, splattering my hair and face and dripping down my glasses. What could I do but laugh? My students had certainly thought it funny, seeing their teacher dripping with green goop. I needed a shower.
In the steamy shower more of the day’s events swirled through my mind like the morning’s fog. I winced as I washed my face.
Ow! I hadn’t realized how hard Aiden kicked my lip. Oh, he didn’t mean to, I was just helping him cross the monkey bars at recess. He was trying so hard! He will be elated when he finally does it on his own.
Will I ever get this class to line up after recess? Cole and Zach took their time getting off the climber as Cara and Maya wandered toward the swings. Meanwhile, Mark and Gretchen ran inside. Brandon cooperated nicely –a pleasant surprise, considering how he lunged at his mom later, nearly knocking her down. Oh, and, when I reminded him and his mom to be quiet in the hallway his mom quipped, “I hope you mean me, because I can control myself, but I can't control my son!” Hmm, what an enlightening comment!
Matthew, on the other hand, IS uncontrollable! He yanked poor Emily to the floor by her hair today, which landed him in the principal’s office. I hope his parents follow through on the recommendations Mr. Doyle and I drafted for them today. Matthew needs a thorough evaluation.
I also informed Mr. Doyle that six-year-old Elijah, not yet toilet trained, dirtied his pants for the third time today. We wrote a letter to Elijah’s parents, too.
My new student didn’t say one word today. Her mom can barely speak English. Maybe Habiba can’t speak English, either. Lord, show me how to make her feel loved and accepted.
Unlike Habiba, Melodee never stops talking, but she is impossible to understand. She and Jeremy will start speech therapy tomorrow. Before skipping out the door today, she proudly wiggled her loose tooth. I’ll look for a gap in her smile tomorrow, and prepare to listen even harder when she speaks.
My thoughts returned to the present as I stepped from the shower. I dried off, donned my bathrobe, and headed for the kitchen and the red paper plate on the counter holding six cupcakes, each frosted to look like an apple. Poking out of the apples were gummy worms. A note attached to the plate read:
Dear Mrs. Guthrie,
Hannah helped make these “wormy apple cupcakes” for you.
She loves school, and she loves you. We are so thankful for you!
We pray for you and the class every day. Teaching is a difficult job
and you do it so well!
Mr. and Mrs. Olson and Hannah
A tear rolled down my cheek, splashing on the signature. It was only September. Surely the class would learn to line up in another week or so. Aiden would be zipping across the monkey bars, and Habiba would be making friends. By January, Brandon and Matthew would have more good days than bad, and Blake’s and Melodee’s speech would improve. Elijah would definitely be toilet trained. By May they would all know their letters and sounds and days of the week. They would tie their own shoes and zip their own jackets. I would applaud as they sounded out their first words, and exclaim as they wrote their first wobbly sentences on lined paper.
Retire? I might be overworked, and at times under-appreciated, but I couldn’t think of a job with better benefits. “Lord, thank you for five-year-olds and wormy apple cupcakes,” I prayed. “They sure have wiggled their way into this teacher’s heart!”
Note: About nine years ago a very special family, the Olsons, came into my life. Over the next five years I had the privilege of teaching each of their three children in kindergarten. Kathleen and Jeff were wonderful parents. I always enjoyed interacting with them and I also appreciated the many ways they offered help and support at school.
A little over a year ago, Kathleen was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. She left this earth and her beautiful family here for her heavenly home on August 18th.
I offer this story as a small, albeit insufficient, tribute to Kathleen. Although names have been changed and I used a bit of writer’s license with the introduction, most of the events of this story actually occurred all in the same day! I am convinced that God knew I would need some encouragement that day, and Kathleen was the willing messenger. She will always have a very special place in my heart.
Christina is hosting Fiction Friday today. Please visit her at her blog, With Pen In Hand, and follow the links to great fiction.