Pocket Mouse

It was back to school night and I was having so much fun meeting my new students. It is so fun to see how nervous they can be, coming to a new daytime home. I try to get a read on their personalities that first encounter. Sometimes I nail it and sometimes they surprise me. Most times I can pick that favorite kid right off. Disclaimer…teachers do have favorites, just don’t ask them who they are because they will say they are all their favorites. Disclaimer 2.0 the ones that end up being the favorites are usually the naughtiest and most annoying kids in their class. Talk about frustration!

I digress. I remember one girl in particular who was introduced with several names. She had been called her first name, her middle name, both names run together, and her initials. I told her I would call her “Pocket mouse” and that later in the year she would understand. If you have read the book Stargirl, you will know what I am talking about.

Stargirl is a favorite book of mine and almost every student I read it with. It teaches about the importance of being true to who you are, even when the world seems to be against you and reject ‘you’. It is a perfect book for kids with surging hormones, preparing to embark on the journey of rediscovering who they want to be…also known as Junior High. Reading this book is a just a snippet of how I try to truly teach the ‘whole child’. Read it. (but not so much the sequel…and the movie?? NOT the same story. Shame on you Spinelli….)

Sixth graders are my favorite. They are my people. They are smart, capable, resilient, and they get my jokes. That may have been written with the most important feature listed last…

I laugh every day with these kids. I am amazed at their bravery and strength. If you had known me at this age, well, you probably wouldn’t have known me. I was painfully shy. Shy to the point of hiding in the bathroom during lunch. It only got worse at I moved into junior high and high school. I was terribly witty…in my head…but I was more terrified that people would laugh AT me instead of WITH me to share my personality.

When I see these little 11, 12, 13-year-olds singing in front of their peers, drawing in front of the class, putting their hands in the air by choice and choosing to share or answer questions… I am in awe. Seriously.

They are brave. I may have written about the bravest girl I know a year or two ago. It was during the lock down drill…we were all ‘hidden’ and silent. This amazing girl was still and silent even as a huge spider dropped on and crawled over her face. I’m beyond amazed by her. My heart would have stopped…and then started back up again…to make sure that demon spawn wasn’t crawling over my dead body.

My students know from the first day of school that I don’t do spiders. I don’t. If you prank me with one, I will fail you and put you out of my class. So far, no one has disliked me enough to use this to escape. On the contrary, they all tend to protect me. If a spider is seen, they run to destroy it before I can get near. (Not that I’m running to greet it…)

Just a few weeks ago, one of my girls came to me and very calmly told me there was a ‘huge spider’ on the ceiling. I told her to take care of it. She did. At least she tried. She used the most awkward thing in our room…a swifter, full of soap, to reach up and knock the creature off the ceiling. It proceeded to bounce/jump at least 2 feet in the air, over and over as it worked its way down the book case. She stood there, watching it, until it came into foot smashing range. Then, she took care of it. Bravery.

Not to imply that we have a horde of these creatures roaming my room or anything. (Frankly, I would quit if we did) The sightings are few and far between. That being said, I was standing in my back door at lunch the other day, talking to a few girls as they slowly left for lunch. I looked back in the room and noticed a tiny white spider handing in the doorway. I pointed it out to one of the girls. This girl has the best personality. She is a true gem. She reached out and gently hooked the web on her finger and pulled it towards her. I think she realized she didn’t really want a pet spider and tried to ‘flick’ it off. Alas, the spider dropped neatly into the pocket of her sweater. I pointed it out and she calmly said, “Well, I guess I’ll just take this sweater off.” She took it off and carefully folded it over her arm and left for lunch.

I’m still not sure if she was even bothered that she had gained a pocket pet with eight legs. She didn’t flinch. True, this girl is a gem. She had brought a pet Russet Potato to school the week before. Nothing much surprises me with her.

It’s never dull with these kids. I’m beyond blessed to spend my ‘work’ day with 32 incredible hormonally unbalanced ninja spider warriors. They are comedians, engineers, artists, scientist, wrestlers, rodeo stars, and so much more.

The sad part is, I only have five more weeks with them. The year goes way too fast.

Because I said so.

Photo credit: http://www.ohio.gov