By Judy Berman
A bit of mischief, a warped sense of humor, outrageous behavior and that inevitable, unenviable call home have been part of my teaching life for 10 years now.
Sometimes, mischievous behavior can make a 45-minute class seem like a lifetime. After one such occasion, I decided to call a mother to talk about her son’s shenanigans in class.
A young boy answered. When I asked for his Mom, he said she wasn’t home yet. I asked for his Dad, and he said he wasn’t there, either. I became suspicious.
The boy asked who was calling, and I identified myself. (In my mind’s eye, I could just visualize his older brother vigorously shaking his head and pleading with him not to pass the phone on to his parents.)
So I asked if any adult was home.
Then he made his voice sound like the automated one you hear on voice mail.
“I’m sorry. There’s no one home. Please leave a message after the beep. Beep.”
Before he hung up, I’d already checked our files and found his Mom’s mobile phone number. I got her voice mail, but she called back within 15 minutes.
Mom was not amused. She apologized for her son’s behavior. I told her she didn’t need to apologize. Before I hung up, we both laughed about the prank. I knew, however, that she would be having a “frank and earnest” discussion with her sons.
Her son’s behavior did improve. Much to my relief and, I’m sure, his Mom’s.
Another time, a teen and I had a disagreement in the library. We were several feet away, and I playfully tried to end it by telling him: “Talk to the hand.”
His response floored me. “Talk to the booty, cuz the hand’s off duty.”
(I discovered later, that what I thought was a humorous response was actually a dismissive way to tell someone that you’re not listening to them.)
When I relayed our exchange to my husband, he started laughing. I did, too.
The following year, when the teen was in eighth grade, he volunteered to help me move my books into storage. We talked as we lugged books out of my room. I was pleased to see how he had matured and to learn that he wanted to pursue a career where he could help others recover from disasters like the one Haiti had experienced. I could just see him doing that and wished him well.
This year, I realize that my students are now about the same age as my granddaughter. That means they think I’m really living in Old Fogey Town.
So, imagine this exchange when one of my seventh-grade students asked if I twerked.
I raised one eyebrow and said, “If I ever did a Miley Cyrus, the School Board would be doing a tap dance on my head so fast it would make your head spin.”
She was shocked that I even knew what she was talking about and began to laugh. As did several of the other students.
“Mrs. Berman, you’re so young,” she said, admiringly.
Then, it was my turn to laugh. The kids have no idea that that whole twerking thing – involving Miley Cyrus’ vulgar performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards – was Richter Scale H-U-G-E in media buzz. It was impossible to escape unless you’d been living in a cave.
This dinosaur still knows what’s going on.
A year later, or 10, our paths may cross. These encounters frequently yield unexpected and pleasant surprises.
One student stopped to say hello while I was drinking a latte at Barnes & Noble. I remembered him instantly. His essays and humor were “wonderfully warped,” and I’d kid him to use his “powers for good.” He’d recently graduated from high school and told me about his plans to enter the Navy.
“Do you know what I used to think?” the student asked.
“That teachers don’t have lives?” I joked.
The student laughed, conceding I was right.
“How did you know?”
I told him one former student gasped in disbelief when he saw me out shopping. “I guess he thought I lived in my classroom.”
(Thank you, parents, for entrusting your child’s education to me. Thank you for being supportive and for understanding. We both want the same things: success for your child – academically and socially.)
This post marks the second anniversary of my blog. A special thanks to my husband, Dave, for editing my posts. Thank you to all who have left thoughtful and/or funny comments, who “follow” me, and who have given me your support and encouragement. Your blogs also make me laugh, enlighten me and energize me.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Photo: meme: Teacher – what people think I do (Source: Unknown)
Photo: Gabe Kaplan – Welcome Back Kotter – July 25, 1976. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/Gabe_Kaplan_Welcome_Back_Cotter_1976.JPG/467px-Gabe_Kaplan_Welcome_Back_Cotter_1976.JPG
Video – theme song “To Sir With Love” starring Sidney Poitier (1967) As E.R. Braithwaite (Poitier), began “learning from them as well as teaching them.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCeJhoUohmo
Video – theme song from “Welcome Back, Kotter” starring Gabe Kaplan (TV series ran 1975-1979) The show and the song are a sweet reminder of the day I returned home from vacation, and neighborhood children sang this to me. (I didn’t become a teacher until 2004.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qy5LEeFHig