Elinor* is the first to arrive. Elinor calls me “mommy” and reminds me of myself as a child. In September, I assigned a five-page fictional short story and Elinor took it upon herself to write a twenty-five-page story about a teenage girl named Sky who owns a mall. So naturally, I now love her like she is my own child and give her special privileges like writing in green pen. I also keep promising we will have more time for creative writing at the end of the year when all the testing is over.
Isaiah comes in and won’t take a seat until I acknowledge him personally and say both “Hello” and “Good Morning.” He has recently adopted the name Izzy Banks and has informed me and everyone else that his teddy bear is named Teddy Banks. I ask about Teddy a couple times a week because he gets a kick out of it. He’s surprised me once by asking me a question about my own life: “What kind of shoes does your boyfriend wear?”
Because it’s first period, most of my sixth-graders are settling down relatively easily, though sometimes first period is especially chatty because school is where they come to socialize. When I had unstructured time with these kids after the state tests, I thought they would be thrilled to be allowed to watch a movie. All they wanted to do, however, was sit and talk. It took me a couple of days to realize that they all probably sit in front of screens at home, and they crave the ease and comfort of a social yet supervised environment.
Sonya comes in late, basketball under her arm, downing the remains of her Arizona fruit punch. Sonya has buck-teeth and wears basketball shorts, and sometimes needs to do her work standing up, which is okay with me. She sits in the back, and gives me an exasperated look because I’ve already written “late” on the top of her the worksheet on her desk. After class, she will ask me to come up for lunch and play music on my laptop while I warn her to “play the clean version because I’m trying to keep my job.”
We’re somewhat involved in a class discussion about “milestones to growing up” and Brian has his hand up. When I call on him, a couple of people in the class audibly groan because Brian is known for telling really long-winded stories that may or may not relate to anything we have ever talked about at any point in the year. His writing is about as scattered as his speech so I call on him because he could use the participation points. And he’s also the shortest in the class and held the door for everyone the first day of school.
A forty-five-minute period passes quickly, especially now that our resident loudmouth Kalia is much quieter after last week’s incident when she told shy, dorky Shawn “SMD” and he replied “I didn’t know you were a transvestite” and everyone laughed. Even her friends. Even me.
As I dismiss the class, Primrose grabs her deli bag from the floor after keeping it there during class. Unbeknownst to both me and her, someone has taken some of her candy. She calmly announces, “Whoever ate my food is poor” because Primrose is too classy and poised to overreact.
Niki lingers after class, trying to explain to me that going on a date to Starbucks for a Frappuccino with Isaiah (Izzy Banks) was a mistake and now everyone is teasing her. I tell her that I knew something would happen between the two of them ever since they ran into each other on the playground and knocked heads and I had to wait with them after school in the nurse’s office until Isaiah’s mom picked him up after finishing her shift as a crossing guard down the road. I also explain that they pick on her because she is pretty and they like her purple hair and nose piercing and if she doesn’t react they will eventually stop. Of course, I have no idea if any of this is true but, thankfully, she seems to believe me.
I give her a quick hug and take a deep breath. Second period is about to begin.
*all names in this blog post have been changed
Caroline Higgins (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.