Saturday, January 30, 2010

First Dates

What feels like a million years ago, I had a super special friend in my class. He was sweet, shy and very smart. After a few months together I was convinced that my friend was probably somewhere on the spectrum, but at that point, his mother was unwilling/unable/un-something to look into that. But that is not the point of this post. Regardless, he was well cared for, held his own in school and seemed happy. We’ll call him The Bus Driver. (Very long explanation made somewhat shorter – on career day, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, “I’m going to be a vegetarian bus driver.”

Of course you are, friend.

I was infamous for having lunch dates for good behavior. I was a teacher who hearts a good sticker chart. A teacher who never shied away from randomly giving out my stash of smelly erasers in those moments when I was blown away by their hard work. A teacher who gave out stickers like candy. Basically, I was a teacher unafraid of bribery. It was pretty simple in my kingdom class. You get yourself ten stickers, you get a chance at the prize box. And among all those folded pieces of paper which held a myriad of exciting rewards, there were four slips of paper coveted more than any other. They said simply,

“You have worked so hard and Mrs. Mimi is so proud of you. Friend, it’s pizza time.”

There was usually some squealing, maybe a spontaneous happy dance and/or the optional high-fiving of children in the vicinity. And of course, I had the required look on my face that said, "Be happy for your friend. This is their moment and is not a reason to be upset. Nor is it a reflection on your behavior, your turn at the prize box or you in any way. And yes, this IS totally fair." It's amazing how much teachers can say with just one look. Inevitably, the lucky winner would turn and grab me in a bear hug before going back to their seat with the cherished piece of paper.

If only Mr. Mimi would react like that when I say, “Honey, I’d rather poke myself in the eye than make dinner. How about a pizza?”

Oh well.

Anyhow, one day, The Bus Driver pulled the precious lunch date slip out of my old pretzel jar turned Fabulous Jar O’ Prizes. He seemed pretty nonchalant about it in the moment. I remember being a bit disappointed in his reaction. No smile, no high five, no hugs, no nothing. I mean, we're talking $20 out of Mrs. Mimi's pocket here and at least 30 extra minutes on the treadmill because of course I HAVE TO eat the pizza too. However, in the chaos that is dismissal, all of this was quickly forgotten.

The next day, he showed up in a full suit. Jacket, tie, pressed pants, and pocket square. My first thought was, "Crap! Is it picture day? I am not wearing my ideal Picture Day outfit..."

My second thought was, "What AM I going to wear on Picture Day this year anyway..."

And my third thought was, "Why the heck is this kid wearing a suit?"

Me: Bus Driver, you look so handsome! Why are you so dressed up today?
Him: (looking at me like I was an idiot) For our lunch date, of course, Mrs. Mimi. It's a special day.

And I die.

We had a lovely lunch date that day. The rest of the year passed fairly uneventfully for the two of us, although I kept a close eye on The Bus Driver to make sure he was still doing well, had friends, etc. As he got older, The Bus Driver would pop in to see me from time to time, wave and quickly walk out of the room. Still though, no hugs.

Fast forward six years. On my last day, The Bus Driver passed by my room to say goodbye. Without looking me in the eye, he gave me a huge hug and said he would missed me. I was too taken aback to really say anything coherent. I think I managed a "I'll miss you too, honey" before he walked out of the room and my eyes filled with tears. (You may be surprised to hear this from moi, but I am quite the crier.)

Later that day, the kids presented me with an album. One of my Super Colleagues had gone around to every single child I had ever taught, asking them to write a note or draw a picture on a 4 x 6 card. All these cards were put into a beautiful album that I refer to as “Sob Fest 2009”. I have yet to read all the way through each and every card without crying.

I found The Bus Driver's:

“Mrs. Mimi,
I am sad that you are leaving us, but I will always remember you in my prayers. You are a very special teacher to me. I’ve known that ever since our first date all those years ago.
Love,
The Bus Driver”

All that for a pizza.

33 comments:

Rebecca said...

I die.

Beth said...

Wow! That's all I can say.

KT said...

That is a great story!

Shannon said...

I'm a crier too, and will freely confess to tears while reading your post. I sniffed back a few when reading about The Bus Driver getting dressed up...and by the end I was more than a little bit teary. What an awesome story, and a great memory to have of your students!

Stu said...

Those are the moments we remember the most...not the spelling test, or the Thanksgiving play...but the moments when the children we have touched tell us in some way. Hopefully it comes often enough to keep us going.

My prime moment came a few years ago. I got a letter, sent through the principal of a school I had worked at years before. One of my former students - who was probably late 20s to early 30s - wrote me a letter. He told me that he was serving a life sentence at the state penitentiary. That in itself shocked me because this was a student who was a good kid...of course, he was only 8 or 9 when I knew him.

Anyway, he said that he remembered that at the end of the year in our third grade class we made Father's Day cards. He told me that his father had just died and he remembered that Father's Day card because it was the last communication he had had with his father.

He just wanted to let me know.

CassadillaJones said...

Thanks for making me cry.

rach :) said...

If anyone wonders why we teach, it is for those moments. Not because they are about us, but because we helped some friends on their path to being amazing people.

Yea for you.

Charissa @ MiMi's Babies said...

Thanks for the reminder that teaching is as much about the impact we make on a child as it is the content we teach. As a new teacher, your posts inspire me.

Denise :) said...

I'd leave a lengthier comment, but *I'm* crying, now ... time to grab a tissue. Good share, thank you! :)

Anna said...

So now I'm crying! Thanks for the wonderful story and a little more motivation to get through my work week in second grade!

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm crying too. Thanks for sharing that story.

institutrice said...

Awww... You made me cry, too! (And I am not a crier. ;-)

That's what teaching is about, and all those non-teaching, test-wielding, politician-types will never understand that.

Mrs. H said...

This story made ME cry!

Mrs. K. said...

I have enoyed reading all of your blog posts, but this has to be hands-down the best post of all!

JGilcreast said...

I love your stories and look forward to getting a good chuckle from them... but this one...! Tears to my eyes. So cute, and I just love how you created a memory for the Bus Driver that he'll have forever. Priceless.

ChiTown Girl said...

OMG!!! This is seriously one of the most beautiful stories. THIS is why we do it. Why we show up everyday, and put up with all the crap that is tossed at us. Thanks for sharing, and giving me my daily dose of tears. :)

Edie Parrott said...

So sweet! It's amazing how much the little things we do for kids make a world of difference to them.

Tracey said...

You get better and better. A very sweet story. Tech. training all day on a Saturday. Your blog helped me survive. Keep 'em coming:)

Vagabond Teacher said...

That is so sweet! I guess we never know what seemingly small thing will make the biggest impression on the kids.

Who needs sleep? said...

Ooooh, as a teacher, this makes me cry. I love those little moments. Thank you for sharing.

Kelly L said...

You made me cry - I love this post... wow.

Love to you and the Bus driver.

Kelly

Mrs. G said...

That is the sweetest story! Sometimes the kids remind us that they are real people with amazing individuality.

Christina-tina-tina said...

That is a lovely story!! I now want a Sob Fest book of my own! I need a Super Colleague too! Thanks for sharing!

Ms. H said...

Awwwww!! I love it when they drop those tear-bombs!! What a great kiddo!

Ginger Snaps said...

That is just about the sweetest and most adorable story I've read yet. It made me laugh AND want to cry! Maybe I need one of those slips of paper in my Trinket Trunk!

aandersen said...

That is one of the sweetest stories I've read in a while. Sigh.

Lauren said...

This is adorable. I wish lunch with the teacher was still motivating in high school, but at some point it became a punishment instead of a reward.

Come visit me here: http://heymissblog.wordpress.com. I don't blog much lately do to lack of internet at home, but I'm workin' on it!

Teresa said...

On my fridge, I have cards, notes, letters, sticky notes, and pictures of my kids...I switch some of them out, but two will always stay up there...I read them every morning before I leave to go to school. :) And I tear up. It's good to know we make a difference...even if it's just a little one. :)

Frau M. said...

Thank you for sharing that story. It makes me feel good every time I find someone who "gets it" regarding the spectrum. Not too long ago I was moved to tears when my friend drew a heart, and in it there were two stick figures holding hands. He told me, "That's us." I die as well.

Sarah said...

Oh, what an awesome memory!

The Pannells said...

And THAT'S why we do it! Thank you for sharing-it was just what I needed and I'm sure what many others needed as well. Please blog again soon-we need some more Ms. Mimi!

ASchaps said...

I'm not always timely but I finally got around to reading this post. Tender, emotional, poignant. It touches the part of me that resounds "teacher, teacher, teacher." How I love that word. How I love what I do that changes their lives. How I love what I do that changes MY life.

bun2bon said...

Teacher blogs need more entries like this - and fewer whiny ones about NCLB and the establishment.

Kudos to Bus Driver.

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