Clever brats-turned-friends

I’ve reach the point in my teaching career when some of my first students are now becoming young adults. As such, many of them are now becoming people who I am proud to call my friends. I play golf and basketball with former students. I discuss writing and books with them. They attend my readings and signings. I pay them to babysit my daughter.

Just last week I engaged in a challenging, intellectual and reflective conversation with a former student about religion and parenting.

Last year, when my fifth graders performed Julius Caesar for the first time in ten years, five of the students from my first class, former second graders who were now seniors in high school, surprised me by attending our opening night performance and telling stories of the time when they had filled the rolls of Caesar, Brutus and Antony for me.

They remembered far more about that first year of teaching than I could ever hope to recall.

Some of my students leave elementary school and are never seen or heard from again, but the majority of them eventually return, seeking advice, sharing stories, searching for support, hoping for a quick game of hoops and ultimately growing up and becoming my friends.

It’s an extraordinary and unexpected blessing that I deeply cherish.

And these students-turned-friends often remind me of some of my more amusing teaching moments that I have long-since forgotten.

A former student-turned babysitter recently reminded me of a time when she was in my third grade class. She had asked to read a poem that she loved to the class, and though I had agreed to her request, I forgot about it all day until it was too late. Feeling awful for failing to validate her enthusiasm over poetry, I promised to remember to read the poem the very next morning.

The following day I found the poetry book on my desk with a note inside that read:

Read this to the class, Mr. Evil, or else.

Below the message was a hand-drawn picture of a bee with venom dripping from its stinger and a speech bubble emanating from its mouth that read:

I know your weakness. Ha! Ha! Ha!

I’m allergic to bees.

These are the kinds of moments that I never want to forget.

But the most amusing note that I ever received from a student was found affixed to my shirt at the end of the school day. It read:

For Sale

One very used teacher Needs a lot work Has plenty of ego Must have a stern owner Not nice! $1 or best offer

This makes a Kick Me! sign look like a joke.