I’ve been teaching junior high for a number of years. I know how to talk to the kids and how to listen. I know that low key responses are best for discipline.
I spend time with them. We do a lot of things together like making decorations for the grade nine farewell and year end awards ceremony. We sew a huge hot air balloon and letters on an old sewing machine my father gave me. The kids laugh at the contraption. “Hey,” I say, “at least it’s electric.”
We hang the balloon on the gym wall along with clouds made of cloth spelling “Farewell” and “Good Luck.” One of the grade nine girls climbs the impossibly long ladder over and over to attach all our handiwork to the wall. I’m afraid of ladders and cringe every time she goes up. Fortunately there are no mishaps and the event is a success.
I joke and tease and help solve disputes and listen. They ask for advice and confide in me. Nothing they say shocks me anymore—until the day I have a bouquet of flowers sitting on my desk.
The students come back from lunch, see the roses, and cluster around me.
“Who’re they from?”
“Is it your birthday?”
“Well then,” says one girl standing with her hands on her hips. “You must have given him what he wanted last night.”
No, I did not have a response to that and I’m sure I stood there with my mouth hanging open.