91: Expect the Unexpected

91: Expect the Unexpected

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Expect the Unexpected

A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn’t act that way very often.

~Author Unknown

Working as an elementary-school teacher and a librarian taught me that children say funny things. On the first day of kindergarten, a boy told me, “I’m just trying this out for today. I don’t think I’ll be back tomorrow.” I guess that’s how his mother convinced him to board the bus. I don’t know how she managed to get him to attend school the rest of the year, but whatever she did worked.

Another kindergartner got off the bus and couldn’t remember where he had to go. When asked if he knew the name of his teacher, he replied, “Yes, it’s Mrs.”

I once taught a second grader who believed his mother knew everyone from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln. Whenever I mentioned a historical figure, he’d say, “My mother knows him.” She must have been 300 years old.

No matter how many times I reminded one particular boy to return his library book, he ignored me. I assumed he either loved it and couldn’t bear to part with it, or he’d lost it. Finally, at the end of the school year, he brought back the book with an excuse. “I’m sorry it took so long,” he said, “but I needed the book to prop up my gerbil cage.” Judging from the gnawed cover, his pet had enjoyed the book in more ways than one. I hope the gerbil learned to read.

Children are full of surprises. One day after lunch, I returned to my classroom and discovered the linoleum floor was wet and slippery. During recess, a student had entered the room, stopped up the sink and left the water running so it would overflow. He was the same boy who threw weekly temper tantrums and frequently announced he was quitting school, although he never followed up on that promise. His attitude made me wonder what I was doing wrong. However, my confidence was restored at the end of the year when he smiled, hugged me and said, “You’re the best teacher I ever had!” I can only imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t liked me.

Expect the unexpected when you work in an elementary school. One day in the library, a group of third graders jumped up from their chairs, screaming. A few minutes later, they calmed down and read quietly. Their silence didn’t last long. Soon, they leaped up again, shrieking as if they were actors in a thriller movie. It didn’t take long to discover the cause of their unpredictable behavior: The culprit was a lost chipmunk. The animal would scurry past their feet, hide for a while, then emerge and scamper around the room, causing chaos. Two hours passed before the confused creature found his way back outside. I was just as relieved as he was. Maybe more.

My favorite memory occurred just before I left teaching. I was standing in the hallway of the administration office, waiting for an appointment, when someone called my name. A young man hurried to my side. He towered over me, but at one time, he had been in my second grade class. He told me what he was doing, and I was thrilled. Is there any better news than hearing a former student say he’s applying for a teaching job? I don’t think so!

~Laura Boldin-Fournier

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