Every once in a while, I feel like I do something truly influential for a student. For example, as I was reading with individual students from #5's class a couple months ago, one little Latina pointed out her completed wish list assignment that was displayed in the hallway a midst all the other wish lists on the wall. I noticed that she wished she could someday be a teacher, and then she turned to me and added, "Yeah, but I can never be that." I returned a perplexed look and said, "Why not? You can be anything you want to be." "I can?" "Of course! If you'll work hard and be a good student, you can be a teacher or anything else." Her eyes absolutely lit up and she grinned from ear-to-ear!
I don't know if that moment of awakening will stick with her through 18 more years, but last week I did change a child's entire life, I think. I was quizzing more first graders on their phonograms, and another little girl was having a fit of hiccups. It was funny to both of us as she tried to make phonemic sounds around the staccato, guttural breaths. So we took a break and I showed her how to eliminate the hiccups. Then we resumed for another four or five minutes. When she had finished the list, I asked, "Where did your hiccups go?" She smiled in acknowledgement that they were gone, at which I said, "Now, if your mom or dad asks what you learned at school today, you don't have to say that you learned a new boring reading word or something. You can tell them you know the cure for the hiccups!" One more life changed forever.
You may be asking yourself, "So, what's with the title of this post?" That is I haven't yet revealed to you my influence over #3's fifth-grade class.
My volunteer time with the fifth grade is spent reading a novel out loud while the students follow along in their own copies. This is not a thankless job. In fact, my favorite part of every Monday is when I stop reading, close the book, and tell the students that's all for today. This causes them to all moan in unison and say, "Just a few more pages!" to which I respond that I wish I could, but I will see them next week. I usually arrive while they are wrapping up their lunch, and it's super fun to have them file in, see me, and rush to get their books opened and explain to me any parts of the story I might have missed if their teacher read more of the book between Mondays.
Our current novel is The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I can always tell a favorite of the kids' because they complain more insistently when we close the book for the day. This book has drawn the most complaints so far this year! I highly recommend it for tweens.
Well, this book set things up too perfectly for me! With the teacher's permission, and some serendipity through my friend, Pam, who had too much fudge on her hands this weekend, I showed up to class yesterday with a candy box filled with fudge, which I had sprinkled with powdered sugar. I offered it to the students, "For those who dare to eat it." I explained that it was mostly chocolate fudge so they wouldn't be too dumbed down. Of course everyone cheered to be receiving come curriculum-related candy in school. (The school's wellness policy doesn't usually allow sweet treats.) Of course, my caveat was ignored, and everyone took a piece, though I did notice one girl who gingerly placed her fudge at the top of her desk to wait for her classmates to test it first.
Halfway through the reading, I came to a sentence where one of the characters was warning another child to beware of Mrs. White and her dangerous candy. At that moment, a girl in the front row dropped her book to her desk and snapped her head toward me, gawking with wide eyes and open mouth. Then she turned to the boy next to her and pointed at my daughter across the room, whispering, "She is [#3's] mom!" She had just figured out that I am Mrs. White! That whispered moment of recognition for what I had just perpetrated was great!
After my 30 minutes were up, and the children blessed my ears with their complaints and whines for more reading, I stood up to leave. "Did you like the fudge?" I asked. "Yes!" Their teacher chimed in, "I bet you'll all be really mellow for the rest of the day, right?" As I left, a boy in the back row said, "That fudge was so good! Can we have more?" "I'm glad you liked it," I answered. And then I added, smiling wickedly and mischievously rubbing my palms together, "It's addictive, isn't it?" Mwa ha ha!