The schools are out for what is commonly termed “Ski Week Vacation”. I’m betting there won’t be much skiing as the closest slopes are about 160 miles from here and there is hardly any snow to ski this year. But, last Friday was the last day to pad the paycheck for February this year so I took the 3rd grade assignment.
I arrived at the school, signed in and picked up the class attendance from the office secretary. As she handed me the form, she said “I need to give you a heads up about one boy in your class.”
This is never a good sign…
“His name is G-----, and he’s a tough little so-n-so. He’s pretty mouthy with all the teachers but sometimes “ok” with subs. He probably won’t do any work; he’ll crawl around on the ground or walk on all fours crab like in the classroom. He might make weird, rude noises without warning. Be firm and you might be ok. If you DO have problems and you can’t take it anymore, just send him to the office with some work and he’ll spend the day with us. Don’t get me wrong, he’s really very smart but almost always out of control.”
“Oh, I almost forgot…He’s also not allowed to use the boy’s bathroom as he’s been known to pee on the walls and defecate on the floors. If he needs to go, send him to the office and we’ll deal with him here.”
With that warning, I’m already tired as I wander out to find the classroom.
The assignment is pretty basic. Some math assessment and spelling tests, reading, and water color artwork followed by an end of the day assembly on the playground. This would have been a pretty easy assignment day if it wasn’t for the unknown “Mr. G” situation.
The morning bell rang, I greeting the kids as they entered. I was feeling pretty good after taking attendance and “Mr. G” seemed to be missing. That feeling was short lived when “Mr. G” arrived just under the wire to be tardy.
His desk is apart from the rest of the class and closest to the door. He stood standing just behind his desk chair, two steps away upon entering. He just stood there staring at me, mouth wide open, not moving.
“Have a seat Mr. G. Since you weren’t here for lunch count, are you having the hot lunch or did you bring your own?”
-- Nothing --
“Did you hear me, Mr. G? Hot or cold lunch today?”
-- Nothing, still standing, silent, mouth agape --
“He does that all the time” offered more than one classmate in the class. “We just ignore it.”
About a third of the kids knew all about “Mr. Homework and the bad, bad 5th grade class” from their older brothers and sisters. Upon request, I retold the story and what I expected of this class so as not to repeat the consequences suffered by the 5th graders so long ago.
At some point during the story, I noticed that “Mr. G” was now sitting at his desk and listening. No outbursts, no weird mannerisms but laughing with the class at all the expected points during the story.
So far so good…
We get through the math assessment and spelling tests. Surprisingly, even “Mr. G” is doing work. Sloppy work but at least it’s something. The reading and water color projects don’t interest “Mr. G” much as he’s aimlessly wandering the room.
Escorted back to his desk, I tried to engage him in idle conservation so the rest of the class could continue unmolested. I found out that he has a brother who is in middle school, his dad is an auto mechanic and not surprisingly, he doesn’t much care much for school.
“Mr. G” does like to ride his bike, play with his friends at home, and likes games and puzzles.
My “bag of tricks” includes a fun, time killer puzzle for those rare occasions where time allotted for class work is longer that the time kids need to complete it. If anyone needs something to occupy his time, “Mr G” is a prime candidate since the alternative is mischief. Required tools are two different color whiteboard markers and one of those student sized personal white boards.
After showing “Mr. G” how to draw the layout of the puzzle and explained the simple rules, he was quiet for the rest of the time before recess, working on a solution to what looks deceptively simple but is in fact, impossible to solve.
As I roved around the room checking on the rest of the classroom I half expected “Mr. G” to give up and turn to other disruptions in the classroom. That didn’t happen. I surreptitiously checked on “Mr. G” to notice that he was carefully considering advanced approaches as he progressed through the puzzle…he wasn’t ready to give up.
The first recess bell came and all the kids except “Mr. G” exited to the playground. “Mr. G” was still engrossed in the puzzle and was reluctant to go. Since I had yard duty, I had to usher him out the door to join the rest of the class.
His Dad arrived during recess and introduced himself letting me know that he had checked “Mr. G” out at the office for a doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t be back the rest of the day.
With only 5min recess left, he waited until the bell before escorting his son back to the classroom to collect his backpack and jacket.
As I signed out after school, the office secretary gave me a look that begged an answer.
“He didn’t do much work, but at least he didn’t disrupt the class”
Her response: “Let’s count that a success, then” ...as I left the building.