I should have been writing them down all these years.
Starting as a parent volunteer, moving into assistant teaching, then co-lead teaching while preparing to receive my certification in Upper Elementary Montessori education in a classroom of sometimes dozens of 4th through 6th graders, I have witnessed some humorous stuff.
This one instance comes to mind first. We’re all sitting in morning circle, on the beautiful but worn Moroccan-style rug, all of us cross legged and sleepy-eyed after the long and desperately needed winter holiday break. Everyone is taking turns sharing about their vacations. One child in particular, a body-shy preteen railing against the imminent course of womanhood, starts to bawl as she tells us that her beloved guinea pig died the day after Christmas. Horrified and empathetic, we all sit in awkward silence as she wipes her pouring tears with the sleeve of her pink and black K-Pop hoodie. Seconds which seem like minutes pass. Some are looking down at the rug avoiding eye contact. Others are looking at each other like deer in headlights.
All of a sudden he breaks the silence. Our self-professed “Ginger” kid who claims to be stupid but is really intelligent, witty, and popular with everyone. He’s also the cause of at least two wrinkles on my face and some inevitable strands of grey in my hair.
Expressionless yet with a firm voice he blurts out, “One time my hamster exploded.”
The uncomfortable silence is almost immediately replaced by laugh-out-loud laughter and oh-my-goodness-are-you-for-real chit chat. Even the girl in despair is laughing now, her wet cheeks raising up into a rare smile.
Turns out the hamster survived after the explosion but later died of complications. Or something like that. I didn’t catch the entire story as I was relieved and amazed at how this one statement changed the entire classroom’s mood within seconds. It was like that scene in Steel Magnolias when Sally Field’s character M’Lynn is breaking down after her daughter’s funeral asking “Why Why Why did this have to happen?” and “I just want to hit something!” and no one seems to know what to say. Then the delicate disposition is bashed when Olympia Dukakis grabs Shirley McClain, pushes her toward M’Lynn and says, “Here, hit this!” Just like in the classroom that morning, the mood is quickly shifted from that of somber and intense, to sheer hilariousness and consolation.
Then there was the time when one of our more sheltered, extremely religious students openly told me during our small 6th grade reading group that he’d found out about the-birds-and-the-bees from YouTube. “My parents did THAT?” he exclaimed in horror. He then looked at me up and down. “You and the other teachers do THAT!” he said with raised eyebrows. I told him for the love of god please don’t picture me in that way and if you have questions go ask your parents. But, thanks for the heads up!
I was glad he found trust in me to even reveal this probable pent-up secret. When he eventually moved on to middle school in the building next door, he called out to me whenever I was near, telling me he missed upper elementary and our little virtuous environment.
I wish I could remember more of the hilarious stories and phrases that were coughed out over time. I know there are so many. But weeks, then months, now over a year has passed since I’ve been in the classroom. And like my own life memories, those are just as foggy.
I wonder if my students remember those instances (or some of the lessons we toiled through). Perhaps if not right now, then one day.
Yeah, I have a feeling they just might.