Authors: Phillip Done
Copyright © 2009 by Phillip Done
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
Mrs. Ranada who taught me how to read,
Mrs. Murayama who taught me how to think,
And Mr. Stretch — who taught me how to teach.
Now all I have to teach you is one word — everything.
— The Miracle Worker
n my desk at school there is a treasure chest. It is filled with construction paper cards decorated with glitter glue, school
photos framed with Popsicle sticks, and pictures drawn with tropical marker and colored pencil and love. If I’m in the drawings,
I am usually as tall as the schoolhouse in the background. My head is bigger than the sun.
Next to parents, teachers are the most influential people in children’s lives. We love, care, guide, and nurture. We collect
baby teeth, check foreheads for fevers, and can punch the little silver dots on top of juice boxes with one swift poke of
the straw. We are used to being called Mom and Dad. I wonder: Why don’t we have a word that captures the essence of being
a teacher — a word that encompasses the spirit of teaching?
is a word. I think
should be a word, too.
is knowing that softer voices are more effective than louder ones, that students read better under their desks, that you
always hand out birthday treats at the end of the day, that kids will not hear the difference between
that children will always choose chocolate chip cookies before oatmeal and raisin, and that if the office supply store is
having a Back to School sale on folders but will only let you purchase twenty folders at a time — buy twenty, leave the store,
return, grab another twenty, and go to a new register.
is understanding that you should never try to teach anything on Halloween, that when kids start learning cursive they forget
how to spell, that students who are usually quiet will become chatty the week before Christmas break, that desks swallow papers,
that at any given moment a child could announce something random like he’s been to Denver and saw a banana slug, that the
best lessons on paper can tank in real life, that children who are about to throw up get clingy, that reading nothing but
comics is like eating only pasta your whole life, and that for Show and Tell you do not ask Sarah to bring in her cat and
Trevor to share his dog on the
is knowing that when kids hold up their multiplication flash cards to the light they can see the answers on the back, that
children will leave the
and the second
that you always explain the instructions
handing out the blocks (or beans or marshmallows), that cupcake paper is edible, that the pile of red construction paper
in the supply room will be lowest in February, that when the air-conditioner man comes into the classroom and starts removing
the ceiling tiles — stop teaching, and that when children see their teacher burst out laughing or fight back tears while reading
a book — they witness two of reading’s greatest rewards.
is prying staples out of the stapler with a pair of scissors, following mud tracks to a student’s desk, asking questions
about things when you already know the answers, laughing at knock-knock jokes you’ve heard three hundred times, being able
to make thirty-seven different things out of a paper plate, locating the exact book that a child is searching for when all
she knows is that it has a yellow cover, knowing that a storm is coming without looking outside, pushing desks that have crept
up throughout the day back to their original places, finding yellow caps on blue markers, and counting to five while each
child takes a drink at the drinking fountain so that no kid hogs all the water.
is correcting papers while watching
calculating how many workdays are left till the middle of June, singing the “ABC Song” out loud when looking up a word in
the dictionary, taking the 7:00
dentist appointment, asking the woman at the dry cleaners if she can get out glue stick, unrolling a brand-new package of
paper towels because you need one more tube for an art project, taking your students out for free play and calling it PE,
knowing that no matter how much food you have at the Thanksgiving feast — kids will just grab the popcorn, and calling your
student three different names before finally getting it right.
is standing in the center of the dodgeball circle while twenty children try to get you out, counting kids’ heads on a field
trip, confiscating yardsticks that have magically turned into swords, snitching candy from your own goody jar, collecting
abandoned bird nests, scooping goop out of pumpkins, understanding that cursive
is easier to write than cursive
, having ninety-seven items in your emergency preparedness backpack but not being able to find the Band-Aids, knowing all
about Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, Pokémon, Smurfs, Elmo, Tamagotchis, Webkinz, and Bakugan before they became hot,
and sitting in the “barber’s chair” on Colonial Day while getting a shave with a Popsicle stick and Cool Whip.
is writing “Do Not Touch!” on the tape dispenser then hunting for it the very next day, sweating over not being able to get
the DVD player to work while twenty kids offer to “help,” waiting out in front of Target the morning after Thanksgiving to
save fifty cents on ribbon, making rain parkas out of Hefty bags when it starts pouring on the field trip, expecting more
chase games on the blacktop in spring than in fall, explaining that a rock is a very important role in the school play, yanking
so hard on the wall map that it shoots up and jumps off the metal hooks, having butterflies the night before school starts,
and understanding that a child may forget what you taught her — but will always remember how you made her feel.
here is a moment in August when teachers everywhere experience the same migratory call. This tug is always followed by a sigh,
or a shake of the head, or both.
Where did the summer go?
Eventually, we make that first trip back to our classrooms. The key turns. The door opens. Summer is officially over.
Inside, the tile floor around the sink shines with a new coat of wax. The room smells like carpet cleaner. It is time to rebuild
our nests. So we unstack chairs, arrange desks, organize books, and decorate bulletin boards. We make copies, sort through
files, and put a brand-new shoe-box house in the bunny cage. And best of all, we get to visit the supply room again.
Teachers love school supplies. We thrill in taking the cellophane off new boxes of markers, stacks of Post-it notes, and sticks
of modeling clay. We get tingly all over when we see cans full of newly sharpened yellow pencils fanned out in a perfect circle.
Squeezing brand-new bottles of glue — better than chocolate.