Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Twas the day before.....

By now school is out for the holidays before starting again in January of the new year. The last couple of weeks is hard on all teachers no matter what grade they teach. Just last Saturday, a high school show group from the music department showed up at my yacht club. An outstanding group, the come by every year and do a short presentation of song and dance. Called the Show Stoppers they prepare some holiday songs in the manner of a Broadway show and sing and dance around the city at a number of presentations. The music teacher was there along with an intern from my local university.....learning the ropes so to speak. The music teacher does a good job with about twenty young adults. Who knows maybe one or two will actually make it to Broadway in New York. I hope so.

Some years ago I was teaching fifth grade between bouts of teaching grade school music. I had a good class and wondered what I might do for the kids in my room as a gift. There were some district wide regulations as to what teachers could do, primarily limiting the amount of money one could spend. Most teachers in my school did nothing, perhaps a Christmas card to each child so I didn't want to rock the boat.

So my wife and I and some neighbors made gingerbread boys and girls for my kids. I hadn't realized how heavy gingerbread dough was--very hard to roll out and to mix. I needed all the muscle of several of my male neighbors to mix the dough. However, it became a party and we baked gingerbread kids until there were cooling in the kitchen, dining room and living room. We had gingerbread boys and girls all over the place. The I added some icing for facial and design and wrote each child's name on a gingerbread cookie. Hey, it was a lot of work. Near the end, someone asked what would happen if a new child arrived on that last day before the holidays. Ain't gonna happen. But it worried me enough that I decorated two cookies and wrote "favorite" on each of them. I figured I could eat them.

Then all the cookies were wrapped in cellophane and carefully placed in a box.

The last day of class arrived and I had let the students in my class exchange holiday cards. And surprise, one of my girls brought her little sister from home. A special treat. It was fine with me and the mother had sent a little note saying if it was not okay, please call her and she would come to pick her up. Not a problem Some of the children brought cookies and I would be forced to admit that little learning really got done that day. Some house keeping chores like cleaning out their desks and making folders to take home all the finished homework.....things like that. We cleaned off the bulletin boards and got them ready for the new year by putting up big numbers for the year--probably 1967 or 1968. Near the end, I got my boxes out and handed each child their Gingerbread boy or girl. The class was delighted. Everyone enjoy showing them off--a few wanted to eat them but their peers really stopped them. "Take it home and put it on the tree!" And I am glad I had made a gingerbread cookie with favorite on it and could give it to the little sister. You have to hang loose when you are a grade school teacher.

There was a district wide policy that parents were not suppose to give gifts to the teachers. Probably a wise move. But in spite of that policy I did receive a number of gifts, mostly ties. We male teachers were still required to wear ties and jackets......although most of us hung our suit coats and jackets up once we got into our classroom. So ties were a popular gift. I'm sorry I didn't save any of them--it was obvious that the kids did the choosing. And I can guarantee they did not come from the Bon Marche or Nordstroms. I did in the coming year wear each tie at least once. You had too. Women teachers mostly got perfume. Some of the kids would say, "Look how much I got for a dollar!" Right. I wonder if the women teachers wore the perfume like we guys wore the ties.

Each year at least one of my room mothers would come up to me and ask for my car keys. Being a native New Yorker I always locked my car frustrating some of my kids' parents. And after school, I would return to my car (yes, my little bug) and there would be a pie or cake--homemade and wonderful. As I said earlier, I really loved my parents.

Well, the gingerbread cookies were a hit. A couple of the parents talked to me and said how much their child enjoyed getting that cookie. It was probably near the end of March of that next year and I was watching one of my boy's looking into his desk and then putting his hand in. I just watched but couldn't figure out what was going on. He was still doing his work, writing or reading with his hand in the desk. Odd behavior. I had learned not to move too quickly when strange behavior became apparent....but after several days I had to ask Bobby, "Is there something wrong with your left hand? You tend to rest it in your desk." Bobby looked embarrassed and then pulled out his cellophane wrapped gingerbread boy. He then told me that he liked holding it when he did his homework--it make him feel good. I told him to put it back in his desk and don't worry. You can hold him all you want. I was sort of surprised to note that it was still looking good. But Bobby had his teddy bear so to speak.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night. May the dreams of some of your best teachers keep you warm and happy in the coming year.

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