Out of the mouth of babes

In, “Attack of the Clones,” the second episode of the Star Wars saga, Master Yoda says, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”  In my six years of teaching, I have found that Master Yoda is absolutely correct in this.  At times, children think so simplistically, while at the same time employing fantastical imaginations.  Either way, the results are almost always entertaining.  Take our three year old son Joshua for example.  I forget what exactly prompted him to say this, but the other day I was doing something where I was standing between him and the television.  He looks at me and says, “Come on come on, just sit down ya old man.” It took me off guard so much I just burst out in laughter.  I have no idea where he heard that.  Here are some other times from this week when kids have just said some of the strangest or funniest stuff to me.

The other day, I was buckling Joshua and Izaiah in the van.  Izaiah looked at me and said, “No daddy, I just want to hang on this time.”  I looked at him and said, “Izaiah, let’s just make it a rule that whenever we’re in the van driving, you just “hanging on” is not really an option ok buddy?”

Today in first grade one of the boys walked up to me and said, “Mr. Steidl, can I go to the bathroom?  I really have to poop.  I farted twice already and I think the other kids can smell it.”

One of our first graders stole another one’s Lunchable and had it in his desk.  It was the one with crackers, meat, and cheese.  He had already opened it and assembled a few of the little sandwiches (it was about 9:30 in the morning mind you).  When confronted, he said he shouldn’t get in trouble because he hadn’t actually eaten any of the crackers yet.

My first graders know that my bald spot itches whenever I eat something really spicy.  So now, any time I reach up to scratch my bald spot they ask me if I’m eating anything spicy.  I’m like, “No, I’ve been standing in front of you talking for 45 minutes.  Have you seen me eat anything spicy?”

Our morning discussion question was “If you had a robot and could program it to do anything, what would you do with it?”  We had some great answers.

Student – “I would have it take me to Mexico.”  Me – “Do you speak Spanish?”  Student – “No.”  Me – “Then why would you want it to take you to Mexico?”  Student – “So I could go shopping.”  Me – “You just want to go shopping in Mexico?”  Student – “Yes.”  Me – “….ok.”

“I would make it dab…and beat up my sister.”

“I would have it transform into dirt bikes and race cars and stuff…..and feed me apples.  I really like apples.”

“I just want it to play video games with me.”

“I would have it bring all my dolls to life to have a tea party with me.”

Student – “I would have it turn my lights off for me.”  Me – “That’s all you want it to do?  You can program it to do anything.”  Student – “Yeah, sometimes I get in bed and forget to turn my lights off.  I hate that.”  Me – “Ok…you know that they already have this thing that you just clap your hands and it turns the lights off.” (Five students clap their hands) “Well we don’t have one in here…but they do have them.”  (Disappointed sighs)  They spent the rest of the day clapping in each room they went into to see if that room had the clap off lights.  They were sorely disappointed each time.

We read this book in first grade by Eric Carle called, The Tiny Seed.  In it, one of the flowers gets picked by a boy who gives it to a girl.  Well, the book says that he gives it to a friend.  Of course when the kids sawthat it’s a boy giving a flower to a girl they all yelled “Eeeewwww.” One girl in the front row turned around and said “No guys they’re just friends” (Air quotes as she says just friends).  Then she winked and they all yelled, “Eeeeeewwwww!!!!” even louder.

I made the mistake of telling a knock knock joke to the kindergarten kids at lunch.  There is nothing worse than 15 min of kindergarteners making up their own knock knock jokes…except 20 min of them making up their own knock knock jokes.  That would be worse.  Here were some of them.

Knock Knock.  Who’s there?  Chicken nuggets and super stackers.  Chicken nuggets and super stackers who? (blank stare looking at me then) …….IT’S YOU!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! They all laughed uproariously.  I didn’t get it.

Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Mr. Steidl.  Mr. Steidl who?  ……IT’S YOU!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!  Same punchline.  I still didn’t get it.

Finally I made one up.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Mr. Steidl.  Mr. Steidl who?  Mr. Steidl who doesn’t want to hear any more knock knock jokes! BAHAHAHA!!!!…. now they didn’t get it.

But yeah.  That was my day today.

 

 

Things I say

I have several goals for myself as a teacher.  I want to prepare my students academically, emotionally, and socially for the rest of their lives.  I want to provide them with a safe environment both physically and emotionally while they’re here.  I want them to leave my classroom simply as a better person than when they walked in.  However, one of the things for which I strive, as I think we all do, is to simply be someone that they remember.

There are several schools of thought on this.  First, there’s the cliche that “Students won’t remember everything you taught them but they will always remember how you made them feel.”  So for this, I do try to always provide a welcoming environment in which the students feel safe and accepted.  However, I have found that one of the things that the students remember most about me is the quirky things that I say.  My first year, when I was coaching the basketball team, to get them to stop talking so we could coach, I would yell “Lock it up and take a knee!”  Just last year, I saw one of my old basketball players and he quite literally asked me if I still told kids to lock it up.  I’m proud to say I do.  However, I just say and do a lot of quirky things to try to keep the classroom fun and entertaining and keep the students engaged.  I think overall, if ten years from now, students look back and think, “Man, Mr. Steidl was probably a little bit legitimately insane!”  I’ll be ok with that.  So, without further ado, here are some of the weird things I say.

When a student tells me that they don’t want to do something I usually reply with, “Well I don’t want donuts to make me fat.  But I eat plenty of them and, well….”

When a student asks a question that I really just don’t want or need to take the time to answer I say, “Oh yeah, that is a nunya.” or “Oh yeah that belongs to nunya” or “Oh she was talking to nunya.”  Then when they say “Who’s nunya?” or “What’s a nunya?” I say “Nunya business!!! BAHAHAHA.” and walk away.  I also do the same thing with the word minejone.  As in “Minejone business!!!!”

Sometimes I’ll pronounce words wrong on purpose.  Like I’ll say soicle instead of circle.  For example, “Soicle all the fractions that are equivalent to 1/2.” Kids look at me weird and I say, “I can’t say the word circle so I have to say soicle instead.” They usually yell, “But you just said “Circle!!”” And I’ll act like I’m hurt and say, “Now you guys are just teasing me.  I literally cannot physically pronounce the word, “circle,” so I have to say, “soicle.”

When kids say “OH MY GOD!!!” like complaining that I’m telling them to go back to their seats or something, I say “No, I’m Mr. Steidl, not God, but I think He’d agree with me on this.  Go back to your seat.”

When kids disagree with something like not being able to just get up and go to the bathroom whenever they want, I’ll say, “Too bad, so sad, glad your mad.  That’s rhyming. And that lesson is free of charge.  You’re welcome.  Now sit down.”

I am proud to say that I have taught an entire 30 minute lecture in an Irish accent.

When kids hug each other in the hall I’ll say, “Stop! Nope! Nope! Nope! This is a hug free zone.  That is much different than a free hug zone!  No hugs allowed.”

Many times when I’m saying a students name I’ll place the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable.  For example, I’ll pronounce “Harmony” as har-mone-ee. Just to change it up and get the kid’s attention.

Sometimes I’ll sing Disney songs in the hallway to students if it applies.  For example, fifth grade lost their recess for three weeks and had to sit doing writing assignments.  Their first day back on the playground, I started singing, “And for the first time in forever.”  Or if a kid is taking a long time at the drinking fountain…”I’ve been out here staring at the water…”  When we’re learning about shapes in first grade “It’s the circle of life”…when I hear two kids are dating “It’s beauty and the beast.” etc.

A lot of times I’ll change my voice inflection dramatically in the middle of a sentence along with my rate of speech.  So I’ll go from whispering to half-yelling and talking in slow-motion to talking really really quickly.

I’ll speak Spanish to my only English speaking kids just to confuse them and get them to look at me.

Sometimes when a kid says, “Excuse me!” I’ll reply, “That’s ok, I didn’t smell it.”

So as I read over this list, I realize that I must seem like a really crazy person to my students.  Strangely, I’ve come to be at peace with that. I think that it’s probably best that my students think I’m little bit crazy in the head.  It’s good for them to think that…or maybe that’s just me being crazy again.

 

Memories of Manny and Moving Forward

So I found out today that I again did not win the weekly short fiction contest.  So here is my latest short fiction piece.  It is based on the prompt, “You are spring cleaning and find something you had forgotten about completely.”  Warning, there is some somewhat adult content at the end.  Read at your own peril. 🙂

Memories of Manny and Moving Forward

I looked down and saw Marisol’s name on my caller I.D.  It had been forever since I had heard from Marisol and I let the call go to voicemail  She was the twin sister of my best friend Manny. Well, former best friend. The Army’s official statement was that “SPC Manuel Sanchez died from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath his transport vehicle while on a routine patrol.”  

That was seven years ago.  I had tried to stay close with his family.  Marisol and I had been almost as close as Manny and I at one point.  To be honest, we probably would have dated in high school if he hadn’t been my best friend.  There’s an unwritten rule there though. You just don’t date your best friends sister, especially his twin sister.  It would have been like dating him in a way.

However close we had been though, we slowly drifted apart into Facebook acquaintances over the years.  I had moved to Chicago for a my job and just kind of lost touch with them all. Marisol had moved away to Charleston to pursue her painting career.  It made me sad to think about it so I just tried not to.

Whenever I came home I would stop by and see Manny’s family. We would go to mass together then stop by his grave and pray.  My family was decidedly Irish and very Catholic. His abuelo and abuela had come to the United States from Mexico sometime in the 1950s and his family was equally Catholic.  Manny and I, though different types of Catholic, had found some connection in our faith.

We initially met playing soccer, another staple of both Irish and Mexican culture.  We played for the same travel team starting in 5th grade. He had played left mid and I played right mid.  We had hit it off instantly and quickly become best friends. Soccer is what started our friendship and we played together all through high school, but we were friends for so much more than that.  That’s why Marisol was calling.

“Hey Patrick.  It’s Marisol. My abuelo and abuela are moving into an assisted living facility next week.  We were going through some of the closets in the house and found something. If you can make it home this weekend it would be great to see you.  Really. It would be great. Call me.”

I don’t know why I hadn’t picked up.  Like I said, she and I had been almost as close as Manny and I.  Maybe I felt guilty for not trying harder to stay in touch since Manny had died.  Or maybe because there had always been some kind of attraction there that we’d always just ignored like it wasn’t.  I waited until I was on the road calling home from work and called her back.

They had found this box of trinkets that Manny and I had collected over the years.  Each piece in it was a memory of him. Marisol and I sat on the couch in the family’s living room.  She pulled out a detention slip signed by Mrs. Buckloh. “Oh I remember this!” She exclaimed. “This is from that fight with you and Sean!”

The “fight” hadn’t really been much of a fight.  In eighth grade, Manny had gotten an A on his test in Spanish class.  This other kid named Sean had failed the test and had knocked Manny’s books out of his hands and called him a racial slur.  I had basically turned and cold cocked him right in the mouth. The teacher, Mrs. Buckloh, although not disagreeing with my motives, had still rightfully given me a detention and Manny had stayed after with me.  Most of the time that wouldn’t have been allowed but she thought the circumstances warranted an exception this time.

“I didn’t know he kept that.” I said.  “My fist hurt for a week. They make it look so easy and painless in the movies.”

“Have you ever been in a fight aside from that?” she asked.

I laughed out loud at the thought. “Gosh no.” I said. “Not even close.  I still can’t believe I did that. He was just such a douche and I lost it.”

“You were our family’s hero.” She said.  “If my parents find this slip they’re going to frame it for sure.”

She reached into the box and pulled out a plastic scepter that was painted to look golden. I was encrusted with fake jewels and topped with a miniature crown.

“Ah.  The cherished and highly sought after Mr. Granville Award.”  I said. “The most prestigious of all senior class awards.”

“The inaugural Mr. Granville Award.” She corrected.

“Manny always said that no matter who else won it in later years, no one else would ever be able to win the inaugural one.” I replied laughing.  “He kept that just to taunt me.”

“Well, Mrs. C did say that it was the closest race in history.” Her tone was a teasing one full of fake sympathy.

“You mock my pain.” I said, quoting The Princess Bride, one of our favorite movies.

She countered with the correct, “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.” We both laughed and continued our foray into the box.

“Now this…” She held up two tickets to our Senior Prom.  “Best night of my life.”

I blushed.  It had been the only high school dance I’d ever gone to.  Manny, ever the suave sweet talker that he was, had convinced me to go with him and his date and had further convinced me to take Marisol.  

“Come on man.”  He’d said. “You’ve never been to a dance before and I’d way rather have you take her than some of these other jerks around here.”

I had relented and gone.  To call me awkward with girls in high school would be a compliment to what I actually was and that translated to the dance floor.  The first time a slow song came on, I had made the bathroom excuse. The second time I had gone for water. The third time, Marisol had just shook her head with an emphatic no and pulled me in.  We had kissed and that had been the end of it. I’m not sure to this day if Manny had seen but if he had, he hadn’t said anything. To be honest I don’t think he would have cared. I just thought it would have made things weird.  Marisol and I had never talked about it in true high school fashion but we both knew there had been something there.

“That was a great night.”  I said and looked back down at my feet.

“Oh come on.” She laughed.  “We kissed, it was great, and that’s all.  You don’t have to be awkward about it.”
“Oh it was great huh?”  Now she looked a little bit sheepish and dug quickly into the box again.

“Here we go.” She said, holding up a photo.  In the photo was a picture of me and Manny standing in front of a cast iron gate.

“You really saved our asses that night.” I said laughing.

“Oh I know it.” She responded.

Manny had gotten this idea in his head that it would be a good idea to cannonball into our principal’s swimming pool at 1:00 in the morning.  We had both failed our driver’s certification test the first time we took it and had walked nearly two miles to her house. We had brashly scaled the fence and jumped in without really thinking about any kind of an exit strategy.  We had also just naturally assumed for some reason that high school principals were all the kind of people who were in bed by 10:00, even on a Saturday night. Both were huge oversights on our part.

As soon as we hit the water, the kitchen lights came on.  We found scaling the fence to be exponentially more difficult when dripping wet and shivering.  We had barely made it to the street with our backpacks before the gate came flying open behind us and our principal’s husband came charging out with a baseball bat.  By some miracle, (that turned out to be Manny telling her our plan beforehand) Marisol had pulled up just in time for us to dive into the back seat of her 1999 Toyota Camry and escape the wrath that the Louisville Slugger promised.  Why Manny had taken a picture beforehand I’ll never know.

“You were so cute all cold and shivering in my back seat.” She said as she reached into the box.

“What’s this?” Marisol asked as she held up the empty wrapper of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

“That?…Well that’s…”  I had no words. “That’s a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.”

“No kidding.”  She replied dryly.  “But what is it? As in why is it in here.”

Oh boy.  This was going to be truly embarrassing.

“Well…that was from Lent our sophomore year.” I answered.

“What? you guys gave up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?”  She enquired. “What’s the big deal there?”

“Not exactly” I replied.

“Continue.”

I paused.  Then just blurted it out.  “We actually gave up masturbating.”  I halfway yelled.

The silence was deafening and she let me wallow in it before bursting out in uproarious laughter.  It was a solid minute before she could get out words.

“So why a Reese’s wrapper?”  She had me. I had to tell her the whole thing and she knew it.  So I just spilled it all.

“Well.  So I don’t know why, but that’s just what we chose to give up.  The problem is that people ask you what you gave up each year. Your mom asked us.  We couldn’t tell her what we really gave up so we both lied. Manny yelled out “Chocolate.” and I said “Peanut Butter.”  So we kind of looked at each other and Manny said “Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. It was the worst.”

“Why was it the worst?” She asked. “I mean she never knew right.”

“Well no.” I said. “But since we told her we gave up Reese’s we couldn’t eat those either.  So we actually ended up giving up two things that year. Masturbating and Reese’s.”

She burst out laughing again and leaned a little closer to me with a twinkle in her eye. “So what did you give up this year?”

I was stuck again because this year I actually had given up chocolate.

“Chocolate.” I said with my most sincere face.

“Oh yeah?” She said with a grin and a wink that made me glad it was really what I had given up this year. “Cross your heart and hope to die.”

“As you wish.” I said, again quoting our favorite movie.  I winked back, scooted closer, and said, “Now let’s see what other memories we can find.”

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day at an elementary school is always replete with drama.  As teachers, we don’t always know who’s dating whom and who just broke up with whom.  We get snippets and hear some of it but simply don’t have enough time to truly keep up with it.  Furthermore, I personally can say that I don’t really care.  Some of it is noteworthy so we know that Boy A can’t sit next to Boy B anymore because Boy B is now dating Boy A’s ex so they’ll fight.  Or we know that we can’t let Boy A go to the bathroom when Girl A is out of the room etc.  But most of it is just tertiary drama that really doesn’t affect us day to day.  However, on Valentine’s Day, we usually get doused with it.  Here are some funny anecdotes from the past couple years from Valentine’s Day.

The Manipulator

This is a pretty simple story really.  I was in first grade one year and saw one little girl get up in the middle of instructional time, waltz up to a young boy’s desk, and blatantly drop a note on his desk and hug him.  The boy, obviously taken aback at this unexpected amorous display looked helplessly up at me.  I just rolled my eyes and held out my hand.  The boy handed me note and I opened it up to read, “Dear Finky (Badly misspelled name), I love you.  I really do Finky. Love, (Girl’s name).”  Obviously I ribbed the boy to no end about it and to this day call him Finky.

However, the real punchline of the story comes later while I was at lunch duty.  As I was walking around the cafeteria helping the first and second graders open ketchup packets, (a task that is seemingly impossible for them to complete independently) the girl walked up to me and said, “Mr. Steidl, I have a secret.”  “Ok” I said. “I don’t really love (boy’s name). I just gave him that note to make you jealous.” She whispered.  “Ok.” I said, as I felt that any other response would be somehow inappropriate.  She then skipped away as if we’d never talked.

Cool Points for Mr. Steidl

Two of the teachers were sitting in the lounge on their planning period on one Valentine’s Day just discussing some of the drama.  “Oh gosh and then the whole thing with Bob and Jane (real names redacted to protect the somewhat innocent).” I heard them talking about how he forgot to get her a card for Valentine’s Day and how she loves Hershey’s Kisses and he came in eating Hershey’s Kisses but didn’t give her any for Valentine’s Day so she’s so mad at him.  Now Bob is an idiot.  I love the kid, but he’s an idiot, especially when it comes to girls.  However, we were making Valentine’s Day cards in my first grade group when he was on his lunch.  So I went to the cafeteria and called him out to the hallway. “Am I in trouble?” He asked as he walked up to me. “Well not with me.” I replied “But I hear that Jane isn’t too happy with you.” “Oh man. I know!” he said, and proceeded to give me the whole sob story about how he forgot.

I decided to help the young man out and asked him if he would like to bring his lunch to first grade and make a valentine for Jane there.  One of my students had also given me a giant Hershey Kiss that I was in no way going to eat so I offered it to him if he wanted it.  He said that yes he wanted to come up and make a valentine for Jane.  He worked diligently for about 15 minutes and then got up to leave.  “You want me to proof-read it?” I asked. “Yea that’d be good.” He replied and handed me the note.  I opened it up…

“Dear Jane,

HAHAHAHA Gotcha!  You thought I forgot for real didn’t you? Best joke ever right?  You know I would never actually forget about you.  I just wanted to make it better because it would be more of a surprise.  You know I love you.  I would say more than that but I think Mr. Steidl gonna read this.

Bob.”

It was just epic.  I never told Jane anything about how he actually did forget or that the huge Hershey Kiss she got was actually from a little girl named Adrianna.  That would be some major violation of bro code.  I’m pretty sure she knows anyways.  However, every time “Bob” sees me in the hall now, he kind of just gives me a nod and grins.  Cool points for Mr. Steidl.