Nuggets of Wisdom from the 5th Grade

I’ve decided to keep an ongoing document of weird and wonderful things these kids say in ISS. I’ve already shared a few of them, but I wanted to share my most recent addition. This is a quote from today.

(In an essay on drugs) Opening line: “Hey there, person with the brown teeth! Why you ugly self doing drugs?”
(on marijuana) “Say no, you may have to take a drug test in school.
(on alcohol) “Say no, it give you diarrhea.”
(on tobacco) “Say no, your mom would smell it on you.”

Thankfully, he had already returned to his desk when I read this, so I was free to laugh silently at my own desk.


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Some days I just want to yell, “shut up before I lunge over my desk at you and kick you in the throat.” And then some days, I can’t believe they pay me to read, look at Pintrest, and occasionally interact with students.

Today is a weird combination of the two. Thankfully it was only the former for a little while when I had lunch detention in here and wanted to kick every single one of those kids in the throat. (I’ve got this cool Karate Kid image of myself. But it’s the new one, so I have cornrows.) And now it’s calm. I do have a student in here, but he made a mistake, learned his lesson, and now he has to deal with the consequences. (His words.) In other words, he won’t give me any problems.

I only wish I hadn’t forgotten my book at home today. I’m currently reading David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife. The dialogue is cheesy at some points, but he more than makes up for it with Mormons. Polygamist Mormons make my day better. Talking about it makes me miss my Mormons. (Yes, they’re my Mormons. As are the characters in The Lonely Polygamist, and the real life Mormons in Escape and Sister Wives. Hm. I may have a problem. Hi, my name is Chelsey, and I’m addicted to Mormons.)

But really, I hate having lunch detention kids in here. They’re cheeky. At least ISS kids get the fact that they’re in my world and I rule my world (I can at least pretend they do), but lunch detention kids always come in on a high from…third period? I don’t know. But they don’t get the “sit down, shut up” concept. I told one kid to face the wall one day, and he said, “it’s white.” What I wanted to say was “OMG, no way! I have been trying to figure out what color that was for the longest time! Thank you so much!” and then bow at his feet. Instead I said “yep.” Oh the things I’ve left unsaid and the kids I’ve left unkicked.

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Just Another Manic Monday

In order to keep my creative juices flowing, I’ve decided to challenge myself with a couple of writing prompts a week. I’m starting with prompts from this site.

Prompt #1:

Monday is Roseanne Barr. She nags, yells, and just generally makes you feel bad. Monday always has something to complain about, and she lets you know every chance she gets.

Tuesday is Fran Drescher. Tuesday grates on your nerves with her nasal voice, but she’s not quite as bad a Monday. In fact, despite yourself, you kind of like Tuesday.

Wednesday is Ty Pennington. You’ve made it this far in the week, so Wednesday picks up his megaphone and screams “Let’s do it!” in your ear. Wednesday is hopeful and encouraging. Wednesday makes you feel like you can do most anything.

Thursday is Jimmy Buffet. Thursday is a little too eager for the weekend and may start to relax too soon. Beware of Thursday.

Friday is Tigger. No matter what goes on, Friday bounces on his tail, sings, and has no regard for the seriousness of life. The most wonderful thing about Friday is that he’s the only one.

Saturday is your local politician. Saturday has millions of promises but delivers on very few and usually just eats through your money.

And Sunday is a bipolar combination of Clark Griswold and Eeyore. Sunday is Clark in the morning, trying to squeeze in as much family time is possible. Sunday morning promises to be the hap, hap, happiest time of the week. But then noon passes, and Sunday becomes Eeyore. Sunday afternoon knows that all too soon, Monday will be back. Sunday afternoon knows that the world is coming to an end.

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Kids Say the Darndest Things

Standing at my Monday morning duty of greeting 5th graders as they arrive at school, I was approached by a student I once had in ISS. He’s a good kid, one who just made a stupid mistake once. The day he was in here it took a little while to get him to stop sobbing, that’s how upset he was about being in trouble. When he finally did calm down, he was precious and perfect.

“The reason I couldn’t go to the fair this weekend,” he said breathlessly as he reached me at my post, “is because it’s too cold outside.”

I had no idea what fair he was talking about, but I nodded and said, “Yeah, it is cold.”

And then, with all the excitement of an 11-year-old, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a sliver of wood.

“Look,” he said, “I made my own toothpick!”

If your first concern is that he’ll get a splinter from his homemade toothpick, don’t you worry. He told me he’s already used it several times.

This kid’s going to save millions.

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A 12-year-old Explains Literary Terms

Sitting in my ISS classroom on a calm day, listening to instrumental music and reading The Red Badge of Courage, I notice the hand of my lone student in the air. I know he’s working on language arts, so I’m eager to help him and stretch my literary muscles. (I’m also glad to see he’s not falling asleep as he was all morning and the day before.) As I reach his desk, I see that the worksheet he’s working on is about literary terms.

“What does persification mean?” he asks.

“Personification,” I correct him, “means giving non-human things human-like qualities.”

I’m proud of my answer for a moment. I explained the word accurately and in a way that a 12-year-old can understand, or so I think.

But without missing a beat, he says, “You mean like putting sweaters on dogs?”

Yes. Yes, it’s exactly like putting sweaters on dogs.

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The Delusion is Born

In the second grade, I remember telling someone that when I grew up I wanted to be a marine biologist, a basketball player, and a writer. Soon after that I came to the realization that marine biology was more than just swimming with dolphins and that I had absolutely no athletic ability – not to mention I was short – but nothing has ever squashed my dream of being a writer. I began writing my first book when I was in the third grade, and though I never completed it, I continued to write short stories, poems, and songs. There was absolutely no question about it: when I got to college, I was majoring in English.

I knew the job market for English majors, or at least I thought I did. After all, my own father majored in English yet worked in technology. I claimed to know my degree wasn’t marketable, but I was certain that I had a secret weapon. I was brilliant. I was frickin’ hilarious, and I was going to be a famous author right out of college.

But now, at almost 24, a year and a half after graduation, I have nothing published. I work in an In School Suspension classroom, yelling at 11- and 12-year-old thugs to keep their shoes on, face the wall, and do their work. My goal is to work toward certification to teach English, something I swore violently that I would never do. (I was going to be brilliant, after all.)

The truth is, a degree in English is not going to get you a job, but I regret nothing about my degree. No one is going to pay me for my knowledge of utopian literature and films. No one will give me a raise because I can speak intelligently about the unifying theme of theater in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. But I know I learned all of that for a reason. Now I just have to find out what that reason is.

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