I’m back at Columbia this week. The first grade teachers are rejoicing to see me. It’s really funny how they are so excited that I am back, doing my thing. When I started this, two years ago, I had the feeling they didn’t quite know what to make of me showing up each week and reading to their students. I was invading their space. Teachers are like that. We don’t like to share our students with just anyone. I totally get it. These first grade teachers are the best and they do such a good job with their students. To give up some class time each week for a stranger? That’s big stuff. But I kept coming back. Their students liked what I did. It started to make a bit of difference with their students and their behavior. The teachers started confiding in me about some of the students and the issues of the classroom. I commiserated. I tried to inject lessons that would help. I took students aside and talked to them.
Now, here I am, two years later. That first class of first graders are third graders. I had lunch with them on Tuesday. They wanted me to come read to their class like I used to. I explained that’s not something I can do, but I can come have lunch. They were pleased. They ate their veggies and fruits. I was pleased.
Wednesdays and Thursdays are still dedicated to the first grade. Lunch and a story. The second graders are excited to see me in the cafeteria. They have things to tell me. They shout my name across the room. They too would like me to come read stories to their class.
As I stood chatting with a former first grade teacher who is now trying her hand at administration, one of the second grade boys threw corn from his lunch at me. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and immediately gave hm my evil eye. The former teacher marched over and gave him a lecture. I moseyd over to where the culprit was sitting with a group of boys I knew from last year. The boys I knew were sitting there, looking aghast at what had just occurred. I think they thought they too might be in trouble.
“You’re new this year?” I asked the corn thrower.
“You don’t know me, do you? I’m Mrs. Zody, the school chaplain. Your friends here know me.”
The other boys all cheered and high-fived me. I asked those boys if they would ever throw corn at anyone. They all furiously shook their heads. Then I looked back at the new boy, bent down, eye-to-eye, and asked him if he would ever throw corn again. His head lowered, then looked up, and he shook his head.
“Good. I’ll be checking on you to make sure you keep that promise. You have some good friends here. Follow their example.”