One of My All-Time Favorite Mothers

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Mamacita says: I saw one of my all-time favorite mothers at Aldi’s today.

When she found out that her son was being disruptive on a daily basis, she came to school in a ratty nightgown and robe, hair in rollers, and filthy bunny slippers. She sat by her son in every class, walked him through the halls holding his hand, sat by him in the lunch room, played volleyball with him in PE, and never stopped the very audible toddler-level sweet talking.

She promised to do this every time she got a call from the school.

The kid never gave us a bit of deliberate trouble again. Turned out to be one if my favorite students. To paraphrase Anne Shirley, I like best the ones who COULD be bad, but choose not to be. Most complete turn-around ever.

The Lunch Thief Who Was Also “Religious”

Mamacita says: I was reading a friend’s post about her lunch being constantly stolen at work, and it reminded me of the co-worker who was obsessed with food. He “sampled” other people’s lunches almost daily, sometimes just taking a few bites and sometimes taking the whole sandwich He would help himself to a few chips from one lunch, a few Fritos from another lunch, a tomato slice, a few pickles. . . you get the picture.

If there was cake or pie or anything sweet, he took the whole thing; he had a massive sweet tooth. (This is not the principal who roamed the cafeteria stealing bits and pieces of students’ lunches; this was a teacher who stole other teachers’ lunches.)

Sometimes we would take our lunches from the lounge refrigerator and a sandwich would be warm – he had microwaved it before taking half of it. If there was a pitch-in, he NEVER contributed anything but would always casually walk through and fill a plate, commenting that it looked like we had plenty of food.

The year before I started there, the teachers gave him the ‘ex-lax brownie treatment,’ which knocked him out of work for several days but didn’t teach him anything. Whenever food was mentioned, his eyes would glisten and his breathing changed. He was obsessed with food. He was a fat guy who passed most of his workload onto his aide, and whenever his name came up in conversation, all kinds of food-stealing-related stories came up in quick succession. My own lunches were usually pretty boring unless I brought leftovers, so leftovers days were the only times he messed with mine, but what I really remember is the day I brought a cheesecake to a pitch-in and when I opened the fridge to take it out and put the topping on it, a huge slice had been stolen.

Whenever I see this guy on Facebook, all I can think of is how those eyes would glisten at the mere mention of food, and how he was supposedly so religious yet would feel justified in stealing other people’s lunches almost daily. A fine deacon and occasional preacher. Right. No respect.

My Beautiful Mother

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Mamacita says: A year ago yesterday, I found my mother lying on her bathroom floor, fully conscious, but unable to get up. The evidence told me that she had fallen in her bedroom, pulling down some furniture trying to break her fall, and crawled down her hallway to the bathroom. She had lain there for most of the night.

If I had not gone over there to take her to an early lab appointment, she would have lain there several hours longer.

The ambulance took almost forty minutes to get here, and at the local hospital she seemed groggy and embarrassed but okay-ish, all things considered. Then she told me that her chest felt heavy. I knew from experience what that meant.

She was rushed by ambulance again to a nearby city hospital as the local one doesn’t do cardiac. The family started gathering and there was an aura of unreality about the whole thing. My son lives near that hospital and he spent a lot of time with her, talking about his childhood memories with her and ordering Cokes (with ice, very important) for her and helping her hold and drink them.

A year ago today, her minister visited her and they talked for about fifteen minutes. My sister and her family ran down to the cafeteria for a quick bite and I went back to her room. She looked at me, gasped a few times, and was gone. My mother, who took care of me until it was my turn to take care of her, was gone.

A full year later, I am still filling dinner plates, marking pedicure dates, thinking about giving her a call to see if she wants to go out for pizza with us, saving the breast and wing for her when we have chicken, and putting pickled beets and sweet onions in my cart, in my head. Her mail, and she still gets tons of mail, is still being forwarded, but that won’t be for much longer.

I will always miss my beautiful, wonderful mother, the best mother ever created. I am sitting in her brown leather chair and thinking about her, a year after she died. I can close my eyes and see her in this chair, “clicker ” in hand, watching “Murder She Wrote” and asking Alexa about the weather. I know it will get better as more time passes, but right now things are still pretty raw.

Your Body, Your Business

Mamacita says, and most emphatically, I might add: Your body is none of my business. Abortion was never for me, but my own body is the only body I have legit jurisdiction over. Well, unless you’re wearing those hideous super short cheeky shorts or choose to exhale poison; I can be pretty judgy about those choices. . . . but pregnancy is about as personal as a body can go, and it’s not up to me to decide one way or another for you. I don’t know your history and I’m not paying your bills.

The only advice I would give you, whatever you decide to do with your own personal self, is to get as far away from Texas as possible. People be getting more hillbilly medieval down there every day, and it’s not safe for any woman. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes. If your feet hurt, you can’t outrun the crazies.

Size Doesn’t Matter. Neither Does Age.

Mamacita says: Size doesn’t matter. It’s never mattered. Age doesn’t, either. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are circumstances wherein both age and size DO matter, (ya pervs ya) but what I am talking about here is education. Classrooms. Curriculum. Seatmates. Consequences. The usual. (Have we met?)

In a perfect world, everybody knows how to behave properly and does so. Once in a while, we as teachers are lucky enough to get a classroom of lovely students who know how and who do so. Those years pass by really quickly. Teachers pass this information along from Kindergarten Day One. “Wait ’til you get this class; they’re lovely!” “I hate to let this group go; every day is better than the one before!” You get the picture.

Then there are the other kind of groups. Teachers pass this information along, too. “Brace yourself; this is the worst group EVER.” “I cry all the way home every single night.” You get this picture, too.

The fact that every once in a while, every once in a blue moon, we get a class of students who honestly represent that perfect world, keeps us going.

The fact also is that most of my favorite students were in some of the worst classes that ever congregated on the face of the planet. And some of my favorites were also responsible for that class being the worst of the worst.

My point? Do I have to have one? I guess I can drag one in by the hind legs and say that we never know where the quality is going to come from, and that sometimes, just sometimes, if we assume every class we get is going to be that perfect world class that makes us happy every day and confirms that teaching is our true calling, then maybe that class will live up to those expectations.

Not all of them. That was one of the hardest lessons for me as a teacher to learn. There will always be some who defy every technique, and can’t even be bribed into decent behavior. But most students? Yes, MOST STUDENTS. Are, even under exteriors rougher than we could ever understand, solid quality and cool. The digging makes it even more of a treasure when we finally find it.

Advice? You want advice from me? Sure. Here’s my advice. Never stop digging. There’s gold in them there hills, but it’s not going to erupt out of the dirt and leap into your arms. It requires work. Sweat. Tears. Sometimes a bit of blood.

And trust. Teachers must trust themselves even when we don’t know what we’re doing or how to do it. Teachers must trust the students even when we don’t know if there’s anything valuable enough to mine behind that sullen, violent face.

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But here’s my biggest hint to you: There always is. Just keep digging. Never stop digging. It’s there.

The biggest, and the smallest, and the oldest, and the youngest, students in your classroom are all worth the digging. If they fight you, fight back.

Mostly, though, try to laugh with them.

We have no idea what our students go “home” to when they leave the building.