, Newburyport, MA


September 18, 2013

Only in second grade!

The telephone rang at 5 a.m.

Five o’clock in the morning!

There are birds and squirrels still asleep at that hour, let alone human b-e-a-n-s.

I had the same fear and trepidation as many of you: “Who died?”

(A friend of mine has a slightly different twist: “Who died and left me money?”)

It was an elementary school principal — and her voice rang with desperation. The hour alone had already proven that.

“I need a sub for second grade!” she pleaded.

I knew the specific class of which she spoke; it had a district-wide reputation as “The Class from Never-Never Land” because teachers never returned a second time.

“Hmmm! Grade 2. Isn’t that the age group that bites you in the ankle while you’re trying to teach?” I teased. “That’s not exactly my area of expertise.”

A pregnant pause!

“Come on, big guy, you’ll love them and they’ll love you!” she chanted in sing-song fashion.

I love the way elementary school staff sing their words!

I can be seduced with flattery — the term “big guy” got my ego — and I agreed to sub “but only for the day.”

Upon entering the classroom, I did what most teachers do: wrote my name on the board.

As I turned around, student faces said it all. Half were sad and on the verge of tears while the other half were either fearful or markedly displeased.



“Girls and boys, Mr. G has been here for all of one minute. What’s wrong?”

“We don’t do curthive!” a little girl from the back of the room bellowed.

“Excuse me?”

“We don’t do curthive; we can only pwint!”

A tiny lad in the front row, the class self-appointed interpreter, rose to the occasion like a prophet.

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