Tuesday, November 29, 2016


He throws the information at me as he is going out the door for Thanksgiving break.

"Her initials are E.N."

I tease a little, "I'm going to figure that out, you know. I can look at an eighth grade attendance roster and figure it out in about ten seconds."

"No you can't," he says. "You can't figure it out that fast."

"Yes I can." We laugh and then he is gone for ten days. I climb the stairs to go back into the building. I have forgotten about E.N. by the time I reach the front door.

Monday. The first day after vacation. I have about seven minutes before I am scheduled to be on the playground for lunch duty and I run upstairs to talk to the fifth grade teachers. The eighth graders are scattered up and down the hall, reading MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. One tells me that he is reading the play because his brother told him that a lot of people die. I am processing that information, trying to remember which deaths go to which Shakespeare plays, when I run into E again.

"Did you look, Miss? Did you look it up?"

At first, I don't even remember what he is talking about.  "Did I look what up?"

"You know, you said you could figure it out in ten seconds."

I dig deep, trying to remember what I might have said I could figure out in ten seconds, trying not to let him know that I have absolutely no idea what we are talking about. What did I say I would look up? A book title? A random soccer fact? A high school application deadline? I have been known to look up any of those things for the middle schoolers.

He throws out another clue. "You said you could figure it out who it was in ten seconds."

Again, I dig deep.  'Who it was…"

I must still look a little vacant, because he gives me a little more information. "Her initials. Remember?"

Ohhhhh. Now I remember that quick interchange. One of a hundred, or maybe five hundred or a thousand that I had that day. Ten days ago.

But it was the only one I had with him.

And clearly it mattered.

Dang. What were those initials? E??? E what? E.R?

I put on my best private detective smile. "E…?" My voice trails off, hoping he will finish my sentence.

He obliges. "E.N., Miss, E.N."

"Oh yeah. E.N. I can figure that out. Give me two minutes." Now I have three minutes before I have to be on the playground. I dash into the fifth grade classroom to complete my original mission. On the way back downstairs I mentally run through the eighth grade girls. E.N??? By the time I reach the bottom of the stairs, I think I know who we are talking about.

E.N.? He and E.N. are a couple? Really?

That can't be right.

I check the roster to make sure, but there is only one E.N.

I head to the playground. I am a minute late.

He is not there. Probably inside making up homework.

I pull him aside in the cafeteria. "I know who E.N. is, " I announce. "Does she have long brown hair?"

He nods.

"And she's sitting at the table next to yours?"

He nods.

"And she's wearing a pink hoodie?"

He grins.

"I know who E.N. is."

He pushes away to dump his tray and I continue my rounds, willing myself to pay close attention.

I never know, after all, when a random kid will grab five seconds to dump a piece of his heart into my lap.

Such an amazing privilege, this work we do…


Linda B said...

I love the way you ended it, Carol, 'dumping a piece of heart into your lap'. That sweetness in a middle grade young man would surprise many, but not teachers! Thanks!

Ramona said...

Carol, what an amazing slice. You captured the essence of what we do and why we do it with this words -
"I never know, after all, when a random kid will grab five seconds to dump a piece of his heart into my lap."
And you are so right, it is an amazing privilege!

Tara said...

That's a teacher's heart at work - knowing the importance of these little interactions. Bravo!