Mark Twain Kids


I’m a teacher.  I spend all day with kids.  I think like a kid.  I eat like a kid. I know how to play “Zip, Zap, Zop”.

I laugh at jokes about poop.

I thoroughly, totally, unequivocally enjoy being surrounded by kids.

Among other people my age, this makes me just a little…..weird.  When I am out to dinner with other 50 somethings, and I an not familiar with the TV show that they are discussing, I just might resort to making a fart joke.  It isn’t pretty, but it’s who I am.

Now, I know that it is May, and I am supposed to be counting the days until summer vacation, but instead I am immersing myself in the pleasure of being with a whole crowd of kids. It is May, and I am getting a little bit sadder every day.

I love my whole class, as a unit, more than I can express.  Every year I think to myself, “This is the BEST class I have ever had!” (But this year it’s true!)   Every May I am intensely aware of the subtle jokes and wordless messages that we share all day. Every May I feel a tug when I see how easily we laugh at each other’s jokes, understand each other’s fears and share each other’s crazy ideas.  Today, like every day in spring, I look out at the faces of “my” kids, and I feel my heart plummet at the thought of having to let them go.  I look at those familiar, beloved smiles and eyes and cheeks and sneakers, and I want to freeze the moment. I want to hold them close, although they would cringe to hear me say that.  I want to keep them near me, to watch them grow, to share in every step toward the future.

I love them all; I do!  But I also have to admit that some kids are extra special.  For me, it isn’t the kids who are always perfect who touch me the most. It isn’t the angelic, sweet tempered, fully cooperative kids who hold my heart. It isn’t the ones who master the skills without effort who really get to me.  It isn’t those kids I dream about.

I don’t know why, but it is the mischievous, grinning, sparkly-eyed tricksters who stay in my mind for years after they leave my care.

Some kids challenge me all day long.  Some of them just will NOT accept that what I say is true, or right or the best idea. They ask questions.  They demand answers. They refuse to go along and just follow orders.

These kids tilt their heads, baseball caps leaning rakishly over one twinkling eye.  They grin their gap toothed grins, give a little shrug and ask, “Yeah, but what if…….?”

These are the kids who make wild guesses.  They are the ones who use the art supplies to create elaborate interplanetary vehicles.  They hide behind the door when I am out of the room, make puns out of the history lessons, send paper airplane notes to their BFF on the other side of the cafeteria.

They are annoying, vexing, exhausting and unbelievably charming.  They are the “Mark Twain Kids”, the Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers of the fifth grade.  They don’t always get the top score on the rubric, but they invariably “think outside the box”, wherever the box may be. Sometimes they blow up the box……

It is May, and the sight of those Mark Twain kids every day makes me come to attention, pull out my best teacher strategies, and get to work.  And it is the idea of never seeing my Huck Finns again that brings me to tears when I am safe again at home after a long day of keeping them all in line.

These are the kids who make it so important for me to have a few weeks off to recuperate.  It is the promise of kids like this coming in my door in the fall that keeps me excited and helps me to get through the long, calm weeks of summer.

18 thoughts on “Mark Twain Kids

  1. As a former teacher with a Huck Finn son, thanks for being the teacher that you are!! If only a few more of the teachers my son had loved the kids that were able to think outside the box….sigh…. I can only imagine the affect that it would have had on him! His creativity continues (at 22) to astound me!

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    • Good for your son! These kids are the ones who will take us into the future, for sure. I love those moments when I explain something about political science, or simple machines or something, and one of my kids gets that look. I just wait for the “Yeah, but……..”!
      Thanks for reading and for your comment!

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    • Thank you! I was just watching the boys in my class romp around like puppies, and that image of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer just popped into my head. Sometimes the hardest thing I do all day is hold in my laughter when I need to be firm!

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  2. Hey- those are the two that I have lived with that exhausted me- the “what ifs…”, the I-have-to-do-it-my-ways, definitely blow up the box types. My older one is that child that most couples say, “If our first one was like this, we never would have had a second”. All that being said, I it’s that twinkle in the eye and tenacity and creativity that will get them through in this crazy mixed up world.

    Have you seen the movie Parenting with Steve Martin? If not, I think you’d really appreciate it. Especially the little story the grandma tells at the end about the roller coaster. Although, it’s definitely overly intense at times, I prefer the roller coaster!

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    • Thanks Cindy! I have to see that film (we love Steve Martin…how did we miss it?!)
      And that creativity and tenacity is not only going to get them through this crazy mixed up world, its going to get US through it, too.
      I have no doubt that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the guy who founded Starbucks were all “Mark Twain” kids!

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  3. I was a Mark Twain kid. Though it was never phrased as…nicely as that.
    I bet years down the line, all those kids will remember that fantastic teacher they had way back when

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    • Oh, man, I can only hope! I think right now they think: why did I get this lame old lady as my teacher?!
      On of my Mark Twain kids wrote a poem today about wanting to “get the heck out of here”! I hope one day they can see that I valued their special way of looking at this crazy world!

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  4. I love Mark Twain kids, and I have one. It takes a special teacher to be able to appreciate those students who prefer to make their school day “fun” with jokes, pranks, speaking out and witty comments while still learning. Not all teachers can look past that and see it as a special attribute as opposed to a constant irritation. I remember when I was in my late teens, and there was a young 4 yr old boy in church who always sat in one of the front rows, dressed impeccably, hair slicked off to the side, ankles crossed and hands in lap for the entire hour long service. He was so well-behaved, and I always used to say, “I hope I DON’T have a son like him. I want a mischievous little boy who keeps me on my toes.” And God said, “Your wish is my command, here’s Jake.”

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