The things I do for my students.
Last year, the short story “Old Ben” by Jesse Stuart was part of our eighth grade curriculum. In the story a family was emotionally touched by a bull snake that seemed to want to be part of the family. His presence around the farmyard was endearing to the family and they grieved when he later disappeared.
I told my students that I was incredulous that a family could find a snake endearing. “I can’t even touch a picture of a snake, much less a real snake.”
A painting of Old Ben in the corn crib graced the top of the textbook page, so immediately my students began clamoring for me to touch the picture of Old Ben. I could not bring myself to do it. I found the concept abhorrent. The hubbub went on for a few minutes until I became stern and said that I was not touching the picture of the snake—end of discussion.
About two weeks later, I walked into the classroom and a couple of the students said they had a surprise for me and to close my eyes. Since the students in this particular class are normally very sweet about doing nice things for me, I assumed they had something kind up their collective sleeves. They asked me to hold my hand out. I did so.
I felt a piece of paper being brushed across my fingertips and wondered what they were up to. After a few seconds of feeling the paper, they finally said, “Open your eyes.”
I screamed. They were forcing me to touch the picture of Old Ben.
They laughed while I tried to shudder the feeling away. Mean children. Awful children.
[I am the same teacher who the year before screamed and hid my body behind a ten-year old girl, sacrificing her life for mine, when a boy walked into my classroom carrying a four foot blow snake.]
I thought all my snake adventures were behind me until yesterday. One of my students—Mary Jane, one of the ones who made me touch Old Ben’s painting last year—sent me a photo message on my cell phone.
Let me tell you a bit about Mary Jane. She is a kindly uber-blond girl who is about as sweet and innocent as a baby bunny or Cindy Brady. She is the same ago as Weston, but is three years ahead of him in high school. She’s every parent’s dream child.
But little M.J. has an evil streak. Look at the picture she sent directly to my cell phone, and read our resulting
Mary Jane: Here is a pic of the snake at the aquarium. I took it for you.
Me: I touched it.
Mary Jane: You touched the picture?! Way to go!
Mary Jane: Wait nevermind I knew it was too good to be true.
Me: I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight now. ;-)
Mary Jane: Don’t delete it. Set it as your background [cell phone] for a week. I dare you.
Me: You’re kidding. What if I accidentally touch it? THEN WHO WOULD BE YOUR TEACHER, HUH?
Mary Jane: Then I would have a very daring brave changed teacher. It would be awesome. Be awesome, be awesome! [We had a lesson earlier this year about being awesome instead of being average. See how they use my words against me?]
Me: Wow, even the thought of it creeps me out. But I do so want to be awesome. Hmmm…
Mary Jane: You should try it. If you can do it I’ll be astonished. You can put on FB [Facebook] that you kept the picture as a background for a whole week. I know you want to
Mary Jane: …touch him.
Me: OK, I will make a deal. Starting tomorrow I will set it as my background for a week.
You will have the right to check my background at any time. But…
Mary Jane: Sounds good so far. But? Do I owe you something after? Sound fair?
Me: But in return I get to tell the story staring with Old Ben and ending with our texts, on my blog. Deal?
Mary Jane: Deal! So I owe you something after?
Me: Nope. You just have to agree to let me use your snake picture and our texts as a story on my blog.
Mary Jane: OK, I agree! You up to this?
Me: I don’t know if I am up to it which is why I will start tomorrow morning. I need a night to get used to the thought.
Mary Jane: OK, dream about it tonight! I can’t believe you’re doing this! [Me neither]
This is going to be interesting! If you fail and change your background you lose and have to say you lost on your blog.
Me: Agreed…sure hope I don’t delete that picture.
Mary Jane: You better not!
Mary Jane: OK, I’ll wish you luck this week! Good night, see ya later and you better have your phone with you for proof!
So there you have it. The background of my phone is currently a [gag] snake and I am on my way to becoming awesome instead of just average.