Working with kids is the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me. Week One of teaching summer school is completed, and I'm accumulating stories.
We send books home with the kids, along with a reading log so we can know how much they read. One kid forgot his book at home. I'd donated a copy of Where the Clouds Catch Fire to the bookshelf, so I grabbed it for the kid to read.
He looked surprised--it was quite a bit thicker than most of the books we had. "I like the name," he said, pointing to my last name on the cover. "Just take out the 'a,' and it's Pizza."
Yes, we get that a lot, I wanted to tell him. But he didn't know I'd written it, so I just smiled and told him to read to Page 8. He didn't get that far. Everyone was in high spirits (in other words, they didn't want to listen) and we were playing math games before long. Afterwards, I made the unruly ones help me clean up, and I waited twenty minutes after closing time for my last student to get picked up.
Maybe I should just collect quotes from my students. They say the darndest things.
I've gotten "You're not a real teacher" and "Why don't you work at McDonald's?" from a couple of boys. I've gotten "You're boring" and "Why can't we do anything fun?" multiple times (I'm pretty sure all teachers do). But I've also heard the kids tell an assistant from another classroom "You're not our teacher!" when she stepped in to help control the noise level. They wrote on the whiteboard, "Miss Micalah's Class and no one else's!"
Perhaps my favorite quote is from a younger child who isn't in my classroom: "I hate B.M.! Do you know what that stands for? Bad Mondays!"
During the spring semester, one of my boys came in upset. "Caitlyn broke up with me!" he said (to his friend, not me). "I gave her everything! I gave her chocolate on Valentine's Day! And she left me for Daniel? He's a loser! He's never done anything for her!"
Dude. You're in fifth grade. Relax a bit, I'm out of high school and still single.
It's good to know how kids work when you're a writer. After all, you never know when you're going to have a character with a twelve-year-old sibling, or you need a random fifth-grader to say something snarky at the public pool. Working with kids is one of the best ways to figure out what they're like.
Using relatives is okay too, but you won't get a representative sample of the age group. You only get the people who are the same kind of weird as you. My little sister left for camp this afternoon. I was on my way out the door with someone waiting for me, and my sister tackled me and tossed me on our stair landing.
"Get in my suitcase," she said. "And if you don't, I'll break all your bones so you'll fit better."
"Sis, get off of me, I have to leave--"
"Get in my suitcase!"
I left. Unfortunately. And now she's gone to camp, without a broken-boned teacher in her backpack.
What's the darndest thing a kid has ever said to you? And what's your favorite science experiment to do with kids? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.