If you've seen any of my post, then you already know that I'm a ginger. Plus, I used to have crazy red hair. Today's bit of happiness comes from a group of people I loved and miss and hope are doing amazing things with their lives. Many of them are getting older and wiser and hopefully part of my time with them was able to help them out.
Years and years ago, when I was in college, I worked at a local middle school coaching basketball for 7th graders boys. While I will post about the time coaching later, this is more about the two years after that. I was doing my student teaching and about to graduate from college. I was assigned to a Parkview High School in Springfield, MO. I wasn't sure which grades I would be teaching, but I was excited. When I walked into the class to meet the teacher, I found out that it would be Freshman Honors American History for 3 classes and 1 regular US History (another freshman class).
As the students started to filter into the class, some of them were excited to have a student teacher. When you live in a college town, you grow up with student teachers and they can be an exciting break from the boredom of your regular teacher. As they filed in, all of the sudden I heard "Coach Treehuger!!! What's up? Are you our student teacher?" I replied with a yes and told them that they couldn't call me that but "Coach Grimes" was acceptable. You see, in each of my classes there were at least 3 to 5 ex-players from the 7th grade team I had coached 2 years prior. They called me Coach Treehuger when I coached them because I had long hair and a goatee, so they thought of me as some weird hippie. I had since cut off all the hair and the goatee to make myself look somewhat adult and respectable.
Luckily for me it took some of the tension out of being their student teacher. These young boys would then brag about how much fun I was as their coach to their classmates. Having that familiarity helped make the classes a little more manageable. I wasn't the world greatest student teacher, but I loved those 4 classes. The boys understood my sarcasm and wit and also knew when they went too far. At the same time, the new students I had enjoyed having a "cool" college kid that could somewhat relate, even though I was about 9 years older than all of them. As the semester progressed, the classes became more fun and enjoyable. At times it was hard to keep them focused, but I found more ways to make them interactive. I made the Honors classes make the notes and then tell their classmates what was important. I let them know that what they said would be part of the test, so they had no choice but to listen to their peers. They all laughed at my handwriting (If you've ever had the privilege to receive one of my letters, then you understand - it's unique and legible for a guy), but some of them tried to copy it. You know imitation is the sincerest from of flattery.
One day, we were discussing the Civil Rights Movement. I had come up with an awesome idea to teach it and it was using Oreo cookies and Dr. Seuss's "Sneetches." I created stars with stars on them and handed them out. We read "Star-Bellied Sneetches" and I handed out oreos to the students whose stars had stars and then to those who didn't have stars as the story dictates. At first they didn't understand what was going on, but as the class wound down, they started to see the ignorance in segregation based upon something so simple as a star on your belly or the color of your skin or the religion you follow or your choice in sexuality, etc. It was very gratifying to see the wheels turning in young minds.
I had so much fun with those kids. From my ex-players to the new players in my heart, they made it so much fun to be in the classroom. To try new and different and odd things to get an idea across so that they walked out with a better understanding of things. They might have remembered and bragged about having oreos in class but hopefully one day when they read "Sneetches" to their kids, a light switch is flipped and they remember that wonderful Spring afternoon.
This now brings us to the part of the happiness. In all my years, I never really got teased a whole lot due to my red hair. Not until college did that change. I never got teased for it, but once my hair grew long, it became more noticeable. Then on one my last days in class, my kids were so excited. I had no idea what they were all snickering about and was a little curious. Apparently the kids in ALL of the honors classes and some of my other freshman students had gotten together to get me a going away gift. They bought a box of Lucky Charms and ALL of them signed it. I was completely speechless and floored. I never expected anything from my students and it was both the funniest and heart touching thing I had ever been given. As each class came in, they would sit in jittery silence waiting for me to bring up the box. I would go through the lesson plan and at the last 10 minutes of the class, I would let them talk about it. My supervising teacher said she had never had something like that happen before. It made me feel honored and special. When you're in a classroom, you never know the impact you have on the kids you deal with. After the classes, they gave me a hug and at the end of the day, I just sat there reading what everyone had written.
In my years as an adult I have traveled a lot. I have kept and lost many a things that have very little emotional value to me. It happens when you grow up moving. You just don't put value in things for some reason. Unfortunately, I have since lost this box of Lucky Charms. It saddens me when I think of my days in the classroom that it's gone. I have no idea where it is. I did a great job of keeping on to it for a long time, but somewhere along the way...poof, gone. While it saddens me that it is gone, I smile every time I'm in the cereal aisle in the grocery store. I smile because it reminds me of those kids and the fun I had. It makes me think of what impact I might have had, if any. I wonder what they are doing with their lives. If they went to college. If they are married. Who knew a box of Lucky Charms could make you nostalgic.