When I sell my book and get to do readings and signings and get interviewed for major publications and NPR, I will be ready for any question anyone might throw my way. My third graders are making sure that I am exposed to a wide variety of queries, tossed to me like one of those tennis ball machines gone wild. It's not uncommon for six or eight or ten kids to stand around me (while they're supposed to be going to recess) all asking questions at the same time.
Here's a small sampling from the last few days:
"Mrs. Shucka, have you ever heard of pantihose?" Asked while the girl shows me hers, worn under jeans that are worn under a dress, ending in a pair of little girl heels that she manages to make sound like castanets when she walks.
"Hey, Mrs. Shucka, guess what?" While this seems a simple enough question, there is no way to answer it correctly. If I say, "What?" the asker often will giggle something about I have twenty seconds to pass it on and duck away. Or she will say, "No you have to guess!" So I guess. "You're going to give me chocolate." And I get told, "No, silly. Guess again."
"Hey Mrs. Shucka, ya know what?" This is the boy variation of "Guess what?" When I say, "What?" I get shown some outlandish thing from the Guinness Book of World Records, or Ripley's Believe or Not. Or, like today, a book on monster trucks. The answer to the monster truck "ya know what?" was that the tires have really thick sidewalls. To which the only appropriate response was, "Wow!"
"Hey, Mrs. Shucka, are we ever going to get to go on a field trip?" Again, a reasonable enough question. The problem was that it came smack in the middle of a discussion about bathroom etiquette.
"Mrs. Shucka, how old are you?" They know how old I am. I've told them, more than once. They know that I'm older than some of their grandparents. The question came up again today because their journal prompt tonight was to tell us who their favorite old person is. I told them I don't qualify as old.
"Will you come home with me? My mom won't care."
"Mrs. Shucka, did my dad call you this morning?" This from a girl whose dad often does call. "No, I haven't heard from him today." "Are you sure? He said he'd call. My sister just had her appendix out and I told him to call you and tell you."
"What's fourth grade like?" That one came today. Two-thirds of the way through the year and they're beginning to know that third grade ends. No one has asked quite yet, but someone will soon, "Will you be our teacher next year?" I always respond, "I would love to be your teacher forever, but you'll love your fourth grade teacher, too. Besides, I'll always be your teacher, even if you're not in my class."
As third grade ends for me this year, too, I will always be grateful to these magical beings for teaching me so much. And for preparing me so well for what comes next - whatever that might be.
photo from Flickr