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Back to school!  As a teacher, I always loved it. Setting up my classroom, preparing lesson plans, charting out seating plans … you name it. It’s also a time when I get to first meet the new incoming sixth graders.

So, “he-who-shall-not-be named” was coming down the hallway like a little German tank. Uh-oh, I’d seen this kid in the office almost every day in elementary school.  And he was a smart-mouth - not to me, but other students.  Like when he told a girl she couldn’t pass a blood test.

You know you’ve got to make a special connection with students if you want to get them on your side. This particular boy and I bonded over a comic strip. I saw him looking at a book one day and exclaimed, “I love Get Fuzzy!” He turned to me with an expression of utter delight - Ah ha - gotcha!

Henceforth, he started calling me Mom - which all the middle schoolers did. As I’ve mentioned, he was quite a little troublemaker and rather sneaky, too.  He came in from lunch one day and told me that another boy had called me a bad name.The boy he mentioned was a quiet kid, and I just had to hear what my little friend had concocted.  Up the boy came, he denied calling me anything, and then my smart-aleck friend said, “He called me a son-of-a-b****, and you're my mom, so he was actually calling you a b**** !    OH, SIT DOWN.

We had other bonding experiences, like the time he came after school and suggested we tape a penny to the ceiling of the classroom. Sure, why not? He told the kids there was a special penny in the classroom. It took a while (almost a year) before a kid saw it, so we set up a chart at the back of the classroom called, “Keeper of the Penny.” Oh, the hints he would give them were ridiculous, like “sometimes it’s here, sometimes it’s not”.  (Liar, liar, pants on fire). Gradually, the list grew to include about five kids.

Well, as typically happens with teenagers, by the time the end of eighth grade rolled around, I had become persona non grata to him. All those years of calling me Mom - how embarrassing! Hey, I get it. It was one of those “necessary endings” in life - moving on and letting go. He still has a special place in my heart though! Such great memories.

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