The 16th Grade

I was inspired by OTJ’s post to tell you about how I once taught first-graders how to tell stories.

I had just given up a competitive internship at a literary agency because my boss, TDV, wouldn’t adjust my schedule. My work still allowed enough time for me to take a two-credit elective, teaching writing to “inner-city” kids.

On my first day, the teacher, K., asked me to introduce myself and whispered that I should mention how I went to the big university. So I told them my name’s Mona and asked, “What grade are you guys in?”

“First grade!” they chimed back.

“Well, I’m in the 16th grade.” Their jaws dropped collectively and I had never seen the inside of so many tiny mouths.

I was very popular with that crowd perhaps because I wasn’t the teacher. I didn’t have to discipline anyone. I came once a week and stayed long enough before they grew tired of the college student in their midst.

As I was saying goodbye to the class one day, I said to a very striking little girl, “Goodbye Amalita.”

“My name’s not Amalita.”

“Okaaaay…what is your name?”

“My name’s Mona.”

Soon the other girls were saying, “Wait, my name’s Mona, too!”

I had to leave before I started laughing so hard and also so I could write that down. “Okay, fine. Goodbye all you Mona’s.”

I usually arrived around their storytime, so as they sat “criss-cross applesauce” on the foam mat, many of them beckoned me to sit next to them, especially one girl name J. I helped her write a story on something she knew how to do. She wrote in jerky misspelled words about how to make ramen noodles. The girl ate ramen noodles every day. Now, I’ve had my share of steaming bowls of soba, but I could tell by how she said it that she consistently ate those cheap blocks of noodles and not much else.

And I don’t know why I’m telling you that, but J’s the one I’m probably going to google in twelve years, to see where she is, if she’s eating more than soup and doing something with her life.

This was my last day there. The hats were for Dr. Seuss, not me.

Dr. Seuss day

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Comments

  1. Butrfly4404 says:

    Aw, that’s so sad for that girl! We had to eat them a lot. And Hamburger Helper. And Kool-Aid. I don’t eat any of them anymore.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are you kidding? I love ramen noodles – I eat them uncooked for snacks! Am I white trash? Oh well…

  3. I’ve eaten a lot of soba noodles and other junk, too.

    Maybe that’s why I have that twitching problem.

  4. Oh, The Joys says:

    She’s going to be a fashion designer – but watch out for her hats!

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