Out of the Mouths of Babes…

Last Thursday I went into school to teach fourth grade.

By now I had taught second and fifth grade and was known by sight along the outdoor decks of the lower school.  All the youngsters smiled as they passed me, some waved.

A few of them stepped out of line to give me an impromptu hug.  These littles remind me of my pre-empty-nester days and I felt warm and fuzzy.

Glowing with good will I faced my early morning class and since it was the day before Christmas break I told them we were going to have fun even though we were scheduled to do math,

“For an hour!”  in a few minutes.

“First off though I need to work out your names from those handy-dandy magnetic tags you have on the front of your desks.”

They grinned and watched me perched on a stool at the front of the room.

“Are you always this quiet?” I asked thinking of the rowdy classes I’d had the previous week.

“No!” they said.

“So this isn’t the real 4B?”  They giggled,

“Not yet!”  one of the girls confided.

“First off I need to see if I can work out which name on the front of the desk belongs to you…”  I looked at a boy who had two possibilities, Joshua and Ben.  His eyes sparkled as he kept his lips pressed together.

One young chap, who had been exploring my desk at the back of the room, brought me the class roster.  I nodded and looked it over,

“I’m going to call roll and please raise your hand when you hear your name and I’ll see if I can find a pattern.”

“Matthew…yes, obviously you’re a boy and your name’s probably not Sophie.”

“I’m also called Albert Einstein…” he said peering at me over his glasses.

“He’s very clever,” said one of the girls with two girl names attached to her desk.

“Are you Marshmellow or Tara?”  I asked.


“Ahh, so the names on the right must belong to to this class, 4B?”

They all nodded and some of the boys switched their tags.

“This is my first day with you so be kind,” I said.  “You only have to remember one name and I have 28 to become familiar with so no more tag switching or I’ll be forced to call you…”  I looked at Jeremiah, “…Katia all day!”

They giggled and he switched his tag to the right.

I checked the clock, the announcements and prayers were about to start.

When we’d said the pledge and settled back into our seats a hand shot up.  It was the boy who had given me the list of names, he was finally at his desk,

“Yes Sean?”

“Are you from England?”

“I am.”

“Are you British?” one of the others asked.

I looked at the waving hands and decided to ask a question.

“Yes, I’m British too.  Now who can tell me the names of the other two countries in Great Britain?”


They were frantic to be called upon standing at their desks in excitement,

“Yes Sophie?”










“None of those,”  I said, “put your hands down and listen up.  Have any of you heard of Wales and Scotland?”


There followed a brisk conversation about heritage and languages and grandparents until I looked at the clock,

“Time for maths, who’s my helper today?”

Sean’s hand shot up and he said,

“To me you look like a 70 year old grandmother…”

“You’re an outspoken young man aren’t you?”  I said.

“Yes I am.”

The room fell silent.  My white hair was not doing me any credit today and I had to remind myself that to an eleven year old I probably did look ancient!


Really? Seventy?

I shared this story with the Lower School Administrator while on my coffee break,

“Just what I needed at the start of a brisk Thursday morning,” I said grinning.

“Who was he?” she asked and nodded knowingly when I told her.

At lunchtime the other fourth grade teacher said,

“I hear Sean was rude to you.  I have asked him to apologize.”

“I wouldn’t say he was rude, just outspoken…out of the mouths of babes…” I said brushing it off.

During the afternoon session while he was searching the classroom for pens and paper to decorate his Christmas card, Sean did indeed apologize to me.

There followed a series of quick, tight hugs, meted out to me each time he left his desk on one quest or another.

I left that day feeling blessed and will remember this small exchange in the far distant future when I am in my seventies and perhaps a grandmother…who knows?

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