Now that the days are getting long and hot, and I search for anything to get me through to October when the days might cool off a bit if we’re lucky, I dream of snow. White, cold, fluffy snow.
And snow always makes me think of one of my students.
We have a rule in our school district that if the weather turns bad after a certain time in the morning, the buses will run and the schools will open. No matter how bad the weather gets, once the decision is made schools stay open for the entire day.
We rarely get snow in Dallas, but on this one day it started to snow after the cutoff time. By the time school opened at 8:00, the ground was covered in white and the snow was still falling.
As you can imagine, trying to get a bunch of fifth graders to settle down when all they want to be doing is playing in the snow, is tough. School is the last place they want to be.
On days like this you usually have two kinds of kids who show up: the straight A students who never miss, and the ones you pray will stay home just this one day, please dear God.
Ramon (name changed to protect the innocent) was in that first group. He was a smart kid. He never got in trouble, always did his work, and was very well-liked by his classmates. He even had a few girls think he was cute. But there are times when even the good kids go bad.
Like on a snow day.
After picking up the students, walking them up the stairs and past the windows where they could all moan and groan about the fact that they were here and not there, and telling them for the fifteenth time that no, we can’t go outside and play in the snow, the students settled down and got to work on journal writing. The usual suspects stared off into space, not a clue as to what they should write about, and the others wrote furiously about the unfairness of being stuck at school while so-and-so got to stay home and play in the snow. Pencil leads were snapping, sighs and moans were expelled, and even I felt gipped that school wasn’t closed.
A few minutes into journal writing, Ramon walked up to me with a worried look on his face and asked if he could go to the restroom, it was an emergency. I gave him the Disbelieving Teacher Look, saw the desperate look in his eyes, and decided he was legit. He grabbed the hall pass and escaped.
Class continued. I decided to read a chapter aloud from the book I had been reading to the students, knowing they would lord it over the kids who hadn’t come to school that day. It was a particularly good part of the book, and I was enjoying making the story as dramatic as possible. The class listened intently as I read.
After fifteen minutes or so, I looked up to see the assistant principal standing in my doorway. Mildly annoyed that she was interrupting our right at the good part, I also noticed she had someone with her. Someone who was hiding behind her.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Is this your student?”
Uh oh. I had forgotten about Ramon.
“Yes. He went to the restroom,” I meekly replied.
“Uh huh!” she said. “Do you have any idea where I found him?”
I looked at Ramon. He was looking at the floor. Ramon was in trouble and somehow it was my fault.
The AP called me into the hallway. The class was loving every minute of this. I walked out into the hallway, sweeping the room with my Evil Eye Teacher Look that said don’t even think about it.
Apparently the AP had been making the rounds downstairs after the bell rang, making sure everyone was in class and accounted for, when she heard someone yelling and knocking outside the door to the playground. The door was set to lock when it closed. When she opened the door who did she discover? Ramon.
For some completely innocent reason, Ramon had decided to go to the downstairs restroom. He couldn’t explain why. As he passed the door leading to the playground, he heard someone knocking to be let in. Being the good Samaritan that he is, of course, he opened the door–and was promptly thrown into the snow by some THUGS! They had really done a number on him, too, because his hair, shirt, and jeans were sopping wet.
“Who were these thugs?” I asked. “Just some guys who wanted to be mean” he sheepishly answered.
I said, “Wow, those were some really mean guys to throw you down in the snow like that! That’s awful, Ramon. It’s too bad you opened the door for them.”
He swore it was all true. He even cried.
We sent him into class, closed the door, and burst out laughing in the hallway.
We teased him all year about the thugs. We warned him to watch out for the thugs at dismissal at the end of the day. We asked him if the thugs ate his homework when he didn’t have it in class. We made sure he had a buddy on field trips so the thugs wouldn’t force him to do fun things again.
We were so worried about him, we even had him explain it to his mom on Parent Conference night. After a long look at him, she rolled her eyes and shook her head.
He knew he had been caught red handed, and he laughed along with us. I told him he would never, ever forget the day he went bad. He said he would never, ever do something that stupid again.
So on these horribly hot days of summer, when I’m running in temperatures that are meant for an oven, I’ll think of Ramon and how much fun he must have had rolling in the snow. He said it was worth it, and I believe him.