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Walking into school on my first day of 5th grade was going to be hard enough. My summer had been gloriously spent playing wiffleball in the backyard and eating variously delicious frozen treats. I did not want to come back to school. In fact, in my mind, I already knew everything I would ever need to know. So when I was stopped en route to my classroom on my first day I had no issue with the sudden distraction. The teacher who stopped me tapped me on the shoulder and gruffly informed me, “visiting high school students need to wear a visitor’s pass” and steered me toward the front office.
I figured this was most likely a person who had lost their mind/an escaped criminal taking me to their home and holding me for ransom money so I thought that I should just wait until they had gone away, then go to my assigned classroom and get started on my glue-sniffing for the day. But instead the man watched and made sure that I was headed into the main office. So I did what I had been taught to do all my life, listen to my elders. I walked into the office and sheepishly requested a visitor’s pass. The office lady gave me a long stare, as she should have due to the fact that I had been there once before because of a certain cookie incident but that’s a story for another day.
Eventually I was handed the visitor’s pass and I headed back towards the direction of my classroom. Let me interrupt myself for a moment. What I was unaware of at the time was that there existed a program, since discontinued (probably because of this very incident), where high school students interested in a teaching career could come to local elementary schools and teach a simple lesson. You see, I know this now, but was unaware of such a thing at the time. Hell, I was 11, all I cared about was getting home in time to watch Scooby Doo (that’s still all I care about).
The teacher who had apprehended me asked which classroom I was going to be teaching at so I stupidly told him my 5th grade room number. We reached the classroom just as the bell was beginning to ring and the man, figuring I was just shy, walked me straight up to the teacher and explained the situation. As he talked, various friends of mine walked by, pointing and snickering. I guess they figured that I was in trouble for something already.
My teacher seemed fine with the idea of me teaching the class a lesson. “What do you want to work with the kids on?” she enquired. This was a tough one considering all I really knew at the time was the entire Detroit Tigers roster from the previous five years and how much M and M’s I could fit in my mouth at one time (41, in case you wanted to know. You didn’t). I scrambled to think of a subject that I actually knew anything about. The problem was that I, along with the rest of the youth in America, did not care about school at the time. Instead most of us spent our school days pretending to learn while instead we spent our required seven hours kicking each other in the shin, making spitballs, and finding out which object on the school supply list could make the classroom toilet overflow (the answer: crayons. Lots and lots of crayons).
But I figured I might as well milk this for what it was worth so I gave my teacher a smile and replied, “Let’s do some arithmetic.” I was not completely sure at the time what arithmetic was, I knew it had something to do with math and that I, at least somewhat, was good at numbers. “Excuse me class, but I have a very special guest here from high school who will help us accomplish our very first lesson of 5th grade!” She was such a sweet old woman. Imagine the looks on my fellow classmates faces as they heard that statement. My arch enemy, Jerry Gonslick, raised his hand. “Yes Jerry?”
“How is he qualified to teach this class?” Jerry snidely remarked. “He’s just a…”
“That is quite enough young man!” I interrupted, slamming my fist on the nearest desk. “You will show respect to your elders!” I turned to face the teacher. “Is this how you allow your students to treat their teachers?” She gave a nervous laugh, unsure of how to handle the situation.
“Um, Jerry please go step into the hallway. I will deal with you in a moment”. Score: Ben-1 Jerry-0. Jerry stuck his tongue out at me as he walked to the door, I moved my finger across my neck (the universal sign for, you’re dead meat buster). After that, things began to settle down as I attempted to complete the lesson. I figured out something very valuable that day; that you can be a complete idiot and still be qualified to be a teacher. It was simply really, I would state a random math problem, call on some unfortunate victim, and make them complete the problem on the board.
The only hard part was when I myself did not know what the answer was. In these instances I would look to my best friend Chris, who thought the entire situation was hilarious, who would signal me the correct answer. I was fantastic that morning. The synapses were firing, the kids were learning, and Mrs. NameIforget was completely satisfied with not having to do anything but sit in the corner and read a romance novel.
At the conclusion of the lesson I bowed to thunderous applause. I quietly told the teacher that I would much like to stay and observe for the remainder of the day and she obliged. So I sat in the back next to Chris, pretending to be taking notes on her teaching styles while instead I was drawing various ways to kill Jerry Gonslick (Drawing number 37-Death by poisoned arrows). When the school day ended I thanked the teacher and informed her that I might come back tomorrow for another lesson if that was alright.
So for the remainder of the week I did exactly that. I posed as a high school student, aspiring to mold young minds. I would have probably continued the scam for the remainder of the year if stupid Jerry Gonslick hadn’t gone and complained to his mother, who called the principal, who called my mother, who wasn’t happy. I got grounded for two weeks which included on a steady no-scooby doo diet.
I believe it was well worth it. My teacher seemed to forget the entire thing happened (probably because of the lawsuits that were threatened) and I had a great rest of the year. I can honestly say that that was the best first day of school ever. Plus now I have another thing to add to any job application (ha, job application?) that I might ever complete: Taught a 5th Grade classroom the complexities of life through Arithmetic. Please hold your applause.