I realized tonight that the class of eighth graders I taught will be graduating from college in the coming weeks. Damn, I’m old. That prompted a little more thinking, which took me back to my first day of teaching.
My first class consisted of 14 sixth graders at a brand new school. I was nervous as hell on that first day. I hoped that my fear didn’t show too much, because we were warned in a couple of college classes how important that first impression was. This is where you’ll hook them in and let them know who’s boss, or lose them.
Well, it wasn’t quite that serious. Most of the kids appeared to be just as nervous as I was. They were leaving the safe confines of their elementary schools and mixing in with kids they didn’t know from other schools to form one of my three sixth grade English/Language Arts classes at a new charter school.
They were scared enough, and it was written all over their faces just as it was mine, I’m sure. So why bother with scare tactics?
Once everyone was seated and the clock struck 7:30, I introduced myself. Hi, I’m Mrs. E, and I’ll be your ELA teacher for the year…if you don’t run me off first.
That got a chuckle out of them. The ice melted slightly.
Let’s get to know each other. We’ll play the Lie Game. I’m going to tell you three things about myself. Two of those things will be true, and the third is a lie. You have to guess which one is the lie, and then you’ll each take turns doing the same.
We sat down in a circle on the carpet up front, where we would later spend a lot of time reading through the stories for that day, having our discussions, and going through a chapter of Wayside School is Falling Down when time would allow. (FYI: older kids love being read to, just the same as little kids.)
I gave them my three statements:
- I played softball in college.
- I once caught a homerun baseball at a Braves game and about broke my hand in the process.
- I went to every Gamecocks football game last year.
The first one was the lie, but most of them thought the second one was. When I fessed up, I instantly became the coolest teacher in the world because I caught a game ball, which I had to promise to bring in to show off (and I did).
The kids took their turns, and some of them came up with very clever lies. One boy gave a statement that I thought for sure was a lie, but I was wrong.
“I have at least 20 dead squirrels in my freezer.”
I laughed at that. When he revealed that it was true, I chuckled again, thinking he was kidding around with me.
“No, Mrs. E, I really do have that many squirrels in my freezer. I shot them myself. You don’t eat squirrel?”
Seriously? Now, I grew up in a very rural area, but the only thing my dad ever shot was a deer. I heard stories of how he had eaten rabbit meat when he was younger, but he never mentioned squirrel.
“Um…no,” I said, still uncertain. I looked around at the faces of the other kids. They definitely didn’t take this squirrel eating thing as a joke. I’m pretty sure I was looking at them like they were little aliens and they were definitely looking at me like I was one.
“Y’all really eat squirrels?” I asked. Several of them nodded and began talking about what they had shot and what they had in their freezer.
The boy who had delivered the not-a-lie statement spoke up. “You really ain’t never ate a squirrel, Mrs. E? Where are you from, again?”
From the sticks, I thought, but I kept that to myself.
“No, but I’ve always been a picky eater,” I told him. This was not a lie. Amazingly, I am very picky. If it has the wrong look, smell, or texture, I’ll gag and act like I’m dying. Too bad that sweets don’t fit any of those requirements.
“Squirrel meat is great! You’ve gotta try it. I’ll bring you one from my freezer tomorrow. You can keep it in your fridge to take home with you.”
Damn, what a sweet kid. I politely declined, unsure how I would cook a squirrel, and very unsure about the possibility of actually eating it.
After that, the other kids went through their statements, we shared some more laughs, and then while we were on the rug, I went over what was expected of them throughout the year, how often homework would be assigned, discipline, etc.
This class was great, as were my other two sixth grade classes. If I ever go back to teaching English, I know that sixth grade would be my grade of choice. It’s such a nice bridge between elementary school and the teen years, so you get the best of both worlds.
I told my husband about the squirrel later that evening.
“Did you tell him you’d take one?” he asked when I got to that part of my story.
“Why not? I love squirrel meat.”
Oh, by the way, when I talked to this boy’s mom during a parent-teacher conference, she mentioned how her son came home laughing because his English teacher had never heard of anyone eating squirrel meat before. She was just as amused as he was and also offered to bring me some if I changed my mind about trying it. I didn’t.
Want to play the Lie Game?
- The northernmost state that I’ve traveled to is North Carolina.
- I turned down an opportunity to be in a movie.
- I make amazing special brownies.
Guess the lie in the comments section and add your own three statement (two true, one false).