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Teachers Tell Some Stories

Teachers must tell the best stories because the four headline storytellers for Storyfest in Dogwood Park on Saturday, May 5 are teachers, some retired. We teachers gather stories and some we can tell.

            I started my teaching career at East Sparta City School with thirty-nine fourth graders. Yes, 39.  Just days before the first day of school Mrs. White, a teacher assistant, helped me find teacher manuals and a grade book. She had worked for many years and she was my mentor. She arranged the students’ desks in straight lines and showed me the storeroom where I found student textbooks and classroom supplies, a box of yellow chalk and chalkboard erasers.

During the first week of school, my students led me through the school hallways to the outside playground and told me the playground rules. They showed me our assigned cafeteria tables and told me which cook would most likely give an extra yeast roll. I am forever indebted to those well-behaved and kind children whose teacher fumbled thru 180 days that school year.

To celebrate the end of the school year, I planned a piñata party. Husband hung a huge multicolored donkey from a tree branch on the playground. The children had never seen a piñata, and they squealed and clapped when I told them it was filled with small toys and candy and they could hit it until it broke open and the treats would fall out. I tied a blindfold over one of the boy’s eyes, handed him a wooden baseball bat, and told him to hit the piñata as hard as he could.

He swung that bat wildly. From side to side and not close to the piñata. The children scattered, barely avoiding being clobbered. “Stop!” I screamed several times and finally he held the bat over his head. I moved toward him and talked calmly as if taming a wild horse. I lay a hand on his shoulder, grabbed the bat, and took his blindfold off.

Then we discussed where others should stand while one person hit the piñata. Some swung hard. I envisioned the bat flying through the air and cracking someone’s head open. Others barely tapped the donkey. The piñata remained intact and the students began to lose interest and I wanted that donkey split open.

Husband’s look said, “What were you thinking?” He took a turn with the bat, without the blindfold, and after several hard hits, the donkey burst. Waxed paper wrapped candies and tiny plastic cars fell out. My students cheered and shoved each other to get the treats. The candy was so hard that it couldn’t be flattened between two rocks and no one wanted flimsy toy cars.

But the party was a success because these children liked red Kool-Aid and store bought cookies, and they got to play all afternoon. I was glad was hurt and I never, ever had another piñata party.

Oh, the stories teachers can tell. Maybe we’ll hear a school story or two at Storyfest. I hope so.

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