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Jack

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Jack and His Plans for Next Year:

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I try hard to ignore goofy Jack who, at 13, still doesn't know how to raise his hand to get my attention.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I grit my teeth. Don't give in, I say to myself. Don't even look his way.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

Trying to stay strong, but I've had a long day corralling seventh graders.

The boy sitting next to Jack hollers, "Just raise your hand, Jack!"

Goofy kid still standing, even though class started ten minutes ago, now waves his arm wildly...and continues to scream.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I let out an aggravated sigh. "What?" I mutter, jaws clamped together.

"Next year, I'm going to visit you every morning before class. I'll be here every day!"

"Great," I say under my breath. "Could we just get through this year and see if I even want to come back?"

"You gotta come back, Mr. Ramsey," he continues, unfazed. "I'm going to stop by before class and you can write me a late pass every morning."

"No," I remind him, "the rule is no eighth graders in this hall. You'll be banished."

"Who's going to kick me out, Mr. Ramsey? All the teachers know me?"

"Exactly, Jack. Any one of us could turn on you. I'd suggest you just send me a postcard."

"A what?"

"Never mind. You just need to remember all the good moments...like this one...and move on with your life, Jack. You'll be fine."

"Mr. Ramsey!"

"I'm busy, Jack."

"Mr. Ramsey!"

"I'm working, Jack."

"Mr. Ramsey!"

"WHAT?"

"Can I have a mint?"

 Jack and the Starburst:

"Mr. Ramsey!"

Great. He's back.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

Deep sigh.

"Mr. Ramsey! Want one?" He thrusts a pink Starburst candy in my face.

"No, Jack," I mutter.

"But why?"

"If I eat one, I'll want the whole bag."

"I'm only giving you one."

"Believe me, I'll take the whole bag. No thanks."

Thirty seconds later. "Mr. Ramsey! Want one?"

"Kid, you say I have a hearing problem? No, I don't want one."

"It's only a piece of candy," he persists. "Here, take it."

"I don't give in to peer pressure...and you're hardly my peer."

He pauses ten seconds and moves to a new topic."Mr. Ramsey! You know those fake teeth some old people have?"

I glare at the kid. He giggles. "Oops. You don't have them, do you?"

"No," I growl.

"Oh, good. That's good. Then you could eat this!"

I roll my eyes and let out another deep sigh. "Jack," I ask, "are you having a hard time adjusting to being thirteen?"

"Mr. Ramsey! I've only been 13 for two months."

"Kid," I reply, "I've been 13 for 46 years."

Jack looks at me and doesn't know what to say. I know I have won. I leave him scratching his head. When I look back from my desk, he's unwrapping the Starburst and popping the pink candy into his mouth rendering him yet more speechless for yet a few seconds.

 Jack and the Library Book, part I:

Before dismissal time, I remind Jack to bring in his overdue library books or else he will have lunch detention. Of course, he arrives (late) today with no book.

“Call your mother,” I say after he hands me his late pass. “No book, no recess.”

The boy calls his mom.

“Did you tell her where it is?” I ask.

“I told her it was in my closet,” he replies.

“I shared a closet growing up with two brothers,” I say. “Your mother is never going to find that book.” I add a shiver of disgust for effect and continue. “Nonetheless, no book, no recess.”

My prediction is on mark - no book was retrieved from a filthy closet. I tell Max to meet me after eating his lunch.

He “forgot” and whines, “But you didn’t come find me.”

“You’re 13,” I exclaim. You don’t need me to hold your hand. And you don’t need your mommy to be responsible for your book. You’re staying with me for the whole afternoon, Jack, and I’m going to make you work.”

“That’s child labor,” he groans.

“Wow, you were listening to Mrs. Kelley!” I reply. “Nice job remembering what she taught you! Maybe you could write a report about your experience here today and see if she will give you credit since you skipped the project for her class.”

“How do you know about that?” he squeaks.

“We teachers talk,” I say.

I proceed to give the boy a million jobs to help me get ready for end of the year checkout. About half an hour before the end of the day, he sits at my front table. He takes an old coloring book off my shelf.

“Can I just color now?” he asks.

“Sure,” I answer. “I’ve got just what you need.” I walk to the cupboard and pull out a box of jumbo primary crayons that the secretary had given me by mistake. I hand them to Jack, who slaps his forehead and rolls his eyes.

As the day nears an end, I hear his squeaky voice.

“Mr. Ramsey!”

Deep sigh.

“Mr. Ramsey!”

Raise. Your. Hand.

“Mr. Ramsey!”

Another sigh. “Yes? What do you want, Jack?”

“Do you have a pen?”

“Yes,” I reply, now rolling MY eyes. “On my desk, in the pencil holder, where they’ve been all year...”

“Okay,” he says, oblivious to my sarcasm. He pulls out a blue pen and writes upon his wrist, “BRING BOOK TOMORROW.”

 Jack and the Library Book, part II:

Jack arrives (late again), and the first thing I say to him is, “Where’s your book!”

“Oh no!” the boy gasps, clutching his head with both hands. “I...I...I...,” he stutters.

“Yes?” I ask.

“I had it in bed with me! It was in my bed! I didn’t want to forget it in the morning!”

The logic of seventh graders never ceases to amaze me. I guess he never thought to put the book in his backpack before bedtime so he’d come prepared the next day.

“It’s in my bed,” he repeats.

“That might be a little easier for your mom to find. Give her a call.”

Jack stands staring blankly at me, his hands finally releasing his head. Finally, he shakes his head.

“She’s going to be really mad at me,” he groans.

 Jack and the Library Book (conclusion...I hope):

Jack is on time this morning! I see his missing library book in his hand as he walks through the door.

“Hooray!” I yell. “The book is here at last!” I give Jack a hug which thoroughly embarrasses him.

“Can I turn it in to the library now?” he asks, still blushing.

“Sure,” I reply. “Why not turn in your elective schedule paper while you’re there?”

The boy freezes in his tracks, his mouth opened wide.

“I forgot to bring it. I left it at home.”

Thank goodness it is time for summer vacation.

Jack (Epilogue):

“Mr. Ramsey!”

“Mr. Ramsey!”

“Mr. Ramsey!”

Last day of school.

“Mr. Ramsey!”

Exhausted, I give in. “What do you want, Jack?”

“I was your favorite student this year...right, Mr. Ramsey?”

I grin. “Sure, Jack. My favorite. I’ll probably write a story about you.”

 

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2018.

 

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Tim Ramsey has been an educator since 1983.  He taught middle school and high school for 15 years and served as a school administrator for 15 years before retiring in 2013.  He returned to the classroom where he now teaches writing to seventh graders by day and reading to college freshmen by night.  Tim is an avid writer and has been featured in six Chicken Soup for the Soul compilations.  In addition he has received several first place honors from the Arizona English Teachers Association for its annual “Teachers as Writers Contest.”

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Guest Friday, 14 December 2018