One of my 7th grade boys walked into my classroom this morning, before classes began. His friend, accompanying him, announced, “Ms. C, he has something to give you.” This ‘He’ walked into the room with two fists closed. The two boys were giggling and I immediately thought they were going to present me with something I really didn’t want, like trash.
“Don’t give me something gross,” I said, imagining a dead bug or chewed gum. I wasn’t being negative, honestly. But I have begun to learn what makes 7th grade boys laugh, and often it’s making their female teachers scream.
“It’s not gross,” the boy said. And before I knew it, he had both hands held open. “Choose one.” In front of me were two small clay monsters, painted purple or green, and designed to hold a pencil in their mouths. “I made them,” he told me. I chose the green one. It has a dark brown tail and ridges along its back and looks like the cross between a Muppet and a dinosaur with big googly clay eyes. It sits perfectly flat on my desk and has bright red lips. We found a brown pencil that would best fit in the monster’s mouth, and I asked if the monster had a name. When my student told me it didn’t, I named the monster after him, which seemed to suit him just fine seeing that a few minutes later he brought a different friend into the room to introduce to the monster named after himself.
I remembered my mother always saying it was the homemade presents that meant the most and as I’m getting older and working with younger kids I’m seeing that’s true. Not that I ever expected to receive presents from kids, but it’s the small things that mean the most to me. I don’t think that boy knew he would give that monster to me today. And I don’t know why he decided to give it to me. But when he did, it was a good moment for both of us. It was a pretty good way to start of a regular Tuesday at work.