Off-Topic Tuesday, Teaching, Writing

Just a Teacher Taking Requests

Photo by Amanda Hoving 2019

My students smile hugely when they see me waiting for them in the tiny gym, because this is it, the answer to their repeated question of, “Is it TODAY?!”

Their teamwork, good behavior and grit has paid off, their group jar has been filled to the brim with coveted colorful pom-pom balls, and they have finally earned…LUNCH WITH THE TEACHER!!!

(Ironically, the middle school students I used to teach would have considered this a punishment.)

They collect their lunches and drinks and then — with much fanfare to ensure, no DEMAND that their friends notice them leaving for their very special, super exciting, more fun than sitting in the loud, crowded lunchroom with the rest of the not-eating-with-the-teacher minions — they saunter, sashay and sprint over to me.

When we get back to my half-sized, small-group intervention room, they ooh and aah over the things that are on display within their reach instead of stashed in their usual hiding places: rainbow-colored Expos – not just black(!), a bag of wooden building blocks, water pens and writing mats and a few board games, including the mother of all fun: Candy Land!

They also spy the container of chocolate-chip cookie bars I baked at midnight after an “AAAH! I forgot to–!” existential crisis moment. Cookie bars which their parents had to sign off in blood to allow them to eat.

As my kids look from the “fun stuff” to the “yummy stuff” and back again, I can see serious decision-making at work. Should they race through lunch in order to savor their cookie bar treat? Do they race through both, risking indigestion, to get to the fun? Do they take one glorious bite or two of gooey chocolate goodness and then bag the rest so they can get their hands on the pink! and purple! and light green! Expos?

Yes to all of the above.

But, first, one student notices that there’s something else in the room that’s never been there before: a large guitar case wedged between the filing cabinet and shelving unit in a far corner, almost out of sight.

This has been done on purpose. I promised to bring the guitar, but nothing else.

“Can you play us a song?!” they ask.

Three years ago, my son and I both purchased guitars on a whim during a Memorial Day sale – him an red electric dream, and me an acoustic old and faithful. I took just two “formal” lessons with the man who sold it to me before opting to learn on my own, since the instructor had been more into “just rockin’ out” than actually teaching me anything to aid in the aforementioned rocking. And, unlike my son, I’ve yet to prove that I’m a natural, which means that I’m not very good. And that I normally save the torture of my uneven playing for my family.

But the earnest faces of my little students give my heart a big turn. And I decide that six first graders distracted by shiny markers and clunky blocks and yummylicous treats may just be the perfect audience for me.

The guitar comes out of its case, and I attempt to brainwash children born in the 10’s into loving the 90’s by playing a few songs from groups like Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, Duncan Sheik, The Wallflowers, Six Pence None the Richer and others – just the music, no singing — and they look mildly impressed while smudges of chocolate begin to appear around their mouths and on the floor.

After I exhaust my very short from-memory repertoire, I ask, “Is there anything you’d like to hear? Any requests?”

I pause a moment. This is a loaded question coming from a teacher. Requests to educators are virtually never-ending no matter the age: from shoe-tying to grade-altering, story-sharing to rec-letter-writing. So, I clarify: “Any song requests?” There is a collective sigh as (I’m certain) a multitude of very “interesting” requests are momentarily buried.

I brace myself for song titles including the not-so-age-appropriate junk I often hear them singing in the hallways thanks to older siblings, harried mini-van rides to school and the worst culprit – Kidz Bop. There’s nothing quite as depressing as hearing a 6-year-old belt out, “Ex’s and Oh’s.”

(On second thought, there are far worse songs, and they know all those words by heart, too.)

But I’m pleasantly surprised at the first request of, “Twinkle Twinkle,” as well as the next, “On Top of Spaghetti.”

Because they are just 6 after all.

And they wiggle and they smile, and they laugh, and I think I do three encores.

As requested.


This was a “Slice of Life” post prompted by Two Writing Teachers . I’ve read and enjoyed the posts from other teachers for a while now but was never able to participate before. (Thank you, Snow Day!) Three posts in one week, you say? You’ll likely not hear from me again until February. Of 2021.

What’s going on in your world this week? Share your slice of life below in the comments!

Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

20 thoughts on “Just a Teacher Taking Requests”

  1. this sounds like a day these kids will remember fondly for a long time. And I’m quite impressed with your musical repertoire! I tried to teach myself how to play the guitar a few years ago, and after a week of practicing thirty minutes a day, I still could not play an A chord (or any chord at all). I’ve put it aside until retirement…

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    1. Thanks, Jim! As I’ve said, I’m not very good and can go weeks without picking it up when life is extra busy. (Which is not helping my skill level.) I think retirement will be the perfect time for you to start a cover band!

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  2. There is so much to love about this slice — the invitation for a special lunch, the proud walk out of the noisy cafeteria, the rainbow Expos, the KidzBop reference, and the guitar — about your first SOL story. However, my favorite part was about needing to have parents sign off “in blood” for those cookie bars. That made me laugh out loud. Funny how sweet treats are treated in schools these days. Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I used to bake for my students nearly every week!

    Welcome to our writing community, Amanda.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Stacey! And, yes…it’s amazing that I was able to get permission to offer these treats. Our holiday “parties” no longer allow ANY type of food…even allergy approved. Thank you again for the welcome and for popping over!

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  3. What a gorgeous introduction to this community! I am thrilled you are here to slice with us. I loved this piece. I loved how you went out of your way for your little first graders, want to know more about your transition from middle school to first grade…I loved your writing style and your teacher heart. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very kind – thank you so much! BTW: The transition from middle to little wasn’t too difficult, though I do miss the ELA content, as well as tween/teen sense of humor at times. But K-2nd graders are excited about EVERYTHING…so it’s hard not to be excited about working with them each day.

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  4. I’m a firm believer that being an elementary school teacher is VERY much like being a rockstar, but without all they hype! I’d rather be famous in my elementary school than across the world (and the tabloids). Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story! I could picture it vividly.
    Jan
    Laughter and Consistency

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is what our work is all about! I have never thought of having lunch in my room (support/intervention)! I am definitely offering this up to kids! I can’t play the guitar but I can tap dance! Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sooooo Cute Amanda! I love the thought of you teaching them 90’s music – haha. I can imagine what some of them were thinking and the way you wrote this, I can actually see their sweet faces :-). Good on ya for learning the guitar, for some reason, I look at the strings and think, Oh hell no, I’ll never be able to figure out how to play this instrument!

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