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A Star in my Pocket

May 22, 2016


paper star


I was back. This was the third year I found myself turning into this particular middle school parking lot. Silently, I congratulated myself for remembering the turn into the school – the one I ‘d missed the other two times. Once again, I was to give three performances to sixth graders at the school. In the office, a very busy receptionist greeted me warmly – by name… I didn’t remember her. As I walked toward the library, several students looked at me quizzically; their faces said, ‘do I know you?’ I smiled, wondering the same thing, and walked on.

The librarian was out with pneumonia. Oh dear, I thought, most substitutes are really hopeless in situations like this.  But fortunately, this “sub” was an old hand and was well prepared for my visit… class schedules and times…microphone…stool…bottle of water – everything was set. A few kids wandered idly around the library as I set up. Finally, a girl approached me:
“Um…you came to our school two years ago, right?”
“Right.” A flash of recognition and a smile.
“I remember that story you told… about the boy and the emperor…I think it was
“That’s right; it was.”
She was an eighth grader – and she remembered a lot of details about the story.

Then this year’s crop of sixth graders began to file in. Sixth grade is such a pivotal age. I thought about how much these kids had changed since they first walked in the school’s doors last September. I thought about my long ago students: wandering into class with their coats dragging on the floor, notebooks overflowing with papers….I thought of myself all those years ago: losing my lunch, science book, gymn clothes, math assignment, jacket – you name it. But, by the end of the year, ALL of us were doing  better. I was sure that these kids – with all their electronic paraphernalia – had made much the same adjustment. At the last minute, I decided to speak to them about this; to remind them of who they were nine months ago, and congratulate them on who they were now.

Just before I began the first presentation, I chatted briefly with the kids in the first few rows. They were poised, interested, and asked good questions. One boy pulled out a little paper star he’d made. I admired it – and he grinned.
“You want it?”
“Sure..” I said. “I’ll just put it in my pocket…for luck.” We both laughed….

All three presentations went well. By the end of the third, I was tired, but also energized by the brief but animated discussions we had about “Then” (September) vs “Now” (May). We had laughed and listened together and, hopefully, created another memory that a future eighth grader will remember. Maybe… it was the star in my pocket.

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