As a kid I'd watch a TV show called "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" and it's true. I hear them saying incredible things in my work as an art teacher.
Last month we were drawing dinosaurs and a boy asked, "Do dinosaurs eat watermelon?". I could have something easy like, "Sure, everybody does!", but the educator in me told him the mega-reptiles, long dead, haven't eaten anything for 65 million years and when they did...
A few weeks ago a 7-year-old bragged that his dad was giving him plastic surgery for his birthday. He asked for advice, "Should look like James Bond or (rapper) Chris Brown". The angel on my shoulder said, "Tell him he looks great just the way he is".
I went with James Bond.
Sometimes its hard to hold back your best line. Last year a chubby 8-year-old came up to my desk to complain about the boy sitting next to her. She told me, "He said I was fat!"
The words almost leapt from my mouth, "He's right. Have you looked in a mirror lately?"
The problem is I love my job and want to keep it. I did what what every good teacher is expected to do in this situation.
It's not so easy when kids ask to help pass out paper. They always say the same thing, "Can I pass out?" and I want to answer with a joke I've had in my head for twenty years, "Sure. Just hold your breath!".
Humor is part of my act and I do use the breath joke now and then. Some get it and chuckle. Others hold their breath. No one has passed out.
I'm constantly surprised by my students' creativity. They ask things like, "Who
would win a fight between Batman and Superman?", or, "Rice and maggots look alike. Are they the same thing?
How would you answer? I come up with a lot of answers teaching 700 kids a week.
Inhibition must come with age. My youngsters share everything...stories, disjointed thumbs, and other amazing talents. Three years ago a young man came up to my desk and bragged that he could burp the entire alphabet. I had to stop him at "G".
Finally, they can be too honest. Last month Francesca and I had a picnic next to this beautiful, sleepy lagoon.
When I went for a swim two 6-year-olds came back-stroking my way. One turned his head, saw me, and told his friend, "Watch out for the old man".
I didn't like hearing it but I held my tongue. It's been sixty years since I swam there at his age. And besides, I didn't want him asking me if I'd looked in a mirror lately.
"Old Man with Rat" by Francesca Violich, 2013