Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Catching Up With...Michael

Class Pictures
Top Left: Preschool 2000-2001 - Michael is on the far right in a white shirt
Top Right: Preschool 2001-2002 - Michael is top row, third from left
Bottom Left: Kindergarten 2002-2003 - Michael is top row, second from left
Bottom Right: First Grade 2003-2004 - Michael is center row, third from right

It is rare that an elementary school teacher has the opportunity to work with the same student for four years, but I did.  I had the happy privilege of steering Michael through two years of preschool, then kindergarten and first grade.

I first saw Michael when he was just three-years-old.  He was standing in the school lobby next to his stunningly beautiful mother and was clearly not at all happy about having to hold her hand.  He looked ornery and angry as he kicked at her ankles with his little feet.

I thought, "This boy is a handful".

Luckily, I like kids who are handfuls.  Instead of being deterred by his antics, I found him incredibly endearing.  He was just too cute to pull off that temper tantrum.  By the time we were introduced he was all smiles and over-the-top charm.  He even pronounced my name as "Gawy".  Somehow that just upped my fatherly instincts to protect and nurture this child.

Michael in Pre-K sporting
blonde hair
I have so many vivid memories of Michael as a preschool student but the story I am most fond of telling is the one about his nap time routine.

He slept with his head inside the pillow case and was not easy to wake up.

My co-workers Maggie and Marilla would often look to me to do the job.

It routinely went something like this...

Me: Michael, it's time to get up.
Michael: (silence)
Me: (gently shaking him) Michael, wake up.
Michael: (pokes his head out from the pillowcase, yells and slaps me hard across the face)

We all found it endlessly amusing and it only endeared him to me more.

Later, after four years as his teacher, his mom and I joked that I should just stay with him until he graduated.  She promised that she would keep in touch and one of these days I would attend his high school graduation and we would all share a very emotional moment together.

Through the years Michael would stop by for a visit. It is wonderful to see this little boy grow into a funny, kind, and stalwart young man.

In May 2009 and March 2012

This past June Michael graduated from high school.  He sent me a message the night before to invite me but although I wanted to attend I had another batch of children that needed me and I just couldn't work it out.

Michael started Brooklyn College this summer and is working at Potbelly Sandwich Shop.  He says he is "struggling to do school and work at the same time".  As a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) he is interested in majoring in American Sign Language and wants to do something related to sign as a career.

He added, "I remember how great a teacher you were.  You always connected with students with your high energy, passion and your sense of humor".

And then he slapped me hard across the face.

5 comments:

37paddington said...

I wish this lovely young man the fulfillment of all his dreams. You are a very special teacher.

Gary said...

Thank you. Michael was part of a very special group of children for me. It was the first time that I looped with a class so I really became part of their lives. My first post about "Catching Up With" was about a girl I taught for two years. She is pictured in the kindergarten and first grade photos. I plan to write posts about some of the other children in this group as well.

maryla baturay said...

Hi Gary,

... and The Green Baloon???

Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories!

Love you and your posts.

Marilla

Gary said...

Darling Marilla,

Are you alluding to the infamous balloon popping incident?

I love how your memories help focus my own. If that is the story you are referring to I did not recall the color of the balloon. If not, please help refresh my memory.

Sending you love and thanks.

Gary

maryla baturay said...


Yes, I am.

It was GREEN(!)... his favorite color.

Marilla

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