The Friday Morning Story
I met Frankie the day I
walked into his sixth-grade classroom as a
fledgling student teacher full of fear and trepidation. I had just spent
two years assisting at a day care center and had decided to go
to teacher's college to become a kindergarten teacher. What was I doing in a
Frankie wasn't hard to miss. He was sitting at the back of the class, leaning back on his chair with his feet up on the desk. A miniature Fonz, Frankie's clothes were spattered with dried mud - not an easy feat in this frozen Canadian town of Winnipeg, where none of us had seen mud for months, only four feet of ice and snow. His hair hadn't seen a comb in a long time and his eyes glared,
"Just try and teach
The regular classroom teacher
was wrapped up in trying to complete his
master's thesis, so the students were given individual contracts at
the beginning of each week and then sent to the library or wherever
else they could keep out of trouble to do "individual research."
The teacher decided to give
me the one group his conscience hadn't let
him contract out - the bottom math group - all boys, all restless
and all as motivated to learn about math as I was to learn about
hang gliding. Frankie was included. The teacher explained that
Frankie's only obligation was to show up every day. If he came, he
got full credit, even if he only just sat there with his feet up.
Racking my brains for a math
unit that could capture the attention of
these nine rowdy boys, I was inspired to base the unit on fractions and
taught it using recipes. We made everything from chocolate chip cookies
to my one and only loaf of home-baked bread.
At first, Frankie hung out at
the back of the group totally uninterested. Then
I promised the boys a trip to McDonald's for lunch for anyone who completed
the unit. Frankie said that I couldn't do that. I said I could and
Each day, Frankie became more
and more involved. As the second week of my
adventure with these boys began, a miracle happened. Frankie showed
up, all scrubbed up and in clean clothes. By the
end of the third week, all nine boys -
including Frankie had completed the whole unit, and I realized
I had to make good on the McDonald's promise. Those boys had worked
What a blow it was when I
learned the school administration would not allow
a student teacher to take students off school property. Frankie was
right - I couldn't do it. An even greater blow came as the classroom teacher
handed me the most derogatory evaluation I would receive during that
whole year of classroom teaching experiences.
Depressed and defeated, I
apologized profusely to the boys, thanked them
for all their hard work and packed up my materials. That last afternoon
in their classroom was also Valentine's Dance for the entire sixth
grade. It was a true classic in the genre - all the boys stood on
one side of the gym and all the girls stood on the other.
A handful of girls were
dancing together at the girls' end and that was
it. Another student teacher victim and I sat up on the bleachers, savoring
our last look at middle school before finishing the year back at
our elementary school haven. Suddenly the ear-splitting rock-and- roll
ended and a beautiful waltz filled the gym.
Frankie separated himself
from the wall of boys, climbed the bleachers and
asked if I would dance with him. All alone in the middle of the dance
floor, with every eye glued on us, Frankie and I waltzed in silence.
As the last notes faded away, he stopped dancing, looked me right
in the eyes and said,
"Thank you for changing
It was not the magic of
recipes and fractions. It was not the promise of
a Big Mac. The only thing I figured had wrought the miracle was that
someone cared. If I had changed Frankie's life, so had he changed mine.
I had learned the power of love, kindness and respect in a classroom.
student teacher switched her major to special education
and spent many a rewarding year teaching in classrooms in Canada
and the United States searching out every Frankie I could find.
Thank YOU, Frankie, for
changing MY life!
~ by Randy Loyd Mills ~
All original artwork,
text, and layout are Copyright © 1999 by 52Best,