I am that teacher that still always keeps a jar full of sweets in her desk drawer, in defiance of those nonsensical nutritional standards. The candy’s not simply there for the taking, of course – I get the children to do little jobs for me, like erase the whiteboard or tidy up the bookshelf, and then and only then do I reward them with a piece. After all, when the school board interviewed me, I told them that I wanted my students to own their classroom, to be invested in it, and to think of it as our joint little house. So, in this way, I keep the little nuggets busy, and my domicile remains orderly and inviting.
And, of course, when the students are done with their tasks, they know to stretch out their chubby little hands for a Starburst or a Tootsie Roll. If a child has been especially good that day, or is in particular in need of fattening up, I may even hand out a whole fun-sized bag of M&Ms. I tell them to eat their candy right away, right there in front of me, or else Mr. Jones may see it and confiscate it. I enjoy watching it disappear into their delectable little red mouths.
I do try to be fair and even in my bestowals, and not play favorites with my students any more than can be helped, per the wisdom passed down from my sister. It doesn’t do to keep just one morsel close to you; you never know what the other little dishes may get up to when the time comes. I grew careless of this at my last position, resulting in a few close-to-awkward questions. A tattle-tale mentioned that Ms. Haag was always giving candy to Katie, that she was my favorite. This was, of course, a tad nearer to the mark than I cared it to be, although I was able to play the part of a grieving teacher to great success. But, just in case, I decided to seek out a new schoolhouse; I simple couldn’t stay there, after such a traumatic experience as my favorite student disappearing.
It was quite easy to be hired somewhere else. I’m a sweet old woman, with a few old-fashioned values that are none the worse for wear and a great helping of empathy for my students. I tell the school board nothing but the truth. I let them know that I make it my business to be very aware of students’ home lives, and that I take it into account in everything I do.
To this end, I always call my students’ parents quite early in the year. One can tell quite a lot by that first phone call, which is ostentatiously merely meant to touch base with parents and thus start the year off on a good note. By now, I know exactly what to look for. A father immediately offering to come down to the school and “wup” their child – I just have to say the word – is bad; a mother gabbing on and on about how I needn’t fear, they always devote time to help their child with homework and projects, is much worse. On the other hand, a parent answering the phone with merely a resigned “What’ve they done now?” is very, very promising. It’s even better when the contact isn’t the student’s real parent, but a guardian of some sort. In Mason’s case, it was his stepmother. Within the first minute of our conversation, the woman flat-out let me know that while that child was at school, he was my responsibility to deal with, and mine alone. Exactly what I wanted to hear, really.
So, I’ll make sure Mason is included whenever I hand out my bits of candy. Like my other dear, delicious students, he’ll become rather fond of me and feel quite safe in my company. By the middle of the school year, it will be so very, very easy to bring him inside my nice, ginger-colored house, with my warm, glowing oven. Children may not wander alone into wild woods so often as they used to, but, in these modern cities, children disappear all the time. While many things have changed since the old days, I think my new house suits me just as well.