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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

By Mary McLeary



Completely content, I sit on the deck
The dishes are dirty
The house is a wreck

But here I sit sunning my legs and my arms
Despite what the scientists
Say of the harms

Cause this is the summer I’ve dreamed of all year
The reason I teach
Is really quite clear

I love all my students and that is no lie
But teaching is best
In May, June and July

I jotted down this little ditty many years ago. Teaching was my passion and my calling, but it wore me out! I was so thankful to have the summer to regroup. It was now July and I was able to look back on the past year and see some of the joy I had missed because of the business of teaching middle school kids.

As a reading teacher in a Title I school, the business of teaching was to raise my student’s reading scores on the state standardized test. Because I took this seriously and worked hard to achieve that goal, there was less time to get to know my students. Each one brought something special to class. Knowing them was, to me, the joy of teaching.

The past school year I had met a very interesting student named Josh who was in my forth period reading class. He had bright blue eyes and cotton white hair. He needed braces to correct an enormous overbite, but he knew how to get a laugh.

He had come to my class during second semester. We were beginning a unit on identifying nonfiction material. We had read a story on the Red Bears of Russia and as a follow up lesson we were watching the video. I was introducing the lesson when Josh began waving his hand.

“Yes, Josh.”

“I been there.”

“You’ve been to Russia?”

“Yup, me and my dad went last year to see what kind of ammunition they had.”

“Well, that’s pretty interesting.” I was being sincere.

I began the video and we had gotten to the first frame showing the bears when Josh raised his hand again.

“Yes, Josh.”

“Them bears look just like that.” He had definitely gotten my attention.

Josh was usually the first person to get to my class so we had a little time to visit. One day he came in very upset.

“What’s wrong Josh?”

“I had to shoot my cat today.”

“You shot your cat this morning?”

“Yup, shot him with my 12 gauge shotgun.”


“He ate my hamster.”

In amazement I repeated, “Your cat ate your hamster so you shot your cat with a shot gun.”


I suppose I was speechless because we sat silently for a few minutes then Josh shook his head sadly and said, “That cat never was good for nothing. He only ever caught one rat – and that was my hamster.”

I root for the underdog so I naturally became fond of Josh. I hoped that when he came to my room he felt secure. I may have over done it.

Since my students had reading difficulties, every day I read to them for about fifteen minutes. We shared some great books. One day while reading to the class, I peeked over the top of my book and saw Josh staring intently at me with his very blue eyes very crossed. I ducked back behind my book and tried to continue. It wasn’t possible. I was too tickled which was what Josh intended. I heard him say slyly, “I see you over air laughing at me.”

He made me laugh many times. Now as I thought about him, I knew I wasn’t laughing at him. I was laughing because of him. His ability to make others laugh was his defense.

Shortly before the end of school, Josh left to live in a group home for kids with special emotional needs. He left because of some very unfunny things he did at home, but while he was in reading he had friends with whom he shared stories from good books and the stories that he brought.

Relaxed I looked back on the past year and wondered what the new school year would bring, and I realized that summer wouldn’t be so special if it weren’t for the nine months of school.

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This article has been read 387 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allen Stark07/16/09
I can say "amen" to what you've shared in the opening. You also managed to return me to the days I taught special education.
Sherrie Coronas07/16/09
I enjoyed reading this. What a rich experience teachers have in life and what a blessing they are to the world. Thanks for sharing.
Laura Manley07/17/09
Very moving story. I enjoyed it very much and your poem made me smile! Laura
Mildred Sheldon07/18/09
What a beautiful and heart felt story of teaching special needs children. I think those special needs children have a unique way of teaching adults many valuable lessons that only they can teach. Thank you for giving us not only a story but a poem as well. Very well written.
Norma-Anne Hough07/23/09
This was a beautiful story. Teaching children with special needs taks a very special person. Well done, the little poem was also lovely.