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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)

TITLE: A New Challenge for Mr. O'Leary
By Joanne Malley


"Good Morning, class! I'm Mr. O'Leary, your kindergarten teacher."

After my introduction, I heard what could've been construed as a comprehendible response through all the madness. I'm learning quickly that a class of five-year old's display a feeble attempt at unity!

After surveying the class before me, I immediately saw that my professional training would not save me from the twenty-one "tykes of terror" that have been summoned to me for the next 182 days!

Well, I guess I'm being a bit extreme. Of course, not all of them will prove to be mischevious, but the first day of school always seems to present a bit of anxiety for the students, as well as the teacher. Since this was my first year teaching a kindergarten class at Rosedale Elementary, my dose of anxiety was full-strength!

I had been given the awesome responsibility to help raise the children before me to become the smartest kindergarten geniuses, and I decided to put a lid on any external emotion, even though the flying spitballs, confusion and deafening chatter consumed the classroom.

The anxiety within me stirred up this morning's breakfast, but I knew I could handle my challenge. I thought of reaching for the newest edition of "The Kindergarten Guidebook," but knew full-well that there was no such book. I frantically searched for my best defense against this brood to get me through the temporary dysfunction of the morning. I knew my only hope was God's guidance and two extra-strength pain relievers!

After quite a remarkable attempt at settling the class, I relaxed into my desk chair and marveled at my accomplishment at becoming a teacher. I always loved children and am still a big kid myself, so it was only natural this is the path I would choose.

Laughing privately to myself, I realized I'd be getting a huge dose of my own medicine during the coming year. My thoughts brought me back to the days when Peter Fowler and I always got in trouble. I remember being in second grade and there was a particular day I didn't feel like going to school. I loved playing with my army G.I. Joe toys and my pet hamster, Harley, and didn't want to leave them home. I shoved them into my bookbag when my mother wasn't looking and off they went to school with me!

While Peter and I sat in the back of the classroom, out came Harley outfitted in my G.I. Joe's parachute. When the coast was clear, I threw the hamster in the air. I think I blew it when I yelled, "GERONIMO!" It was the funniest thing watching a clueless rodent float to the ground. Needless to say, Harley was confiscated and I found myself sitting in the principal's office until my mother arrived! Detention was soon added to my list of after-school activities!

Reality soon brought me back to my job as Mr. O'Leary, Kindergarten Teacher. I began wondering when I would receive my first shiny, red apple despite how corny and overplayed it seemed. Somehow, I felt it would add to the validation I was loooking for as a teacher.

I handled the rest of the day searching for patience in between my silent prayers to the greatest teacher there is and realized that once I got home this afternoon, I would be reaching for "Life's Guidebook," The Holy Bible. I knew within its pages, I would find a little hope and a little help to fend off the twenty-one tots that will try to rule my classroom again tomorrow!

The dismissal bell rang and I finally received my reprieve from the first day of school. A sweet little girl named Lila, with flaming red hair, handed me an apple-flavored Fruit Roll-Up on her way out. "Here Mr. O'Leary, this is for you! I think you're really "phat," she cheerfully exclaimed. I immediately produced a grin from ear to ear and realized that times have certainly changed! I guess shiny red apples are out and so is the word "cool."

Knowing that there's at least one thing that has always been the same and will never change, I promise myself to continue consulting "Life's Guidebook," The Holy Bible!

Member Comments
Member Date
L.M. Lee07/05/04
this was a very thougthful piece.
Marina Rojas07/05/04
I really enjoyed reading this article. There was a real problem at the end, though---I wanted more! May Mr O'Leary have many more stories to share!
Stephanie Frelone07/05/04
This was excellent! Well written, easy to read, and great characterization. I loved the part about the hamster.
Theresa Knight07/06/04
Great humor! I can see the hamster "floating the air!"
Mary Elder-Criss07/07/04
The hamster cracked me up. Well written story. Thanks for sharing it.
Melanie Kerr 07/08/04
I liked the context you had built up for the teacher to remember his own first day at school. My own first day of teaching was pretty scary. It was a secondary school in the east end of London - pupils swinging on the light bulbs and crawling under tables. I wasn't looking for an apple-flavoured anything - just a large tumbler of whisky to dull the pain.
Jo, what an adorable story. your classroom was quite vivid and so were your characters. I especially liked when, at the end of the day the student said,"Your Phat". Good job.