A Midyear Update from Miss Othmar.
BY JOHN MOE
[Originally published January 23, 2004.]
I’ve had the best time getting to know Charlie, Lucy, Schroeder, and all of your wonderful children. Since we’re now halfway through the school year, I thought it would be a good idea to drop a line and let everyone know how things are going. Since I’ve never met any of you moms and dads and no one came to the last scheduled parent-teacher conferences, I can only hope that this letter somehow reaches you. I must admit that I find it strange how the students almost never mention having parents, but I also realize that everyone’s lives are pretty hectic these days and I don’t like to pry.
I would like to reiterate how grateful I am to the school for giving me a chance to teach this year. Due to my specific condition, it was virtually impossible to land a job in education. Many principals called me in for interviews based on my master’s degree in primary education and willingness to work at a remarkably low salary level. When they actually met me, however, things quickly deteriorated. They insisted that a teacher should be able to communicate verbally, which, because of my profound speech impediment, I was unable to do in a traditional manner. I tried frantically to explain that I really could be understood and that it would just require more careful listening. Well, raising my voice, which to those employers just sounded like a screeching sort of squawk or an angry bird of prey, only made things worse. By the time I had retrieved my steno pad to write out my thoughts, I was already being shown the door.
I was grateful to the point of tears when this school finally hired me. Granted, they did so without an interview, and that aided my cause considerably. And I have found it odd that halfway through the year I still haven’t met the principal or any other teachers. But again, my job is to teach, not to go nosing around.
My joy about being employed is nothing, however, compared to how happy I am to work with your precious children. For the first time in my life, I am being understood! Verbally! Perhaps it took the open, nonjudgmental mind of a child to really listen, because now when I’m giving out homework or teaching a lesson, the kids pick up on every word. Where others have heard simply “Wa-WA-wa-wa,” your kids know that I’m really saying, “Please complete problems one through sixteen for tomorrow.” Truly, the kids and I have formed a special bond this year. Several of them have said that I’m the only adult they know. I can’t imagine they mean it literally (though it almost sounds like they do) but it’s a nice sentiment all the same.
As I’ve said already, I don’t mean to poke my nose in where it doesn’t belong, but now that I’ve been teaching here for a few months and have established myself, I think, as a qualified teacher, I do have some nagging questions about the kids. If you’d rather not tell me, that’s fine, but I thought I would just put them out there.
Are they all dwarfs? I can’t help but notice that all the students have abnormally short arms and legs as well as larger heads. I realize that all kids are small, of course, but I really think there’s something else going on here. The heads, in particular, are quite sizable, to the point where I almost suspect cases of hydrocephalus in some of the children. Given that dwarfism occurs in only 1 out of every 15,000 births, it seems improbable that there’s an entire community affected by it, but that seems like the only possible answer. Were there environmental factors in the town causing this mutation? Has it been reported?
Second, how did the children come to be so advanced? Traditionally, kids at this age are almost entirely id-driven. They seek only to satisfy their immediate needs—food, physical activity, toileting—and that’s it. But these kids of yours are sort of amazing. In fact, the way they relate to their world is much more similar to how adults live. Regular kids get mad and throw tantrums; one of my students seems to suffer from deep (and I believe untreated) clinical depression. Regular kids are learning the basics of music; one of my students is not only enormously talented, but even seemingly burdened by his own genius. Regular kids play occasional practical jokes; one of my students practices a consistent, calculated cruelty on one specific classmate (a football is involved) that borders on the sociopathic. Regular kids have a bit of a learning curve when it comes to hygiene; one of my students is literally caked in filth. (I have tried to contact this student’s parents since his condition does affect others, but I haven’t been able to deduce a last name. “Penn” perhaps?)
And are their clothes washed every night? Or does each child have several sets of the exact same outfit? If so, why? Why?
In short, what’s going on around here? I mean, seriously. If I knew, I really think I would be better able to address the highly specialized needs of my class. A teacher needs to be part of the community they teach in. I want to be a part of this one, but I really need more information.
Finally, in classroom activities, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Please instruct your kids to purchase or make valentines for each one of their classmates. I’m sure the day will go well. I’m going to make another attempt to schedule parent-teacher conferences. Please consider attending.
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