It's our first day back from Christmas vacation. My students rumble in, a rag-tag tribe, clomping and swishing in their new and old snowsuits and boots. They are a little out-of-step, shaking off two weeks of glorious un-structure, like sleepy bear cubs awakening from winter. Academic diligence may not come easily in these first hours back, but silliness does. I expect a hefty dose of it, along with two-weeks worth of breathless story-sharing and plentiful hugs in celebration of our reunion.
I've just gotten the group settled, making lists in their writers' notebooks of “memorable moments” from vacation. Clearly not ready to sit still, a boy scurries toward my desk.
“High 5!” he exclaims, thrusting a hand toward me. It doesn't feel right to meet his enthusiasm with a bland redirection to his seat. I tag his hand.
“To the side!” he extends the hand laterally. I tag it again.
“Up High!” he reaches upward. I tag him a third time.
“Down Low!” He offers his hand at knee-level, and then almost too quickly, claims his punchline by swiping it away and letting mine swat the air.
“TOO SLOW!” he shrieks.
“Haha, good one, Derek!” I congratulate his delivery, smile, and then direct him—still giggling--back to his seat, adding “hey, maybe you can add your new joke to your list of memorable moments!”
Shortly after lunch, another High-5-ing petitioner approaches me, clearly convinced that all memory of my earlier experience had been miraculously erased. “High-5!” he exclaims, pushing his little hand into the air near my face. He's moving swiftly, but not so swiftly that I cannot see the remains of taco sauce and recess on his hand. I am immune to all manner of kid-contagion, and I agreeably return my half of the 5.
“To the side!” I play my part.
“Down low!” He lets me tag him.
“Up high!” he snatches it away. “Too slow!”
The 'down-low, too slow' rhyme has gotten lost in his rendering of this most-hilarious-of-all-jokes.
“Oh, heavens to Betsy!” I exclaim, as if all at once to congratulate the child on his masterful trickery AND to say, I-just-don't-have-it-in-me-to-seize-upon-this-as-a-teachable-moment.”
The child savors the moment proudly, and then, with no discernible process of change, appears suddenly confused.“Who's Betsy?” he asks.