Sami Strikes – a birthday surprise

img_0367My birthday is February 19th, and as such tends to fall near President’s day when many schools also have their mid-winter break. This year, our school didn’t have an extended break, but a half-day on Friday the 17th for students, followed by the remaining half-day spent in professional development (PD) for staff, and then Monday (President’s day) off for all.
It is no secret that my students love parties, surprises, and cake. Yet, it was a surprise to me that despite hearing my students planning “something” all week, nothing had happened. Every time I was called from my room for something unexpected, I braced myself for the “surprise,” but it had not come.
That is, until Friday.
The Youtuber starring in the video is Sami. I love Sami, but he will tell you that when I met him as a 9th grader over six years ago he was a pain in my side during class. He was often off-task, would talk to anyone I sat him next to (and even those he wasn’t next to), forgot his work, and was a bit of a class clown (the good kind, but still). I had him again as a 10th grader in composition class, where I watched him mature and grow as a student and an individual; he came to visit me as an 11th grader, then a young man whom I sadly did not have in my English class; and by 12th grade, he had become one of my favorite students.
A picture of us together after his Capstone presentation hangs proudly behind my desk, and when I talk about how much I love teaching “my kids,” I am definitely talking about Sami and students like him. 
I pranked Sami earlier this school year when his sister, K, (a current junior) asked to call home during class to ask for his help. When Sami answered she covered the receiver and told me to “Tell him I’m in trouble! Prank him!” So I obliged, telling him that I needed to speak with him about his sister’s behavior because they are so close I was hoping he could help me.
For several long minutes, I led him on with horror stories about her behavior in class while the girls in the classroom giggled silently. I told him things like K is always tardy to class, she’s been acting out and being rude to her classmates and verbally bullying others. Then I dropped the biggest bomb – that she had recently started cussing in class. He was aghast. He was shocked. Then he got angry and defended his sister mightily. But before he got too incensed, I let him know that it was all false, and of course his sister wasn’t doing any of those things and that she just wanted to ask him about video editing software for a class project. We laughed about, but he vowed that he would get me back.
Back to Friday, when our PD got paused for a stretch and a bathroom break, a staff member, Mr. Gus poked his head into the library and told me that I had a “phone call downstairs – an angry parent who was pissed off.” My gut told me that “something” was up, but I didn’t know what.
The staff member that was in on the prank, Mr. Gus, is not a member of the regular disciplinary admin staff, so the fact that he was speaking to a parent on my behalf was suspect, and since I knew myself to be innocent of any wrong-doing with any student, I wasn’t worried; I was confused. I had a feeling that the entire thing may have been an excuse to prepare something for my birthday, but I couldn’t be sure. The fact that Mr. Gus wouldn’t tell me whose parent it was, or what the call was about was the biggest clue in my favor.

Mr. Gus took me into his office and all along the way I asked “whose parent is it?” but he wouldn’t answer me directly or kept saying that “he didn’t know.” I could hear a loud and angry voice on the other end of the line, but could only hear one side of the conversation, and what I could hear didn’t make any sense. When he finally let me have the phone, I asked “Who is this?”

The voice on the other end said “I am coming right now, bye!”
Still miffed and wondering what the real reason for my having been brought downstairs was, Mr. Gus opened the door and there was Sami, with my birthday surprises: sign, balloon, cake, and stuffed elephant. 
To say that I am honored or touched cheapens the depth of feeling I have because it is so much more. When a student comes back to visit, it means everything. It is humbling to know that you have touched a life in a way that has lasting impact.
It has been said that teaching is like planting a seed that you will never see grow to bear fruit. That isn’t true. I’ve planted, nurtured, and tended many seeds in my time in the classroom, and not only have I seen them bear fruit, but some of my students are now planting their own orchards.
FIA students (class of 2010 – 2017 and on) – I’m proud to have been your teacher
Northwest High School students (class of 2010, 2011, and 2012) that I student taught in 2008-2009 – I’m proud to have been your teacher