Posted tagged ‘names’

Sixth Grade Little Brothers and Sisters

December 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 1, 2018

                           

It’s been a week!

A week of sixth graders, that is! One of the sixth grade social studies teachers asked me to teach the full week for him as he recovered from a procedure done on one of his knees. Five days of teaching the future Einsteins, Feinsteins, and Non-Steins; smart ones and smart alecks!

Some names stood out to me after each 57 minute class period. They were the warts in the midst of a beautiful experience; the ones that the teacher can’t trust with a pair of scissors because they may cut the hair of the young lady sitting beside them…without her knowing! They are the ones who in hearing the words “You may work with a partner on this!” view it as giving permission to cause chaos, the ones who intimately know what the inside of their assistant principal’s office looks like!

So…I remember THEIR names! If I had an acronym of the phrase “Problem Child” I could put a name with almost every letter…Pete, Robert, Octavius, Bubba, etc.

The interesting thing is that I COULDN’T remember the names of younger brothers and sisters of students I’ve had in classes the last two years. After five days of having them I still can’t think of their first names. I’d ask a question and a hand would pop up from a boy with dark hair.

“Jill’s little brother!” I’d say, acknowledging him. He looked hurt and befuddled, as if his eighth grade sister had a more prominent place in life than him.

Question: “What does longitude measure?” Up comes the hand of a girl with a never-ending smile.

“Little Smith!” I bellow as I look at her. Her smile continues because she sees it as a badge of honor. Her sister, now a high school freshman, had told her stories about Mr. Wolfe. In fact, she was the one who made my last name sound French by pronouncing it “Wolf-ay”!

There were four or five other younger brothers and sisters whose first names escaped my memory. Of course, when I was growing up some of my older brother’s friends called me “Little Charlie” or, after being immersed in their high school Spanish class, “Carlos Pequeno!”

It was the first Spanish word I learned! I guess I’m a bit partial towards younger siblings. I’m the youngest of three, the one who got the hand-me-downs, like my brother’s bicycle all beaten and battered and shirts with mustard stains dotting the fabric. 

If I have these sixth graders again I’ll graduate to calling them by their last name. That would be progress towards knowing their whole personality. The disturbing thing is that I only know the first names of the problem children, and I’ll make sure my youngest daughter (Our “Little”) has a list of names NOT to give any future grandchildren. 

As one boy asked me, “Mr. Wolfe, do you remember my name?” 

“Yes!” I respond, pausing for effect. “Starts with an ‘A’ and ends with a ‘G’!” He looks at me ready to correct my thinking, but I break in before he can say it. 

“Annoying!” 

He smiles, and, although he began the week filling out one of the letters on my acronym, we kinda’ like each other! I wonder if he has any younger siblings?

Nicknaming Middle Schoolers

August 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 24, 2017

                                 

This week marks the beginning of my second full year of substitute teaching. I have settled into enjoying my role as a mostly middle school substitute teacher, although I do have two days of kindergarten physical education coming up soon! When I mention to some people about subbing for middle school they look at me like I have a flu virus or a tattoo on my face…diseased and disturbed!

Last week I stood in the middle school entry way waiting for football practice to begin and in the few minutes I was there I was asked by three different teachers to be their subs for a total of 14 days in the coming two months. One teacher called me in July to schedule me for late August (today and tomorrow) and September.

Call me a “strange-o!”

One of the ways I connect with middle school kids is by gradually giving them nicknames that sometimes make sense, but often don’t! The nicknames, however, stick to them like flies on honey! This morning one young lady reminded me that I had nicknamed her “Georgia” last year, because her name is Savannah. One of her classmates then asked me to call her “California” for no apparent reason.

Last year Bryson became “Bison”. Another young man whose initials are “A.B.” became “Arby’s.” A young lady who requested that I give her a nickname became “The Professor”.

Nicknames make kids feel special in a funny kind of way. My nickname in high school was a takeoff on my name…Bill Wolfe. We were studying Beowulf in English and someone picked up on the similarity in pronunciations. To this day I can go back to Ironton, Ohio, see an old classmate from forty-five years ago, and be called Beowulf, or “Beo” for short!

To be honest, a lot of first names these days are hard for me to pronounce. I look at the class roster and don’t see many students named Bob, Jane, Susan, or John. Instead I look down the class list of young boys and girls who have more syllables than Mississippi. Pronouncing the names are like running obstacle pronunciation courses, each syllable ready to trip my tongue up.

Last year some seventh graders that I subbed for quite a bit even gave me a nickname. Instead of “Wolfe”…one syllable, they named me “Wolfe-a”, like I’m French. The “a” is sounded  like it’s flying into the ozone! It made me feel good, that a bunch of seventh graders felt me worthy enough for a nickname. I remember a few nicknames we had for some of my teachers back in school and they were not French, but definitely not very flattering!

The Blessing of Three Dave’s

June 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 17, 2017

                                        

Three seems to be a number that is used quite often in various ways. In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The three wisemen brought gifts three kinds of gifts to the baby Jesus, and my seminary preaching professor taught us to preach sermons that had three points…and a poem!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Shadrach, Meshach, and To Bed We Go- er, Abednego! Abraham’s three visitors! Three crosses on top of Golgotha! The angels in Isaiah’s vision saying “Holy, holy, holy!” Jesus saying “Verily, verily, verily!” Important encounters and relationships seem to grow out of threes!

I’ve been blessed by three Dave’s who have been a part of my life journey. Our son, David, is  named after two of the Dave’s. He would have been named after the third Dave, but we hadn’t met him yet!

Dave Shaffer was a part of the first church I served on the staff of after graduating from seminary. He and Pam graced the lives of a just married young couple entering the intimidating experience of ministry. Laughter was a part of our friendship. We felt comfortable around one another. My ministry at the church was a short fifteen months, but our friendship is about to hit forty years.

Dave Hughes was one of my high school best friends and my best man. We were a part of the same youth group, ate a lot of pizza together, and played basketball together. I was privileged to perform the wedding ceremony for Dave and his wife, Robyn, and on a different wedding night- the wedding night after our friend Mike Fairchild got married-  Dave and I, groomsmen in the wedding party, went to the hospital in our tuxedos to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Jennifer. Three weeks ago his oldest son, Brad, was found dead on a hiking trail in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, passing away from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I called my friend to walk the journey of loss and sorrow with him. I know he would have done the same for me.

And the third Dave, a hulk of a man named Dave Volitis, came strolling into my life about 15 years ago when he and Donna moved into the house across the street from us. Now a retired Air Force Chief Master Sargent living in San Antonio, he continues to grace my life with his stories and encouragement. We recently were a part of a mission work team that traveled to British Columbia together. My kids were always intrigued by Mr. Volitis, his humorous sayings (“higher than a cat’s back”, “about as welcome as a hemorrhoid”, “about as useful as tits on a boar hog”), and his engaging personality. He became a part of my congregation even though he and his family were more of the pentecostal tint. I cried when he moved to San Antonio.

Three Dave’s! I’ve had other Dave’s as a part of my life as well, but these three men left their imprints on my life…past, present, and future. I envision a time in the future when I arrange to have them all together in the same place, and to express my appreciation. What stories would come out of that gathering!!! I think that would be pretty cool!

A utility company worker, a civil engineer, and a career military person…about as diverse in occupations as you can get. Each of them now a grandfather, and each of them a part of families that have encountered significant loss in the past year.

Each of us has been blessed by numerous people in various ways. God plants them in our lives for a bit, a while, or a lifetime. Rarely do they congregate around the same first name, but the repetition of my Dave’s has highlighted in permanent marker how blessed I am!

Taking Attendance and Pronouncing Names In Seventh Grade

September 17, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       September 17, 2016

                            

Three and a half days of seventh grade substitute teaching this week! Each night I would crawl into bed shortly after nine o’clock like an old dog on his last legs.

“Lord, thank you for getting me through this day! I ask that you help me forget that I’m almost 62 and a half years old as I try to play six periods of kickball tomorrow. Amen and Lights Out!”

One of the most demanding tasks of substitute teaching for seventh graders is taking attendance. No…no, it isn’t the figuring out who is there and who isn’t there! The demanding task is figuring out how to SAY some of the names.

Back in the day…that is, back when I was growing up names were uncomplicated. My classmates included Mark, Dave, Mike, Tommy, Cindy, Danny, Tim, Joyce, and Betty. My college basketball team was composed of Scott, Bernie, Stan, Tim, Tom, Mark, Cary, Jeff, and Dave.

Growing up my early years in Kentucky made things a bit more complicated because everyone had two names. I was Billy Dean…although my Aunt Irene spelled it “Billie Dean!” My brother was Charles Dewey and my sister was Rena Lou. All my cousins on my mom’s side were referred to with two names, except Annette whose unofficial middle name was “Ornery!” Her brother was Danny Michael, and then there was my cousin John Jerry and Barbara Gale and Johnny Carol.

But notice that all of those names can be said without an interpreter!

Saying names for a seventh grade class today could be a game show kind of like “Name That Tune!” There were simple ones that could be decoded quickly. “Dave” could be made out from “Dayyve”, and “Michael” from “Mickull”. But then there were others that defied logic. When some of these students were named at birth the parents must have been strategizing on how to make taking attendance for school teachers a challenge.

I did have a William in my last class yesterday, but after class he informed me that his full name was something like “William Herzog Fitzpatrick Dominic Smith the Fourth.”

On a couple of names I assumed the wrong gender for the student. When one student didn’t answer quickly and I asked “Is he here today?”, I was informed by the class that the he is a she. My bad!

My most challenging student of the week tried to disguise who he was in, but even a first year seminary student could decipher the true identity of the name “Looseifore!”

Students know the awkwardness of names. They were already clued in on what Epiforditora’s nickname was. “E.P.” flowed easily for those familiar with him. One boy suggested that I just give each student a nickname like “Spike”, “Four Eyes”, and “Pee Wee.” If we’d have had more time I probably would have gone in that direction. After all, I was nicknamed “Beowulf” my sophomore year of high school when my English Literature class was studying that ancient epic story. One of my Ironton High School fellow journeyers hit upon it. “Hey! Bill Wolfe…Beowulf!” The class agreed! Shortly after that just like Epiforditora got shortened to “E.P.”, “Beowulf” got reduced to “Beo.” My old classmate, Jim Payne, still refers to me by that forty-five year old nickname!

I did have a few name victories. One young lady’s eyes lit up out of shocked delight that I had actually pronounced her four-syllable first name correctly. She should have been surprised because the mess of letters that it contained reminded me of a Scrabble tile holder when the letters are first placed on it in random order.

Of course, Carol and I can’t plead total innocence in this “naming” area. We named our first child “Kecia Corin Wolfe.” Her first name has been mispronounced more often than the Thai menu items I try to order. When I called Carol’s parents at two o’clock in the morning to tell them that they had been blessed with their first granddaughter her dad’s response to the name was “What!!! Quiche Lorraine!!!”

Our second child brought us back to normalcy…David Charles Wolfe!