Posted tagged ‘nicknames’

Looking Back: Rookie Substitute Teacher

January 10, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          January 9, 2019

                           

Today is the two year anniversary! On January 9, 2017 I entered Room 306 at Timberview Middle School- a classroom in a portable structure outside the building, mind you! I would be teaching 7th Grade Social Studies for at least a month and maybe the rest of the school year. 

There had been a sudden resignation during the Christmas break and the other three teachers on that team (math, science, and language arts) had requested me for a long-term sub.

Carol and I had flown back from Phoenix the previous Wednesday and there was a message on our voicemail from the principal’s secretary to call them. It was too late to call that day and then the next day school was cancelled because of the weather. Friday, January 6, I drove over to the school and met with the assistant principal.

“Bill, we’d like you to consider doing a long-term substitute position for 7th Grade Social Studies.”

“Okay!”

“And we’d like for you to start Monday!”

“Ooo…kaay!

That next Monday was the beginning of one of the best months of my life. I went into it like someone who has never tasted coffee suddenly working as a Starbucks barista. I was about as raw and wide-eyed as a rookie can be.

And I admitted it! Each class knew that this guy in front of the class could be seen as being fresh meat to chew on or the new guy to simply enjoy and even teach. Thankfully they took the second approach. They enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed them.

On that first day there were high winds in the area that measured up to 109 miles an hour at Cheyenne Mountain. A window blew out of the library at a high school two miles away from Timberview. Afternoon buses were cancelled because of the fear of them tipping over…and here I was in a portable classroom! I remember the windows sounding like they were doing a drumroll as they rattled, but inside the classroom I was teaching kids about the meaning of “Coats of Arms”. 

I put two headings on the board…DON’T KNOW and KNOW. Under DON”T KNOW I drew about 20 lines, and under KNOW I put two! 

“This is me! I’m going to be your teacher for at least the rest of the month, and maybe longer, and this is about how much I know in terms of teaching a class. And all these lines under DON”T KNOW, that tells you how not-with-it I am in regards of your culture, words and sayings you use, and stuff. So…you’re going to teach me each day just as much as I’m going to teach you!”

Each day when some new term was mentioned that I was unfamiliar with I’d add another line under DON”T KNOW. For example, several students used the term “memes”. I had no idea what a meme was. They were astounded. Was I really a person? Had I just been unfrozen from the Ice Age? 

My cluelessness extended into their music world. I didn’t know what song was being sung by what singer or group. On the other hand, when I mentioned “Three Dog Night”, “Steppenwolf”, or “Jethro Tull” they were as clueless as I had been about their music. 

I gave them nicknames. Kids who did not have nicknames would come to me whining and say, “Mr. Wolfe, I don’t have a nickname!”

I taught them about inflation, using a DuckTales video clip. I had them look at the different kinds of taxes that would be added onto a purchased plane ticket, and also a rental car at the airport. We talked about how different things are valued differently by different people and why that is. Each day was a journey into discovery…for all of us!

I don’t think I’ve worked so hard in my life. After the school day I’d be preparing for the next day, and then I’d go to officiate a high school basketball game, come back home, finish getting ready for the next school day, and then fall into bed.

I loved it! When Jenn Dilger was hired to be the next teacher, beginning in early February, I was disappointed. She is an awesome teacher, who, in fact, recently I subbed for the last week before Christmas break,break, and am subbing for her three days this month. I just missed the kids, the students, who had taught me so much. I missed the day-to-day interaction and humor. Laughter was a part of the educational adventure for each of my classes.

A couple of weeks ago Carol and I went over to watch a Liberty High School basketball game and three of those students I had on January 9, 2017 met me by the bleachers. We relived those days once again. One of them said, “Coach Wolfe, those were the most fun classes I’ve ever had!” 

“For me, too! I’m not sure how much you all learned, but I had a great time.”

“I still remember when you showed that DuckTales video. And do you remember Abby’s flying lego car? And when Dominick couldn’t answer any of your questions about Iran, the country he was doing a presentation about? And Jonah telling you that you could just call him “G.O.A.T”, greatest of all time?” 

I nodded my head. I remembered and I was very, very blessed to have been a part of it…and still miss it!

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?

Mr. Wolfe'(“Wolf-ay”), Substitute Teacher

December 6, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 6, 2017

                               

Almost a year ago I had an unusual bonding experience. I got a phone call asking if I would do a long-term substitute teaching position for a month at the middle school I also coach at. The call came on Friday and I started the next Monday. I was as green as week-old guacamole when I arrived at 7:15 that morning of January 9th. The principal’s granddaughter was in my first class!

It was 7th Grade Social Studies and I admitted to the class that there were a lot of things that I DIDN’T KNOW as I started the journey. On the board in front of the classroom I made three columns of marks to indicate all the things I didn’t know…and then to the right of that a column of things that I did know that included about three tiny marks under it.

The class was held in one of the portable classrooms outside the school building, and on the first day high winds that registered as much as 110 miles an hour in the area made the classroom shake like a 7th Grader standing in the middle of the principal’s office. The school district cancelled afternoon bus transportation because a couple of trucks had blown over.

That was the first day of my new experience…and it was awesome! We laughed together each day in our pursuit of knowledge and figuring out the world. Each day the 125 students that entered my classroom taught me as much as I taught them. They knew things would be a bit different when I showed a Duck Tales cartoon to introduce our study of how inflation worked.

And then one day a couple of the girls were playing around with how to pronounce my name and they suddenly made me French. Wolfe became Wolfe’, pronounced “Wolf-ay”. To be fair, I had turned a couple of their names into French-sounding mademoiselles first and they returned the favor.

After my month-long stint I was a bit depressed at no longer heading to the portable classroom each morning. The other three teachers on my team asked me why I hadn’t applied to be the new teacher and were a bit surprised when I told them that I did not have a teaching degree. I was simply a state certified substitute teacher.

Those three teachers would call me to sub for them, and for the rest of the school year I was in one of the portables several times each month.

Now…Year Two…word has spread about the substitute with the French name and the new seventh grade students have joined the parade of students who have made me a French-Canadian. I walk down the hallway and have students yell my name. Yesterday I was subbing for Physical Education, today I have seventh grade language arts, tomorrow eighth grade science, and Friday seventh grade science.

And it’s awesome!

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!

Adventures In Substitute Teaching: Old Mr. Wolfe

May 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 10, 2017

                     

I have nicknames for many of the students I substitute teaching for. I’ve been in their classrooms enough that having a Mr. Wolfe-created nickname is a badge of honor…sorta’!

Bryson has become Bison, Marina gets called Marinara, Alex is Arby’s, Josh with his man-bun is “Pimple Head”, Jonah has become “Goat” (His choice! He says it is an acronym for “Greatest of all the rest!” I pointed out to him that the acronym would then be “Goatr!” He gives me a blank look…like a goat!)

I rattle off group nicknames also, like “Fruit Loops”, “Munchkins”, and “Space Cadets.”

Evidently, turn about is fair play, because a day of subbing in 7th Grade Science produced a new nickname for the teach!

Back in my high school days I was nicknamed “Beowulf” when my sophomore English class was studying the old story. “Bill Wolfe”… “Beowulf”…it stuck to me like a fly on a fly strip. In due time it got shortened to simply “Beo.” People I went to high school 45 years ago…no, it can’t be that long!…still call me “Beo.”

On this day of science discovery a new name was delivered my way. As my first class began trudging into the portable classroom of my friend, Ronnie McKinney (whose uncreative nickname is “McKinney!”), the pre-bell chatter began. One of the students who I had nicknamed “Abnormal” (Abigail is her real name) asked me how tall I was. I responded with “5’6” and 1/2.” Then I added, with a note of pride, “However, I used to be 5’8”!”

“So you’ve shrunk?”

“Unfortunately!”

Another young lady who I nicknamed “Camm-ay” (from Cammie), saying her name like she’s French, joined in the conversation. Since I refer to her as “Camm-ay”, she calls me “Wolf-ay!”

“Wolf-ay! You’ve shrunk?”

Another young lady, Ky-lay joins in. “Like a grape!” Wolf-ay is like a raisin!” Everyone laughs, and I even chuckle about the personalized humor.

“Wolf-ay has become all wrinkled!”

“It happens!” I admit.

Three minutes later as the class is about to begin there is laughter by the white board at the front of the class. I know something is up. I didn’t graduate from high school with a 2.4 GPA because I was stupid, mind you! I gaze at the board as the students clear out of the way. Camm-ay has drawn two pictures with a dry erase marker. The first one is an oval shaped figure with two stick legs. The picture is labeled with the words “Young Wolf-ay!” The second picture is also an oval shaped figure, but a bit leaner with a few lines squiggled through it. It’s a raisin! And the name beside it is “Old Wolf-ay!”

I chuckle at their humor aimed lovingly at me. During the course of the day and since I’ve been referred to as “Old Wolf-ay” and “Raisin” quite often.

Even as I write this I’m picturing the drawings…and I’m still chuckling!

Being Mistaken For God

October 31, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            October 30, 2014

                                    

This year I’m teaching the three and four year old’s Sunday School class. It’s not often that the pastor teaches a class like that, but I’m enjoying it. Some would say that I’ve finally found some people that I can relate to! Each Sunday a mixture of excited and apprehensive kids enter the classroom. One of them, a little boy, who just turned three, named Ben, usually has his cowboy boots on as he arrives at “Sonshne Club.”

Ben has not reached that age where his speech is clear, as is also the case for a couple of the other kids in the class…but he’s not afraid to speak!

Last night he came bopping into the church gym with his mom and little sister and said a few words to me that I couldn’t make out. It was at that point that his mom told me that he was saying hello, but he refers to me as “God!”

He thinks I’m God! I’ve been called a few other names in my lifetime, but I think this is the first time I’ve been mistakenly named God. It’s a big responsibility to carry! I’ve known some people who act like they are God, but not too many who get named God. I’ve always been “Billy” or “Billy Dean.” Back in high school I was nicknamed “Beowulf”, which got shortened to “Beo.” Bill Wolfe sounds remarkably like Beowulf, especially if your sophomore English class is reading the story at the time.

But back to God…in one three year old cowboy-booted boy’s eyes I’m God. I’m sure that won’t last for long, and someday soon I’ll be renamed Pastor Bill, but for now I’m the Man with a Plan, the Head Honcho, the Almighty and Up-righty!

On the positive side, when someone thinks your God it makes you step back a bit and think about what you’re doing and what you’re saying. If Ben continues to seek God he will remember whether or not I was a godly reflection.

After all, each follower of Jesus is a reflection of Christ. Sometimes the reflection is tainted and confusing, and sometimes it’s a Christ-honoring picture.

This Sunday when Ben comes strolling into class looking like a Pony Express rider and calling me God I’ll tell him he’s blessed and that God loves him. He will probably respond with a few words that I may not be able to decipher, so I’ll smile, give him a high-five,  and tell him it’s good to have him in God’s class!

Amen!

 

Church Mascots

March 19, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   March 19, 2014

 

                                      

 

March Madness is one of the best times of the year. I am justifiably biased in that opinion, being born ten miles from Lexington, Kentucky and growing up listening to Cawood Ledford broadcasting UK basketball games on the radio.

One of the lesser highlights of March Madness is discovering some new mascots of some of the lesser known universities that get invited to the NCAA tournament. Such as “The Great Danes of University of Albany”, or “The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina.”

Although not in the tournament, I have a UC- Santa Cruz tee shirt with their mascot on the front, the banana slug. The Banana Slug, also known as Sammy Slug, was voted as the school mascot in 1981 when the institution started offering intercollegiate athletics. The school chancellor supported the sea lion as the mascot, but a student referendum brought the mascot name up for a vote and banana slug won.

Mascots are interesting, but sometimes the history behind the mascot is even more interesting. For instance, the James Madison University “Dukes”, whose mascot is “Duke Dog”, a gray bulldog who wears a cape and crown. The history behind the mascot name, however, is that Samuel Page Duke was the school’s second president…which makes it interesting to be a member of the women’s basketball team…”the Lady Dukes.”

In thinking of mascots, however, it got me pondering the idea of church mascots to mark pivotal points in different congregations’ histories. It might create some March momentum heading towards Easter, the church equivalent of Final Four Weekend.

How about “The 95’s from Grace Lutheran Church?” Or perhaps a more battle-ready name, “The Nailin’ Theses” of GLC!

I like the ring of “The Splittin’ Charismatics of New Wine Fellowship Church!”

Here’s a few others I think would increase attendance:

*The Fighting Deacons from Community of Joy Baptist Church

*The Glutanteers of Faith-Full Gospel Chapel

*Wine and Cheese Fanatics from Unity Tabernacle

*The Truth-Slugs of First Institutional Baptist

*The Three-P’s (not to be confused with “three peat”) of Trinity Presbyterian Church, who are firmly anchored to every Sunday mesage having three points and a poem.

*The Dunkin’ Donuts of Weigh-side Free Methodist

 

Perhaps you can think of others to join the list. Maybe your church should come up with a mascot…”King Jamers” could become “King Jammers”…just think of the possibilities! Churches that now stand lifeless and unnoticed on street corners could suddenly draw attention to themselves as a logo with an intense looking preacher with flames coming out of his backside gets attached to the outside church sign.

New outreach possibilities are now coming to my mind. I’m seeing things now, imagining things.

Some would say I’m too much into March Madness!