by Dr. Jinger Gustafson
Summer was finally over and it was the night before the first day of school. I was finally an eighth grade student. I was so excited to wear my almost new outfit from the local thrift store, re-use school supplies I had not used from the last school year and see my wonderful teachers who I had not seen for almost three months. I remember running, across the yard, to the bus. Rollie, the bus driver, greeted me so warmly. I got to know him pretty well because I spent a lot of time on the bus.
I was bit nervous or excited to arrive at school. I am not sure which it was, maybe a little of both. Teachers, who I knew and even those I did not know, were thrilled to see me. I remember the smiles, high fives, thumbs up, enthusiastic “good morning,” “welcome back” and “it’s so good to see you.” I thought, eighth grade was going to be so cool.
About half way through the day, a couple of girls (who to this day I do not know their names, but I remember their faces and words) said to me, “nice clothes.” Thinking they were being nice to me, I said “thanks.” Then, it happened. My first day of eighth grade changed. One of the girls said, “I wore that outfit last year, you must have got it at the thrift store in town.” The other girls laughed and they all walked away.
I think I was a bit stunned and did not know quite what to do. But, to my rescue, came an adult. She introduced herself and asked me if I was OK. I didn’t say a word because I didn’t want to start crying. The teacher took me to the office where the secretaries, who I did not even know but they knew me, took me to the principal’s office to call home. I called my dad and he said to remember how excited my teachers were to see me and we would talk more about what happened over poached eggs. My last column was about my mom’s rule of “no homework allowed.” I know my mom’s focus was on being a good mom. My dad’s rule was “poached eggs.”
Poached eggs, in the middle of the night with my dad, became a way to talk about the things that would happen at school (e.g., how nice the adults were and how not so nice some of my peers were) and how important it was to stay positive even through some hard times. Every once in a while my dad would talk about his experiences in school, but mostly he would talk about the technical school where he learned his trade as a mechanic. I think this was my dad’s way of letting me know there was more in my future than what I even knew at the time.
Day two, day 27, day 110, etc. of eighth grade had its ups (which were the adults who helped me feel like the most important person in the world), downs (some of the kids who just did not seem understand how much they would hurt me with their words or when they left me out of things) and poached eggs. We did not eat poached eggs a lot, because eggs were expensive. But, it seemed like we ate them just enough.
As adults, we have the chance, on a daily basis, to welcome, protect, support and encourage our students to be the best that they can be. And, the neat thing is that I predict many of our students have some kind of story about poached eggs. Thank you for your continued support.
Dr. Jinger Gustafson is an associate superintendent of middle schools for the Anoka-Hennepin School District.