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Sheryl Green: 'Picking' high school

I know for a fact I’m supposed to be a high school teacher. I’ve never tried teaching in middle school because, well, middle school kids scare me. That’s why I hold a special place in my heart for all the middle school teachers out there. I certainly believe there is a distinct calling from God to wrestle with the budding hormones of adolescents on a daily basis.

But I gave elementary school teaching a whirl when I first graduated from college. Even though I was certified to teach high school English, I took the only job open at the time, a reading specialist at an elementary school. And so, I sat around a teeny tiny table in a teeny tiny chair surrounded by teeny tiny first graders, trying to teach them how to read.

My destiny was confirmed when I met little Katera. She was a first grader with great promise. Believe it or not, you can pinpoint leaders even in the little ones, and Katera was that leader. One day in particular, however, she led me far away from elementary children to the utopia of high schoolers.

My small group of five teeny tiny first graders sat around me, books in hand, Katera seated directly in front of me. As the lesson proceeded, Katera began picking her nose. I was baffled and confused about why she didn't stop when we made eye contact because I vividly remembered the many lessons I had received from my momma about not doing that sort of thing in public.

Jolted back into reality from my shock, it took me just a second to realize Katera had not been privy to such lessons of manners, and so she remained persistent in her picking. I was bothered, of course, but my schooling in how to be a solid, undeterred teacher redirected my focus to the reading lesson.

Until she started picking and wiping on my table. Well, that just bothered me profusely. I did a quick assessment and went through some problem-solving schemes in my head like a new teacher should, and I decided my best course of action was to stare like my momma used to do from the choir loft in church when I was a little chatty in the pew.

Didn't work. So, I tried speaking up. "If anyone needs a Kleenex, Ms. Green has some right here on her desk."

Didn't work. I was simply perplexed. I wasn't trained in teacher school on this particular situation, and I certainly was pained every time her fingers wiped across my table. So, I blurted out, "Katera, please stop wiping your boogers on top of Ms. Green's table!" and went right on with the reading lesson, never missing a beat.

Just seconds later, back into the nose Katera's fingers went. This time, however, she wiped underneath the table. Although pleased at her literal obedience, it was then that I knew my journey towards the Promised Land of high school must begin.

Now, 17 years later, here I am in my comfort zone with a respect for elementary teachers that is undeniable. So, let's all hug an elementary school teacher's neck today and reaffirm your appreciation for what she's doing. Maybe even drop off a box of Kleenex. I'm sure she needs it.

Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at