A Guest Blog Post from Retired Teacher and Polly Rosenbaum Writing Contest Participant and Judge, Conrad Davis.
When I became a teacher, I soon learned that teaching requires not only a thorough knowledge of one’s subject matter but, even more important, an understanding of my students. It was my responsibility to meet them wherever they were in life and take them as far as I could in one year. In my struggles to fulfill that awesome responsibility, I took the yearlong journey with some very unusual individuals, but perhaps none so unusual as the boy who loved to ride, ride, ride. In this brief account, I have changed this boy’s name to save any possible embarrassment to a now much older individual that I remember fondly as a teen.
Warlo Shaft had an unusual appearance. His head was covered with a profusion of coal-black curls, and his very fair skin provided a striking contrast. He had a Roman nose, and his eyes were very large, very blue and very sleepy. His long black eyelashes were usually drooped at half-mast. Warlo’s sturdy frame was draped with an over abundance of flesh which hung in folds about his neck. He wore his shirts too tight, and they creased across the chest and bulged out at the stomach. His usual dress included Levis, with at least six inches of cuff showing, and black motorcycle boots with silver buckles. In cold weather he wore a black leather jacket that smelled of hair oil and real leather. On the first day of classes, I realized that Warlo’s conduct was also unusual. Warlo loved to ride, ride, ride. He tooled into class astride an imaginary motorcycle, took his seat, and started out on a cross-country tour, only occasionally stopping for a red light or leaning into a sharp turn. For him, my class was mostly open road. It soon became apparent that Warlo could not read, write, and ride at the same time. Something had to be done. I walked back to the desk where Warlo was happily bouncing along. I reached under the scarred and worn old top, turned my wrist to the left, and withdrew an imaginary key. “Watcha doin, man?” he exclaimed.
“I’m taking away your key. It’s against the school rules to ride a motorcycle in class,” I said. Warlo’s face contorted, his lips vibrated, and his “imago-cycle” sputtered to a halt. Even without his cycle, Warlo was not a typical student, but he somehow stayed just within the norms of acceptable student behavior, and so one afternoon in late May, I had almost forgotten his first day when I looked up from the exams I was grading and saw Warlo looming over me. “ Hello, Warlo,” I said. “Did you want to know how you did on your final?”
“No,” he said firmly, “I want my key back.”
“Oh,” I said, vaguely remembering the incident of the previous September. I reached into my drawer, picked up an imaginary key, and handed it to him.
“Thanks,” he said, and with that Warlo inserted the imaginary key, threw his leg over an imaginary motorcycle and kicked the starter: “Pow-pa, pow, pow, pow! See you around, Mr. Davis.”
“Happy trails.” I called after him as he glided through the door.
Yes, Warlo, you were definitely my most unusual student, and you taught me that effective teaching can sometimes require a bit of imagination.