It is my sincere goal to be the best teacher I can be for my students every day, in hopes that, one day, I will inspire them enough to rate a TV movie based on my life. It will air, hopefully, on TNT and star Reese Witherspoon, who will do it for an Emmy but will still respect the source material. (Reese is the only actress with sufficient chin to play me. If TNT passes, the Lifetime version will star Tori Spelling or that girl from "Father of the Bride." That will be the unauthorized version, in which I'm molested by my dentist before sponsoring a cheerleading squad who become bounty hunters to raise money for the big trip to Florida. It will be "loosely based.")
To further that effort, I have been using Ron Clark's "The Essential 55," which lists the 55 rules he teaches his students in order for them to be able to function in school and in the real world. Some of the rules are very school-specific, about walking in a line, etc., but others are real-word rules. Most of them cover what used to be called "common courtesy:" if you bump into someone, say "excuse me." If you are coming through a door and someone is behind you, hold the door for him or her.
You should see the eyes of my students light up with awe when I tell them that there was a time, long, long ago, when people knew it was discourteous to blast loud music at 3 a.m. When people just *knew* to smile at a stranger, or how to begin a conversation with a face to face person without using the word "wuz" or "zup." I tell them, "Students, we can do this. We can bring back common courtesy." Then one of them farts.
Of course, teaching my own students can only go so far. To make my dream come true (and let's be clear, the dream is enduring fame for myself and enough money to ensure that I never have to teach again) I must write a book. Here, then is the beginning of "Folksy Deb's Completely Non-Essential 5: Five Rules People Shouldn't Need But Do, Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire." (That last isn't really true, but it is total awards bait.)
Rule 1: After someone burps or otherwise emits gas in a public setting, the only polite way to deal with it is to pretend it didn't exist, other than involuntary responses such as tears streaming from your eyes or mild gagging. At home, if your father, brother, or sister is responsible for the emission, you may tease, fan the air dramatically, or scream "What did you eat???" If it is your mother or grandmother who is responsible, the same rule as public applies, unless the family pet is blamed.
Rule 2: When you talk to someone, you must look in that person's general direction. Turning to the side to point at whatever you're complaining about means I can't hear you. After three times, I will give up, so make it count.
Rule 3: If you want to use big words, please make sure you know what they mean. Frequently confused words include "appalled" and "impressed," "statuary" and "statuesque," and "flagrant" and "flatulent" (see above). Believe it or not, your choice of word can alter what you are saying.
Rule 4: If you use the wrong words, do not be upset with the teacher who is now very concerned about your statutory flatulence. You said it.
Rule 5: Treat a teacher in May the same way you would a fragile, blown-out eggshell that has been delicately painted with pastoral scenes. If you want her to be around next year, be gentle. Think long-term. It's the key to success.
Ms. Witherspoon, I am available for consultations beginning June 4.
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