Not long ago, some friends were discussing teachers who had made a difference in their lives. My thoughts shot back to Miss Berry, my first grade teacher.
Like many kids, I was terrified about having to show up that first day. My mom was sensitive enough to pick up on my anxiety, and she gave me a shiny red apple to give to the teacher. “It’s what children do in Sweden,” she said, then added, “It’s just an old custom, honey, but I promise your new teacher will smile when you put the apple on her desk.”
I walked to school with my older brothers that day (who called me a baby), but somehow clutching that apple gave me courage. As for Miss Berry, I can still feel her warm welcome to her new students, and my apple wasn’t the only one on her desk. I loved first grade!
So where am I going with this? Sometimes I never know until the words start appearing on the computer screen. By the way, I’m picturing the face of the young man who recently sold me my tickets to the Newport Performing Arts Center. He said, “I really like your column in the News-Times.” Although this happens a lot, my answer is usually, “Thank you. If I get stuck writing, I will picture your face and remember your words.” I’m not really stuck today, just felt like acknowledging that young man because I know he is reading this — and can’t we all use words of encouragement from time to time?
But back to Miss Berry and that red apple, which started me wondering how that old custom of “an apple for the teacher” came to be, so I started searching. The first thing I found was the Biblical explanation. “In Genesis the forbidden fruit comes from the tree of knowledge. Although the forbidden fruit is never identified, the apple has over time been given the distinction perhaps to signify knowledge.” Then I turned up an obscure paragraph by a Henry C. Haflinger who wrote: “When education was first offered to classes of children in Switzerland, salaries of teachers were subsistence at best. Parents would supplement a teacher’s salary with food, and one of the easiest foods to bring to school was the apple. Farmers would keep apples in their cellars all year long because in those days, apples were not considered a dessert but a staple.”
Enough with the history lesson because I can hear you yawning, so now let us turn to humor material sent in by readers:
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Stressing the importance of a good vocabulary, the teacher told her young charges, “Use a word 10 times, and it shall be yours for life.” From somewhere in the back of the room came a small male voice chanting, “Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda.”
“Teachers deserve a lot of credit – of course, if we paid them more, they wouldn’t need it.”
There is one person in our district who is all about “No Child Left Behind.” Who’s that? The bus driver.
The little boy wasn’t getting good marks in school. One day he made the teacher quite surprised. He tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says if I don’t get better grades, somebody is going to get a spanking.”
A first grade teacher handed out a coloring page to her students, and on it was a picture of a frog holding an umbrella. When the class handed them in, one little boy had colored the frog bright purple. The teacher scolded him, asking “How often have you seen a purple frog?” The little boy answered, “The same number of times I’ve seen a frog holding an umbrella.”
Miss Johnson wrote on the chalkboard: “I ain’t had no fun all summer.” “So George,” she said, “What should I do to correct this?” “Get a boyfriend,” George answered.
The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note and posted it on the apple tray: “Take only one. God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table, was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written the note: “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Here is one last joke, sent by a reader who has a farm-load of animals and, for some oddball reason, this one cracks me up: The teacher came up with a good problem. “Suppose,” she asked the second graders, “There were a dozen sheep and six of them jumped over a fence. How many would be left?” “None!” answered little Norman. “None? Norman, you do not know your math.” “Teacher,” the kid said, “you don’t know your sheep. When one goes, they all go!”
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So much for some chuckles today, but this is written with special appreciation to all teachers everywhere and the well known fact they do what they do “Not for the income, but for the outcome.”
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book, with all proceeds going to Rotary International Foundation, is available on Amazon, at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]