After running all over school on errands, I returned to my class to find a student I didn't know waiting for me by my desk with a note. She smiled and said, “I have an invitation for you.” It was a formal invitation to a free pizza lunch on the following day, Friday. The name on the front was Amber, a student in my AP U.S. class. I’m always honored by these invites. The previous week, I had been asked to come to one of my “at-risk” student’s baseball games for a teacher recognition ceremony. He had given me a baseball, on which he had written the reasons I was his favorite teacher. Now, I was getting a free lunch tomorrow. I made a mental note to thank my student the following day, but I lost that mental note. So, I made another mental note to thank her at the lunch later.
Then, I almost forgot the free lunch. This is the kind of week I was having and is pretty much how fried I am at the end of each year. I got to the guidance office just as they were unloading the pizzas, along with boxes of ice cream sandwhiches for dessert. The guidance counselor smiled.
“Are you here for the pizza?”
"Yeah. Amber invited me."
“Oh...OK...good. Well, eat as much as you can. We have plenty.”
These events are always uncomfortable for me. I’m not used to eating with my students, and I’m never sure how to relate to them in more familiar, relaxed settings. Does this make me a stuffy teacher? Anyway, this time I was even more uncomfortable because I didn’t know ANY of the other students. To make matters worse, none of the other teachers showed up…nor did my student who invited me. So, there I was with a table full of strange students and one guidance counselor. I nervously made small talk and then escalated into humor, which I usually do when I’m uneasy.
"Are those ice cream sandwhiches?"
"Yeah," the counselor replied.
"Are they, by chance, mint chocolate chip?"
"I don't think so." She looks. "Nope, just vanilla"
"When I was little, my mom once found mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwhiches. They were, like, the best thing I'd ever had. Then, when she went back they didn't have them anymore. I've looked every place I've lived, but haven't been able to find any. Seriously, where did they go?"
Then, one little girl sheepishly says, "They have them just over at Walmart."
This was just desperate. If there had been three objects in front of me, I probably would have started juggling for attention…pathetic. How quickly could I choke this food down and get out of there? I could tell the guidance counselor felt sorry for me, because she kept saying she was surprised and sorry that Amber didn’t show up. I replied, “That’s OK, that just means more for us.”
I ate more than my fill, said it was really nice meeting everyone, and headed back to my room. Later, I was headed down the hall to get a student out of class when I spotted Amber through a door talking to a teacher. I surmised she must be a teacher’s aide that period, because there were no other students in the room. So, I strolled in and said with the deadpan face my students are used to, “You know, Amber, when you invite a teacher to a pizza party, it’s usually a good idea for you to show up, too.” She looked at me somewhat confused and said, “Pizza party?…Well, I wish I had known about it.” I laughed it off awkwardly, just thinking that my joke had fallen short, and said it was no big deal. I rounded the corner into the hall and then……
Now, if you figured out before this what I had done, you are much quicker than I am (and please keep in mind my end-of-the-year friedness).
If you haven’t yet figured out what I had done, good…I don’t feel so bad. Let me spell it out. The original invitation the student handed me WAS NOT FOR ME. It was, in fact, for the student whose name appeared on the front cover. I kept going over that student’s words in my head, “I have an invitation for you…I have an invitation FOR YOU,” hoping that would give me an “out”…a way to save face. Wishful thinking.
Now, it all made sense as I retraced the events in slow motion: the guidance counselor’s surprised look when I came, the fact that no other teachers showed up, the fact that THE STUDENT THAT INVITED ME DIDN’T SHOW UP. God, I’m an idiot. After running my errand, I raced back to the guidance office only to find Amber had beaten me there and was trying to figure out with all three counselors what had happened. I walked in with that same deadpan face and said, “I think I stole your lunch.” Oh, I tried to play it off with some lame humor. "Well, in this tough economy, I'll take anything" and "this is a great racket, keep sending me those invitations." But I knew full well as I left and could still hear their laughter halfway down the hall...
I’m never going to hear the end of this.
This story was inspired by MaryTKelly's brave telling of her IPhone incident. Thanks Mary.