Today I was a 2nd grade (gifted) teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign. I had known about this assignment for about a week, and I had been looking forward to it quite a bit. After all, my last experience there, back in February, was one of the best days I have ever had teaching at Stratton, and probably ranks pretty high on my list of over-all awesome days. Due to the nature of how the assignments are placed online, I only know about the teachers’ absences if I am available that day. And since I have been teaching nearly every day, it is possible that there has been another sub in the room since I was last there; I don’t know. Regardless, the students were all quite happy to see me again, which always serves to boost my ego a notch or two.
The day went really well, as expected. I told the class about how impressed I had been with their dedication to reading last time, and that I was looking forward to seeing if they could do it again. This time, though, they had no interest in reading for 45 minutes. No, sir, 45 minutes was simply not enough time! They begged me to give them a full hour to read! I told them that if they were all reading for 45 minutes then I would give them the extra 15 as a reward. I love being able to reward students with time to read! They all did it. Needless to say, it was awesome.
A few of the students had noticed that I got my hair cut. This is something that haven’t really made much of a point of over the past week since I had it done. For the past three years, my wife has been my hair stylist; she cuts my hair about once every 4-6 weeks, although sometimes we are both busy and it goes longer than it should. Still, I have managed to maintain a fairly similar look. For those who are curious, this is what I have generally looked like when I am teaching:
My hair is extremely curly, and it rests comfortably atop my head. For some reason, my hair simply fascinates students. I have just come to accept it, although I have worked hard to convince them that I do not, in fact, have an afro–just naturally curly hair. Alas, there are some who refuse to see the difference. (Yes, a former student of mine really made a Facebook fan page for “Mr. Valencic’s Afro.” I suggested he change the name, but he has not done so yet. To my knowledge, there are no other fan pages dedicated to either me or my hair.) Anyway, I have also had a small goatee for all this time, in a vain attempt to make myself look at least a year or so older. I once had a student insist that I was only 18. (I am 28 years old now.) Anyway, this is what I look like now:
Honestly, I don’t see a dramatic difference. Other than the clean-shaven bit (that nobody has really noticed), the only real difference is that my hair is now shaped better. I finally broke down and went to a professional stylist who spent some time talking about my hair before cutting it. The reason for the shave and the haircut is simply that I am preparing to interview for jobs, and I want to look my best. My wife will most likely resume cutting my hair now that it has been professionally styled.
So, at the end of the day I had car duty. I got to stand outside with an unruly mob of children and wait for their parents to pick them up. While waiting around, a girl whose name I don’t recall but whose class I taught at some point asked if I had had my hair cut. The conversation went something like this:
Girl: “Hey, Mr. V, did you get a hair cut?”
Me: “Yes, I did. Thanks for noticing. I also shaved.”
Girl: “Well, it looks really nice.”
Me: “Thank you.”
Girl: “I remember the last time you were here, it was all, like, BOOM!” [indicates a very large Afro with her hands]
Me: “Hey, now, that’s not true! My hair has never been all, like, BOOM!”
Me: “Besides, I could never pull off something like this!” [indicates the Afro that a boy standing next to me has.]
Girl: “I still think your hair looks better like this.”
Me: “… Thanks…”
Ah, children. I love their brutal honesty. And while I will continue to maintain that I have never had an actual Afro (at least, not as a professional teacher), I am glad to know that they noticed and think it looks good.