Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fun-Loving Pranks Preserve Teacher's Memory

School is about to start. As a teacher, I have many fond memories and only a handful of nightmares of my interactions with young people.

The Class of 1996 holds the record for well-meaning pranks. One involved the beloved Mr. Smiley Face Man.

He was the lid of an old plastic container that I kept inside my podium. If a student seemed to pout about something, didn't like that I said no or was upset about a wrong answer or another student, I'd flash Mr. Smiley Face Man at him. No words. Just flashed the yellow-faced lid his way by placing it in the air, putting it in front of my face, or walking it over to the student. Worked every time.

Until one day, I arrived at school and found a ransom note.

Mr. Smiley Face Man had been kidnapped!

I think the lid was returned, but hey, maybe it wasn't because I cannot find it anymore. I would certainly not trash an icon from my early teaching years. I don't recall paying the ransom of three Jolly Ranchers either. 

See, for those of you who think I have a great memory, this one escapes me. Maybe the three kidnappers, now grown men, need to remind me how the case was solved.

The culprits? I only remember two for sure: Kevin Giefer and Cody Ast.

Who else was in on it? Todd Davidson was one of their sidekicks. Could have been Jason Gregory, now on the local school board. Or maybe it was the fella who is now the activities director, Todd Hague.

I pumped Kevin recently for information. He wouldn't budge, or maybe he's old like me and forgot.

And yes, that's the original ransom note in the picture above. It's kept in my pie-safe bookcase that I wrote about here.

as 7th graders, the Class of 1996 in Cheney, Kansas

Another incident occurred with this crew that again proves I have a sense of humor, a must for teaching pre-teens.

One time after lunch, I returned to the classroom. I had my cup of iced tea with a straw. I set it on my desk and returned to the podium to continue whatever I'd been teaching. The class seemed extra quiet, but I didn't think anything of it because sometimes 12-year-olds get in little tiffs at lunch as to who talked to whom, who sat by whom, and who's going where.

I approached the podium. On my open bindera pile of poop.

Yes, a pile of human-sized excrement.

At first I thought of the two eighth graders we'd caught stabbing pencils into the ceiling during a study hall period Paula Voth and I shared. Did they do this? Their parents were contacted about their vandalism, and the two were given detentions. It didn't seem like a big deal: kids screwed up, parents agreed, kids paid consequences, end of story. So them retaliating by pooping on my podium didn't make sense.

Besides, how could a person get their poop so neatly placed on my binder? Did they actually squat up there and do it? Because it sure looked fresh, and it sure didn't look like it had been moved. No smear marks anywhere.

I stood there stunned. I didn't dare look up at the class because I had no clue how I was going to handle this.

A faint male voice finally said, "It's not real, Miss Hofer."

I took a deep breath. "Oh, it isn't?" I said.

I continued to stare at it. The class remained fairly quiet, for they didn't know how I was going to react.

Cheney Class of 1996 as 8th Graders

I grabbed my straw from my iced tea and poked it. "But it looks so real, " I said. "There are even wrinkles and creases in it." I bent down and looked at it from various viewpoints.

I poked it again. And again. The class began a low chuckle now as a reaction to my reservations. I still wasn't looking at them, but I was relieved.

I picked up the binder, walked it to the trashcan, and tipped it so the fake feces slid into the garbage. I don't remember what I did with the straw.

I returned to the podium area, and with a deep breath, I finally looked at the 20-some eyes who'd been staring at me and holding their breaths.

"Whew, I'm glad that wasn't real," I said. We all started laughing.

Then the culprit, the owner of the plastic poop, stood up. He dug it out of the trash and said, "I bought this when we were on vacation in Colorado. I begged to buy it." 

The culprit? Kevin Giefer. 

Then the students all retold how I came in the room and reacted to it. We all laughed pretty hard.

Kevin's antics make for good memories, don't they? So, here's one more.

He used to bug me that I wore granny shoes, so the creative writing booklet was named after him that school year. I dubbed it Granny's Memoirs.

Was this the same class the Uthe sisters and I played a joke on? I think so. More about that another time.

This was the Class of 1996.

Twenty-plus years ago, they walked into my classroom as my second set of seventh graders. I taught them for two years in literature and then again in high school public speaking.

They taught me it was okay to smile before Thanksgiving.

Did you play harmless pranks on your teachers? Or, maybe you're the teacher. Share how you've recovered from some fun-loving student jokes.


  1. Replies
    1. We sure did, didn't we, Mary? And I can say I still have that much fun with my students. It's just that the years with your class were among the best. (1) I had one year under my belt and had a clue--lo (2) no state testing (3) literature, poetry, & creative writing--some of my favorite teaching topics (4) great people like you who did their best--always

  2. Melodie ... what fun memories! I never pranked a teacher. But my husband's uncle has lots of stories. Boys are more brazen, it seems! We played tricks on a babysitter though. My sister and the babysitter's daughter were the ring-leaders. I just followed. I was two years younger than them. They would throw beads up to the ceiling, letting them fall down on her mother ... it would take a while before she realized who was doing it or what exactly was happening. At least it seemed that way ... I'm sure she knew immediately. Who else?! :) Her daughter short-sheeted her bed while we were there. We would never do that to my parents. No way!

    1. I'm like you, Shelli, I would never prank my parents. And I agree--boys do seem to have more guts to play tricks on people. Funny thing about the beads with your story. Thanks for sharing!