Covert Ops

Nowadays I have to be careful, because if I am not, my classes morph into girl-talk and chillin’ with the homies.  My sons and daughters are very good at leading me into these delightful occasions, partly because I may be focusing on something else and partly because I find it necessary to let them invade my ‘professional demeanor’ these last few days and bond with them. Oh heck, they can learn about what adverbs modify next year!

It starts off innocently enough. I’m grading papers and two come over to watch. ‘Ms. Ashley whose paper is that?’  They whisper, they pretend to be so interested in what I’m doing.

Then one more comes over.

Then three more.

Suddenly I’m surrounded by all these little faces intently ‘pretending’ to watch me grade papers.  Then they start leaning over my desk, pulling out papers, playing with rulers and talking about me in Marshallese. I know this because I hear ‘Ms. Ashley’ in the middle of their cheerful chirping. Then I am distracted, stop grading, and ask,

‘What are you saying about me in front of me, huh? I know you’re talking about me…’

and one pipes up, ‘Ms. Ashley Faith says you are so beauoootiful’.

Now how can I tell them to sit down and stop talking and stop leaning on my desk because I need to work?

Then one grabs my ear, ‘Youkuluk! Ms. Ashley!’

Apparently, the upper rim of my ear is uniquely smashed over.  It is, but I’ve never really noticed it much. My mother always told me I had cute elf ears.  It’s amazing what good words over a child can do for their self-esteem. (take note)  People can say other things about my looks and I may believe them. But they can’t say anything about my ears…’cause my momma said…….

Now they are pulling my earrings out of my pierced ear…I’m about half way finished grading;  good for me!

“Everyone get back in your seats and finish your homework…this is homework club afterall!”

Three leave my table but it’s really just a ploy to make me think they are doing what I’m asking. I’m appeased for the moment – they give their signals – the three make their way stealthily back up to my desk.

Did another one just blow in on my right?  Am I surrounded?

Now four of my babies are pulling on both my ears, “Lalle, lalle! Ms. Ashley’s ear!” …which is look at Ms. Ashley’s ear…I smile but they haven’t got me yet, another graded paper finished, pencil still moving…

One of my girls, Jelly, so cute and sweet but tough as nails when she needs to be, is sitting directly in front of me on the opposite side of my table. I can’t go anywhere that she isn’t making sure she is in front of me.  I pull my chair up to the wrong place in front of the class and she will switch seats.

“This isn’t your seat Jelly…get in your seat. Over there.”

My seat is in front of you, Ms. Ashley.”

……I melt…..

Wait, what is that….ouwww!  “Hey, that’s my ear!” I cry out while Faith is inadvertently giving me another piercing through my earlobe.

…giggles….

What is that on my foot…I don’t want to know…keep grading! Stay focused, don’t let them get the best of you!

Therizo: “Ms. Ashley, can I pierce the top of my ear?”

“Yes you can.”

Faith: “How about here Ms. Ashley?” Pointing to her lip.

“Sure.”  I say, with a bit of trepidation.

“Jesus doesn’t care if you pierce your ears or you lips. He’ll love you anyway. But there are some decisions that are wiser than others.”

They look at me….I think it sank in.  But then….

“How about here!?”  Therizo pinches her tongue.

“No! No way not your tongue, that’s not good!”

“My nose?”

It took a few minutes until I realized………I had been duped! They had me!!  My pencil wasn’t moving. I had stopped grading and was surrounded by ear-pulling, lobe-piercing strategists!

One of my sons – you remember, the one that blew in on my right? – is inquiring about his grade.  I cup my hands around his cute little cheeks and commend him on such a great spelling grade!!  “You have improved so much and I’m so proud of you Setlinton.”  He gushes…

What is that on my foot??…..Oh yes, my girl who is called to be in front of me at all times has placed her foot on top of my foot and is just resting it there….how sweet a gesture…

“Ms. Ashley, can we play with your ball?”

“Yes, after you finish your homework you can come get it.”

A collective “Yes!” goes up from the military strategists.

“I carry your bag for you….”

“Hey, bring that back, I’m not finished yet!”  Am I grading? Have I lost this war?

Mark the page at the top, write the comment…..no more papers!

“Finished!!”

Titus: “O K let’s go!”  He had been hounding me that I feared the girls in class and that’s why I kept giving them all the A’s.

“Do you mean favored?”  I ask.

“Yes, you fearvored all the girls and gave them A’s!  That’s not good Ms. Ashley.”

“Nooo, they STUDIED!”

Titus: Big smile. “O K.”

Jelly’s foot comes off my foot, little fingers let go of my ears, questions stop coming like machine-gun bullets, the strategists have disbanded, chairs put back into place, (some) papers folded neatly and placed into backpacks, windows shut, lights out, door locked and closed………………………

…..they make it all worth it.


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2 thoughts on “Covert Ops

  1. Ms. Gatewood,
    I have gathered from your page that you taught a few years ago at the Ebeye Gem Christian School, in affiliation with a mission group. I am a high school student currently living in the states and I used to live on Kwajalein. During my years at Kwaj, I visited Ebeye several times. It is apparent that this page has not been updated in a couple years, and I see that you have left the school, but I was wondering if the school was still in function, and if so, if you had any contacts of teachers or administrators currently there. I remember visiting Ebeye as a child and recognizing the disparity between the education that I received and the opportunities available to the children of Ebeye. This has stuck with me, and I’d like to be able to donate any kind of supplies or books that the school may need to be able to give back and improve the education for the kids of Ebeye. If you are still in contact with people who teach at or are affiliated with the Ebeye Gem Christian School, it would mean a great deal if you could give me an email address by which I could contact someone so I can put my ideas into action.
    I greatly appreciate your time and your service to the people of the Marshall Islands. Thank you.

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