Thursday, May 24, 2012

Checking into Heartbreak Hotel or: How I Said Farewell to Otis

Good gracious god--why haven’t I posted for almost two months? Was April that cruel, May that intense, my own wretched self truly that lazy? (The Cowboy constantly tells me I’m lazy, but that’s just about sex. But never you mind.) 

Loyal Reader, if you’re even still out there, let me tell you right now I don’t know the answer. However, it doesn’t matter today, because yesterday I broke up with Otis (the first grader whose reading skills I’d volunteered to try to improve--see my post of March 9, 1812) and must share the heartbreak or fall down and croak.

Of course we didn’t break up per se--we just had our last session per the school schedule--but it felt the same because, if you’re me, every good-bye is horrid and piercing. And, as it turns out, saying goodbye to a boy who, over five months, has come to actually like you a little (or at least not turn and run when you showed up in his classroom to whisk him away to work on his reading) is even more piercing. Indeed, as a really avid reader might say, it perced right to the roote.

The only good thing about it was that it gave me an excuse to buy him a book.  Or, since I’m nuts, two books that really amounted to seven (Six by Seuss being six in one volume, The Cat in the Hat in both English and Spanish being alone in another) and to tell him goodbye in faux Seussian verse. 

I tried to use words he already knew (i.e., not faux) and I'm pretty sure I succeeded.  Except perhaps for "fond" and "discuss" which--if he does what I’ve begged him to do since December--he might just ask an adult to define.  Not his mom maybe, since she doesn't know English, and perhaps not his dad, whom I think might know English but also suspect to have taken some kind of marital powder, but maybe his older brother or sister, or maybe--if he does yet another thing I've begged him to do--he might just deign to, you know, look it up.

Okay, so he won't look it up.  Nonetheless, here's what I wrote and, per his own sweet request, read to him with the maniacal fanfare of a narcissist who forgot to have children:

There once was a boy—(a boy, not a moose)
Who really and truly enjoyed Dr. Seuss.

But that wasn’t all. He loved dinosaurs too,
And the more stuff he read, the more stuff he knew,

Like which ones were nice and ate only plants
And which ones would eat all your uncles and aunts.

But that wasn’t all this boy liked to read.
He also liked Stars and Science and Speed,

Like the speed of Ms Frizzle’s Big Magic Bus
That took him to places too strange to discuss!

Shall I go on? All right, if you please.
He also liked bees and--oh yeah!—Eloise

That girl who takes bawths in The Plaza Hotel!
He liked all these books--and more--very well.

So why did this boy—(a boy, not a mule)
This boy who's so fond of computers and school

Tell me he thinks that reading is boring?
When I’ve seen for myself how he likes the exploring?

He’s good at it too—and he gets even better
Whenever he stops to look at each letter—

I mean look with both eyes till he sees the whole word 
And can fly to the next like the world’s fastest bird!

Want to know what else he said that was crazy?
That he didn’t read much because he was lazy.

But would a lazy boy have been willing to go
From guessing at words to working to know

How much faster it’d be if he sounded them out?
Is that what a lazy boy is about?

No! This certain boy—(a boy, not a flea)
Worked harder than even the busiest bee!

He did it for weeks and he never gave up!
I tell you this boy—(a boy, not a pup) ­

Is the smartest and nicest and absolute best.
Do we call this boy Otis?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!


  1. Okay, you are just -- way, way too good at the Seussian verse. I hope very much that you're going to be at this school again next year, if not for Otis, for somebody else. You are the GOLD STANDARD - nay, platinum - for what teachers look for in volunteers.

    Don't quit. As much as it does for you, it does twice as much for them.

    Also, the whole poem got something in my eye - it was a gnat or something. I blinked and sniffled a few times, and it was okay after that.

  2. The Best Volunteer Teacher Ever Award goes to...Ms. Gonick!

    What a sweet poem. I'll bet you've made a big difference in his life.

  3. Excellent demo of the Seussian app! More!

  4. Fabulous! I hope he keeps it forever and ever.

    p.s. Will you get to see Otis when school starts back up?

  6. I love it, love it, love it! What a lucky boy is Otis to have such a sweet and talented teacher. And when I say talented, it's because rhymes are indeed the right way to go. How I'd to show some games for reading.

  7. Aww, so sweet, so talented, both of you lucky. Don't give up because of the goodbyes.

  8. We're out here, dear Ms. Gonick, patiently waiting for your next post, whenever that may be. Thanks for sharing Otis with us ...