Second Grade Entrepreneur
by Laura Cafiso
Being a teacher meant suppressing my desire to laugh out loud uproariously, almost daily. These miniature humans did the funniest damn things. I usually had to admonish my students for things considered “bad,” but which were, in reality, just hysterical. This one morning was no different.
Tuesday Morning Reading Group meant my ESL (English as a Second Language) class was sitting on the carpet, looking up at me, while I read a book out loud to them. Afterwards, we would discuss it and then complete activities related to the book’s theme. According to the teaching philosophy of the time, ESL students learned best through a variety of channels – visual, auditory, and tactile – and through a variety of strategies.
I loved creating more versatile, hands-on lessons which matched my philosophy. The regular education/non-ESL teachers used worksheets and uninspired, by-the-book lessons. Their students were the “regular ed” kids. Sometimes, I would get a slow kid from the regular class thrown into mine, the thinking being that s/he would respond better to ESL teaching methods.
Andy fit that bill. Barely passing second grade reading, he came over from next door’s class. As I sat there reading that morning with most of the students focused on me listening to how this particular story was unfolding, I noticed Andy hand off something to another student.
I paused, waited, stared. They froze. “Please share with me what Andy just gave you,” I told the student. I proceeded to take custody of a small card.
This is the actual card:
Are you kidding me? This kid’s passing out his business cards?!
It was all I could do to swallow my amusement. And awe. And honestly…anguish.
Because now I had to reprimand him. The kid barely passing second grade reading was making business cards! He was light years ahead of the kids I was teaching. He was hardly stupid. He just didn’t like following the rules, like the one that said he should be paying attention to this second grade book about dinosaurs. He had other ideas. Better ideas.
Kid’s marketing himself. At seven years old. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
I gently reprimanded him and held out my hand so he could give me the rest of his cards. At the end of class, I asked him to stay back.
I wish I had said something wildly inspiring to him, something like “Look, I think it’s genius that you’ve taken the initiative to do this. But if you share these cards in class, you’ll keep getting in trouble. So pay attention and participate in what the rest of the class is doing. I know you can do it. BUT! Keep doing stuff like this. You’re what they call an entrepreneur – you have incredible talent.”
However, I found myself in a comparable position to Andy. As a new teacher, hired in the middle of the school year, I was baffled by the tremendous number of rules I was told I had to follow, some of which made sense, some of which did not. The bureaucracy and paperwork were overwhelming.
My fellow teachers thought I was too nontraditional and creative. I found them to be too methodical and closed minded. I was the only ESL teacher on my team of eight second grade teachers. ESL required even more work, which I didn’t mind – young and idealistic here! And I, too, had bigger ideas. I was 29 years old.
So instead of saying something incredibly supportive, I returned Andy’s cards to him and sent him back to his regular class.
At home that night, though, I told my boyfriend over dinner about Andy’s venture. “He even customized some of the cards. He wrote ‘pal’ on some, but not all. Can you believe that?!”
I wish I knew what some of my former students are up to. Especially ones like Andy.
I keep his card because that kid inspires me to this day, 20 years later. Those are thumbtack holes from all the bulletin boards I’ve posted it on…
As a girl, Laura Cafiso carried tall stacks of books out of the library, reading voraciously with the goal of becoming a writer. Her professional career has included stints as a public school teacher, television writer/producer, and nonprofit event planner/fundraiser. In 2009 Laura was nominated for a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award for her writing/production. In 2016, she launched her own professional writing services business. She has been published as a freelance writer for local papers, ghostwrites blog posts, and writes business communication for her real estate clients. Her first book is still in the brainstorming phase. Learn more at her website.