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the occasions lady and

An Elementary Inquisition
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

The back-to-school countdown is on, and in just a few short weeks, students and teachers in Northeast Arkansas will return to the classroom. This August will be a little different for our family.

We will still have two enrolled in school. Our oldest, Adam, will begin his third year of medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and our youngest, Sophie, will begin her junior year at Jonesboro High School. For the first time, however, we will have a teacher in the mix.

After accepting the position of drama teacher at Jonesboro’s Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School in the spring, Emma had the opportunity to meet with some of her future students before the school year ended. Like typical elementary students, they were excited to meet her and full of curiosity. After she was introduced, one by one they raised their hands and took turns asking questions – but not about drama.

Here’s a sampling of questions students asked when they met her for the first time.

Student: Are you 40? 
Emma: How old do you think I am?

Student: Were you bullied in school?
Emma: Well, sometimes students can be mean.
Student: Oh, did they bully you because of your hair?

Student: What size pants do you wear? 
Emma: Why do you need to know?

Student: Are you Meghan Trainor? 
Emma: Um, no. I’m not. 

Student: How old are you? 
Emma: I’m 21. I’ll be 22 soon. 
Student (A rather bold sixth-grader): Oh, so you drink alcohol.
Emma: What? No! (Class erupts with laughter.)

Although the multiple Q&A sessions left her somewhat confused, she was inspired by the students’ curiosity.

“To be an artist is to question everything and to learn from experiences and challenges that you face along your artistic journey, also known as life,” she said. “I was so encouraged by their curiosity and creativity and knew that I had rising stars on my hands. Whether they pursue a career on stage, in a bank, a school, a hospital or somewhere else, I believe it is a childlike curiosity that leads to understanding, patience and success, and I didn’t even have to teach them that.”

True, but it is also their curiosity that makes them ask what size pants you wear. This could be an interesting year.

Thank you, teachers, for all that you do.