Recently, as a substitute teaching online, I offered sixth-grade students at a high-needs school a quick glimpse of my own six-grade life. I almost begged them to please not be like “Mr. Mike.”

When I was in sixth grade, I sought attention using bad behavior. I told the students my dad died on Jan. 13, 1964, during my sixth-grade year, and that my mother died January 1970, during my senior year.

About 20 minutes later, I interrupted their online math work with a “Total Recall” game, the winner or winners to receive a special treat. I asked them if they remembered when my parents died. Unbelievably to me, based on previous “Total Recall” contests, a boy who rarely participated raised his little hand and scored 100.

At age 68, I’m learning that we never know who is really listening. I’m marinating the thoughts of a special in-school pizza party for this student and three of his chosen classmates.

Mike Sawyer

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