April Fool's Favorite

With the exception of my annual piece for the date closest to Christmas, I don’t repeat a blog often, but since today is April Fool’s Day, I couldn’t resist repeating my all-time favorite prank. 

My favorite April Fool's Day joke came, not as a child or teenager, but when I was full grown and teaching school. The previous year the Army had sent us to Kaiserslautern, West Germany too late for me to be hired by the school system so I spent the year serving as a substitute teacher. Fifth grade teacher Mr. Jackson was not out often, but I loved being called to sub for him. He was a teacher who knew how to manage a classroom and teach creatively all at the same time. I knew I would have a good day when I had his classes. Evidently, the admiration was mutual since he requested me when he knew he would be out.

Since I was hired full time the next year, those days of substitution were over, but Mr. Jackson and I remained friends and exchanged good ideas in the teacher’s lounge. As April Fool's Day approached, we cooked up a plot. He would take my second grade class for the morning and insist that he was Mrs. Butler, and I would take his fifth grade class claiming to be Mr. Jackson. The contrast could hardly have been greater between a young African-American male and a 40-year-old female who had inherited her auburn-haired grandmother’s fair complexion without her beautiful hair. 

Students filing in to fifth grade that morning either remembered that I had subbed the year before in one of their classes and assumed Mr. Jackson was out, or they had seen me with second graders and wondered what was going on. They began to catch on to the April Fool's joke when I insisted on being called “Mr. Jackson.”

Mr. Jackson reported second graders had the giggles when he had them call him “Mrs. Butler.” That year I had a behaviorally challenged student we’ll call Henry who had gained a reputation known throughout the school when he was a first grader. I had not alerted Mr. Jackson to problem students, knowing he was quite capable of handling whatever happened. With Henry’s schoolwide reputation, I knew he would be aware of the potential. I’d just given Mr. Jackson a list of my routines and my lesson plans. He planned to pick out Henry on his own, making sure he did not look up to find him as he called the roll.

Once they got the joke, students in both classes expected us to go back to our own classrooms after roll call. The fifth graders adapted with a bit of wonder as their lessons went on as usual and smirked as they said to me, “Mr. Jackson, I don’t understand this problem.” Mr. Jackson and I exchanged back to our own classes after lunch. Our students seemed to enjoy the prank as much as we did. My favorite part came when Mr. Jackson told me that Henry was so well behaved that he could not pick him out!

Here’s hoping you have a happy April Fool’s Day – maybe with a fun prank or two!