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The Misadventures of Mark Lowry: First Grade
Contributor Two Contributor Two
Mark Goes to First Grade
Class clown Mark Lowry braves challenges put to him by Homecoming readers. This challenge: Teach a first grade class!

Patty Lewis, a Homecoming Magazine reader from Glenford, Ohio, wrote and suggested I take a day out of my busy life and teach first grade. My blood ran cold. A whole day? What would I have to say to 6-year-olds for a whole day? What would I teach them? Would I get bored?

I’ve never done anything for a whole day. Even Gaither’s concerts don’t last that long. So I agreed to an hour.

I’ve never stood in front of a room full of 6-year-olds. What if there is a little “Mark Lowry” who refuses to be involved, has his own agenda or decides to take over the class? How will I compete?

So on the day I was to visit Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tenn., I thought I would wear a shirt that was colorful and would, hopefully, capture the attention of a room full of 6-year-olds and keep it for an hour.

As I entered the school, I was instantly transported back to a time and place, 38 years ago, when I was in first grade. I heard a voice from my past saying, “If you don’t sit down, you’re never going to see the second grade.” Yes, my first grade teacher actually said that. But it got my attention. I went back to my desk thinking I would never see the second grade. Well, I showed her! I saw it twice!

But what caught my attention was not the memory of unimportant-voices-past, but the smell. The saltiness. The bouquet. It’s a mixture of school lunches and sour sneakers, which adequately describes every elementary school I’ve ever visited — which is really only two. But both stunk. I bet they all do.

Human odor gets increasingly worse through the years with age and puberty and hormones. Do you remember the reek of junior high school? Or the stench of high school? By the time we make it to college, we’ve discovered eau de toilet and other funk-covering fragrances.

But, in first grade, you’re just starting to stink. You have only just begun. And you’re oblivious to the odors you produce — and just about everything else. You’re a clean slate. Living in the moment. Time stands still, and summer is a looooong way off.

I wish you could have seen the “clean slates” I faced this past Tuesday. They sat in a semi-circle around my chair, staring at my shirt with blank wonder on their tender faces. I pulled four “Piper the Hyper Mouse” books out of a sack. I asked them which one they’d like me to read to them. They chose the one where Piper disobeys his mom and then lies about it, Piper’s Twisted Tale. I read them the story.

When I got through, I looked at my watch and saw that I had 50 more minutes to kill.

So I opened the floor for questions. Every little hand popped into the air at once, each child yelling for attention.

One hollered, “Why is your hair gray?” I didn’t know.

Another screamed, “Where did you get that shirt, and why did you buy it?” I couldn’t remember.

A little girl yelled, “Do you have any kids?” When I said, “No,” her eyes widened as if she were wondering how something so old had failed to reproduce.

Several wanted to know why their older brothers beat ’em up. I said it was “because you ask too many questions” and suggested we sing “The Hokey Pokey,” which is really what it’s all about.

They screamed, “Yeaaaaaaaaaa!!!!” We got in a big circle and started singing.

We put our right hands in, then we put our left hands in, then we put our right feet in, then we put our left feet in. They especially loved the verse, written on the spot by yours truly, that goes, “you put your rear-end in, you put your rear-end out, you put your rear-end in and you shake it all about.”

First graders love simple words like “rear-end,” “underwear” and “boogers.” And when they hear a full-grown adult loudly and proudly saying these words over and over and over, they laugh, laugh, laugh! And I love hearing them laugh, so I gave them ample opportunity to hear those simple words. Laughter is so good for their little immune systems, as all the “experts” tell us. And besides, what did I care? It wasn’t my responsibility to bring the class back to order or be around in 30 years to help pay the psychiatric bills.

But seriously, think about it: What would you have given, back in your tender, formative years in the first grade, to have had a full-grown man, with graying temples and a loud shirt, walk into your elementary classroom and say the word “Booger”?

I bet you’d still remember it.


Read the other "Misadventures of Mark" articles:
Mark's Day at Krispy Kreme!
Mark Give Janet Paschal a Whole New Look!
Mark Helps With Vestal’s Legendary Coconut Cake
Mark Goes Fishing to Uncover a Secret!
Mark Survives A Storm!
Mark Tries to Expound on the Topic of Art
Mark Shares About His Cool Grandparents!


Click here to see more articles featuring Homecoming artist Mark Lowry.