best. teacher. EVER.

student desk with copybooks and pencil case
Photo by Katerina Holmes on

“Are there any questions?”


Mr. Osborne sat confidently on top of his desk, overlooking his new 5th grade class.  He was sporting a bushy mustache that connected to his sideburns. His bald head reflected the fluorescent lights.


I was confused. 


Only a few months earlier, I was living in Mexico, my home country.  Now, I found myself enrolled in Mountlake Terrace Elementary, a school located in mid-Washington state.  I spoke very little english, however, I understood the words “are there any questions.”


What a weird way to start a school day!  


Back in Mexico, we sat in rows facing forward, and listened to long lectures followed by fastidious handwriting practice and rote math drills.  Now I found myself assigned to a small group of (four) students.  We were teamed together in a cluster of desks that did not face the front of the class.  We faced each other, and were encouraged to discuss things together.  Later in the year, we would be instructed to work together to earn points for rewards such as Licorice (what was licorice?)!


A student hand shot up in the air.  He had a question.  


What was the student saying…?


My understanding of the dialogue that followed was limited due to my poor knowledge of the English language.  Nevertheless, I could observe that all the students were engrossed in the class discussion.  Mr. Osborne looked like someone who knew a lot of stuff, and student’s appeared to enjoy listening to his replies. 


Day after day, Mr. Osborne began his day with the same routine, “are there any questions?”  More and more students raised their hands with each passing day.  About a week later, I raised my own hand.  The teacher called on me.


“A question about what?” I timidly asked.


“Anything you want to know,” Mr. Osborne replied  “If I don’t know the answer, I will write it down and find out for you!”


Wow.  I could ask him- ANYTHING!


As my english grew, so did my understanding of the invigorating morning discussions.  It became a routine that all us 5th graders looked forward to.  We would get so engaged in the discussion that Mr. Osborne had to set a timer to make sure we didn’t miss the start of our lesson.  By the time our teacher was ready to teach, we were all ready to learn!


A few months later,I arrived to the classroom and sat with my group.  Mr. Osborne sat on top of his desk and began the day as usual.


“Are there any questions,” he asked.


As I gathered the courage to ask the question that had been weighing on my heart since the day I first met him, I raised a shaky hand.


“Yes, Michelle?”


“Mr. Osborne…why is your head so shiny?”


Mr. Osborne didn’t laugh at the question, nor was he insulted.  Rather, he gave my question validity as he described hair follicles and oils to explain the secret to his lustrous head.


I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.  I had so many more questions!