Friday, August 30, 2013

Goodbye, Ms. Filippelli

"Good morning!  Did you find yourself in the right place?"
Blank stares.
"Third hour, Composition, really long Italian last name next to it on your schedule."
Couple of smirks.
"It's easier to pronounce than you think.  Hold out your hand like this."  I demonstrate with fingers pinched together raised in front of me.  
Eyebrows go up and I can see the "she's crazy" thoughts in their eyes.  
"Fil - a - pel - leee!" I say in my best Italian accent adding hand gestures at every syllable.
That gets the giggles going. And requests for repeats until the class starts echoing.  Before long, I've created a classroom full of Italians.  

For five years, this has been my speech on the first day of school, open house, student orientation.  It starts an instant connection with students.  They are already asking questions, and the ice is broken on that first day when half the class is still on summer vacation.

With a last name like "Filippelli," you get a true story.  It holds character, heritage, and a spelling test every time you say it.  As with my students, it sparks conversations with strangers.  I don't remember the last time I introduced myself as "Filippelli" and didn't immediately spell it after: "Filippelli, F as in Frank, I, L, I, P as in Paul...."

As a teacher, I never accepted "Ms. F."  If I can learn how to spell it before kindergarten, these teenagers can certainly learn how to say it.  And I definitely didn't accept the student who wanted to call me "Ms. P."

This year, the students and I say good-bye to Ms. Filippelli.