On verbing nouns

 

@snidesky acts as a human clothes pin, hunkering down behind a senior whose drape was a little too loose. Just enough momming for a picture-perfect pose. Photo by Jason Pierce

@snidesky acts as a human clothes pin, hunkering down behind a senior whose drape was a little too loose. Just enough momming for a picture-perfect pose. Photo by Jason Pierce

 

Being a wordsmith, I love to try new things with existing words – like transforming nouns into verbs. It doesn’t work with every noun, and it shouldn’t, but boy, oh, boy, er, um, girl – well really, it was seniors, both boys and girls (young men and women?). Yes, I verbed a noun – a really respectable noun – that helped out a lot with senior portraits.

The photographers arrived and set up their stations, and soon after, newly christened seniors of 2015 began arriving for that first of senior year traditions – the senior portrait for the yearbook. Some were giddy with excitement, some were nervous about the hair that wouldn’t cooperate or the adult decisions that loomed before them, some simply seemed to be walking around in a stupor. A few were extremely disinterested, obviously there under order of a higher power – mom.

My yearbook helpers had been instructed in the fine art of finding the card with the senior’s name on it and verifying information. Then they were to help the girls choose the best fitting black velvet drape and help them, if necessary, to change in the restroom or help the boys find the best fitting jacket and then strapping on the fake shirt front with the Velcro fastening collar – tie generally attached, unless they’d brought one of their own.

Then the dressed senior was plunked down on the stool in front of the blue-gray backdrop while the photographer scanned the barcode on the card.

This is where I stepped in. By this point, the girls were moving their hair about or straightening a necklace. The boys had buttoned the jacket, which made for an awkward gaping opening that shows the vertical wrinkles of the faux shirt. And sometimes, the shirt collar was too loose and hanging more like a necklace than a real shirt collar.

I stepped up and said, “Here, let me mom you just a bit.” And I began to smooth out strands of hair, straighten and center the V in the drape. Or sometimes, more awkwardly, I had the boys unbutton the jacket, then I pulled it off their shoulders, tightened up the Velcro on the back of the shirt collar, smoothed out the front of the shirt, replaced the jacket, continuing to smooth out wrinkles and folds. It has to be awkward having a teacher practically dressing you, but it beats having the real moms upset because the pictures aren’t as nice as they could have been. The photographers had already shared that they don’t like to put their hands on the students, generally trying to use their words to have the students address the straightening of the attire. That would take so much longer, and I don’t believe the results would be as good.

I try to make it less awkward with the verb mom. I talk about how it’s not as creepy as it might seem because I have three sons and would want their pictures to look as good as possible. I put a lot of mom-itude into the entire act – just short of spitting onto my thumb to smooth the eyebrows. Helps that I’m over 50. Helps that I have a sense of humor and I tried to use it to loosen up the nervous or playfully banter with those I already knew.

Isn’t momming what we often do as teachers? How often do we provide band-aids for boo-boos, a cough drop for a kid trying to stick it out for the day instead of going home, a gentle shoulder squeeze for someone having a rough day. I keep a supply of crackers, both peanut butter and cheese, for those students who are always hungry in the morning. There is a change jar they can contribute coinage to if they have it, but if they don’t, hey, what mom would refuse to provide some nutrition? How many times do we simply provide an ear and eye contact to listen to what’s going on, try giving them a little perspective and then offer up a prayer nightly until things get better?

Momming – it’s one aspect of teaching, I suspect, even if you’re a guy.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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