Bob’s Story

By: Mary Wever

6/18/2012 & 6/19/2012


It’s funny how much perception has to do with everything.  When I first got my job at Red Cedar, I was excited to work with English Language Learners.  I couldn’t wait to hear stories from other countries, taste food from all over the world, and...  One of the best things that happened is I gained a new appreciation of the language from one of my collegues, Bob Ulrich.  Bob has taught 4th grade to Language Learners for over 30 years, so his perspective on the world is quite unique.  I have rewritten my favorite story that I heard Bob tell over and over.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Bob Ulrich was a wonderful 4th grade teacher.  Fourth graders are the oldest kids in the building, so it was often hard for Bob to learn all the children’s names.  Not to mention that these kids are from all over the world.

One day, Bob the wonderful job of recess duty.  He was minding his business and watching kids play when all the sudden he heard some yelling and felt wood chips fly past his head.  It didn’t matter which language you spoke, it was common knowledge that “woodchips stay on the ground at Red Cedar?!”

Bob ran over to the culprit with the scared look on his face.  He said in a patient voice, “Remember, woodchips stay on the ground at Red Cedar.”

The boy seemed to understand and nodded his head.  Bob took a deep breath and returned to his station.  That’s when he saw wood chips flying through the air again!

Again, Bob walked over to the boy.  “Woodchips stay on the ground at Red Cedar.  Do you understand?”  This time, Bob’s voice was not so patient.  Again, the boy nodded.  “If you throw woodchips again, you will have to go inside.”  The boy vigorously shook his head in acceptance.

After taking a deep breath but before he even had a chance to return to his post, Bob turned around, saw the boy pick up a woodchip, swing his arm behind his back, and aim to throw.

He’d had enough!  Why was this little boy not listening?  Bob ran as fast as he could to the boy, stopped about 2 inches from his face, and said through gritted teeth, “I’ve told you 3 times to leave the woodchips on the ground.  What is your name?”

“You suck.” said the boy sheepishly under his breath.

“Excuse me?  What did you say?” Bob inquired with wide eyes.  How dare a 2nd grader talk like that to a teacher... right to his face even!

“I saaaaiiid... YOU SUCK!”

Bob couldn’t believe his ears.  “You’re coming with me.  Put down the woodchip.”

Bob grabbed the boy’s arm and quickly led him inside the school.  “Who is your teacher, young man?”

“Mrs. Valentine.”  Well, isn’t that funny.  Now that he’s in trouble, the boy had no problem answering questions.

They stalked down the hall on their way to Mrs. Valentine’s room on a mission.  Before he even had a chance to round the corner into the classroom, Bob spoke.  “Excuse me, Mrs. Valentine.  I just had an incident with this little boy on the playground.”  Mrs. Valentine gave Bob a look of disbelief.  Clearly this boy did not usually get in trouble.  “I asked him many times to leave the woodchips on the ground and he didn’t listen.  Then he said something rude.  Maybe he can tell you about it.”

“Well, I am very sorry, Mr. Ulrich,” said Mrs. Valentine with a look of disappointment on her face.  “He has never had a problem on the playground this year.”  She turned around to the boy who looked like he may pee his pants.  In a sweet 2nd grade teacher voice that rang with a little bit of firmness, Mrs. Valentine looked the boy right in the eyes and asked, “Yoosuk, what did you say to Mr. Ulrich?”

Bob’s head lowered

Working at an International School definitely has its benefits, but we have to be aware that names are different all over the world.  You suck means something different to that little boy than it did to Mr. Ulrich.


Revised story with audience of 4th graders.  To be used as a mentor text for Personal Narratives (especially to teach dialogue).  Small moment with many details, a balance of action/internal thoughts and feelings/dialogue.

A story by Bob Ulrich and retold by Mary Wever

I have recess duty one day a week.  Depending on the weather, this could be my favorite 15 minutes of the week.  This was not one of those times.

I stood on the hill minding my own business.  The sound of children’s playful voices sailed through the air.  I could feel the sun kissing my cheeks as the wind sent my hair to tickle my shoulders.  Watching the children play on the playground at school was usually one of my favorite activities of the week.  Well, today was different.

Everyone knows that wood chips stay on the ground a Red Cedar.