My mentee’s third-grade class was told to write a letter from the Gingerbread Man to all his pursuers in the classic fairy tale, telling them why they shouldn’t eat him. I took a gander at Ernie’s work product today, upon the conclusion of our weekly session. Unsurprisingly, he’d opted for violence, threatening death and destruction of biblical proportions to all those involved. His message may’ve seemed excessive, but if I’d been the old man or lady chasing the oven-baked humanoid, I would’ve turned tail and fled the moment I read it.
In retrospect, I consider Ernie’s effort entertaining enough to be reproduced in its entirety. So here it is, replete with misspelled words and questionable grammar:
Dear all my enemees,
I got guns and enuff bullits to shoot you in every part of your bodys. I also got granades. If I see you, I would blow you up with them. I got a real big nife to and I will stick it in you’re eye. You just try to hurt me and see what I do. I will kill you dead even if I die to. At your home. At school. Any place.
The Gingerbread Man
The thing is, I didn’t know anything about Ernie’s assignment until an hour ago. When I first read the letter this morning – after it fell from the boy’s pocket while he raced back to his classroom – I didn’t realize he’d written it as homework. All I saw was a letter to his enemies from a very angry and well-armed eight-year-old. As far as I could tell, “The Gingerbread Man” was the pseudonym Ernie wanted the media to use when broadcasting news of his mass murder and suicide at the elementary school.
The Principal tried to put a positive spin on the situation when he telephoned to clear up my misunderstanding. As he reminded me, the mentoring handbook did in fact advise mentors to alert school authorities whenever a child poses a threat to himself or others. The Principal called it “unfortunate timing” that Ernie’s teacher had stayed home sick today and couldn’t be reached immediately. As he insisted, given the zero tolerance standard imposed following the Columbine massacre and other school shootings, neither of us could’ve done otherwise than adopt a “better safe than sorry” approach. “In any event,” he’d concluded, “Ms. McDaniel has now clarified the matter, and I’ve already phoned Ernie’s mother to say he’s no longer expelled and can return to school tomorrow.”