That is Not a Good Idea

Last week my classroom teacher borrowed a bunch of Mo Willems books from the teacher down the hall. We stood/ sat at her desk and read them all silently until I came to That is Not a Good Idea. If you haven’t read this you should. It is absolutely one of my new favorites. If you haven’t read the book this is the spoiler alert! Stop reading this post now! Go watch a read aloud on youtube before you read this. It is not a good idea for you to continue.

If you have read this book, then you know about the surprise ending. When I read it to myself last week, I almost cried I was laughing so hard. So I read it to my students today. I read it with a lot of emotion (thanks to my days of high school theatre) and my students were really into it. They were leaning forward and taking deep breaths to try and stay calm while I read. The anxiety was clear on their faces. They were so worried about the silly character who they thought was doing things that were not a good idea. I had one girl and one boy I thought might faint they were breathing so hard!

When I got to the surprise ending, I didn’t show the students the picture. I asked them, based on the words, what they thought happened. Every single one was convinced that it ended one way. I then asked them if they wanted to see the picture. They were so excited they could hardly stand it. I made a few worried faces and glanced from the page to them and finally turned the book so they could see the picture.

There was a brief but noticeable silence. The students faces were all blank as they looked at the picture revealing the surprise ending. I honestly thought they would try to argue with me that the story could not have ended that way. I had to explain to them what happened because so many sat in disbelief.

I have always wanted to be a teacher because of moments like that one. I especially want to teach younger students because disequilibrium is so easy to see on their faces. I can teach spelling and addition all day but things that change the way students look at something are what really matter. From the impressively profound, like when students realize they can make a difference in the world, to the slightly less life-altering, like processing a surprise ending in a story; that is one of the reasons I love teaching. I love seeing that moment when new information or experiences clash with old expectations and students have to make a decision on whether or not they will believe what they just heard or experienced. If you have never seen this process cross a young person’s face, imagine a child sitting sideways on a chair and leaning back only to find that the back rest is on their side and in a split second realize they are going to fall. That is the face I saw today when I revealed the surprise ending to the students.

The read aloud ended with me explaining that the chicks were eating the fox in their soup. From the back of the rug, as I said this, one student simply says, “Eww…” After the surprise ending all this student could manage to assimilate or accommodate was that the duck was eating fox soup… I really love an author with a slightly twisted sense of humor!

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It’s A Monday, What Did You Expect?

Today was one of those days that started off horrendous. I set my alarm 10 minutes later because I thought the extra sleep would be good. Boy was I wrong! I ran 10 minutes late all morning. Then I got yelled at. I carried all my supplies out to the car and my bagel fell in the driveway. On the way to school, the cars in front of me decided to stop for no reason. I had to slam on the brakes so hard I think I bruised my collar bone. Stopping that fast caused the bucket of water and flowers I was taking to school to fly from beside the passenger seat to the front on the passenger foot area and spill about a half gallon of water on my floor mats. Super. It was a wet bag, eat a bagel off the ground kind of morning.

Once I got school, things really improved. I brought my Venus Flytrap, Elvira, to school and the students were super interested in her. I fed her some bloodworms and the kids were really pretty interested. Showing Elvira off is fun because I do not know anyone else who has a Venus Flytrap living in their kitchen. My teacher said she was very surprised by the plant because in her head Venus Flytraps were like the one from Little Shop of Horrors (a movie I have never seen but have recently looked up at her suggestions). It’s pretty fun to have strange plants that no one else would think of owning. The kids asked questions about Elvira and I love when kids ask questions about things I know about and can share with them. Answering questions is my favorite part of teaching. When students are so interested in something that they want to know more than what they heard, it makes it worth the struggle of getting them to listen to other things. That is what education is all about, learning how to learn so that you can do it your whole life and learning to be intelligent, participative, functional, and productive members of the community they live in. The best way to learn is to do something yourself, the second best way is to ask questions about it.

Speaking of asking questions to learn something, it was one of those days were my teacher and I worked really well together also. The kids are much more used to one of us picking up where the other left off now that I have been there for a while. The are also used to me stopping what I am doing to ask my teacher how she would do something or what I should do differently so that the students understand what is going on. I actually love it when I am teaching and she adds comments to what I am saying because it doesn’t make me feel dumb like I would if she told me I should have added this or clarified that. Instead, she just adds it in and I can make mental note of what she said and at what point she said it. I was leading the students through an activity where they made parts of a flower. I wasn’t sure exactly how she wanted it done so I just started winging it. I am not the best at winging it. I like structure and set lists of what comes first, second, third… It is good for me to be thrown in like that though because I will have to do activities spur of the moment like that sometimes.

My teacher clearly has whatever that thing is that makes a great teacher better than just plain good. She has this way of correcting you without making you feel stupid or totally wrong. I think that it is really important for students to have a teacher who can do that because then they won’t be afraid to think for themselves. They can think about things and be wrong and learn from that instead of just being shut down. I have said over and over how lucky I have been to be in her room and I’ll say it again for for good measure, I am so very lucky to be in her room. And I got all this on a Monday? She must be pretty good if I can learn that much on a Monday!

 

Miss Haley and the Frog

This may sound like the beginning of your average princess-kisses-the-frog, frog-turns-into-a-prince, they-live-happily-ever-after kind of story. I promise you it is not your average fairy tale and I have never in my life put my face anywhere near a frog… voluntarily. This the not the story of a princess but rather a very curious student teacher who finds herself with a front seat full of live animals she would rather not handle once they are grown…

Once upon a time, there was a student teacher named Miss Haley. Miss Haley was the kind of lady who loved exploring the world and learning new things. She often bit off more than she could chew when it came to these learning adventures. She had once bought seeds to grow a Venus Flytrap and that lead her on an expensive journey through the life and times of carnivorous plants. Unfortunately, those seeds did not grow but she did end up with a live flytrap that she now has to touch tiny worms in order to feed but that is a story for another time. Back to our current story.

Miss Haley’s class recently began studying the life cycle of frogs. Frogs are not her favorite animal. In fact, Miss Haley doesn’t really like any animals that can touch her on their own free will. She likes fish and going to the zoo because it is a great way to study something and learn about it without having what she is looking at make any sudden movements and touch her. Miss Haley dislikes frogs because no matter which direction they are facing they can always jump at you and touch you. But Miss Haley is a curious person and curious people often find themselves in exactly the situation they would rather not be in.

Her curiosity and the curiosity of her students prompted her to make the decision to volunteer to remove frog eggs from her father’s pond and bring them into the classroom. She was all ready, with a scoop and a little clear bucket, to fish out some eggs and bring them to school for the remaining few days the students would be studying the life cycle of frogs. When she arrived at her father’s pond, the eggs were gone! “Where could they have gone?” Thought Miss Haley. So she called to her father; who rushed outside to see what was the matter. Miss Haley explained that the eggs were missing. Her father looked into the pond.

He told her, “The eggs are gone because they have hatched! Look closely at that rock. You can see a tadpole.”

So, Miss Haley laid on her belly on the edge of their deck and leaned toward the water until her nose almost touched the surface (Miss Haley should have been wearing her contacts that day). When she spotted the tadpole a new idea popped into her head, “I will take tadpoles into my classroom instead of eggs. The students will think that is quite interesting.”

So Miss Haley’s father scooped out some tadpoles and Miss Haley gathered some rocks for them to swim with. She then leaned over the edge of the pond again to dig through the weeds to see if she could find some not-yet-hatched tadpoles to bring in with the hatched ones. She found a small clump of eggs and placed them into the tank with the swimming ones. As she continued to swirl the weeds around, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. She looked over…

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A massive, slick, slimy, greenish-black, beady-eyed bull frog had popped its head above the surface not far from where she lay. She nearly choked herself on the wire around the pond there to keep unwanted predators out when she sat up quickly trying to get away from it. It did not move a muscle but Miss Haley’s heart was pounding faster than ever before. I suppose curious people who put their faces that close to ponds with live animals in them would have a near-heart-attack experience every once-in-a-while.

She called to her father who brought the big net. He caught the big frog with the big net in one quick scoop. The frog flopped and hopped in the net but could not seem to escape.

IMG_3090Miss Haley knew she could not take in the large frog for her students to see, so she decided to take several videos of the frog to show the students. The frog eventually escaped during the taping of one of the videos.

Now, Miss Haley had her pail full of tadpoles and a few frog eggs to take into school with her. The drive over was perilous and a bit wet. The tadpoles were bit shaken up as was Miss Haley, nervous she would be cleaning dead swimmers out of her floor mats later that day. Everyone made it school in nearly the condition they had been in before the journey. Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, I suppose.

When she arrived at school she placed the tank in front of her classroom teacher. She told her all about the adventure she had been on and explained her excitement of being able to share the tiny things with the class.

Now, Miss Haley had fully intended to keep the tadpoles at school until Friday afternoon when she would take them back to the pond. Her classroom teacher, however, had other ideas. Long story short, the tadpoles have become a fixture in the classroom and another part of the mini-zoo that is room 14.

There was no kissing of frogs in this tale nor was it make-belief. It is, what I am sure will be, the beginning of a interesting journey I will tell the story of for the rest of my life… or at least until another adventure comes along!

Loose Teeth and Lost Lunches

The rich and epic history of things that have come out my students continues to grow. This week there were no nosebleeds, thankfully, but there were plenty of loose teeth. Teeth are gross. They are little tiny bones that stick out of your jaw and when you are six years old they fall out all over the place. Disgusting. If you saw a bone fall out of anywhere else on someone’s body you would probably panic and maybe faint. Why are teethe any different? The worst part of it all is when it comes to the end of the day and you are tired and ready to be done and you are running on instinct. Instinctually, when a person says, “look at this,” you look. Whether or not you really want to see it. One thing I care not too see is tiny teeth bent so far forward by a tiny finger the only thing they are hanging on to is faith. They leave that ghastly dark indent in the child’s gum where the tooth really belongs. The result is something you might witness in the theatre during a zombie apocalypse movie. There is great reason I do not watch zombie movies. I do not care to see that kind of thing in the classroom either. Everyone is so excited about their loose teeth and it is difficult to sound enthusiastic for them when you looking at the ceiling praying you do not faint right there on the ugly tile.

Two students managed to get sick on the carpet. One student managed to catch hers in her tiny hands. One student managed to land it directly on the carpet. One student managed to put her hand in it before anyone noticed what had happened. And one student teacher managed to continue the lesson, forget about the vomit, and step directly on it while continuing said lesson. I personally object to the idea that prayer should be banned in school because in that moment I thanked God that it was mostly water, was a small bit, and had been sitting their long enough to soak throughly into the carpet.

Each morning this week, I have awoken and asked myself, “what fresh hell will I be put through this day?” Apparently, the universe has decided half digested lunch and wiggly, protruding mouth bones are just as bad as a fresh hell. My students are nothing if not consistent.