I'm E.T.

What to talk about on the long walk to the field for P.E.? How about assigning yourself the title role from a movie, and then informing your friend Michelle what she can play in this pretend scenario? I just walked by a snippet of the conversation, and Michelle and Rodney didn't appear to be doing any particular actions to embody these assigned roles, but hey--you've got to get everyone's part straight. Oh--and if someone's part calls for her to achieve a certain level of cuteness, you have to tell her that up front.

"I'm E.T. and you're the cute little girl."

More Dead Class Pets

Especially given the title of this blog, I just have to tell about a panicked phonecall I got this morning. So I was going about my morning school preparations (which today included copying, jamming the copier, unjamming the copier, jamming the copier, and unjamming the copier), when I got a phonecall from one of the first grade teachers downstairs.

"Meg said to call you because you had a class pet that died" he said. Apparently word has spread about my fish-killing incident (still being passed around years later) and I've now become the go-to source for any class pet deaths. Nothing whatsoever qualifies me for this responsibility--I don't like animals, I'm not in any way skilled at disposing of the dead ones, and I find it just as hard as the next guy to break the news of a deceased pet to children. Yet, there I was, giving advice on how to handle his situation.

"Our hamster that we got Friday died over the weekend. It wasn't eating. The whole room smells like dead rat." I reassured Tim that he wasn't the first person to kill a class pet and that he wouldn't be the last, though I didn't offer to come down there to help with the disposal or the smell. I did, though, suggest that he take the cage out and tell the kids that the hamster wasn't eating and wasn't doing well, and then have the rest of the day to think about how to tell them the next day. Maybe even bring in the counselor for reinforcement.

If you know of anyone who kills a class pet in the near future--apparently the thing to do is to send him my way!

The Turtles

Phew! I successfully managed to navigate a dangerously close class mascot near-disaster. The process of voting for a class mascot always takes some very careful vote manipulation. It begins with the brainstorming, where any and all suggestions are taken. Well, except for that one year when Bryce suggested, "Illegal Aliens," and I just blatantly shot that one down.

Once an extensive list is in place, there's an initial vote to see what the top vote-getters are. At this point, if the winner is a winner, you can go ahead and end it there. However, if the top vote-getter is not something you'd particularly like to have the class be known as forevermore, just declare that it's time for round 2 of voting now that some choices have been eliminated. This often works to change who's in the lead, but didn't this year.

I began to get very worried in class the other day when the kids narrowed down our list of possible mascots to the top four choices: the turtles, the lions, the cheetahs, and the chipmunks. Chipmunks? I could NOT holler that out on the playground. "Chipmunks, line up!" Chipmunks are not only unferocious, but they lend themselves way to easily to commercialization (Alvin, Simon, The-o-dore).

So...we voted once again to get it down to a top two mascot-off. I was cringing inside when it came down to just turtles vs. chipmunks. No love for the lions or cheetahs? Either of those would have been the right level of animal kingdom superiority but with the big cat family out of the running, things were looking dire. I categorized the situation as a mascot emergency and put the whole thing on hold until I could figure out how to rig the outcome while still maintaining the appearance of democracy.

Hmmm....how to convince everyone to opt for turtles? I decided that propaganda was the way to go, and found a bunch of fantastic turtle clip-art that we could use for our class newsletter. I showed this off, full color, the next day, and told them how slim the pickins were for chipmunk-related graphics. Plus I had cool facts on my side. Did you know that turtles can live to be over 100 years old, live on 6 continents and that their shells are made of over 60 different bones connected together? Chipmunks are related to RATS. I had even talked over this dilemma with the principal who pointed out a very helpful tip--mascots are often associated with the local geography of the region. The fact that our school is named after the rivers of Washington, DC sealed the deal.

Yes, there were a few grumbles, but there always are, even if the winner is chosen by actual votes. So--we're officially the Turtles. Still not particularly ferocious, but it's growing on me. I wish turtles had a sound that I could close this post with....

Second Grade Moments

So. Second graders. A big switch to go from eight-year-olds at the end of third grade down to six-year-olds! Second graders do things like kiss their Reese's peanut butter cup that came in the Lunchable because they know that candy is not allowed at school. Before putting it away until after dismissal, they pucker up and give it a big, "until we meet again" smooch. And they are not embarrassed by this.
   Second grade classes also have some different kinds of problems than third grade classes. Don't get me wrong--hogging the markers, kicking under the table, and calling names are all issues that plague second grade just as they did third grade, but in the first week of second grade this year, we also had a problem of too much hugging. A boy came up to me, arms out wide one day, and gave me a hug. About 5 minutes later, as the kids were walking over to line up, he was headed my way again, in search of another cuddle. "We just hugged." I had to tell him, putting my hand out in front of me in a crossing-guard-type 'stop' gesture. "Maybe again later at recess."
   Second graders are also still just catching onto phrases and figures of speech. On the P.E. scavenger hunt, the kids had to find a classmate who had traveled to another country, who wore glasses, or whose birthday was on a holiday. Lots of kids filled in Jack's name in the "has broken a bone box," and when we shared out some of these fun facts at the end of P.E., Coach asked Jack if he had broken a bone. "Sure! I've broken a wish bone lots of times with my dad!"

I hope I'll never...

From the beginning of year survey one year.

I hope I’ll never...
-get in trouble.
-get out of shape.
-sharpen my finger.
-go on a trip with my cousin.
-fight again.
-lost more than one thing per week.
-see a tiger.
-get into another fight at recess.
-repeat a grade.


It’s been two years since I’ve taught second grade, and I had forgotten what it’s like to read a second grade sentence. In adjusting from almost-in-fourth-graders to fresh-out-of-first-graders, I had to re-activate the very creative part of my brain that can decipher six-year-old spelling. Third graders definitely still make spelling mistakes, but they’re things like using the wrong kind of your/you’re or forgetting a silent k. To read some of the second graders’ writing, on the other hand, you have to completely suppress the part of your brain that knows how to spell.

Each word on the page triggers an exhaustive mental search of any known English word that might possibly resemble the collection of letters masquerading as the intended word. When encountering the letters g-r-o-m, my brain cycles through “grom,” “groom,” “grome,” “jom,” “jorm,” “drom,” and “drama” before realizing that Diamond was trying to write “drum.” You have to take in all of the letters, and then visualize all possible arrangements of those letters until you come up with something recognizable. If that does not work, say the letters aloud phonetically in your head, and then substitute all of the sounds with other letters. Completely ignore the silent “e”s that seconde graders think terminate almoste every worde, but remember that all of those extra “e”s hav ben takn out of othr words. Any of the “d”s could really be a backwards “b,” and really all of the vowels could be filling in for another vowel.

I worked my way through all of these techniques with no luck the other day when Thomas wrote the word, “randr,” before realizing that in his free time, Thomas really likes “R and R.”

We are NOT Joking Around, Here

This summer I have been getting lots of advice on the impending baby situation that will be happening this fall.   Highlights of this advi...