Then I Bowed

This week I celebrate my birthday!  I'm one year farther away from remembering what it's like to think like a kid, but fortunately my students give me plenty of chances to try to get back inside that mental state.  From what I can tell, the inside of kids' minds is a psychedelic funhouse of reality meshing with fantasy, of imagination and misconceptions and movies all swirling together.

I was reading kids' writing stories a few weeks ago and happened upon one by Crystal that bent my mind and made me feel like I had stepped back into that childhood universe of thought.  Or like I was on a bad LSD trip.

Once upond a time my brother and I were born boys.  We were Identical twins but we grew up and then my brother became the meanist person in my country.  He slapped me and almost ripped my arm off but I was lucky.  On monday he punched me when I was asleep.  Then I bowed and Became the meanest evilist person in the world.  My brother was scared and then I Became myself but he tricked me with the puppy dog face.  So then my brother became the meanest evilist person in the country until I was 57 years old.  He stopped and died I was sad But I didn't know why because He almost Ripped my arm off.  So I promised I will die peacefully, Good By.

What do you think is gone To happen next do you think it should Be a or b or c or d

1. He will die peacefully.
2. He will get married
3. He will Be a Billioner
4. He will be a somprem ruler

Even from the first sentence, there are many amazing fantasy/horror/avant-garde movie plots contained within Crystal's Choose Your Own Adventure-esque story.  I love the dramatic bow that signals the transfer of evilness and that Crystal and her older brother are magically reborn as identical boy twins.  We have a little work to do on the whole "no violence in stories" policy, but woah.  Thinking like an eight year old is something else. 

Feel free to vote for your favorite of Crystal's four ending options!

Post Secret

The morning work assignment one day last week was to write one thing you think nobody knows about you on an index card.  The cards would be used for one of my favorite morning meeting games, for which I know no name other than, "Write One Thing You Think Nobody Knows."  It's particularly hard to think of something to write when you've been with the same looping class for a year and a half--we know a lot about each other.  But apparently not everything!

As the kids headed over to the rug for morning meeting, I collected all of their anonymous facts.  Not realizing these facts would be used for anything other than a form of private catharsis or confidential therapy, Daniel came up to me and whispered, "I wrote something I don't want anybody to know."  "Throw it away and write a new one," I told him, now very curious what he had written.

With all of the index cards, including Daniel's "take two," collected in a neat little stack, we began playing.  I read off each of the cards one at a time and the kids had to guess whose secret it was being revealed.  There were the run-of-the-mill disclosures about favorite Wii games or favorite foods but some of the other cards sounded like the kind of personal confessions one might find at Post Secret.  I hoped for no making fun but the kids handled the sensitive information well.
Nobody knows that I have baby dolls in my house and I still play with them.

I am lazy and I like watching TV.
  Many kids shared things that were their favorites.  One student, though, shared something she adamantly, underlined-ly hates.  For this to be what she thought of as her one thing, I wonder how often she thinks about the show.

I hate Monk.  It is a murder movie. 

  Another card shared a secret talent that I would have been just fine not knowing about.  The mental image stayed with me the whole day.

I can spray water out of my eyes if there is some in mine

  My own Thing That Nobody Knows?  A rather obvious one, actually, for anyone who knows me even a little.  My card read, "I am allergic to nuts."  Granted, I hastily jotted it down while also taking attendance and telling someone to walk rather than slide over to morning meeting.  The kids guessed it in half a second flat.  Perhaps I should have used one of these.

  While my disclosure was rather uninspired, nothing beats the vivid, imaginary worlds of third graders.

I climb my tree then when I jump off the tree I land like a spy.

I'm one BB time away from making travel times.  (It means to travel and race.)

The Blazer

As with all items in our classroom lost-and-found, the blazer appeared out of thin air, never having been worn into or carried into the room, but simply materializing in the corner next to the cubbies. 

"Children, how can this sweatshirt/coat/hat belong to NOBODY?" I will ask from time to time when the lost-and-found pile spills its contents onto the floor and reminds me that this same sweatshirt/coat/hat has remained unclaimed for months.

The children always swear it belongs definitely to Tyler and Tyler swears it definitely does not belong to him and we go about three rounds of this before setting the matter of ownership aside to settle another day.

"Tyler?  Are you SURE this is not yours, because I really think it is yours and the other kids really think it is yours."

"No, THIS is mine!" insists Tyler, holding up a nearly identical sweatshirt.

I place the imposter back on top of the ever-growing pile.

Beneath Tyler's sweatshirt, well, OK, the unclaimed sweatshirt we'll call it, sits a small, black blazer.  I am honestly not sure if this was left behind by a kid on picture day or after a performance, or if it's actually a petite women's blazer forgotten by someone observing in our room.

Whatever its mysterious origin, the blazer has now all but found a permanent home.  Michael has discovered the transformative power of a lost-and-found blazer. 

It began one early fall day before coat season had set in but after we had left the short-sleeve months.  The recess air a bit cool for Michael, I suggested he look through the lost-and-found pile for another layer.  A few minutes later, Michael stepped out onto the playground wearing the black blazer--ostensibly for warmth, but clearly more so for style.  He was a cool dude and he knew it.

You could tell that Michael felt transformed wearing the blazer.  Donning it, he went from a regular eight year old boy to "Hey-Man-Alright-Takin'-Care-of-Business-On-My-Way-to-a-Meeting-but-Let's-Do-Lunch-Important-Guy."  Michael managed to be somewhat cold several times over the next few weeks and eventually more or less appropriated the blazer as his own for any uniform-free situations.

Last night was our big performance of all that we have learned about geology.  Now, performances happen to be just such a uniform-free situation.  The kids got to leave their regular uniforms at home and instead wore shirts vaguely resembling the color of whatever stone they portrayed in the skit.  Granite, Marble, Basalt, Sandstone--all came on stage in turn to apply for the job of building material.  As we were getting some last minute things ready for the performance, Michael pulled out the blazer.

"But you're Basalt!  Basalt doesn't wear a blazer!" I exclaimed.  "Just wear the gray shirt you came in, Michael!  Sans blazer!"

Michael obliged, but asked if he could wear it again after the skit.  Yes, Michael.  You can be Important Guy after the skit.  And indeed, as soon as he was finished with the role of Basalt and was ready to answer geology questions from the audience, Michael swapped out for his favorite role as Important, Blazer-Wearing Guy.  He did the role justice.

Call Back on This Number!

You might think that three phonecalls in a row to his teacher earlier this week would be enough to answer whatever urgent homework question a third grader might have.  You would be wrong.

Thursday evening, walking out of school, I turned on my phone to find not one, not two, but THREE phone messages from Kamari, getting progressively more urgent as they went along.

Message 1:

Hi Ms. Sarah, this is Kamari.  I wanted to talk to Ms. Sarah to tell her that I'm going to do my spelling tonight.  I'll turn it in tomorrow.

Alright, call back on this number: 202 555...555-3748.  Thank you and hope you have a wonderful day.

A few minutes later, message 2:

Hey Ms. Sarah, it's Kamari.  I wanted to speak to Ms. Sarah about decimals and um...the, I mean--not decimals, I mean like spelling.  I'm going to do them today.

Call back when you get this message.  202 555-3748.  Thank you.  Have a wonderful day.

For something that was essentially a non-question, he was really eager to get in touch.  Yes, Kamari.  If you didn't do your spelling homework last night, just do it tonight and turn it in tomorrow.  We had been over this before.

By his last message, Kamari was sounding more like a sailor captured by pirates, making a furtive and desperate call for help than an eight year old confused about an assignment.  A very urgent message 3 was left entirely in a rushed whisper as Kamari struggled to get out his plea before the pirates realized he was contacting the outside world.

Message 3:

Ms. Sarah, this is Kamari.  CallBackOnThisNumber2025553748.  Bye.

I finished listening to all of the calls and got in my car to drive home.  On the way, who should ring me up but the message leaver himself.

Hi Ms. Sarah, this is Kamari.
Kamari--you are calling me TOO much.
Yeah, I really had to ask you a question about the homework...

I added up the number of times Kamari had called.  Seven calls in two days?  Why all of a sudden so many?  The homework hadn't suddenly spiked in difficulty.  In fact, it is the same weekly spelling assignment Kamari has had for a year and a half. 


Ah.  Yes.  Kamari had turned eight the previous week.  And what did he get for his birthday?  Oh yeah.  A CELL PHONE.

OK Ms. Sarah, I'll Call You Back

An evening phonecall from Kamari last night managed to turn a single homework question into a three-act event.  

Act 1:

Hi Ms. Sarah.
Is this Kamari?  You have to say, "Hi. This is Kamari, can I speak to Ms. Sarah?"
Oh.  OK.  Hi.  This is Kamari, can I speak to Ms. Sarah?
Hi Kamari.  Do you have a question about the homework?
Yeah....for the decimals.....HOLD ON GRANDMA!

[Someone talking in the background]

Hold on Ms. Sarah.

[More talking in the background]



[Ms. Sarah wonders what Kamari so adamantly 'is not.'  Kamari--are you done with your homework?  Kamari--are you bothering your teacher on the phone?]

Act 2, one minute later:

Hi.  It's Kamari again.

[Kamari asks question about decimals.  Ms. Sarah answers question about decimals.]

[Talking in the background]

OK Ms. Sarah, I'll call you back.  Click.

["But...the conversation was over," thinks Ms. Sarah.  There was no more to be continued.  There is no need for calling back....]

Act 3, another minute later: 

[Ms. Sarah talks to Kamari's dad about decimals to settle the "lively debate" they had been having on the subject.  Ms. Sarah hangs up, unconvinced that she has heard the last of Kamari's burning homework question.  Eight year olds, after all, are quite the quirky phone users and message leavers.]

Unwrap a Treasure

I always expect the line between Trash and Not Trash to be much more clear than it turns out to be in third grade.  Today I was foiled again by the unclear distinction between the two.

In my book, Trash is something you don't want or need any more, that can't be reused or recycled or given away.  The category of Not Trash includes (but is not limited to) things you want to save for later, or things you might leave out on a shelf.

On my way to the stapler this afternoon after school, I happened to spot a folded up paper.  "Oh look!" I thought to myself.  "This must be a valuable item that someone wants to save for later, seeing as how it is left out on this shelf."  Upon closer inspection, I determined that this piece of Not Trash was actually a carefully folded index card.

"Ah--maybe a love note" I thought.  Those tend to come folded up in such packages.  Perhaps this wad contains reasons # 26-50 of the infamous Reasons Why I Am Nevery Leveing You.  Or maybe it's an interactive Circle Yes or No note.

"Or possibly a freshly lost tooth" I guessed as I opened the folds.  That would certainly be something to save and not throw out.  Well, except when those lost teeth and various other items get mistaken for trash and we have to stage heroic efforts to reclaim the Not Trash.

After several layers, the prized contents revealed themselves to be....pencil shavings.  Really?  That is what was so carefully wrapped and left on a shelf in a Save for Later bundle?  But--it's--[sigh].  I tossed the shavings and their origami-like container into the trash.  

Why would someone take all of that effort to package up some pencil shavings?  I did have some avid pencil lead collectors one year, so I guess there's a precedent for saving odd treasures and, in fact, starting a business by selling them

With a class full of eight year olds who, as a group, often save weird things and are also generally bad at cleaning, I guess I won't expect to Trash vs. Not Trash distinction to become any more clear in the near future.

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...