Teacher of the Year (Rescinded)

July 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Any teacher who becomes a parent finds some similarities between the two jobs.  They are both roles that you have to jump into blindly and learn as you go.  Eventually, you get the hang of it and you might start to get the feeling that you’ve finally got it all figured out.

Whether you’re teaching or parenting, that feeling is not going to last.

Here’s proof:

It was St. Patrick’s Day, my first year teaching fourth grade, and we were in the middle of an animal-tracking unit.  When they entered the classroom that day, my students were amused to find animal prints all around them.  I had spent the early morning taping hand-drawn and photocopied tracks all around the room.  There were bunny tracks on the carpet, horse prints on the cubbies.  A moose had walked across the ceiling and a mouse had climbed the walls.   The students were to write down which animals they saw in each part of the classroom.

The room came alive with gleeful shouts:

“A bear was in the library corner!”

“I found squirrel tracks!” said Johnny, a boy with a behavior disorder,  who was enthusiastically tracking the animals while his one-on-one aide tracked him.  They were raccoon tracks, not squirrel, but at least he was participating.

And then, one eagle-eyed kid found them:  “Look!  Leprechaun tracks!  I found leprechaun tracks!”

The rest of the students ran over, and, sure enough, there they were by the science materials:  tiny little prints in the shape of clovers!

A few of the students had never heard of leprechauns (sigh) so I said, “Leprechauns are mythical creatures in stories.  Legend has is that if you catch one without hurting it, you can have his pot of gold!”

Even then, I didn’t like to lie to children, so I was pleased with my explanation.  Especially the part about not hurting leprechauns. Who knew when, in the distant future, my students would be tempted to kill a mythical creature for its powers?  That was a life lesson right there.

It was a magical moment, and I practiced my Teacher of the Year award in my head.

The day continued with its mix of boring and less-boring activities, spiced up by searching for new animal tracks and seeing where they led.

When the class left the room for lunch, I scrambled to move all the prints to different areas.  Surprisingly, the kids were still into the tracks when they returned.

“Now the mouse went in my lunchbox!” said Derek.

“The leprechaun walked across the white board.” said Kayla.

But then, as the day wore on, something changed.  There was an impatience in the air.

During silent reading, a few of my sharper kids came up to me.  “Where’s the pot of gold?”  Jeff asked.

“What pot of gold?” I said.

“You know, the one you promised us?  Where is it?” his companion added, whispering for effect.

“I never promised you a pot of gold.  I said *legend has it* that if you catch a leprechaun, you get his pot of gold,” I said.

Elizabeth piped in, “So where is it?  Where’s our pot of gold?”

“Did you catch a leprechaun?”

“No.”

“Then I guess you’re out of luck.”

Four pairs of eyes glared at me.

“Cut the crap, Ms. Klink.  We want our prize.” Derek held out his hand, waiting for me to fill it with treasure.  I was unsure why, since I wasn’t a big reward-giving teacher.

Jeff added, “Yeah, we know you have a present for us.  Just give it to us now.”  And no one gets hurt.  (He said it with his eyes.)

“Time for gym!” I said, and ushered my impatient interrogators out of the room, along with their classmates.  They would return in 40 minutes, just in time to pack up for dismissal, so I worked quickly.  I took down all of the animal tracks, except for the leprechaun’s, which I taped to the floor, leading out to the door.  I continued the tracks to the end of the hallway, ending at the edge of the back exit.

Back in the classroom, I wrote a letter from the leprechaun with a green pen on a big piece of easel paper.  (Notice how quickly I went from total honesty to creating an elaborate lie to make the kids feel better!)  I rolled it up and tied it with a piece of yarn.  I left it near the exit door.

When the fourth graders returned from gym, they were on a mission.  They would find the pot of gold and get their reward.  My interrogators had riled up the  rest of the class and everyone wanted a piece of the golden pie.

“Where’s the leprechaun?”  They started to chant.

“Look over here!”  Daria had found the tracks leading out of the room.  Soon, twenty-two kids were rushing for the door.

“Is he gone?”

“Where did he go?”

“What’s this?”  Jeff grabbed the poster and unwrapped it.  He read aloud: “Dear kids of 4-K.  Sorry you missed me–and my pot of gold!–this year.  Better luck next time. -Leprechaun Larry.”

More glares headed my way.  They were not fooled.  “You wrote this!” Jeff jammed his finger into the counterfeit letter.  “It was all a trick.  There’s no leprechaun.”

“What?  There’s no leprechaun?”  The students were buzzing, then muttering, then yelling.

“Okay, listen up, everybody,”  I said.  It was time to come clean.  “I thought it would be fun to do some animal tracking in the room.  You saw that I made the animal tracks out of paper and that I stuck them to around the room with tape, right?”

“Yeah,” they all agreed.

“You do know that there was no mouse in the lunch boxes, right?”

“Of course!” said Elizabeth

“And that there was no moose walking across the ceiling?”

“Duh!” said Jeff.

“So why did you think that the leprechaun tracks were real?” I asked.

Doug, a round, trusting sort with deep set eyes that were filling with tears, answered me.  “Because leprechauns are MAGIC!”

A few others were just starting to catch on.

“So, wait, there’s no leprechaun?”

“There’s no leprechaun?!?”

At least five children burst into tears.

“Where’s our gooooooold?” wailed Kayla.

At this point, the hysteria was building.  A handful of kids were sobbing.  Others had their hands on their hips, lips pursed.  My most volatile student, Johnny, had flames in his eyes, and wisely, his aide decided to remove him from the group.  That was the extent of her wisdom.  The way she decided to lead him away was to hold a chocolate bar over her head and wave it, saying, “Johnny, Come and get it!”

The chocolate caught the sunlight, glinting like a bar of gold.  In a flash, the students were upon the aide, a ravenous pig-pile, and she fell to the ground.  Her chubby legs were scissoring the air as she tried to fight off  the horde.  She wouldn’t have succeeded if the bell hadn’t rang at just that moment.  The kids jumped off her, grabbed their backpacks, and started to leave.

“Don’t forget your report cards!” I yelled, and I handed the thick envelopes to the angry, dejected, and tear-streaked fourth graders.

“Have a good weekend,” I added.  In my head, I saw the Teacher of the Year award ripped from my grasp.  Oh well.  There was always next Valentine’s Day, and a whole new crop of fourth graders to ruin.

 

 

image from Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo

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