Come and See the Baby Parrot

Teaching is an act of perpetual motion. You must constantly decide what to say, how to react, which direction to pursue, which direction to abandon before all hope is lost, and how to control your impulses, lest you blurt out something like, “you already told me that ten times, what do you want me to do about it?” to a defenseless youngster. But that never happened to me personally. Ahem.

Sometimes I am at a loss, sometimes shockingly intuitive, sometimes ridiculously oblivious, and sometimes I surprise myself with a burst of well-meaning, though generally ill-advised, inspiration.

Yesterday morning, one of my less inspired lessons: Three students met with me at the reading table in the hall outside our classroom to enjoy the titillating best seller, The Baby Animals.  “Come and see the baby puppy. Come and see the baby chick…” You get where this is going. Controlled vocabulary, repetitive verse and cute pictures = successful early readers. Yada, yada, yada. So we read the compelling story and wrote our own little version on the whiteboard tabletop easel. “Come and see the baby parrot!” Yay! Reading time is done.

Later that afternoon Ms. Promise, the real teacher, and I discussed how to get this whole class of boundary-challenging (UNDERSTATEMENT) kindergartners to cooperatively participate in a measurement activity. As outlined in the Teacher’s manual, the children were supposed to use connecting cubes to build measuring sticks to measure the length of various body parts, limited (IN THEORY) to heads, arms, legs, feet and hands. Hmmm. Risky, to say the least. We puzzled over how to set up parameters that would limit unapproved physical contact (TOUCHING NO-TOUCH ZONES, POKING, SQUISHING, SHOVING, GNAWING, SNEAK ATTACK WWF PILEDRIVERS… need I go on?).

How about we have a pair of kids do a body tracing of third student, a la CSI, on a giant piece of paper and then all three can measure any and all extremities of the paper homicide victim? That way, there would be a lot less risk of unwanted body contact and no one student would be required to stand still (IMPOSSIBLE DREAM) for an extended period while being poked with poorly constructed connecting-cube-measuring-sticks by his peers.

Let’s give it the old college try shall we? The lesson was in full swing, with seven life-sized colorful paper victims strewn about the room, getting their eyes, hair, clothing, tattoos and piercings colored in with some degree of realism by small gangs of courtroom sketch artists. But wait. Ding, ding. I’m off the clock. I leave well before dismissal each day to pick up my own kids at school three towns over. Sweet deal, right? See you Ms. Promise. Good night and good luck.

This morning I tentatively greeted Ms. Promise and asked, “Were you cursing me after school yesterday for leaving halfway through the body tracing extravaganza?”

“No. The tracing was fine. I was cursing you because I had no idea what anyone was talking about when 20 different people came in here after school looking for the baby parrot.”

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