Meet Stephanie, a wasp that interrupted a REALLY amazing lesson I had planned. She wasn't always named Stephanie. In fact, we aren't even sure if she is a she or if she goes by some other pronoun. I don't assume gender. Well, in this case, I did....
THIS is actually a picture of Stephanie's corpse. Morbid, maybe? Weird, maybe? Hang tight. This will all make sense in the end...
I'm a high school teacher and most days, it's not an easy job, I know, I know! You've been hearing about this topic for a while now. Please don't quit reading here... the goal of this post is not to school you on how difficult teaching can be. While there are many valid reasons and you should educate yourself on the policies affecting our future citizens, I wanted to entertain you with a silly story and a glimpse at what being a creative teacher looks like in the real world.
It's just a moment of happiness in a mass of really challenging moments!
So, anyways, a few weeks ago this wasp flew into my classroom via the window I wasn't supposed to have opened. (In case those that have power read this...It was hot and freshmen boys fresh out of PE is not a good smell. Sorry not sorry.) Naturally, the kids went absolutely berserk, squealing like kindergarteners. In the heat of the moment I randomly decided to name her Stephanie to make her seem less scary. I went home, passed out on my couch, and forgot about Stephanie. Until the next day, when she was still there. And then the next day, she was still there. So I went home for the weekend thinking, surely, she'll die or find her way out over the weekend... (Her chances were slim of course as I knew her only way out would be under my door).
Monday came around and I was trying to get to know my kids in homeroom when we saw her flying again. This time, she was no longer Complacent Stephanie that flies toward the light. Oh no, this time she was diving at kids. Naturally, this caught my attention and the attention of several other students that weren't still half asleep. We watched her for a while and then she flew too close to the light and I thought I heard a zap and figured, that was that! But it was wishful thinking, because there she was again as I was conferencing with a student during my lunch time. Like I said before, I couldn't have killed Stephanie (that's why you don't name your bugs) but I could have a student do it. So I got the student to kill her and then we felt bad and decided that we would have to throw her a funeral.
This is Stephanie's funeral...
And THIS is how I made it into a teachable moment so that I couldn't get reprimanded for any one of the decisions I made in the past few days. (I'll probs get reprimanded for having the window open).
I put my world map down over my board, got the kids settled, and told them I had some sad news. Stephanie was dead! I told them she'd been murdered by the book Fahrenheit 451 (because she had technically been murdered and honestly, some of the kids would love another excuse to groan each time I ask them to get that book out...)
Anyway, for their Write Into the Day, I had them write a eulogy for Stephanie Wasp. We held a beautiful service for her. We even played the funeral march on recorder for her. I allowed a few students to share their eulogies, fake cried a little, and laid her to rest on my board. We may bury her at some point... but for now she's resting in pieces on my board. To the custodian that cleans my room every day... I promise you I'm somewhat normal?
But that's how you teach kids these days. By putting yourself out there and being weirdly you. Name a fly Stephanie and when they ask why, say why not? Tell personal stories and let kids in. Let them know you're human and you're weird and even though you don't like the responses from the kids that do role their eyes, be excited that you've found those kids that DO get it and embrace that!
Perhaps I'm just speaking so that I alone can hear these words. This school year has seemed exceptionally difficult to navigate for many of my teaching friends and I think everyone could use a reminder that sometimes, you've got to give yourself a break from the "big" things: creating engaging lesson plans, entering in grades, dealing with panicking parents... Sometimes, to be able to thrive when you're in survival mode, you've got to focus on the little things: the student coming up to ask if they can write a poem for your Fall Cabaret, the laughs you had with some of your kids over a wasp's funeral, or the moment when a student brings you a piece of artwork they worked on after you told them why the semi-colon was an important symbol to you. In reality, when you really start to think about it, those are the big things anyways...right?
If you believe that public education is important and you believe that there are still good teachers out there TRYING to survive in the public education system, then hold your representatives accountable. Make your voices heard. All you need to do is talk. Tell a funny/heartfelt story about a moment you appreciated in school and then, bring up how valuable education is.
After all, if you're reading this... that's what I did.
(This one goes out to all of my weird students that continue to check on Stephanie 3 weeks later... )
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!