Things I Should Have Foreseen but Didn’t: Amphibian Edition

The kids are incredibly excited about the terrariums we’ve set up! They’ve asked if they can bring in things they find at home. Therefore I have been enthusiastically presented with Tupperware with holes poked in the top containing salamanders, worms, and a centipede that had been found in the kitchen trash at someones house. It’s been fun.

Yesterday one of my VERY quiet girls shyly asked me if she could bring in a frog. She explained that they were in the pond behind her house, and that they were very tiny. She even held her little fingers about an inch apart. She suggested we could make a home for one in the small empty aquarium that was currently empty. I told her yes, what a great idea!

This morning she handed me a cream cheese container that was literally shaking. “It was bigger than I expected”, she told me. Inside was a full grown frog. One I would need two hands to hold. Crap.

“Great hunny!” I told her. She walked away, beaming, to do her morning work. “It’s a full grown frog!” I hissed to my assistant. “What am I supposed to do?” I frantically hunted for things to put in the empty aquarium. Big rock, few inches of water, some dirt. I opened the container to let the big guy out.

You can probably see where this is going already. He LEAPED out, hitting me in the face. I screamed, he went flying, and all the kids came running over. At this point the poor frog was hopping across our bookshelves, I was wiping slime off my face and trying to corner him with a piteously small fish net. The kids were all hollering and shrieking with me, wanting to know why we had a frog and where it came from.

Eventually, after quite a struggle, I caught him and put him in his tiny home. When the kids went to music, I ran around the school hunting down a much larger aquarium, some containers for water, plants to use, and places for him to hide. I pretty much stole an item from every teachers pet supplies.

I managed to put him in his new, much larger home. This involved breaking the cover on the tank I borrowed, taping it together, sloshing a small aquariums worth of water all over myself, the floor, and the beanbags (but luckily missing the books!), and covering myself and the counter with soil.

Now Mr. Monster Frog has a happy new home, and my class has been sternly told not to bring anything else in. We have officially hit our maximum occupancy.



It’s alive! Fun with in-class creatures

We set up terrariums in my class. See my last post for the thrilling explanation of how we found the critters we put in it! The terrariums are part of a science kit we purchased to teach soil. We’re technically supposed to order the dirt and the organisms that go in the terrariums. That seemed crazy to some of us, though. In a country where some schools can’t afford books, I would feel really guilty spending money on dirt.

So we used the abundance of nature outside our back door, and made some great little mini environments!

This morning every kid was plastered to their groups terrarium, looking at pill bugs, salamander heads poking out from the soil, and slug slime. It was awesome.

During this time, we noticed some clusters of small, yellow eggs in some of the terrariums. Then in more of them. They were not there when I got in at 7:30, but they were there by 10! Even after researching them, I have no idea what they are.

One little girl had found a spider in the hall she wanted to add to her terrarium. She showed me, and I noted the the poor thing was half squished and missing some legs. She assured me it was fine, so we added it to the pile. It shriveled in on itself and appeared very dead.

Half an hour later, we were drawing pictures of the terrariums, when the girls in dead spider group started shrieking, “It’s moving! It’s alive! It isn’t dead!” I chalked this up to wishful thinking.


“It’s laying eggs! It’s having babies! It isn’t eggs, it’s having baby spiders!” I still thought they were exaggerating, until my assistant glanced in and then looked at me with a look of pure horror. I ran over, and sure enough, hundreds of baby spiders were crawling out of the corpse of the dead spider. Awesome.

This is one of the times when I think teachers deserve Oscars.

In my very arachnophobic head I’m screaming Kill it! Kill them all! Aaaahhhh!” But I didn’t want to pass on my fear, or set a precedent that killing is ok.

So I blurted out something about the babies deserving to be born in freedom, and decided we should set them free! I asked my poor assistant to bring the girls out to free the monstrous babies. I practically shoved them out of the room, yelling at one to get a spoon to scoop them and go, go NOW!”

Then I defused a situation in which another group hypothesized that if they killed their spider, it would have babies!

The spider group came back in, gleeful smile on the girls face, resigned horror on my assistants. By the time they got out, all the little horrors had disappeared into the grass and soil of the terrariums.

After a frantic, hushed conversation about the likelihood of a spider invasion, it was decided that we would thoroughly “mist” the offending terrarium. Most of the insects we had needed moisture, so we frequently sprayed it. And if this was akin to the great flood instead of a light rain, well, we don’t want the salamanders to dry out, do we?

Spider girls, a.k.a. spider invasion source number 1, seemed sad that we had misted their terrarium,  a.k.a. spider invasion ground zero, into a lake. After it was pointed out that the slug DEFINITELY looked happier, they seemed ok.

All was well until the end of the day, when I noticed that all the tiny mystery eggs had now vanished. Next year I’m paying for sterile dirt.

Salamanders! Nosebleeds! Shoe throwing! and some math: A Day in the Life of a Teacher

One thing that’s so great about my job is that there is always a variety of things to keep it interesting.

One thing that’s so hard about my job is that there is always a variety of things to keep it overwhelming.

Here is a summary of what I did today, a day that was overall fairly normal in terms of day to day routine.

7 am- Leave the house. Hit awful traffic.

7:35 Arrive too late to have breakfast. Luckily there is still enough time to feed the fish, turn the compost box, mist the grass growing in the terrariums, and write the daily schedule.

8-9 Parent teacher conferences! Half an hour of showing assessments, talking about social skills, and trying to express how much I love the child in question while still bringing up the fact that he or she is struggling with math/having trouble reading/singing during work times/licking their peers/stealing and hoarding pencils/ making elaborate weapons out of staples. Also during this time that I got a call letting me know they needed my assistant to sub for another class, so no help until after lunch!

9-9:20 Morning work! a.k.a. wrangling kids who would really rather talk about the weekend that do silent reading.

9:20-10 School wide assembly. Extra long today, to honor our volunteers. Who we admittedly could not do half of what we do without, but who also took up all the available chairs, leaving me to sit on the cafeteria floor with my kids, hiking my sweatshirt high enough to make sure my butt was covered, until my lower body went numb.

10-10:20 Math! Except, there was a scheduling issue, so the kids who normally went out for math got sent back. So we practiced our multiplication facts, as loudly and with the most ridiculous voices possible. Is there any other way?

10:20-10:40 Taking advantage of having my whole class and not having my assistant, we worked on the project we are doing for our assistant, who is leaving us to be a full time teacher next year. We are writing advice to her for her next class. This includes such gems as “Play capture the flag” “Don’t be mean” “Play capture the flag all the time” “Don’t teach math unless you have to” and “Play capture the flag.” It is also during this time that I eat a small piece of pizza that is supposed to be my lunch, frantically shoving it in my face behind my desk so no one sees.

10:40-11 Morning recess. One child was sad, so as a deal to get her to stop hug/squeezing me until my organs shifted, I went on the swings with her. We swung as high as we could, during which time I came to the conclusion that either we purchased new, smaller swings than we had when I first taught here, or my butt is bigger than it was when I was 22. Then someone got a nosebleed and threatened to wipe it on someone else. And another student put a wood chip in his nose. These are separate children, I must add.

11-11:15 Language arts. Read aloud at 11:15, where my assistant came back. Except she didn’t come back, she just checked in because the class she was subbing for was at gym. Then there was an announcement for the crisis team, the teachers who are trained to deal with students who become very emotional or out of control. Due to a combination of peer pressure and an inability to think clearly, I am on this team. So I handed the book to my assistant (who, please remember, is not technically with my class yet and still responsible for 25 other kids), asked her to finish reading, and figured I’d be back asap.

11:15-11:45 I wasn’t back. Instead I followed my colleagues around the playground after a little boy who just did NOT want to be in school anymore and was having none of our calm talks. I understood the feeling. I also wanted to stand up on the top of the slide and throw my shoes.

11:45-12:15 Lunch! Normally a break, at least in the sense that I can get things done. Today, a few students were coming in to play computer games with me. This was because I accidentally let it be known that some students stay after to play video games as a reward for good behavior. All hell broke loose, and I allotted all my remaining lunch slots to playing with other kids. So I scarfed down my second piece of pizza as I played Gum Drop Pop 3. At one point, one little girl suddenly stood up and started singing “Hello, I Love You” by the Doors. She sang about half the song in a fairly authentic Jim Morrison voice before losing intrest. She had no idea who The Doors were when I asked her, or where she heard the song.

12:15-12:40 Forage in the staff room for extra food. Find some sort of pastry of dubious age out on the counter, take most of it. Go around collecting containers, spoons, and other tools that we can use to collect bugs.

12:40-1:30 Outdoor science inquiry! a.k.a., get muddy and dig for bugs. We found ants, slugs, beetles, pill bugs, worms, salamanders, and a million mosquitos. Other highlights include most of us sinking down knee deep into the mud, spiders in hair, another nosebleed and an attempt to clean it with wet rotting leaves, hysterical tears over salamander ownership, ant bites that hurt more than you’d expect (it’s ok, you’ll be fine, I don’t think it hurts enough to cry that mu-OH MY GOD! It bit me, too! Holy lkajfgadfnngrrrr that hurts! Wow. Wow!), lessons on why rotting logs don’t make good jousting sticks, and a panic attack when I thought I lost a kid but it turned out he was just lying down in ferns on his belly.

1:30-1:45 Tick check, mud cleaning, putting our new friends in their new terrarium homes, reminders to walk away from the terrariums and wash our hands, cleaning out our containers, reminders to walk AWAY from the terrariums, picking up utensils and reminders to GO WASH YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW I’M NOT KIDDING RIGHT NOW!

1:45- 2:25 Gym class. Usually my break time, except I scheduled another conference, because I am insane. Another round of assessment showing and reassuring about how great said kid is despite (or because) of their quirks. Albeit a sweatier, more mosquito bitten round. And a muddier one, which I did not realize until I FINALLY got to go to the bathroom and noticed in the mirror that there was mud all over my arms and on my neck.

2:30-2:45 Snack, and a therapy session/science lesson about why salamanders lose their tails when you pick them up, and how yes, that was very sad that you thought it was a baby salamander and then it turned out you were just holding a tail. Also, please don’t put your hands back in the terrariums, and go wash them again. GO WASH THEM AGAIN NOW AND PUT THE CRACKERS DOWN UNTIL YOU DO!

2:45-3:15 Work in progress, a.k.a. stare at the terrariums, freak out about how slugs look, try to steal salamanders from other terrariums, start turf war over salamanders.

Then jobs, and mail, and clean up, and bus duty, and hugs bye, and schedule for tomorrow, and quick meeting with a specialist, and writing a report, and oh, hey! It’s 5:30 and I could eat a live cow I’m so hungry.

I love my job. But I am so ready for vacation.


Lately, I’ve been using a trick I learned from my mother. When her class is clearly not listening to her, she switches to Russian, a language she is fluent in. The idea is that after several moments (or more), something breaks through the fog of distraction and kids realize “Wait… something is wrong here.” It’s pretty effective.

I don’t have a language I know fluently enough to do a running monologue in, but I do know a smattering of enough languages to keep it going for quite awhile if I switch it around.

In the past, I’ve successfully dropped a few lines in one of the many mostly dead or obscure languages I know before a few eyebrows went up and someone asked “Huh?”

The other day, I got through French, Italian, Latin, Irish, and some Anglo-Saxon before anyone noticed.

This is not an exaggeration. I wish so much that it was. But it was 90 and sunny out, it was a half day, and even though thanks to a great many snow days we have A WHOLE FREAKING MONTH of school left, the kids are pretty much checked out.

This is the multilingual monologue I gifted my students with.

“I need you to do two things for me now- get out your science folders, and put your bird of prey projects in them.” This was met with no response at all other than continued chatter. I then rephrased it a few times.

“If you do not have your science folder, go get it now. It’s in your bin. Where it has been all year. Est-ce que vous écoutez? Non? Non.”

A few kids started towards their bins, but none actually did what was asked.

“Science folders! They’re green! They say science! Andiamo ragazzi! Presto!”

At this point one of my best listeners gave me a worried look, but was quickly distracted by a classmate showing her a picture of a cat that she had drawn. On her bird of prey report. Over the writing, in fact.

Next I switched to Latin. I took Latin in college, and although I loved it, I didn’t actually remember much of it. With the exception of conjugation and declension. While I can’t create a logical sentence, I can conjugate the crap out of the words I do remember. So I stuck with what I knew. This was also the point where I stopped trying to work in foreign statements in the hope that they would notice, and went all out.

“Potens, potentis, potentium, potentibus! Amici, amicus, amico, amicum!”


On to Irish. Now THAT is a language I can work with. I studied it when I lived in Ireland, under the tutelage of a man who thought we should mainly know proverbs, rousing political statements, and cussing.

“Toicfaidh ar la! Sinne Fianna Fail, ata faoi gheall ag Eirinn, buin dar slua! Buinneach go sal ort! Bi ciuin!”

A few kids looked at me with raised eyebrows, hesitating slightly, but it didn’t do it for the rest.

 So I brought out the big guns. 

In my life, I have taken multiple classes on Anglo-Saxon. 
I've read Beowulf in it's original language. Multiple times.
 (And yes, I did have friends in high school. Boyfriends even!)
So I took a deep breath and yelled, "HWAET!"

Then continued, “We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas, ellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum.”

And by the end of THAT little monologue, they were staring at me with googly eyes, and at least a few looked like they doubted my sanity.

“What the heck was THAT!” One of them yelled.

So the moral of this story is that reciting Old English poetry at a group of inattentive children is a sure fire way of getting them to listen.

Who knew.