Tell Me Everything

Once a week my class pairs up with a first grade class to read books. It’s one of my favorite traditions, and the older and younger kids all really love it. It’s also a chance for me to interact with first graders, which is always an adventure.

Today one little girl brought a non-fiction book about fish to read with her buddy. They were near my desk as I¬†answered an email, so I could hear my student patiently answering questions about fish. Do they blink? Do they have eyelids? If they don’t, how do they close their eyes when they sleep? My student patiently answered as best she could, including to say she didn’t know and maybe they could do more research together in the library. I smiled to myself, so proud of my student.

However, after awhile they hit a point where my fifth grader was all out of answers. Which was when I looked up from my computer to see a tiny person staring at me solemnly. As soon as I made eye contact, she demanded “Tell me about goldfish rectums.” In a heavy Russian accent, which made it even better.

I stared back at her as I decided where to start. “What do you want to know?” I asked. “Everything.” She answered.

Thus followed a detailed discussion of the digestive system, fish eating habits, and official terminology of body parts. Always an adventure.

The Mustache Problem

Last year, I had a sudden and uncharacteristic fit of what I call “Pinterest Teacher Syndrome”. I assume most of you either pinterest yourselves (Is that right? Pinteresting? I pinterested it?) or have female acquaintances who do. I have no idea why this seems to be an entirely female dominated enterprise. Are there men out there pinning football stats and pictures of craft beers? I just don’t know.

Anyway, pinterest scares me. I am not crafty. I am not a fan of organizational systems, or repurposing things to make new household decor, or finding ways to incorporate more yogurt into my diet. Not that there is nothing wrong with any of these things! But it just isn’t me.

There is a thriving teacher community on pinterest. If the regular pinterest makes me feel inadequate as a human, the teacher section makes me feel like my kids must be wilting in an environment devoid of colorful worksheets, cute new spelling games, and vibrantly decorated bulletin boards.

Last summer, however, I succumbed to a Pinterest inspired idea- I was going to decorate my classroom library! I went with an ocean theme. Blue backgrounds, a hanging stuffed fuzzy jellyfish. We wrote our favorite books and authors on cutouts of sea creatures. I took pictures of the kids reading books while wearing snorkels, goggles, and flippers and hung them up. I made a giant poster that said “Dive into a book!” I even drew and painted a giant poster board book. I used GLITTER, for $@*% sake!

And unlike most of my endeavors that end with me covered in paint at 7 pm thinking “I’ve made a huge mistake”, this came out awesome. The kids loved it. Parents thought it was adorable. Colleagues complimented me!

So this year, I wanted to replicate my success. This time, though, I would let the kids pick the theme. Together, we would find ideas for backgrounds, pictures, and decorations! They would love it even more than before because they had a hand in it’s creation! Parents would love it! Other teachers! It would be great.

So we brainstormed ideas, and they voted. The choices included jungle, space, Australia, soccer. So many great ideas to choose from! So many opportunities for fun decorations!

The winning theme? Facial hair. Mustaches and beards were suggested individually, then merged into one. By an overwhelming, nearly unanimous vote, my kids chose to decorate their library with a facial hair theme.

This should not have been surprising. They are OBSESSED with mustaches. Last year they put mustache temporary tattoos on when a child brought them in for Valentine’s Day. A common free time activity is drawing mustaches on fingers and holding them up, or taping paper beards on themselves. “Your class has a mustache problem”, a colleague told me.

So far, here is their game plan. They want to write favorite books and authors on cutouts of handlebar mustaches. They want to have time to make their own beards and mustaches, and bring in materials to do so. On the day we hold a “make your own facial hair” party, let’s have it be pajama day, too! Because, why the hell not. Then, we’ll all wear our new beards and mustaches (and sideburns and chest hair, too, if desired) and have our pictures taken while reading our favorite books. Then we’ll hang these pictures, and parents will look at them when they come in for conferences and ask themselves what is wrong with me.

As for the background, one boy suggested we find a picture of a guy with a big beard, and make it into a giant poster. “We can take a picture of beard guy!” One girl responded enthusiastically. ‘Beard guy’ refers to my fiancee, who the kids remember by his most memorable feature. Everyone agreed that the best course of action would be to blow up a giant picture of him and hang it on the wall above the bookshelves.

I explained to them why this was a bad idea, mainly in the sense that it would be difficult for me to explain to my colleagues and principal why a poster sized picture of my future husband was on the wall. “But he has a BEARD!” They argued. “A HUGE beard!”

Eventually they accepted that this particular idea wasn’t going to work. The jury is still out on whether we can find a picture of a different bearded guy to hang. I’m tempted to get a poster of Hemingway. Bearded writers! It would be perfect.

My student teacher asked if I was going to let them go through with it. I am, because I told them they could pick a theme. This one is school appropriate (I vetoed a zombie theme), can be done in a few hours (I vetoed building a paper mache replica of the solar system to hang), and doesn’t involve live animals (I vetoed taking pictures at the zoo in the animal enclosures). And finally? It’s going to be hilarious.

Maybe I’ll even put pictures of it on pinterest.