Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Not the best way to start the day, if you're a teacher . . .

Arrived at school to find 3 out of the 5 class tadpoles dead. Belly up. The tadpoles the third graders observed every day for the past couple of weeks. The tadpoles we wrote about and drew pictures of in our "Tadpole Journals." The tadpoles we studied in books, online, videos. Dead.

I was on my own.

The other teacher in the classroom was out today, and the sub she scheduled got pulled to another class that needed her more. I'll be fine by myself, I said. But I wasn't fine. I paniced. Oh my god, they ARE dead. Compose. Impromtu ceremony in the garden near the small pond to release the two survivors. Discussed the life cycle of frogs, reminded the children about the rate of survival for tadpoles in the wild - not so good. Turned the situation around into a celebration of the two healthy frogs we raised. Hooray! Avoided the death discussions brought up after: shootings in the news, "rotting body" found.

Onward with the day - to the standardized tests we were scheduled to take. Noted on the testing irregularity form - "Class tadpoles died, discussed as class before testing." This kind of thing rocks a third graders world. Teary eyed, they filled in bubbles. They were soon fine, said the tests were fun.

After the testing, we read the book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney that handles the topic of death of a pet - Barney the cat. Then we all wrote ten good things about tadpoles - some lists, others poems in two voices - then we buried the poor poles near a plant to help it grow. We placed a rock on top, and everyone patted the rock and said goodbye.

I am never getting a class pet ever again!


Blogger Michelle e o said...

Awwww J, you deserve some chocolate cake after a day like that. You know, there are many children who have never had or will have a pet, and many who have but won't have someone as kind and nurturing as you to be there for them when they lose the pet.

I think you're an awesome teacher.

6:19 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger burning moon said...

well done you!
sounds as though you turned a disaster into a triumph. My sister teaches primary school and I know how challenging it can be!
I think children deal with death okay so long as it is explained to them properly.
They take their cues from those around them who have more experience (the adults).

Bunnies are nice classroom pets. Or what about a school cat? These are things my kids have really gotten a lot of pleasure from over the years.

10:22 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger shann said...

I found your poetry reading poem-
I wanted to say:
"There is a lot of sad beauty in it- I have heard this person read, and stayed, out of pity and guilt"

but it wouldn't let me comment (my learning curve is wicked)

and the dead tadpole story is wonderful- been there with a neighborhood cat (as the music teacher, I never did the pet thing at school)

10:32 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks for listening Michelle, Burning Moon, and Shann. It's amazing what we can pull off when we have little ones looking at us waiting for cues!

Maybe I will get another class pet next year (I'll be teaching 5th grade) but this time I will get something heartier!

7:29 AM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Amy said...

Sounds like the loss of the tadpoles hit you hard, too. If the kids had to experience the loss--as we all eventually do--then it's wonderful that they had you to nurture them through it. The ritual of burying them and letting the kids say goodbye was a great idea.

3:13 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks Amy - I think the absurdity of the day hit me hard. It was surreal.

6:36 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Martyn said...

Congratulations on surviving.

6:37 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Pris said...

Gads, I would've just jumped into the bowl with them and hid till class was over.

My mother taught first grade and I heard so many stories about her kids that I can just imagine how hard that was.

I was 8 when I lost my first major pet and I remember it rocked my world. We had a formal burial out under the backyard pecan tree with a cardboard box as its casket. Years later, when my folks were living in their retirement home on the other end of town and my father was close to death, the only-child teenager who'd also grown up in that house invited me and some cousins to come walk through. It was so hard going through those rooms, remembering so vividly my father in each of them, but I felt it was part of the goodbye I needed to make. When we went outside, the teenager happened to mention doing an 'archeological expedition' and digging up the bones of a cat under the pecan tree. Muff resurrected again. The cycle complete.

Your rambling friend

7:48 PM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Wow - ramble on my friend - what a great story Pris! Did you tell the teenager she dug up your beloved pet??? We buried our pet rabbit Bronte under our pecan tree in a box too . . .

10:04 PM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger 666poetry-finchnot said...

hi jb / had to laugh reading this post

my 10 year son's pet hamster is
dying / what a appears to be a long
painful death / of hampster cancer

each day / we get filled in on
the gruesome details / / lol

ah / woes of the elementary school teacher

you have all my sympathy as a mother of 6 / i feel your pain / lol

sounds like you handled the whole episode quite well :)


3:01 AM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Hi Jenn - 6 kids, eh? And I thought two was tough. You'll appreciate my childhood memory of how we left my brother's hamsters named Chico and The Man (do you remember that TV show) in the irresponsible hands of a neighbor boy. When we returned we found that The Man had eaten Chico. It was difficult to explain after that why we had a hamster simple named The Man!

6:53 AM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Pris said...

I did tell her she'd unearthed my pet, but I didn't ask her what she did with the bones;-)

8:04 AM, May 04, 2006  

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