I have a few thoughts on teaching elementary that I want to share. This is my last post for my elementary years and I still have a ton of stories. I want to say that teaching for nine years in elementary was the best prelude to teaching high school. Elementary kids still scare me. I know that I had to work very hard to do a good job for these kids. They all deserve the best and a good start can set the tone for their lives. Teaching elementary was not intuitive for me and required a lot of extra work. The good news is that when I got to high school I understood what came before. I knew how they learned and were taught. It was a huge advantage and allowed me to focus on the content and not worry about classroom management and learning types.
There is one last story that I have to tell. I had advanced to the point where I was able to have a student teacher and I was lucky enough to have one that was very good and spent many years at Montview after I left. Amy Lini was very well suited to work with kids. She was patient, compassionate, and empathetic. She had one Achilles heel and that was that she couldn’t gauge the temperature of the water. I have said before that my room was frog themed. I had an African Clawed frog for two years. I grew him from about 2 inches to almost 6 inches. He was the class pet and we were very fond and proud of him. They have the ability to take a gulp of air and hang on the fish tank floor for hours on that one breath. They would be there not moving for hours. Little did I know that this habit would save me one day. We were a week from the end of Yellow Track and headed for a three-week break. We decided to clean the tank so that the teacher who was taking care of it wouldn’t have to do anything but feed him. Amy had been my student teacher for a couple of months by this time and I trusted her. I cleaned it out and got it ready and Amy was going to put the water in and let him get into the water to acclimate. I just told her to have the water at room temperature. I am not sure what room she thought we were in but the water ended up being hot. I didn’t check it because I was doing other things in the room. She put him in and he took two strokes and then just died from being cooked. He was in a stretched-out position but dead as a doornail.
Luckily this frog murder had occurred after school was out for the day. The good news was that he looked natural, only dead. I did what any good parent or teacher would do: I just left him at the bottom of the tank. The kids didn’t seem to notice. When they would go to recess or lunch I would move him around so it looked like he was still alive. I did that for almost an entire week but things started to fall off of him. I did make it to the end of the week and after they left I cleaned it up and put the tank away.
I had three weeks to find a replacement. I traveled from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins looking for a frog that was big enough. There was none to be found. Apparently, they are sold very small and then grow. The pet shop owners said that they have only seen a couple get that big. I was in a panic so I did the only thing I could think of: I bought two small ones. When they came back from break they noticed that there were two and I never answered any questions about what happened. I left it to their imaginations. If I have any regret in teaching it is that there may be thirty adults out in the world that think frogs can split in two.
I still have some elementary stories and I will sprinkle them into the rest of the year. I was honored to be a teacher for nine years of students at Montview. I was blessed to work with exceptional people who loved students and gave them the gift of learning. I want to keep reminding people that this is a celebration of the kids. It is just through my eyes. Tomorrow I start high school for the second time in my life. This time I will be here for over twenty glorious years.