As a senior who is also an educator, I often look back on a day with the students and feel like I’ve just had a Near Life Experience. Some of the things that make me feel that way happened just recently:
Words in the Mind of a Child
I told the students that Latin is where lots of words came from. One kid piped up with, “I know that. Alladin is a movie where he has a magic lamp and I have his movie!” I mumbled to myself . . . “Maybe English is a dead language, too.”
Kids pick up on our language, and they come close. In making a hard choice one tiny fellow hollered, “Eenie, meanie, mighty toe!” To heck with the tiger, just give him the toe! I guess everything’s a little faster nowadays, with sound bytes and all.
Kids love plays. We were in the middle of a play and one gal asked, “What does Exit Stage Right mean?” Another student quickly responded with, “The book says it’s stage decorations.“(My book said directions, but this young scholar was a creative reader!)
Some days are harder than other. One kid had an unusually tough day. In the afternoon, he complained that he had a skunk ache. I didn’t have to skip a beat as I told him I’d had one of those stomach aches a few days ago too.
Vocabulary on the Playground and at Fun Times at School
Children really get in to Show and Tell. One day a boy noticed it was about time, so he said, “Everybody needs to sit in their seats and close their minds.” We usually close our eyes, but that Friday they’d all learned enough for one week, so we willingly closed our minds.
Later, in an effort to get things calm before recess I said, “Pick up your stuff and then lay your heads down.” One little cherub wailed, “But I only have one head!”
During recess we have to watch out for safety to avoid kids getting hit by swings and other playground dangers. A little guy ran up to me and yelled, “My arm hit – I looked quickly to see if we were talking stitches or a cast – my arm hit a mosquito, so I got a lump.” Right about then my brain got a bump.
A fine young student came running up to me right after our picnic lunch about a lost container. I asked her to describe it, and she said I’d seen it every day since she always had it out during lunch. After several harried minutes of searching, she added, “It holds my mouth together after I eat.” Then I realized it was a retainer.
Family and Teachers Helping Children Grow Up
Teachers and parents alike try to help children mature. One child’s mom was carrying his books each day. At the end of a long day I mentioned to another teacher that we’ve got to get hi to carry his own books so he wouldn’t get dependicitis. A knowledgeable teen overheard and shockingly replied, “I didn’t know that a little stack of books could give a person appendicitis!” I held my side and laughed, wondering silently if I might be having a slight attack of appendicitis myself.
Our Listening Center is always a big hit – the kids love to listen to their favorite taped stories. A little guy was getting ready to start and asked, “Does it have the thing for your brain?” I tried giving him earphones. “No, the thinking sound so I know when to turn the pages.” He meant the ding. I felt like a ding dong right about then.
Kids watch TV but don’t necessarily learn from it. Around Halloween one student mentioned he was excited about going to trickle treat. I guess he’d heard adults talk about trickle-down economics. Another boy confidently corrected him by saying it was trigger treat. Boy, the drive-by shootings make our kids trigger happy nowadays. I think next year we’ll study phrases like “Trick or Treat.”
Kids Learn Science and History in Their Own Way
Science is lots of fun. When we studied electricity a smart kid told me that killer watts have 1000 watts of power. His parents had really done a good job of teaching him not to play with electricity. Another day we were reading about the chemistry of food and the book mentioned ginger. I mentioned the Chinese connections and added that it was even good for you. An observant gal clarified that “ginger helps cure gingivitis” so we should all eat lots of gingerbread! I observed that kids’ language makes more sense than standard English.
As Election Day came closer, I grabbed the opportunity to talk to the class about our government and history, stressing what a great thing freedom and democracy are. One child covered his ears and pleaded, “I’m not supposed to listen to people talk about that word! My parents are republicans!”
We were reading history about the Souix and Wichita Indians when one kid asked, “Did they have Halloween witches back then?” I finally realized that child had thought it was “witch Indians.” Then a more mature student said he heard the Indians really did sue the United States about having their campgrounds taken away from them. He wondered, ‘Is that why they call it the Souix tribe?’ I guess tomorrow we’ll need to have a Pow-Wow.
November comes so soon after October that Halloween and Indians get a little confused . . . We read about the Kamakazee Indians although my teacher’s book said Comanche – it must have been a different edition. I didn’t even know they had Indians in Japan!
In another discussion last fall we learned lots of Native American words. One boy rushed up to me a day or so later and said, “My mother used to be a worrier. Everybody says that about her. Does that make her part Indian? He had learned the word warrior –almost. Another joined in with, “My dad is one quart Indian!” Suddenly, I felt one quart low . . .
One Friday after a grueling week, I headed to the nearest coffee shop with some friends, wearily laying my one head on the table. When the waitress came, I mumbled, “I need some of that dead coffee.” She took one look and understood and immediately rushed right over with Decaf!
You can see why almost every day of my life as a teacher gives me a near life experience:-)
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Contact author for permission for use in print or online.