Of These My Children: Drinking Quiet Punch

My classroom is in a small private school in the woods. It’s not exactly where “the deer and the antelope play” but we all enjoy the rooster, hens and even the turtle. However, Miss Popcorn Goat gives us the main reason to come to school each day.

As the students began to arrive, a gal commented on the workers outside,“I’m so glad you’re preparing the roof.” There had been a leak and I was also happy the workers were repairing it. 

One kid wanted me to know what the Dr. said, “The lady told my mom my ears are possessed.” I had to stop and think a minute before I could process this startling information. The written report said he had a challenge with auditory processing. Wow, did I ever have fun helping him understand the devil wasn’t actually involved…

After everyone settled down we were ready for Math. I often try to generate a bit of motivation before the work starts. I mentioned saving for a goal and how being able to add would be a big help. One kind soul spoke up, “Guess what I’d save for–an electric chair for old people.” Before I could chide her she added, “’cause my grandma has a hurting back.” Then I was able to breathe knowing the old people were safe after all.

Thinking of grandmas I was reminded of long ago when my own kids would rush to the phone for “Wrong Distance phone calls” from their grandparents across the country. Did you know there was a time when people even would yell into the phone on long distance phone calls.

Brainstorming is supposed to be a good thing. But sometimes it’s more like a tornado. In Math we were learning about shapes. A boy sounded out the next one: “ox  ee  gone.”  While I was looking to see where his eyes were pointed, a helpful student said, “Do you mean oxygen?” I said, “It’s a shape called octagon with eight sides.”  Someone else piped up with, “But October isn’t the eighth month!” Oh boy, was I in trouble now!

In Social Studies we were studying Transportation and one kid held up a beautiful picture book about sailing boats. He showed us one with a sleeping cabin and asked, “Who would stir the boat while everyone slept?” From then on, when I was on a boat I couldn’t help but watch to be sure someone was steering it.

In Reading class we were discussing superstition. We were giving examples and I mentioned Friday the 13th. A gal said, “Yeah, I know people think bad things happen then. That’s because of the movie Friday the 13th.” Sometimes lack of historical perspective makes cause and effect trade places in a child’s mind.

In Geography one kid knew where the Dementia Republic was. He pointed straight to what we used to call the Dominican Republic in my day.

And a guy had just checked out a book on The Battle of Lexington. His friend asked, “What was the score on that one?”  Bet his dad watches lots of football. The next week he checked out The Battle of Concord. He inquired, “Do they call it that because they conquered the enemy?” 

Everyone seemed to enjoy ending the day with some fine music. As the class quieted, a child asked, “Is that Mozart’s or Beethoven’s Ninth Sympathy?” And I thought some symphony music would calm everything down. How wrong I was.

I needed some peace and quiet to recover from my full day of explaining and clarifying — over and over. So I opened my lunch kit and pulled out some Hawaiian Punch. I thought I’d indulge in what my dear student had mentioned at lunch time: drinking quiet punch. 


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Of These My Children: Brain Percussions

In my over 40 years of teaching, I found laughter to be the poetry of my life. My students make me want to get up each morning just to see what else can happen.

In Science we were learning about flowers. It seems so appropriate with half of the kids’ noses reacting to the first signs of spring: pollen callin’. One child was pointing to a chart as they named parts of a flower. When we got to the word pistil, a boy who did car stuff with his dad said, “Pistons” and  knew right then I was in trouble. It was hard enough teaching that a pistil isn’t a gun without now having to get into car mechanics. But, as I’ve always said we don’t teach subjects, we teach students, so I drove right into explaining.

Social Studies always brings history alive. One young scholar read a title, “How the Invention of the Steel Pillow Helped the West.” Before I could get my mouth working another guy yelled out, “But who would want to sleep on steel?” I had to dig up a video of a plow for this one!

You would have thought I’d just skip Social Studies the next day, but no, I jumped into the fray again. A girl was so excited to see find out we were learning about a castle range. The herds of cattle included several colors and breeds. Maybe next week’s art should highlight castles.

Computers are a big part of the learning in my class. I’m always happy when students have their own devices at home. One gal assured me, “My daddy will give me his computer as soon as he can buy a new mother for it.” I decided this was a good day to learn about motherboards. 

In Language children are taught to express themselves by writing sentences, then paragraphs. I wondered if I should have stayed home the day a boy said he was going to write a suppository paragraph! We had learned descriptive and persuasive paragraphs but somehow I must have gone wrong in teaching the expository paragraph!

One day a week is Library Day. An astute young lady said, “My brother is reading a Boris Pastor Snack book. I had to stop and clarify Boris Pasternak won a Nobel Prize for Dr. Zhivago in 1958.  However, I couldn’t help but wonder if I should take a snack for my pastor next Sunday just in case.

At Lunch the kiddoes rattle off some of the words which have been swirling through their brains. A girl was so happy she just got emitted to Girl Scouts. I admitted to her that this was quite a wonderful thing.

A boy piped up with, “My mom was talking about getting the dog a vacation last night. Why in the world would a dog need a vacation?!!” While the other kids laughed I had him recall when he got shots at the doctor’s office. He developed a quick case of sympathy for his dog right then and there.

As we returned to class one child saw a nurse arriving with a box of equipment. They bombarded her with questions and she said she’d check their ears in a little while. One gal whispered excitedly to her friend, “We’re getting our ears pierced today!”  They were both a bit disappointed when they realized the main purpose of ears is to hear.

In Math we were looking at several kinds of thermometers. One buy blurted out, “Does it tell what time it is?” Before my mouth could open, another kid supplied a confident answer, “No, unless it’s in your mouth. Then it tells what time it is in your mouth.”  Hmm, there’s a bit of truth since it might tell you it’s time to go to the doctor.  

At the end of the period I told the students the next day we would be learning Divisibility Rules which were made a long time ago. A kid added, “I thought the king was the one who ruled back then.”  Oh, no. Cleanup on aisle 3. We just had a collision of Math and History!

When the students had left for the day I just sat there. Maybe I was getting one of those brain percussions a boy had said his brother got playing football. I just sat there a while  in full sympathy for myself since THIS WAS ONLY MONDAY!!!

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.


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Of These My Children: A Pigment of My Imagination

The little private school set back in the woods has some energetic students with lots of great ideas. They love to walk by Roo as he goes about his morning wake-up routine. Sometimes they even crow with him as they say “Good Morning, Mr. Ster.” You see, the kids think they rule the roost, but that rooster knows he’s the ruler of the school!

Sometimes we read outside when the weather is nice. The students had already done their silent reading and we were finishing up with some shared oral reading. One young guy clearly spoke, “The pastor was cooked by the waffle iron.” In an effort to rescue the poor minister from bodily harm I told the children all about how delicious a pastry could be. Next week we’ll study synonyms like pastor and minister.

For Reading we had planned to go to the Library but the schedule was different today and we went before lunch instead of after. As we approached the area, one young man said firmly, “No, we can’t go now because she’s sitting down.” Well, the mind of a child is a glory to behold. His mom and grandmother had told him when they were sitting down not to bother them so he thought the same rule should apply to the library lady.

Spelling sentences can be quite creative. A young scholar wrote, “We are learning where to put the constipation marks.” Maybe tomorrow would be a nice day to review the meaning of quotation marks. I don’t think we’ll need any Pepto Bismal.

A young scholar asked me “how to spell violence” but I hesitated, wondering if that was a good word to use in this lesson. Then he added “You know, those flowers.” After I choked on a slight cough I spelled violets. 

But the show must go on. So we practiced writing the words to study for our test. One gal bemoaned, “I have a hard time with those contraptions!” She wasn’t the only one. Several students had trouble with the conception of contractions.

I decided to stop and have a poem before lunch since all the children seem to know Where The Sidewalk Ends although I’ve never quite known where it ends. Shel Silverstein knows and so does all the students in my class.

At Lunch, we eat in the shade of the sideyard while the children share tidbits of their lives in between bites. One gal said her parents had an anniversary and her dad gave her mom a crochet. Before my tongue could hang out she followed up with, “I asked my mom if I could  wear it to church Sunday.” Hmmm, I then realized that would be a corsage.

In Science we were taking apart an owl’s pellets to study their diet. One guy piped up with, “This is interesting. Can we digest a frog next?” Looks like it was time to add a little math and explain what dissect meant, so at math time we made angles and then dissected them. The next day we used large frog pictures and had a chance to dissect them with our scissors.

Then at Math time the kids were pairing up and practicing adding up columns of numbers. One little gal was so proud to announce, “We just added up 4 turtles.” Since I didn’t see any wiggly legs or heads poking out, I finally registered that they were getting totals! I made sure they knew they were totally cool for such good math work.

Now that the warmup was finished, we were learning about the concept of rate. A girl began to scold me, saying a teacher shouldn’t teach about rape!” So this became a lesson where Math and Spelling worked together to help me clear it up as I wrote it on the board.

We ended the day with story time. One guy assured everyone that Alice in Wonderland was “just a pigment of our imagination.” That inspired me to write FICTION on the board.

As the kids left the room I pulled open a drawer and munched on some dark chocolate and as I took a sip of water I drowsily mused that the whole day must have just been a figment of my imagination.

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

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Of These My Children: Eating Beef Turkey

I love going to school each day! The students there teach me so much about my world. Sometimes that world spins around so fast I have trouble keeping up. But there is always a child who explains it all to me. Sometimes I even believe them.  .  .

Two guys walked into the classroom together. One had a pink face and I looked questioningly at him. His buddy quickly cleared it up, “His mom put some calico on his itches.” I wonder if the  Caladryl company might ought to trademark that name too.

Did I mention I’ve been teaching for a very long time?  Here’s one from long ago and far away, but it might remind some of us of the present mindset in the air. A boy bounced into the room hollering, “I know who won the election! Nixon won and The Government lost. Daddy sure was glad. He hated The Government.” I stopped in my tracks till I realized the other candidate was McGovern! 

I don’t always teach Science ‘by the book’. One day I walked in with a model brain. The kids wondered about me as I told them to take a deep breath and lay their heads down and let that air get to your brain. As I expounded on the brain, they interacted and I heard a guy whisper to some others, “Good, so any day we don’t want to work. We’ll get her to talking about the brain.” Folks, this is what you call a win-win since all our goals were being met: They didn’t know they’re learning, and I got a chance to teach in a way they won’t forget. The Bull Horn Award goes once around!

Another day that week while we were naming body parts from a chart one boy asked where the kidney was. While I was trying to show him the two kidneys he followed up with “My uncle has kidney sperms.” I quickly corrected his word to stones and he yelled “I’m gonna tell my mom that he gets stoned!” It took me a while to untangle that kidney. 

Everyone’s favorite time is recess, of course. The students are well aware that my methods may be a bit different. Two kids were arguing and one started to walk off. A confident gal marched up and did my job for me: “You aren’t leaving till you dissolve your differences!”  It was time for me to jump in and resolve the situation.

Since I enjoy teaching a unit immersed in several subjects, we were making art objects which we’d later use for a Star Wars skit. One gal was really skillful so she pitched in to make “her friend’s stagger” I looked where she pointed in the poster and saw a dagger  staring back at me. The friend was so grateful she made it for him and he told her, “Now I can be Luke Stalker.” I just hate to be the bearer of bad news so I reverted to an animal story where the lion is the stalker before I talked about Luke Skywalker.

At Lunch we go outside to the picnic tables. Some students prefer the Chocolate Porch. The kids enjoy visiting while they eat and watch the squirrels and birds having recess all day. One young lady told me her mom just got some “contract lenses”. I had to compete with the sounds of nature to make contac with her brain that day.

One day I finally realized why some kiddoes resist Math. A little scholar asked me, “It says to name the fractions that are shady. How do I know?” Well, I’ve spent many years trying to figure out who are the shady ones. However I was able to show her how some part of each shape was shaded and she ended up having a great day in Math after all.

There was just time to practice our Spelling words one more time before the day ended. Halfway through a young man asked me, “How do you spell apostrophe s?” 

I decided then and there it was time for us all to sit a spell, so I pulled out a storybook and read the children a story before their rides arrived. While I was reading, a little guy was eating something. When I asked where did he get that he said, “I had some beef turkey in my pocket.” 

When all the students were gone I sat down and had a snack too. Tomorrow I’ll probably find out whether it was beef jerky or turkey jerky . . .

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Of These My Children: Pardon the Eruption!

School can be such a fun place for teachers and students alike. As long as there is a pizza garden, a chocolate porch and Miss Popcorn Goat as a mascot.

I always enjoy greeting the students as they arrive. One gal rushed in saying her mom would be coming later to bring a “sheep cake.” I find myself once again reminded of how old I must be since in my day we called it a sheet cake.”

In Math class we were putting a number puzzle in order and a smart little guy remarked, “Look, this is the first, and here’s the tooth one in a row. Now, where is the third?” This reminded me of how really illogical our language is. Perhaps whoever thought of the word second may not have been as bright as this pre-schooler!

In Reading we were learning about different kinds of stories. The question was asked, “What is a fable?” One guy confidently yelled out, “You mean like fable TV?”  Oh boy, it looks like my work is cut out for me!

We were doing Round Robin Reading and suddenly the young lady who was reading lowered her voice and read, “Sally turned as she heard a fart sound.”  For some reason I made a faint sound telling her it was time to stop reading for now. After that I couldn’t help but think the room needed a little airing out. So we went outside for lunch.

Sometimes I find it hard to swallow my food during lunch. As we started eating, a guy asked  why they used polish on dill pickles? Who knew groceries would present such a challenge? After I clarified there was no shoe polish on his pickle I made a mental note to go to Poland during Social Studies tomorrow.

In Language class we discussed how English is the language we speak, read and write. An eager gal spoke up with, “My mom does’t write it but she knows conjugational Spanish.” I decided then and there to drop my plans for a written assignment and resort to a conversational lesson. 

Spelling magnifies the importance of minute details. Some students were practicing their words orally when one suddenly reminded me of my days on the farm! Since we were learning contractions that week Ronald very clearly spelled he’s by saying, “H…e…possum feed…s”

He was quickly corrected by another guy who clarified it was really “posser fee” to which I decided then and there to write an apostrophe song! It would give us a chance to practice syllables by using four fingers each time we chanted, “APOSTROPHE BEFORE THE S. DID I SPELL IT RIGHT? WE ALL SAY YES!”

The next day I wondered if spelling makes you thirsty. This time we did practice dictation of our words for the younger kids. When I said “run” a young student confidently wrote “rum”. Now folks, I don’t even drink and I wanted a drink!

In our Science class I learned some of the older shows are available on TV now. We were reviewing our safety guidelines and I asked the class, “What does it mean to be hazardous?” My most adventurous boy yelled out, “I know—like Dukes of Hazard!” Science class took a sharp turn that day, and it took me a little longer than usual to explain my way through this one!

One fine young man had the manners of a true gentleman. He broke in ties, “Pardon the erupton.”  Before I could recuperate from that someone pointed to a photo of a guyser and proclaimed, “Wow, look at that interruption!” 

Well, at least my students were keeping things in balance. I realized it was almost time to go home ao I decided to put volcano pictures on all the computers tomorrow. As the classroom emptied I began to shake till a well-earned belly laugh managed to escape. Since I was alone, I had no need to ask anyone to Pardon my eruption!

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Of These My Children: Grandma’s in a Treasure Chest!

My classroom teaches me new things every day. They look at the world in their very own special way. My job is to wonder and learn while sharing basic skills with them.

One girl angrily jerked her sweater off the minute she arrived. She said her mother made her wear it but she didn’t want to sweat!

Midmorning we have a class called Listening, and the kiddoes eat a snack. I’ve noticed that makes their ears work better. I usually read a story but one day we saw a video lon The Alps. All was quiet, as per our practice during thistle, till a little cherub screeched out, “I hate apple music.” No, it wasn’t about online preferences, it was opera  music in the background!

Math is an exciting time with all those numbers flying around. I was getting ready to move on to Math class when a girl asked, “Can I go to the Math Room?” Hmm, and I thought we were in the math room till I saw the urgency one his face. I waved him on to the bathroom.

Later a young scholar asked me what a “crime factor” was. Before I could put my sleuth hat on I glanced at his Math page and saw the exercise in prime factors. It looked like some explanation was of prime importance. Teaching can be an exercise in forensics!

At lunch the children discuss their everyday lives. One girl said her mom refused to buy her a toy yesterday, saying it was “highway bribery.”  Sometimes I get to work during lunch–clarifying how words like bribery and robbery almost rhyme.

Social Studies class lets us take trips around the world. One day we studied about a country’s natural futures, or so one kid said. Instead of expounding on the stock market I decided to add features and creatures to our Rhyming wall.

Then a well-read student told us about three Baltic states: Latvia, Estonia and Leukemia. My friend from Lithuania might disagree with his pronunciation.

A boy named William happily hollered: “My nickname is in this book! See, it says we all need to take responsi Billy.”  I decided to take responsibility for defining that one tomorrow.

This week Science meant time to do an inside job, traveling inside our bodies. An astute young lady used a Human Body chart to point to each of the bodily systems. I did a double take when she clearly said Secretary System! Sometimes after 2 or 3 syllables all words look alike to young readers. I decided to get our red and blue markers and spend just a little more time on the Circulatory System. 

When we were finishing the Respiratory System I pointed out the cilia inside the nose. Just as I managed to tell how it helps keep stray particles out a boy declared he knew all about that. He said, “Sometimes my nose feels kinda silly too.”

At the end of the day one child saw her mom and hollered,  “Are we going to the Shocking Center?” Her mom countered with, “No, son it’s a Shopping Center, but with their prices maybe it could be called a Shocking Center.”

A sweet little gal had been pretty quiet all day. I made sure to visit with her while we were waiting on the cars. She said she was sad about her grandma dying.   Her mom later told me that at the funeral this little angel blurted out, “Look! They put Grandma in a treasure chest!”

Actually, her grandma is in a treasure chest for all time, that is true. And that sweet granddaughter will always be her grandma’s treasure.   But she isn’t the only one. I spend my days in a very special treasure chest–my classroom.

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.



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Of These My Children: Looking Famous!

Teaching has always brought me joy and satisfaction, but I never dreamed it would lead to looking famous. It all happened in a normal school day.

It started like any other day in the classroom–except for the argument–as two students  who  arrived at the same time were disagreeing on how to pronounce a term. One said, “Everyone knows it’s Bob Wire; I guess they named it after a man named Bob.”  The girl matched his volume with great confidence, “No, it was a woman named Barb!” Looks like it’s time for a little Texas history, so I’ll look up some pictures of barbed wire and we’ll go over the meaning. Maybe we could do some arts and crafts and make fences with pipe cleaners for the sharp edges.

Everyone is happy when Library Day comes.  The students enjoy showing each other what books they checked out. One boy was excited about 20,000 Leagues Under the Siege.” Vocabulary is such a constant companion to a teacher. I realized we’d have a chance to compare and contrast baseball leagues with leagues in the ocean.  The boys will be glad to play a war game as we learn the meaning of siege. Then as we return from recess we can play like we’re swimming to the edge of the seas!

As the class was buzzing quietly with numbers flying in and out of their heads, one child just couldn’t resist bragging, “I’m a good adder!”  For a moment there, I could imagine a snake wandering around the room helping the kids with adding. Actually, it was a fairly fitting description of this boy as he loved to mingle--even in math time when we were only allowed to talk about numbers. His idea was that if he game answers to their adding problems, THEY would become good adders too. Boy, did I have some explaining to do!

When the weather permits the children love eating lunch in the sideboard at picnic tables or on The Chocolate Porch under the Sweet Gum Tree.

When I overheard a remark by a fine young gentleman I choked on my food. He said, “I want to be a high school dropout.”  Being a teacher-type I simply had to ask why: “All my uncles are dropouts and they all drive neat cars.” Hmm, tomorrow I’d better start clarifying the value of an education with my dear students. I agree, not everyone needs college. Some thrive in vocational schools or apprenticeships, etc. However, I do want all of my kiddoes to finish high school! Maybe we can start by talking about cause and effect, then discuss how the world has changed in the last few generations since nowadays most jobs require at least a high school diploma.

Language class had just begun. Suddenly a girl confessed, “I love reading with my Grandma but when we do it in school it’s not as much fun.” I had to further break her heart by telling her the name of today’s lesson I had just written on the board was Grammar, not Grandma. I guess it’s time to bring out that game about words that start alike again.

Now that we were on the subject of grandparents one boy told us, “My grandpa is getting a hearing aid cause he’s going death.” I decided it was time for the spelling pre-test. Anything to get them off the topic before someone started talking about funerals!

As I prepared for the end of the day, I slipped a jacket on to stay warm as I saw the children to their cars. One style-conscious young lady hollered out, “You’re looking famous in that fancy jacket!”  I thought I’d better quit while I was ahead, so I began to do the royal wave as the kids left for the day.:-)

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain author’s permission for use in print or online.

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