Saturday, February 11, 2012


This has been my year of falling in love with kindergarten. I teach a lesson every morning in a kindergarten class, and I find those little munchkins to be so darn sweet and charming. They are excited to see me every day; sometimes I pass one or two in the hallway as they are taking the attendance to the office, and they'll say things like, "Oh, no! I'm going to miss the beginning of phonics!" It's quite a stark contrast to the fifth and sixth graders I work with, who tend to give me a strange look when I say hi to them in the halls.

The past couple of weeks, the kindergarteners have been studying ocean animals. The kids chose which animal they were most interested in -- the options were sharks, manatees, sea stars (apparently they're not called starfish anymore), whales, jellyfish, etc. I worked with the shrimp group. As you can imagine, it's not every kindergartener who will choose shrimp as the animal they find most fascinating. I had myself a pretty special little gang of shrimp enthusiasts (including Ethel from the class I work in, who frequently calls out to me as the class is saying goodbye to me, "I love you, Ms. Heathen!!!").

We learned all about shrimp: what they eat, what animals are similar to them, what body parts they have, how they grow new legs when one falls off, and how much protein they have (a lot, making them a delectable dish; I suspect the kids may have been more passionate about eating them than anything). The kids made books and labeled shrimp body parts. We made a very creative Cray-Pas poster of a shrimp. They wrote facts about shrimp and practiced reading them out loud.

Finally, Wednesday was the big presentation for the parents. The task: to present their shrimp poster and read shrimp facts. My little shrimp-lovers are pretty self-aware, so not everyone volunteered to read a fact, knowing they'd feel nervous about it. Two of my little guys said they only felt comfortable reading a fact together, and suggested they alternate reading words. I quickly dismissed this suggestion: "They'll be able to hear you better if you read it together," I instructed.

After the whale group, it was our big moment. Ethel spaced on her fact, so I whispered it to her, trying to avoid whispering into the microphone and partly failing. Then she handed the microphone to the two co-readers. "Shrimps," said the boy alone, and I thought, oh no, she's too nervous to chime in. But instead, she said, "eat,' into the microphone, and it continued: "dead," he said, then she said, "and," he said, "rotten," and she ended with "things." For a moment I was annoyed by their insurrection, but frankly, it was adorable (and not at all difficult to hear). The parents laughed, then erupted into spontaneous applause.

"You changed it!" I said to them.

"Well, that was the way we really wanted to do it," the little girl explained, smiling up at me. So I told them it was fantastic, and made a mental note to myself to be less bossy next time, and to stop assuming that teachers know best.

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