I woke up not feeling well today. I decided to give school a shot, though, on my way there, I realized it was not a good idea. I taught for a portion of the morning. And within those short two hours I was there, I witnessed two amazing things….
I was shifting through some stuff on my countertop as students were arriving, and lo and behold, out popped a centipede. A big one. I can handle most insects, but centipedes give me the heebie-jeebies. So I let out a little “Woah!” and backed up. Of course, most students popped out of their reading zones and came to find out what caught me by surprise.
“There’s a big bug— crawling on that container,” I pointed out. This only made them want to look closer, as the bug disappeared behind a stack of containers I had on the counter. I warned, “He’ll be coming around the other side.” So, they all gathered on the other side of the stack, and sure enough, the big sucker came wriggling out. This elicited many screams. The bug suddenly shifted gears and came at full speed toward the children. It was total pandemonium as the bug dove off the counter and onto the floor. It sped toward my teacher bag which was on the floor and I tried to step on it. This brought on more chaos, as my foot caused it to change directions. Students began pushing book baskets and chairs out of its path as though it were some sort of man-eating creature. I tried to raise my voice above all of the screaming, and I said “Someone step on it!” Thankfully, a brave soul (or should I say- sole?) stomped down and squashed the bug.
Now, I know that it could have been a valuable lesson for me to pop a jar over the bug and release it into the wild, but with the way I was feeling and all of the havoc that was taking place, I knew what had to be done.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the brave soul wiped the remains of the giant bug off of his shoe.
“What was that?” one girl asked.
“I don’t know— but I know how we can find out!” another answered.
Without my suggestion or prompting, the students plunged into the non-fiction baskets in my room looking for any books that had any sort of bug references. There were not many, because I have a huge box of bug books at home that I pull for our project study on bugs in the spring. My classroom library isn’t big enough to house them there all year.
Students began digging through, and they would find obscure similar looking books.
“Do you think it was this, Mr. Teut?”
“No, look closely at the caption- those bugs are only found in Africa.”
I knew very well it was a centipede, but I wanted students to figure it out for themselves.
“Oh! I found it!”
There it was, in one of Scholastic’s “World’s Creepiest Animals” or something similar.
Everyone gathered around and agreed- that was the bug in our classroom, the centipede.
“It says here they are poisonous, Mr. Teut!”
“Keep reading— it says that their poison is usually meant for killing other bugs to eat.”
“We need more information on this bug! What if it had babies in the wall!’
“I bet it came out of the hole right there.”
“Does his shoe have poison on it since he stepped on it?”
I was amazed. And proud. We were 20 minutes behind schedule at this point, but I couldn’t give up this valuable experience.
I was also still not feeling up to par. We began our day, and as we transitioned into reading workshop, I had “I Wanna New Room!” by Karen Orloff ready to share as a mentor text for some persuasive writing.
“You shouldn’t have to read that, Mr. Teut. Let one of us read it.”
I was not feeling up to reading, so I passed the book along to another reader, and sat back in a chair and joined the listeners. They listened well for him. He read well for them.
I felt great joy- that the students cared so much about me and our community that they took responsibility over that moment. Students have sat in the chair to share special things they’ve found while reading, or some of their writing pieces, but no one has ever taken my place and read to the class.
I went home a little later to rest and recover (I’m starting to feel much better). I am glad I was there to witness their curiosity- their knowledge that they need non-fiction– their willingness to contribute to the community.
These are lessons that a basal can’t prepare for you. These are lessons that you can’t even write in a lesson plan book. They just happen. And often, they are the best kinds of lessons. Real, authentic moments.
I’ll be back tomorrow. I just found an entire book about centipedes in my bug book collection. I look forward to seeing what they do with it. I’m not going to write it in my plans.