Poets, yes. Spies, no.

Sixth graders are not stealthy. This isn’t news to me, but it was brought to my attention today –yet again – in a quite adorable way.

April is National Poetry Month. April is National Poetry Month and my kiddos have been writing poems. April is National Poetry Month, my kiddos have been writing poems, and one of this year’s dads was Poet Laureate of our town. I invited him in to talk to the class. Today.
This is where the not-so-stealthy part comes in.

Mr. Kiddo is in front of the class doing an excellent job of speaking about his writing process. He’s sharing some truly beautiful poems. I’m trying not to tear-up as he reads a poem about when his 12-year-old Buckaroo was just a baby. I glance around the classroom and notice something…

Most of the kiddos are entranced, chins in hands, leaning forward with rapt attention. But two… no, make that three. No, actually it’s four. Wait! FIVE! Five kiddos are futzing in their desks, or have put their head down, or are scribbling something in notebooks on their laps. WHAT? This is unacceptable. We are respectful in room 202!

I attempt some stealth of my own, trying to walk quietly across the room while my heels clack on the tile. One looks up with a sheepish grin as I approach. A second startles and slides what he’s writing into his desk. A third stays face down; her forehead pressed against the edge of the desk. I tap her shoulder, she jumps. I crouch and whisper: “Sweetpea, what are you doing? That’s not very polite.”

And then – I get it. I see the notebook in her lap and I get it. I peer across the table and spy another kiddo doing the same thing. I get it.

They’re writing.

They’ve been inspired by Mr. Kiddo, his talk, and his poems: they’re writing.

“Sorry, Mrs. Schmidt,” whispers the pink-cheeked Sweetpea.

I wink. “Promise I’ll give you writing time after,” I whisper before patting her shoulder, standing, and not-so-stealthily clacking back across the room with a proud smile stretched ear to ear.

A Raven’ Scaredy Cat

Today was dark and gloomy. And a half day for the kiddos. I decided that since Mother Nature was cooperating and it is Poetry Month, we’d study Poe’s The Raven.

I shut the blinds and killed the lights. Turned up the volume of the recording I have of Basil Rathbone reading the poem in a delightfully British accent. Would it be too scary? I watched the kiddos closely for cues.

Not scared, the kids were spellbound. They listened. We discussed. They asked to listen again. Who am I to deny them poetry pleasure? I hit play and ducked out of the room to visit the teacher across the hall and borrow her freakishly realistic fake raven: complete with feathers and beady eyes. I stepped back into the room and most of the kiddos didn’t even look up from their copies of the poem.

I walked over to one kiddo who was concentrating particularly hard: forehead leaned against the edge of his desk as he studied the poem in his lap. Holding a finger to my lips for the sake of his smiling desk neighbors, I placed the bird on his desk. When he shifted to turn the page, his shocked double-take was quite comical.

I repeated this to great effect with three other students. The kiddos weren’t really scared, just startled and amused. When the poem ended, they begged to write their own scary poems. Being the selfless teacher that I am, I agreed to let them learn, practice their writing skills, and share the results.

Then it was noon and time for them to leave.

I had the classroom to myself and four hours to put a dent in a Everest-sized pile of grading. I looked at the pile and sighed:

Once upon a [afternoon] dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious [page] of forgotten [answers],

Remember that dark and gloomy day? Ten minutes after the last bus it turned a lot darker and a LOT gloomier. And then came the lightning. The building-shaking thunder. The rain so loud I couldn’t hear the showtunes I’d turned on.

All that fear I’d worried about inspiring in my students – it must have been on delay, because I found myself terrified; irrationally, embarrassingly quaking in the middle of my classroom. I turned on all the lights, and turned the showtunes up louder, singing along in a quavery voice and fighting the urge to duck under my desk and cower.

And then IT happened.

Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my [classroom] door

I may have squealed a little bit and shot a horrified glance at the model bird before realizing that it was only the teacher across the hall asking if I wanted to go to lunch.

I made her take back the bird before I agreed.

Poems & Pranks… it’s April 1st

Today is April 1st. In the teaching world this is a day of greatness and a day of dread.
Dread because it’s April Fools’ Day – and when you teach 6th grade, that means anything, anything could happen. Gone are the days of whoopie cushions or chalk in the eraser (I don’t use chalk & eraser’s electronic). Anything could happen.

Luckily not too much did. (Have I mentioned lately that I <3 my class?) They did try a cute little trick, convinced the art teacher to let half of them hide in the back room and she told me they’d been sent to the office.

Clearly my kiddos aren’t schemers because they chose all the teacher’s-pets to be the hiders, which I kinda get – they don’t get in REAL trouble, but it’s safe to pretend. The remaining kiddos giggled, hid grins behind marker-smudged hands, and examined their shoes.

I played along. “Really? They got in trouble? I’m so disappointed. What did they do?”
*crickets*
“Surely you guys must’ve seen something. What happened?”
“Um, they were goofing off.”
“And being disrespectful.”
“Yeah! Disrespectful – that’s it.”
“And then one of them threw something.”
“Uh-huh, and it hit me in the head”

“Wow. That’s awful! I’m so proud of you for not getting involved. Maybe you guys should have the night off of homework. That’ll be my thank you for behaving.” I raised my voice so the crowd tittering in supply closet could hear, “And those other kids – man – they’re going to have so much homework, they’re going to wish they never got came to school today. They know better!”

The ‘behavers’ were about to lose it, so I winked at the art teacher and started walking them back to class.

We made it about halfway down the hall before the others came tearing up after us, laughing and whooping: “We got you so good!” “Ha ha!” “April Fools.”

I froze, put on a stern face, and turned to face them: “Sixth grade! Is that how we walk in the hallway? Turn around, go back to the art room and try again.”

When the hiders slunk into the classroom, they were nervous. I kept my sternest face on and addressed them: “I don’t care about the prank, that was actually pretty funny – but what about that hallway behavior? Is that how we walk in the halls? Were you being role models?”

Chastised, they lowered their heads. “No.”

“Not at all! Why don’t you come in at recess and reflect on appropriate hallway behavior.”

*sighs and sorrys*

I let them fret through Reading class – possibly the most evil thing I’ve ever done as a teacher – then lined them up for lunch. “Those of you that had some hallway issues this morning, don’t forget to meet me in outside the cafe after lunch. We’ll have a discussion about that behavior and then maybe write some letters to your parents telling them what happened this morning.”

Shoulders slumped, okays were muttered.

Without missing a beat, I shut off the lights and led them out of the classroom: “Now let’s have a nice quiet line all the way down to lunch. And April Fools.”

The kiddos were halfway down the stairs before the first kid stopped and said: “WAIT! Did you say…? Did she say…?”

Kiddos, don’t mess with me – this is my 6th time in sixth grade. You’ve only been here six months.

Oh, and the reason today is wonderful? It’s the first day of poetry month.

Today we listened to and analyzed George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From.”

Some of the kiddo’s responses made me teary. And not in that I’m-scared-you’re-going-prank-me way.

Luckily, there’s another 29 days of poetry month, while April Fools’ doesn’t reoccur for another 364 days.

That gives me plenty of time to plan for next year!

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