Excuse Me Sir, I Believe You Dropped Your Turtle

It is hard to imagine that I have only been teaching for 4 days. Literally everyday feels like two, and when you are planning in advance, the days just seem to blend together. This is not to say, though, that I have had a bad first few days of school. In fact, they have been quite enjoyable. Long, but enjoyable.

I will definitely need to post a picture of my classroom soon–and of course one of my class–but there has not been enough time yet to make it worth uploading the pictures. I will do this before the week is out.

The first couple days has just been a ton of repetition. I feel as though I am trying to start a tracktor-trailer without a spark plug. Every routine, every rule, every procedure has to be explained, and then explained again, and then explained again, and then you have to make an example out of someone. There is just so much to do before I can effectively teach my class that I constantly have to remember im teaching how to learn. It is really easy to just breeze through material, but the kids won’t understand it. For example, I have a banking system in my class. The students can earn money (or SMACKERS as I call them) when they perform exceptional work or make the classroom a better place for everyone. Using this money they can also buy treats and other rewards. I also use this money to “tax” them for behaving badly and if they forget their materials, I will charge them to use mine. They love Smackers. They think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I had to teach them all how to use the bank and keep track of their personal funds. About half of my students can now tell you what the words deposit, transaction, and withdrawal mean.

I could go on forever with stories about school, and in time I will, but for now I have two I want to share; one short and one long.

I assigned my students to write me a letter telling me about themselves. I prompted them with a sheet of questions. They were required to answer 6 questions when writing me this letter. The best response I have gotten so far (authors note: my students refer to me as Don Josh): “I am really happy that I am in your class Don Josh. Sometimes I look up at you and think that you are so tall that you are somewhere in the sky. I wish I would be as tall as you.”

That will be 2 smackers for complimenting the teacher.

Story two. This one is much better.

I have planning first period while the Social Studies teacher is with my class. I was in the office when a parent came in to give me the rest of her son’s school supplies. I talked with her for a moment and then she left. I returned to my classroom to find a gatorade bottle filled with small brown pellets. I quickly looked over it thinking the Social Studies teacher left something behind and I would just return it later. I did not think, “What is this strange gatorade bottle doing on my desk, and why is it filled with brown pellets?” Those were not my thoughts as any sane person might have wondered. Instead I went on moving into the next lesson and organizing my things to begin. I started teaching, glanced over at my lesson plan when I noticed a strange blue receptacle lying at the foot of my desk. It looked like an ovular bowl with a fake plastic palm tree in the middle and it appeared to be filled with water. Knowing that I did not put this blue thing there I looked closer when I realize that THERE WAS A TURTLE PLAYING INSDIE THE WATER.

Dear Class,

DID IT NOT OCCUR TO YOU TO TELL ME THAT THERE IS A TURTLE IN THE CLASSROOM!

Sincerely,
Don Josh

Why is there a turtle in the classroom? Why did nobody mention this? Who brought it here? What is going on right now?

These are all the questions I have now vocalized to my classroom as I picked up the “tank” and placed it on the desk. In unison, my class responds, “oh, that is just Dribble, our turtle.”

Oh yeah, by the way Don Josh, we have a class turtle that Michael has been taking care of, now you have to take care of him.

I don’t know the first thing about caring for a turtle nor had anyone up until that moment told me that we had a class pet, that this class pet was still alive and that I was now the keeper of this class pet.

Dribble a red eared slider about the size of a flattened (ellipsoidal?) baseball. He constantly looks like he is trying to escape from his tank, which is breaking by the way, and he is pretty hungry all the time. I am still shell shocked about this whole thing.

The fact that the mother, who has been caring for this animal the entire summer and has come to school to drop the turtle off, fails to mention this to me in our 2 minute discussion absolutely boggles my mind. The fact that Mr. Tim, their former teacher, did not once mention it to me is unbelievable. The fact that the two returning teachers did not mention it astounds me.

Welcome to Honduras. Remember to look both ways when crossing the street. Be sure not to drink the tap water and always bring a bucket into the shower in case the water goes out. This is your classroom, and here is “How to be a teacher in 4 weeks.” Good luck with the class turtle. He needs to be fed 3 times a day and his water changed weekly.
Is it Friday yet?