Thursday, March 14, 2019

An Unexpected Observation

It  had been a busy day, but then again, when is a day at work not busy? Yesterday, though, it seemed like I couldn't get on top of it all more than usual. We were starting a new round of interventions, and I spent my entire prep period preparing for that. (My own fault really. I decided to make flip charts and wasn't thinking how much time it would take to staple 26 flip charts together.) Then there was that moment of panic right before the kids got to class when I realized that I had planned to have my students look at nonfiction texts, but I hadn't gathered up the books yet. Writer's Workshop wasn't until after recess, but this was my day for recess duty, so that 15 minutes of prep time was gone. Frantically, I searched through my classroom library for informational texts with tables of contents. I finished just in the nick of time. The rest of my morning was spent teaching, freezing outside as I watched students complete unfinished work on the work bench at recess, and finishing up the endless stapling job I had created for myself.

All this is to say, by the time I got to social studies at the end of the day, I was not as prepared as I had planned to be. It wasn't a big deal really. I was going to be using a pictorial to teach my class about the Maidu Indians, a lesson I had done numerous times.  Normally, I would have lightly traced my drawings and text with pencil on the chart paper to go over in marker as I was teaching. I had run out of time to trace last year's, so I decided I would simply hang my new chart paper over the old chart on the white board. I would be able to see the through the paper well enough to trace it as I taught. Problem solved.

So, there we were, my students on the floor in front of me with their own papers to copy the pictorial as I filled them in on some interesting facts about the Maidu. We were in the middle of talking about food, when in walked my principal. It was clear she was there for a walk-through. No problem, I thought.

And then she sat down.

Suddenly, the walk-through had become an informal observation. My brilliant solution of hanging the new chart paper over the old one didn't seem so brilliant anymore. It seemed sloppy. I was also acutely aware that my cold-induced raspy voice sounded slightly annoying and my hair was no doubt a complete mess. Nothing I could do about that. 

I was just getting to a fact that I found most interesting. Problem was, even though I knew what I was about to tell them was true and I had heard it from multiple sources, I started to doubt myself. What if I had it all wrong? And here I was about to tell them this preposterous-sounding fact in front of my principal. My hands began to sweat a little. There was nothing to do but carry on. Hoping I appeared enthusiastic and engaging and not just weird, I continued on.

"In addition to birds and mammals, the Maidu had another source of protein."

"Fish!" a few called out.

"Yes," I said, adding "fish" to my chart. "What's really cool, is the Maidu had this plant called soap root." I wrote soap root on my chart.

"Did they use it for soap?" someone inquired. I think they thought they were being funny.

"Yes, they did. But they used it for something else, too. The Maidu would put soap root in the water where they were fishing. . ."

"And the fish would eat it and die!" Giggles erupted around the room.

Normally, my class doesn't call out so much. I was not sure why it was happening now. Probably because my principal was in the room, no doubt making note of my poor management skills.

"Just let me tell the story, would you?" I responded. Everyone laughed.

"The fish would become paralyzed by the soap root and they would float on the water, making it easy for the Maidu to catch. Pretty clever, don't you think?"

They all nodded and murmured their agreement that that was indeed cool. At this point my principal stood up. "Wow, you learn something new every day," she said.

I smiled and agreed, all the while thinking, I just hope it's really true.


  1. I have that problem too! Everything is going well -> nobody pops in unannounced . I am slightly unprepared -> everyone stops in to watch!

  2. Why do observations always seem to happen when I am a little less on top of things? They never come on the days when things are going perfectly! Sounds like you weathered the storm!

  3. I think you did just great - kids were engaged and it was the end of the day. Cool fact about soap root!


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