Sunday, January 27, 2013


On Friday I shared my fascination with The Arabian Nights: Tales from One Thousand and One Nights with my friend Maxine. The stories are basically ancient Middle Eastern fairy tales told by Scheherazade to her husband, the Sultan. The premise being that he has become so bitter by the betrayal of his first wife that henceforth he will wed a virgin one day and kill her the next.  In this manner he avenges his broken heart, takes revenge on womankind and remains impervious to the temptations of love.  Scheherazade is able to escape this fate because she tells him the most marvelous, interconnected stories and he must keep listening.

As I spoke I espoused the merits of going back to the source material by stating, "Fairy tales have become such a common point of reference in our society but I doubt many people have actually read the original stories collected by The Brothers Grimm. I mean, how many times do we make references to Scheherazade without ever having actually read the stories she is credited with telling?"

At this point Maxine gave me a puzzled, raised eyebrow kind of look and told me that most people never reference Scheherazade.


So, I guess it is only me and my good friend Joy who laugh when we imagine an unfortunate Scheherazade running out of stories after one thousand nights by simply announcing...

"I got nuthin!"

Perhaps.  But this got me thinking about the fact that we teach children fairy tales in kindergarten and how I teach my first grade students stories from Greek mythology and Homer's The Illiad and The Odyssey.

Could I supplement that with tales from the Arabian Nights?  Me thinks it can be done!

I also have a parent who is encouraging me to get into the Arthurian legends with my students.  This well-rounded exploration of myths and legends could be another step towards my becoming the Joseph Campbell of the kindergarten/first grade set by providing insights into tot-sized comparative mythology.

Hmmm..something to think about for next year in first grade.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Fish, Two Fish

In kindergarten we are always trying to lure children into magical worlds that reside within the pages of a book.  We endeavor to introduce our students, who are just beginning to step into their literate lives, to the thrill of getting lost in stories.

We encourage parents and caregivers to read books to their little ones so warm, fuzzy feelings of comfort and love surround the reading experience.  We draw children in with mesmerizing tales of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.  Parents give babies indestructible board books to bang around and plastic books to read at bath time.  Children are taught how to hold a book, how to turn the pages and how to "read" the pictures.

It's a fantastic, exciting time for adults because we stand at the edge of the future.  We are helping a child discover more than they could ever imagine.


They get a great deal of attention in school and in the homes of middle class American children.  In kindergarten it is not unusual to talk with our students about books; favorite books, who reads to/with them, who they read to/with, etc.  I've been at this for a while so I thought I heard all of the possible scenarios but one boy happily surprised me when he wrote this...

I like reading a book to fish.

He likes to read a book to his fish.  As he shared with me how this unfolds in a story full of honesty and innocence I was reminded once again why I love teaching. Children are brilliant!

Just like books.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Perfect Little Boy

The Twins - I am on the left and Larry is on the right
That described me as a child - affable, happy, studious, charming, a tad shy.  A lovely little boy. Practically perfect in every way.

At least that's how I remember it.

Funny how memories can color the truth and pooh-pooh the bits we don't like.

Today I was rummaging and reminiscing through a box of possessions from elementary school when I came upon my second grade report card.  It was situated in the midst of attendance awards, reading certificates, school pictures and letters.

How wonderful, thought I, as I picked it up.  What manner of praise did Ms. Groeger bestow upon me back in 1971?  Lets see...

Teacher Comment (February 4, 1971) - Gary has done satisfactory work this marking period, but his behavior has not been very good. He has been doing a lot of fooling around and he makes many trips to the bathroom.  He should concentrate more on doing his work carefully - especially math.

She must have me confused with my twin brother, Larry.

Teacher Comment (April 22, 1971) - Gary still seems to be having difficulty concentrating.  I have to reprimand him quite often during the day. He talks and fools around too much. I hope we will see an improvement in his behavior and attitude by next marking period.


Teacher Comment (June 25, 1971) - I hope Gary will do well next year in third grade. Try to have him do some reading this summer.  Have a nice vacation, Gary!

I have no idea who this woman is talking about.  And I honestly have no recollection of ever having a Ms. Groeger as a teacher.  I have no recollection of second grade at all.  I wonder what that means.

Still, if it is true that I was a chatty Cathy who couldn't focus it gives me insight into why I am drawn as a teacher to those children who struggle with those same issues.  It has been said (by me) that I am infinitely patient and that I am especially good with the students who present the biggest challenges.  Working with the children that others have lost patience with is an area in which I excel.

Hmmm...maybe being not so perfect turned out to be perfect after all.


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