Friday, April 30, 2010

There Is No "G" At The End Of "Orangutan"

Fifth grade today at the elementary school where I attended kindergarten and first grade. The old hallway still smells the same, and the same art teacher and guidance counselor still work there. It was such a great way to end the week. The first hour the kids were all in Art class, so I had time to read and journal for a little while and get ready for the day at a relaxed pace. After that my class left for English and Social Studies, while the other two fifth grade classes came into my room to watch the school nurse gave them each a talk about tobacco. (Summary: You're not supposed to use it.) Then my class came back and we all went immediately to lunch. I had recess duty.

A words about recess.... What a wonderful concept. Secondary students should get them too. Come to think of it, so should adults. I know working adults get a lunch hour, but work buildings should all be in park-like settings with a little black top so we can play four square, jump rope, or soccer before going back to work. I'm just saying. Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and warm, and the kids kept coming up to me and showing me the gypsy moth caterpillars they were catching. It was all I could do to keep from dropping my bag and running around on the grass myself!

Then it was back to the classroom, and once again my kids left and another class came in to work on a vocabulary test and the state books they're making. They each picked a state and have to make a little book about it. It was fun seeing the different pictures they drew. Which reminds me! Earlier this week I saw a cool piece of artwork done by a fourth grader at a different school. He was decorating letters for a sign honoring the school volunteers. He made his letters into a village with creatures and interesting looking houses, it was awesome! I asked him if I could take a picture of it and he said yes, so here it is!

Anyway, finally my original class came back to the room. They had to write a letter persuading someone to either quit smoking or to not start at all. Then, AT LAST, it was time for the science video! I've loved Bill Nye The Science Guy since I was a kid, and the kids love him too, so we were all excited to watch it, we even sang the theme song together.

After learning about Chemical Reactions, which included a lot of awesome explosions, we had about fifteen minutes left until the end of the day, and so decided to play a spelling game called Sparkle/Sprinkle. (You can either call it "Sparkle" or "Sprinkle", and I decided today we would call it "Sprinkle.") Here's how it works (I just learned how to play it today): All the kids line up, I give them a spelling word, and they each have to say a letter of the word, in the correct order, then after the last letter is said, the next kid repeats the entire word, the kid after that one says, "Sprinkle," and whoever is next to them is out. It sounds complicated, but it was actually really fun. We were all cracking up, their reactions when they realize they're out for getting a letter wrong were hilarious. One kid named Ben said I "made him sad" when he was called out and was acting all hurt while trying not to smile. I apologized, and we decided we could still "be friends". For some reason that cracked him up, and then he continued bursting out laughing and shouting "Friends!" throughout the game. He was doing it on purpose to be funny, but his comedic timing and delivery were really good, so I let him continue. Far be it from me to stifle a burgeoning comic. A girl named Lauren, however, was obnoxious and kept jumping up out of her seat (she was one of the first ones out of the game) and shouting things. I told her, in so many words, to stop trying to be the center of attention just because she's jealous that she's still not in the game, and the entire class did an almost simultaneous "OHHHHH! SHE JUST CALLED YOU OUT!" Anyway, the game was fun, and ended on a super exciting one-woman round, when one little girl had to spell the word "orangutan" all by herself. The mood was tense, and after visualizing the word in her mind (I turned off the lights momentarily to quiet everyone down so she could focus), she took a deep breath and went through each letter:

Girl: O-R-A-N-G, we got that far, right?
Me: Yes.
Girl: U?
Me: Yes!
Girl: *pauses for deep breathing and probably a little dramatic effect* T?
Me: Yes...
Girl: A-N-G?
Me: (gasp!) No. There is no "g" at the end of orangutan.

The entire class erupted and immediately divided themselves into factions supporting either my version of the word or the slightly more popular version, "orangutang."  Several of the kids smartly decided to side with the only person in the room who had a college degree. (I decided not to tell any of them about my illustrious spelling bee career in middle school to make it more exciting.) One boy in particular was very vocal and boisterous in his disagreement with me. (Ben is still intermittently crying out "Friends!" and laughing at this point.) I demanded that the dissenter get a dictionary, which he refused to do (because he knew he was wrong). A few of the Ms. K. Loyalists raced to get dictionaries, and looked up the word. A girl whose name I forget (sorry!) triumphantly called out the correct spelling of the word, which is, of course "orangutan". My challenger refused to believe it or even look at the page in the dictionary, which only fanned the flames of the Loyalists' fury. Finally he caved, saw that he was wrong, and since it was the very end of the day, I took the liberty of crowing victoriously. I may or may not have said something along the lines of, "In your FACE!" (He'll get over it.)

The end of the day is fun for me, because I like using the time I spend holding the door open for them to dish out little tidbits of life advice as they file past me out into the world. "Bye guys... Make it a great one... Have a good weekend... Have a nice life... Don't do drugs... Don't smoke... Stay in school... Don't drink and drive... Remember the Alamo... Bats have bones that you can see... The chihuahua is the smallest dog... Honesty is always the best policy..." Things like that.

All right, it's almost dinner time and I have to go through the rest of my worldly belongings in preparation for tomorrow, when my family will be participating in one of the noblest of American traditions: the neighborhood garage sale. For any and all foreigners reading this, garage sales (or "yard sales," depending on the parlance of the region) are events where you wake up at four o'clock in the morning and put all the crap you no longer want on a blanket or folding table in front of your house and sell them for a fraction of a fraction of what you originally paid for it. By 7:30 a.m. the first wave of shoppers (none of them under the age of 85) have ravaged the tables, and you have a quick moment to inject more coffee into your bloodstreams and clear away the dead and wounded before the next wave continues. They often last well into the afternoon, which is when the scavengers come and end up taking the things you're so desperate to get rid of that you end up selling them your childhood bike, your entire used book collection, thirteen pairs of ballet slippers, three bicycle seats, a shoebox full of old refrigerator magnets, and your dad's favorite pair of green sweatpants that your mom sneaked onto the lawn when he wasn't looking for a dollar and whatever change they have left in their wallet. It's really great. That's it for me, Ms. K, out!

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