Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

I'm a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz and truth be told, I can actually recite the majority of the lines in the movie as well as sing (off key) all the tunes.  I still am absolutely mesmerized by the Wicked Witch of the West and admit she still gives me a bit of the creeps.  Occasionally as I am channel surfing I'll come across Judy Garland belting out "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and I can't help myself, I have to stop and join in.  I have fond memories as a child watching my mom sign, seal, and stamp countless Christmas cards as me and my brothers and sister were huddled around the TV watching the annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz eating popcorn.  Who can not feel in the most positive of moods after watching poor little Dorothy escape the evil witch and finally click her heels and return home?

Somewhere along the line today, amidst the general crazy fun of a third grade classroom and its daily chaos, a few students inquired as to my Halloween costume.  This glorious holiday is, after all, only two short days away.  The anticipation of the upcoming sugar collecting is palpable.

"What are you going to be this year?" an excited little girl asked me.  In the middle of a math lesson.  A bit off topic, but I played along.

"A teacher!" I answered over zealously.

"Hmmmm.... well..... ummm.....isn't that what you are every day?" she challenged.

(Serious face)  "Well maybe I'll come dressed like Miss Nelson's substitute!"    And then I followed it up with my most scary cackle laugh.

"Do you have a cold or something?" a concerned little one asked.

And then, just like that we returned to learning about mode and median and our Halloween costume ideas were shelved for a while.

With Halloween just around the corner, we teachers are readying ourselves for the "day after".  By that I mean themorningafterHalloweenwhenthekidshavecandyforbreakfastandbringmoreforlunch.   I always give students a homework assignment on Halloween night.

1.  Bring Almond Joy bars for teacher.

I remind them that they probably don't like them anyway and they are my favorite candy bar.  The up side of this is the day after Halloween, I have a desk piled high with little Almond joy bars that last me the rest of the year.  The down side is I eat way too many of them and am continually trying to convince myself they are 'healthy' because they contain an almond.  Not so convincing when I get on the scale.
Side note:  Students from last year will remember this "homework" and that only adds to my stash.

So today, as I was contemplating Halloween and costumes I was also thinking of my pledge to positivity and Glenda, the Good Witch vs the evil Wicked Witch of the West.  I was making a connection that this year I was more on track for Glenda and less on track for the WWW.  That this year I was trying to be more "good witch" than "bad witch".  I was hanging up my broom for a sparkling bubble of glitter.  And I was realizing that it was really a good feeling.   Now I can't promise I can magically send someone across the country by clicking their shoes together and chanting, "There's no place like home... there's no place like home" but I do vow to continue to help cheer up any wayward teacher that comes to my door asking for some positivity.   Or an Almond Joy.

Hopefully, there won't be any flying monkeys to take me away.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Teacher's Life

In a teacher's life, the year is broken down into chunks that mark the time. This allows us to get past the rougher periods, hang on for the times we can take a breath, and stay positive.  For example, the first important marker of time in the school year occurs on Halloween.  This is about seven to eight weeks into the new school year and several things have normally occured.

#1 Your class understands the rules and is typically better behaved than the first few weeks of school.  They realize that you mean business.

#2  Conferences, Curriculum Night, MEAP, and the first hectic weeks of school are over and everyone is settled into the routine.  You can resume some of your "life outside of school" by meeting friends and relaxing some on the weekend. 

#3 You can see November and December right around the corner.  And that means Thanksgiving break and December break.  These are vital to our survival in January, February, and March.  

#4 You realize that your class isn't really so bad.  In fact, you are beginning to actually like them.  In thirty-some days, you've managed to learn about twenty-something students and their famililies.  You know the strengths and weaknesses of your students and are implementing plans to ensure they grow throughout the year.

#5 The season has changed, the weather is getting cooler, and it's dark shortly after you arrive home from school (and in the morning when you're driving to school).  The weather change can get one down, especially with the darkness.  There's more of a chance of indoor recess, which makes for some long days.  But I'm staying positive about it all and really enjoying the scenery as the seasons change.

So, we chunk our year into Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December break.  Then we hang on and try to stay positive during January and February and March.  We learn to make a big deal out of Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, just for a break in the routine.  Spring break in April comes at a time we need it most, and we come to the realization that we are going to make it through the year.  We look at the kids and see that they have grown and done well and that we are going to miss them when they leave us.  We dare to plan and dream of the summer days approaching to re-energize. And then the best part -  we get to do it all again the next year.

So far this year, I've been hanging in there and staying positive for the most part.  My goal to have a year full of positivity is now more of a reality than a pipe dream.   And teacher friends, keep in mind -  three more (teaching) days until we can check off the  first "chunk" in our teacher calendar year.    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

So, yesterday was not a very positive day.  I'd even say it was my most "not positive" day so far. Any of you that keep up with education and all the new policies and procedures in place might understand a little bit the difficulty in staying positive lately.   Teacher evaluations/ratings, new retirement plan, new health plan (and paying more for both), combined with the lack of appreciation and respect for my profession had me feeling blue.  Thinking about it all was only making me more negative as I processed it all.  What to do?  So I did what every other person who has a computer/smartphone and a pulse does....  I posted my status to Facebook.   It said:  "Positivity waning.  Help."  An electronic SOS.
That made me feel a little better.

Then I went for a long walk with my dog.  Temperatures have been in the 70's, unseasonably warm so I took advantage of it.  I thought positive thoughts as I walked. Thoughts like how many things I have in my life to be thankful for.   I reminded myself how lucky I am to have a great family and friends.  I watched as my dog bounded happily through the grass just grateful to be outside after a long day home alone.  Enjoy the little things.
That made me feel a little better.

As I walked in the door, slightly bouyed by my walk, I caught site of it.  My bag.  From school.  With all the "stuff" in it I needed to do/look at that night.  Ugh.  Lucky for me I had managed to shift my mood enough that I wasn't going to let that bag bring me down. If I get to it, I get to it, I told myself.  If I don't, I don't.   Yeah, right.  My personality doesn't do well with that.  If it's there, I need to get to it.
(Sigh).  So, I slugged the bag over near the laptop and the TV, just in case I needed to Google something for school or catch a cooking show for a new recipe.  And a quick check of Facebook wouldn't take up too much time.  How wonderful that in the short time I was out, several people had sent upbeat, positive messages to me.  They assured me it would get better and to "hang in there" and all that rah-rah stuff.
That made me feel better.

When my husband got home from work, he was in a very positive mood.  Which, if any of you know him you know that's pretty much the norm for him.  He talked about his day at work and how he'll be taking on some new responsibilities that he's looking forward to.  I was very happy for him.
That made me feel better.

My daughter called later that night to see how my day was.  Of course she had read my Facebook status and kindly invited me to come visit her in Chicago and she'd help cheer me up.
That really made me feel better.  (And I'm sure I'll take her up on that soon.)

I awoke today and convinced myself that today was going to be much more positive.   A new day full of new experiences.

At school, I stopped by the office to check my mail.    And this is what I found.

Today after school, I passed by a parent and one of my students.  The parent was looking in their child's backpack to make sure he had his homework and had written in his planner.  (He had both.)  As she reached over to hug her son, I said hello to her and she smiled and thanked me.
"For what?" I asked.
She had tears in her eyes.  "For helping [insert student name] with this."
"You're welcome," I replied.  "But HE did it.  He comes in every day and does what he needs to do.  I don't even have to remind him.  He's having a great year!"
"Can I hug you?"  she asked.

I'll be honest with you, June seems like a long way away at this point.  Especially when I have vowed to stay positive and help others around me.  With only two months under my belt, I'm not 100% sure I'm gonna make it.  But this time you all helped me.

 The Beatles said it best:  I get by with a little help from my friends.

Thank you friends.


Friday, October 19, 2012

All Hail The Jolly Rancher

Ask some of my teacher friends and they'll tell you I've had a theory for years about the power of a Jolly Rancher candy.  I think you can get kids to do almost anything for a Jolly Rancher.  In case you don't believe me try this the next time your class is getting a bit rowdy.  Or you want to have some fun.  Just walk over to your secret stash in your "candy closet" and take out a bag (or take out your cutesy little candy basket).   Walk casually over to your desk.  Be very nonchalant.  Make no eye contact and say nothing.  Continue as if nothing has happened.  It won't take long. There will be at least one student who can not stop him/herself.  

"What are the Jolly Ranchers for?" they'll ask excitedly.  

"What Jolly Ranchers?" you can reply, innocently.   

"The ones right there -- in your hand!" someone will demand.

"Oh? These?  Well they are for students who are working more quietly." 
And then enjoy the next twenty minutes of quietly working, angelic students.   Of course, this must be used very sparingly, such as days right before a school break or any Friday with an indoor recess.  

Here's another example of their power.  Do you need the classroom cleaned up and your classroom library organized?  '"Pay" the workers with a Jolly Rancher.  Are you out for an extra recess and realized it's almost 3:35 and you need to get back inside STAT?  Tell two little ones to race out to the fields and tell the kids to line up to go inside and they can have a Jolly Rancher.  They'll run like they are on fire and scream at the top of their little lungs and efficiently gather any kid within a 2 mile radius.

Jolly Ranchers are very versatile.  They can be hidden in your hand or pocket for a surprise treat.  They come in many, many flavors.  They are inexpensive.  They last a while if you suck on them. Kids love them. Adults like them too.  

The secret "candy closet" in every teacher's room is also important to the teacher herself.  There have been numerous times I've clawed through my candy basket in desperation for some afternoon chocolate while the kids are occupied in gym or art.  There have been countless times I've raced across the hallway or next door in a frenzy to ask for candy, specifically chocolate.  

Last year, after numerous attempts to keep my class quieter while playing chess, I called on my old friend JR once again.  I introduced "Jolly Rancher Chess".   Now before you think I'm giving my kids candy every day and just bribing them because I'm unable to manage them, allow me to explain.  Chess rules dictate that the players do not talk.  We work on this as we practice and play weekly.  That's all well and good but this is, after all, a class of eight and nine year old kids.   Even the thought that they might receive a Jolly Rancher keeps them whispering and quietly playing.   I dare say, I believe they are even thinking more as they play when they are quiet.

There's rumblings that schools might soon be prohibited from sweets and candies and all the fun stuff we love to eat.   I would truly be sad if that happens.  Teachers have to have a full "bag of tricks" for lack of a better term, while managing 20 something students every day, for most of the day.

And after all, I speak from experience  -  a little bit of sugar never hurt anyone. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Opposite Day (Year)

Seinfeld was one of my favorite shows, never failing to make me laugh out loud and I was sad when they ended it.  One of my favorite episodes was about George declaring that he was going to do the opposite of what he usually did since things weren't going well for him.  This made me think about this school year and my challenge to myself to look at the positive and have a better attitude about things in general.   I'm doing the opposite in many ways, not just for a few hours or a day, but hopefully for the year.  

So, what does this 'Opposite Year' look like, you ask?  Well, just like George Costanza, I reply/react opposite of what I have typically done in the past.  Case in point, I joined SIT, the catchy acronym for our School Improvement Team.  This group meets monthly before school to discuss items of interest and help make decisions (at least I think that's what they do!).  Although I'm always at school in the mornings in plenty of time to attend, in years past I've chosen to not go, instead hanging out in my room prepping for the day, drinking some coffee, and keeping the secretaries company (since almost every teacher in the building is in this group).   So, this year, I'm doing the opposite.   I joined and went to the first meeting last Friday and found it a positive experience. I even learned some new acronyms.  And I'm not so lonely anymore on the SIT meeting mornings. 

Other opposites for me include trying to smile more, especially when talking around and to the students.  Not that I was frowning or scowling in years past, mind you.   But I am taking the time to listen more and point out the positives, even to a student who might be making a 'not so good' choice.  Instead of grumbling and forecasting a long wait in the lunch line before we even leave the room, I tell my students to "Think Positive" as we approach the hallway line.  I remind them that  'patience is a virtue' (and then explain exactly what that means) as we too often wait in line behind seventy kindergartners as they inch their way past the pizza and Chips Ahoys.  My vocabulary includes many more positive words on a regular basis and not just on Fridays around 3:00.

Being a confirmed "techie" all my life and truly loving technology and trying/learning new things, I was a bit (ok a LOT) cynical when we were informed they were taking all our Macs this summer and swapping them out with Windows machines.  Especially since I had converted 100% to Mac over the past ten years in the classroom.  Think: MacBook, iPhone, iPod.   Again this year I reacted oppositely and tried my best to re-learn Windows systems and get things up and running in my room with technology a.s.a.p.   The normal stomp my feet, I don't wanna, you can't make me attitude was crushed out with my new positive attitude.  And guess what?  I'm finding I'm comfortable with them and have actually enjoyed being forced to change.  After all, change is good.

When Halloween rolls around every year, I truly enjoy seeing all the little kids in costume. How much fun they all have as they prance and jump around in their little Power Rangers and Little Red Riding Hood get-ups.  However, I detest putting on a costume every year, especially since we are still teaching for the better part of the morning on Halloween day and have professional development in the afternoon.    Ever try teaching math dressed as a bug?  Can ya'll imagine how fun it is to teach cursive dressed up as a cowgirl?  And that witch hat and green wig gets awfully itchy during the class party when the temperature in the classroom spikes to 90.  Let's just say, I'd rather not.   So, when the staff meeting agenda item of "Decide on Halloween Costume for Staff" arose, I sank lower in my seat and pretended that I was deep in thought.  But wait!  I needed to think in the opposite direction. I needed to come up with an idea.   Later that day on my drive home, I began thinking of Halloween costumes.  What better way to spread my positivity theme to an even greater audience?  So, I informed a fellow colleague later that night that I was going to come on Halloween dressed with a pageant sash on and a sparkly tiara declaring myself "Miss Positivity 2012"!  Since we typically dress as a school wide group, I encouraged her to join in.  Let's just say, we are all practicing our pageant wave to the crowd.   Even our principal is joining the fun!

By far, the most opposite decision I've made so far was to join the Social Committee at school.  Now, it's not that I'm not a social person, but the idea of organizing and attending social functions and putting together adorable matching paper and cards for staff gifts hasn't been high on my "To Do" list.  Let someone else handle all that, I used to think.  But this year, I'm jumping in.  In fact I can't wait for our first meeting so I can help be a part of planning our first social event.

I know it's early, but so far making some opposite choices is keeping me in a more positive state of mind this year.  Instead of saying, I'm not -- I'm changing that to Why not?  Now, I'm certainly not going to join every committee or club that comes my way. That would just be crazy.  But I don't think being a part of things more is gonna hurt.  

And if it does, I can always do the opposite next year.

Watch video clip - Doing the Opposite: Seinfeld

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Amateur or Professional?

"Never be afraid to try something new.  Remember, amateurs built the ark.  Professionals built the Titanic."


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Swirlberry With a Side of MEAP

Today 3rd graders entered into a new phase in their school life.  It was the first day of their very first MEAP test.  For those not familiar, it's the annual state test given in Michigan. Think multiple choice questions and bubble sheets.   For third graders they are tested on reading and math.  I watched the little kids as I do every day as they arrived outside the door, hanging up their coats, and chatting with one another.  As I figured, most had completely forgotten about today being the MEAP test.  That makes sense, because I hadn't said very much at all about the test to my class.  Keeping with my positive focus this year  I had rather nonchalantly told them we would be doing some testing this week and it was called the MEAP.

"What do I need to do to be ready for the test?" questioned one sweet, little teacher-pleaser yesterday as we got ready to leave.

"Get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast," I told them smiling.

"Wow!  That's easy!  You mean we don't have any homework?" shouted one boy incredulously.

"Get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast," I repeated. And then I smiled again for good measure.  Positive. 

So, imagine my joy this morning, when I noticed on the lunch menu that today was also Swirlberry Day!   This is the one day a month when a special little frozen treat called Swirlberry is offered to the students.  And students positively must have some!

Fat free
• Around 29 calories per ounce
• Has 4 live active cultures
• Probiotics
• Gluten free
• Kosher
• Generally well tolerated by the lactose intolerant
Now, I have absolutely nothing against frozen yogurt.  I don't usually pass up any frozen, ice-cream like concoction.  In fact, I normally buy it the day we have it for lunch.  But here is the issue with Swirlberry.  On these days, there is a protocol in place that would rival the Pentagon.  Students are called over the PA by grade level, at which point the line is monitored (by an adult with a walkie-talkie) to decide when it's safe to call the next class.  All buyers go through the line first, and then, and only then, are the students who brought their lunch but want to buy Swirlberry allowed to get in line to buy theirs.   Our school has 460-some students.  Imagine one of the most popular rides at Disney World.  The only thing missing is the ropes to section everyone off as they queue for yogurt.  It's a long wait, especially when your class is in music until noon and recess begins at 12:30.  Practically impossible.  Thank goodness I have plenty of other teachers with a positive attitude to help me pass the time.

So,  today the combination of two sessions of testing (one in the a.m. and one in the p.m.) + Swirlberry Day and I had a classroom that could not sit still.  As we headed out for a well deserved extra recess at the end of the day one student asked me excitedly, "Do we get to do that MEAT test thing again tomorrow?"

"Yes, you do!" I proclaimed.  And I chuckled to myself.  MEAT test... haha!  Just think of that acronym for a minute or two.

But, at least tomorrow, no Swirlberry.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Team Positive!

In teacher lingo, a group of grade level teachers is a "team".  For example, we need to have a meeting with the third grade team [translation: those third grade teachers need to get in here to find out what we have to tell them] OR the first grade team is out for planning this afternoon [translation: first grade teachers will not be found in their classrooms.  Try to find them in one of the rooms scattered around the building.] It is a rather fitting term, as we work together like a team to all accomplish the end goal:  doing what's best for kids.

Sadly, last year one of our team members retired her Way t-shirt, but lucky for us, we have a new 3rd grade team member who is really terrific!  She has years and years of experience and expertise, and although it is with kindergartners, she has quickly become a solid part of our team.  I feel like we are already working as a cohesive and productive group. It's been a positive thing to have a new teacher with us.

Today was a planning afternoon for the third grade team.  There are many positives involved in planning time. Like eating lunch with adults.  Getting to chat with teacher friends.  Having time to work on curriculum and talk about what's working/not working.  Getting some honest advice when you need it. Learning from and with each other.  Freedom to use the bathroom whenever.  And, basically, just having some fun together while still working. 

Our focus today was on looking at the new Common Core writing.  At the risk of being dull, for any non-teaching people reading, these are the writing things we need to teach.  So, first we had to giggle about the acronym (CCSS).  This stands for Common Curriculum State Standards. Google it.  We have been using GLCEs (in teacher lingo this is pronounced GLICKS).  It stands for Grade Level Content Expectations.  But how in the world would we say CCSS?  If we were going to use them we had to have a good acronym for them.  

As a side note, the educational world loves acronyms. They use acronyms because it would take far too much time to say all these huge words when you are talking and in a rush (like most teachers always are).  Instead of saying to your  principal, "Hey, I just did a phenomenal lesson on  Grade Level Content Expectation R.NT.03.04!"   you can simply say, "Hey, principal!  My writing GLCE lesson was awesome today!" 

If you are thinking that talking about writing standards is dull, think again.  We really had some positive conversation and then were so inspired that we realigned our curriculum for the year.  We decided our team would jump right into the world of CCSS and then regroup to touch base and talk about what we are learning, trying, doing.   Think of it like a chef trying a new recipe.  We are still serving food, but it might taste different.

Part way through our planning, I noticed our new team member looking a little glassy eyed.  Her eyes were a little wider than normal and her usual sunny disposition seemed a bit lost.   Boy, did I know how she was feeling!   I thought back into time (15 years ago) when I was sitting in a similar spot (although with the 5th grade team), as a new teacher.  As the three other teachers frantically wrote things in their planners (that I didn't even understand), and excitedly talked about upcoming curriculum and units, I remember feeling frozen.  I could hear words around me but I couldn't make sense of them.  Although I've never had a panic attack, I couldn't help but think that one was going to happen to me if I didn't make it stop. And then, one of them looked at me, smiled and told me not to worry.  She would help me.  And I knew she truly meant it and that, somehow, I was going to make sense of all this information.  I wasn't going to ruin a classroom full of kids or be fired because I had a team that would help me.    So I took a breath, fought back some tears, and believed her.  If it wasn't for her at that moment in time, I'm not sure what would have happened to me. 

So today I looked at our new team member.  And I told her we would help her.  That I knew this is all overwhelming and scary.  I told her to just try to think about what was happening today and this week, not to worry about the year ahead and all this stuff we were talking about.  Because we would all help her.  And it would be alright.  And then I gave her a hug.  Now any of you that know me know that hugging is not my thing.  But I think she really needed it.  And all this positivity that I'm thinking about and promoting and working for is becoming second nature.   So welcome, new third grade team member.  You are a great teacher and the kids are lucky to have you as a teacher.   And we are lucky to have you on our third grade team.

If there was a Super Bowl for teachers, I think my team would win.  It's going to be a great season.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

International Audience

How cool is this?   People have viewed my blog from 6 other countries.

This is some news that really makes me feel positive!! 

Pageviews by Countries

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
United States
United Kingdom
Dominican Republic

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Days of Positivity

After the 5th week of school, I'm convinced that this whole positive outlook is really working.  Case in point, I left school today feeling more positive and happier than I have the four previous weeks (and those weren't too bad either!)  Now, I'll admit, I am usually feeling quite happy on most Fridays (no explanation needed here), but I truly believe that the degree of positivity/happiness I am experiencing is higher and apparently climbing by the week.  
I'm riding the wave.

So, let's recap the week and all the positive things that transpired.

As you know if you have read previous blogs, on Monday a fellow teacher gave me a gift to welcome in the new month!  A complete surprise that made me smile.  Kicked my week off to a positive start.

At our staff meeting on Tuesday, I received Rufus (picture a small stuffed dog) which is given to someone who has taken a risk or tried something new.  How exciting! It's so exhilarating to have your peers and collegues recognize your efforts. The only other time I received recognition was when I baked cupcakes for the custodian. This seemed a bit more worthy!  I left the meeting feeling elated and positive.  

Wednesday brought the first official test of 3rd grade.  The Unit 1 Math test (cue dramatic  music...) Although I reminded the students to work carefully and read the directions, as I always do, I added in a little positivity and told them that they were all terrific math students and they were going to do well on this test.  Try your very best!     And guess what?  When I checked the tests that evening, I was anticipating some not so great results.  The students had seemed to struggle with a lot of the material and during most math lessons looked like they weren't hearing a thing.  They surprised me.  Even the student I was most worried about ended up doing pretty well.   Way to go 3rd graders!

Thursday was probably the toughest day of the week.  It was McDonalds day for lunch and my kids were in music until noon.  That means that the normally long line was long X 10 and that's enough to make any teacher grumpy.  Standing in line watching children try to stand in line doesn't do much for your mood.  The noise level is comparable to a 747 taking off outside your house.  But some teachers in line were telling me they liked my blog and it made them laugh and feel better. I reminded them we could all help one another stay positive.  As soon as lunch was over.   We passed the time by catching up, sharing classroom stories, and controlling the crowd.  

Enter Friday and the annual Fun Run!   I started off the morning meeting some fellow teachers for breakfast.  This is something we do throughout the year and it always adds a positive start to the day.  It's great to laugh, eat, and catch up with teacher friends without having to simultaneously keep an eye on your students.  An email from our principal reminded us of the positive in any weather report.  A 30% chance of rain meant that there was a 70% chance of NO rain!  And the rain did hold off.  So, 400+ students and many parents, grandparents, and teachers walked or ran the two mile route this morning. What a great way to start the day.  

In previous years, I can remember most times arriving home on Friday evenings, exhausted, tired, and too often, complaining about the week's events.  Today I came home happy, optimistic, and only a little tired (hey -- it was the Fun Run today). 

Thanks to a teacher friend who posted this TED video about positive thinking on my wall.  If you have 12 minutes, it's well worth the time.  I truly believe it's working for me. 

Happiness Advantage TED

 As I ride the wave, I hope some of you are feeling it too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Along Came A Spider....

There we were, intently watching a BrainPop video clip on amphibians when suddenly someone noticed a spider propelling down from the ceiling on its web.  Right over a student's desk.  So, said student jumped from her seat and screamed, "Eekkk!" just like they do in cartoons.  Which instantly caused several others to screech out. Suddenly, twenty-two students and the teacher (me) were fascinated by this little spider.  The students had cleared a wide space around the 'spider drop' area so I did what teachers do.  I took charge of the situation.  

"Oh, it's just a little spider.  We don't need to be afraid," I explained as I inched closer.  Let the truth be told, spiders are not my "thing" and I was putting on a brave front for the children.  I edged closer.  It was rather small, as I had guessed, but it was very black and really hairy.  Ewwwww!  The kids closed in assuming all was safe since I was standing there.  The spider was moving slowing down the web towards the desk.  We watched quietly.  I heard the end of the BrainPop movie which was now playing to an empty audience.  Something more riveting than technology was happening in the classroom.  

Just as the busy spider came within 5 inches of the desk it stopped.  You could hear a few of the students gasp.  "Why is it stopping?" one asked.  "Does it see us?" said another. "I think it's going to jump to my desk," predicted a third.  

And just as quickly, the spider began quickly climbing back up to the ceiling. 

"Wow!" exclaimed a student.  "I wish I could do that!"   

"I hope it doesn't come over by my desk," hoped another.  

And so it reached the top as we all watched and wondered. 

"Maybe it saw us and decided to get back to the ceiling," I suggested.  

"Hey!  Isn't it funny that the spider did this while we were watching a video about animals?  Maybe he knows we are learning about animals and wanted to learn too!" a student added.    

"But we are learning about vertebrates," countered a friend. "And spiders are INvertebrates."  (stress on the IN)

"How did it get in here?"      "How long has it been on the ceiling?"
"What does it eat?                "How long is its web?"
"Where does it live?"            "I used to think spiders were icky, but this one is cute."

I listened as the students asked their questions and thought out loud.  Fifteen minutes of valuable class time had passed and it wasn't planned.  A spider had dropped in to get us all to stop for a few minutes and just enjoy the moment.  To wonder.  To think.  To predict and guess and just plain watch and do nothing.  

As the students settled back into their seats, I watched as many continued to follow the spider with their eyes to the ceiling as it made its way across the room.   We got back to learning about amphibians.  

And when we all looked for it a short time later it was gone.
We're all hoping it comes back tomorrow.
Because a little, hairy spider put a  positive spin on our day.