Starfish Files: Poppins, Paper, and Puzzlers

I had a really lovely day with my students today, and I am extra thankful for it because the beginning of the week was a little rough. Let's just say that a few of my students know how to really push my buttons, and we're at that extreme button pushing time of the school year. But, I've been asking people to pray for extra patience and wisdom for me, and I saw the Lord provide that today. The fun day we had today reminded me of the other lovely things that have been going on (why do only the negative parts of my day stand out sometimes? Lame!), so for this edition of the Starfish Files, here are some recent highlights:

  • We finished state testing (woo hoo!), and I am really proud of how hard my kids worked. As a reward, we watched the movie Mary Poppins, and get this- 21 of my 30 students had never seen it before! Once I got over the shock of that statistic, I felt like I had truly accomplished something by introducing them to such a classic. How had they successfully navigated through life thus far without knowing that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?
  • Fonzie has started an origami craze that is sweeping the 4th grade. It began with him teaching a couple of kids how to make a paper crane, and now they've got books with instructions and every color paper you can imagine. Here are some of their recent creations:
  • Today we had quite an interesting discussion about how the end of the world is predicted for tomorrow. As you can imagine, the conversation went all over the place. I loved it. They threw some awesome questions at me, and my favorites were: 1) Is it true that everyone dies, but not everyone lives? and 2) Can God make a rock that he can't move? I had fun figuring out how to answer them. I gave more of an explanation during the actual discussion, but my basic answers to each were yes to number one and no to number two. How would you have answered?

Starfish Files: Well, that’s one way to learn a lesson

More evidence that 4th graders are hilarious: Scene: The class is enjoying some silent reading time, and they're all cute and comfy since they're wearing their pajamas for a special school-wide reading day. One little dude, I'll call him Fozzie (yes, because he reminds me of the bear from the Muppets), is sitting near me as I work on something. He begins to chat with me and gets away with it since he's highly entertaining. Fozzie: Miss HasBrouck, what's the worst mistake you ever made? Me: Oh, gosh. I'm not sure. I'll have to think about it. Do you know the worst mistake you've ever made? Fozzie: Oh, yeah. For sure. Me: Do you want to tell me the story? Fozzie: Umm, well, it's personal. Me: You don't have to tell me. . . Fozzie: (with a little smile) Well, ok. So, one day my mom sent me upstairs with her key to use the restroom and I tried and tried to get the door unlocked and I just couldn't. I was turning it and twisting and pushing and, yeah, well. . . I pooped my own pants. Cue the giggling for both the student and the teacher, who really didn't see that one coming. And the conversation could have ended there as a pretty good story. But it kept going and really went for gold. Me: Wow, that's a bummer, Fozzie. I, um, don't even really know what to say. So, what lesson did you learn from that big mistake? Fozzie: Righty tighty, lefty loosey. My brother taught me afterwards. Cue the out-right laughter from the teacher that distracted the entire class. Fozzie's one funny bear.  


Last week, right in the middle of teaching a geometry lesson, I noticed that J., one of my little guys, had huge tears welling up in his eyes. 4th grade tears tend to occur right after a recess conflict or injury, not in the middle of math (I think they save math tears for homework time or junior high), so I quickly got the other kids working on something and talked to him outside for a minute. J. is very quiet and reserved, so he's a bit of an onion- getting to know him this year has involved peeling back a whole lot of layers. I was very curious to hear what had made this amount of emotion actually surface for him. In between sobs, J. said he wanted to tell me that his dog had died the night before. Her name was Roxy and she'd been in their family since before J. was born. Unfortunately, they had to put her to sleep because she had a tumor. And something just brought her to J.'s mind in the middle of class. And he was sad. As we came back inside, I prayed and asked the Lord to comfort J.'s little heart and to give me wisdom for how to care for him well. J. gave me permission to tell the class about his dog, so I did so later on when he was out of the room. My other students responded with looks and remarks of sadness and understanding, and we had a little discussion of how to show J. that we care about him (i.e. yes, let's make cards and draw pictures for J./no, let's not all tell him stories of all of our own pets that have died). As the week went on, it was a beautiful thing to watch my kids learn and practice the art of empathy. My own response to the situation was markedly different than it would have been a few years ago. I'm really thankful for the way God is softening my heart with a Gospel truth- life is full of pain and loss and if we just brush it aside, we miss the beautiful way God is redeeming it all through the work of Christ. I'm not saying that I was completely cold-hearted or unfeeling in the past, but I was much more uncomfortable with sadness. Giving the expected 'Oh, that's too bad' response and then seeking distraction was my typical mode of operation. But over the last year, Jesus has been teaching me a lot about acknowledging losses (both big and small- you can decide where losing a pet falls on that spectrum for you), giving them to him in prayer, and then waiting to see how the Spirit moves us to grieve and rejoice in the midst of it all- abundant life indeed. That connection between grieving and rejoicing was made clear again yesterday during Room 25's Monday ritual of "Weekend News". When we got around to J.'s group, he raised his hand to share, which he rarely does. And when he told us that his family got a new dog this weekend- a pit bull named Rudy- the whole class responded with instantaneous applause and smiles. Lovely.

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