The Starfish Files

Last September, the wonderful PTA moms at my school gave the teachers a back-to-school gift: a decorative, gold pin that looks like a starfish. Truth be told, aside from an occasional fun flower, I’m not a huge pin fan. Traci and I actually made a pact with one another when we started teaching that we would say no to “teacher outfits”. You know: wood block necklaces, holiday themed turtle necks, lots of denim. And pins. But as cheesy as it was, this little gift really touched me because attached to it was the following story:

The Starfish Story by Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Just as cheesy as the pin and yet oh, so beautifully true! It was a sweet little reminder of why I was starting another year of teaching, and I’ll probably keep it forever. I smile every time I see it by my desk or on someone else’s lapel (read: Traci, the pact is not broken).

Most of the time, I can’t tell if I’m the one doing the throwing, or if I’m the starfish. My students teach me so much! And they make me laugh A LOT. So, I’ll be sharing a few kid stories now and then, that I have affectionately named the Starfish Files. Here’s a little one from today:

This morning I taught a review lesson on comma usage. Not exactly exciting. In a small nod to Victor Borge, I tried to make it fun with some silly sounds (“Today is February 9, whoop 2010.”), but 4th graders can be a tough crowd when it comes to punctuation lessons. We did what we needed to do, and then moved on to reading.

My little friend this year- I’ll call him Rocky, i.e. nothing like the sponge that most children are- had a really rough January, but February has been looking up. And today, he had a lovely moment. During Reading Workshop (a.k.a. silent reading time), Rocky came up to me with his book and pointed out a sentence that used commas in a series. Then he read it to me with great pride and excellent use of whoop. I was speechless and smiling from ear to ear. It may seem like a very small thing, but it’s just a blessing to know that he may have actually heard something I said. It made this teacher feel happy, proud, and hopeful. Whoop!

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