[Editor's note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a third-year elementary school teacher in Queens in her first year as a classroom teacher. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]
In response to my last post, in which I confessed to jumping up and down as my two most notoriously troublesome students changed schools, one of my readers wondered: “What ever will you post about now?”
Oh, I don’t know, how about the time there was a lizard in my classroom?!
Scene: Monday morning, second period. My kids are finishing coloring in some turkeys that a substitute teacher gave them last period. Everything is relatively, blessedly mellow. Then I hear a voice say: “Um, Miss Brave? There’s a lizard!”
I look. My eyes see, but they do not believe. Actually, at first I think, Who brought in a toy lizard and dropped it by the door?
Then the toy lizard scurries across the floor. Then I think: A lizard? Seriously? Why me?
My kids are obviously more with it than I am, because someone started yelling out, “Call Mr. R and Mr. M!”, our science teachers. So I did, but no one picked up in the science lab, and then while I was on the phone, one of my pull-out teachers appeared and tried to open the door.
Try to imagine, if you will, just for a second, what she might have seen. She’s pushing open the door to our classroom, as she does every single day, only today there is a roomful of panicked seven-year-olds yelling at her, “Don’t open the door!” and madly pointing downward at a creature she obviously cannot see.
Anyway, she got the door open a crack, and I explained the situation. To which she addressed my class at large: “Who is not afraid of the lizard? Maybe one of you can capture it.”
Um, Mrs. C? I hate to break this to you, but there will be no capturing of any kind going on in my classroom by anyone under the age of 18.
In the meantime, the science lab is still not picking up, so I call down to the main office and say what might be my favorite opening line ever in a call to the main office: “Um, hi, it’s Miss Brave. There’s a lizard in my classroom and I don’t know what to do.”
Miss Brave: “I called Mr. M and Mr. R but they’re not there.”
Main Office: “Well, they did give each classroom a lizard.”
Miss Brave (thinking: Is this some kind of crazy science experiment by our wacky science teachers? Did they legitimately just drop a lizard in front of my door to see how my class would react? I’m going to kill them!): “Um, okay, but it’s running around on my floor.”
Main Office: “I’ll tell them.”
Now envision the next few minutes: Kids screaming each time the lizard moved. Miss Brave yelling, “SIT DOOOOOWWWWWN!!!!” at kids constantly jumping out of their seats to see what the lizard is up to. Utter freaking pandemonium.
At last, Mr. M and Mr. R arrived. They grabbed the first thing they saw — an empty drawer that had been housing the markers and crayons of the now-abandoned turkey project — and wrangled the lizard. Once they had cornered him inside the drawer, they bizarrely grabbed the next thing they saw, which happened to be Felix’s book report, and used it as a top.
“They took my book report!” Felix howled with glee.
“Felix,” I said, “you are the only person who has a good excuse for not handing in a book report.”
With the lizard gone, we debriefed. So far this year, my classroom has been home to a bee that refused to leave us and a ladybug that was the subject of much great fascination. My students were understandably delighted to have another up close and personal encounter with wildlife.
“First the bee, then the ladybug, now the lizard!” they chorused. “What’s next, a bear?”
“I hope not,” I said.
The lizard, as it turns out, had escaped from another classroom down the hall, whose members hadn’t even noticed the lizard was missing. The next period, Mr. M and Mr. R arrived and noted, with mock seriousness, that of all the classrooms in the school, the lizard had chosen ours as his refuge.
“There must be good energy here,” Mr. M said. My kids were eager to explain about the bee and the ladybug and the lizard and how we’re apparently the animal-friendliest class in the school. Martin raised his hand and asked the science teachers if the lizard was cold-blooded, which they deemed an excellent question.
And later in the afternoon we began a thrilling composition about the escaped lizard. And that, my friends, is what I deem a teachable moment…and another adventure in the urban jungle of NYC public schools.