"Um...are your kids still studying spiders? Or still interested in them?" Mrs. H. was half in, half out the door to the teachers' lounge, and she looked a bit nervous. Heads around the table swung my direction, forks paused midair. "It's just that there's a really big one out here in the hallway, and I was going to squash it but I remembered your class likes them. Do you want to try to catch it?"
Normally, my lunch time does not include chasing spiders around the hallway with a small cup and a piece of paper (insert mental image here), and I'm sure the others at the lunch table thought I was out of my mind. But one of my goals this year is to not only incorporate more informational text reading and writing into my classroom, but to also encourage my kids to hang on to that innate sense of wonder they have and use it as a pathway to learning.
Telling myself this was a chance to take action related to that goal, I pulled myself way from the table and into the hallway. A short time later, the spider--and yes, he was a big one--was safely (and securely!)settled in a large plastic jug on the table in the back of our room and I had cemented my reputation as someone to keep an eye on.
The kids loved it. The crowded around the spider, trying to figure out what kind of spider it was and whether or not it could find what it needed to eat inside the jug or if they could catch enough bugs to keep it fed. I did nothing except suggest that we move the spider to the counter and maybe poke a few holes in the top of the jug. They begged me to keep our spider at least until morning--and told me they understood it might not make it through the night. One of my colleagues stopped by my room after school and suggested it was more likely the spider would squeeze out the air holes by then and take up residence in our room (isn't he helpful?).
This morning, the spider was alive and still in the jug. The kids were not surprised at all. As they entered the room, almost every child made his or her way over to look at the spider again. "Hey Mrs. M--we're observing him!" they cried. Many of them talked spiders or got out spider books to read until time for announcements.
As I watched them from across the room, it was obvious that my willingness to drop my lunch and go catch a spider did encourage kids to use some oral language related to a topic we've studied. And they did use words like observing to talk about what they were doing and they did go back into some texts to find specific information. But that was not what struck me most. What struck me was that we were having fun. One thing I worry about as a teacher in these times of high stakes and accountability is that we've lost the sense of joy that should be present. I work with 6 and 7 year olds. I love what I do. There should be joy in this.
And if that means tracking down spiders in the hallway during lunch time, count me in.