Last week was Tweedle Ian’s Open House. He was so excited for this night. So excited that at 4:00, while waiting in the orthodontist’s office, he was fretting we would be late for the 7:00 start. In fact, he asked if I could text my parents and ask them to pick us up at 6:45, so we could arrive on time. (We live 6 blocks from the school.)
I am glad he loves school and I am glad that 4th grade is exciting. He showed us every nook and cranny of the room, every art project, every piece of writing, every soon-to-be hatched chick egg in the incubator. He was so proud. And of course, I was proud too.
(I obviously love teaching, but I am so glad we do not have such things at the middle school level. What a lot of preparation and smiles!!)
The biggest deal, however, was the grand display of the infamous 4th grade salt maps. I remember doing this project with Tweedle Dee three years ago and with her being my oldest, didn’t realize how important this project was.
The directions are simple: Create a salt map of Ohio and include some feature of your choice. Include a key and a title. It is due in 10 days! (Ok, maybe the directions had a little more detail…but not much.)
What the directions should say is this: Help your parents make a mess in your kitchen. Come up with a really clever idea unlike anyone else, go all out in decorating it, and bring it in early to set the bar for your classmates.
The only thing good about this project is that is was over and done with by October 10th. I did struggle with where to draw the line in terms of helping him. 1) I wanted him to have the experience in making the choices, designing it, and being creative. 2) I wanted to teach him how to put his time and thought into it a project like this. 3) I wanted him to learn how to use the computer for both research and word processing skills. 4) I wanted him to be proud of his salt map.
Tweedle Ian took his map in 2 days early and he was pleased with it. Thrilled, actually. I was happy it was somewhere right in the middle of the road.
As Tweedle Ian wanted to breeze through some of the “lesser” salt maps to get to the “totally sweet” maps, I made a point to stop at each one and say something I liked about it. I felt like it was important for him to recognize that everyone who brought one in made the same effort (and mess) at home. They used the resources they had and did their best. My heart went out to some of those kids, because it had to be tough to have a map that was any less than the best. I know, from similar personal experiences, that it’s easy to feel inferior about things like this.
Thank goodness once Open House is over, the salt maps go home and are forgotten. Thank goodness they don’t make bumper stickers like this: (Because I bet a few moms would be pushing to be the first in line!)
As I hinted to in my 1st grade post, Mrs. Russell was transferred to the 4th grade right along with the “Dukes.” Since we had missed out on her for almost half the year due to her accident, it was exciting to have her again.
She continued to challenge the “Dukes” and provided enrichment for the five of us. I remember many days of staying in at recess with her planting window gardens, learning to smock, and doing some very difficult non-fiction reading in the area of history. I think I have mentioned before I did not like history at all and this was a very frustrating time for me. However, she pushed us and I survived.
At one point in the year, we had a spelling bee and I came in 2nd place. I was bummed, no doubt to come so close and not win. She awarded me the “2nd place” ribbon which I still have (pictured below). What you cannot see is on the back she wrote “Have a Pepsi on me!” Those 5 words meant almost as much as a first place win.
Fast-forward 8 years. I have just graduated 3rd in my class. My friend, a “Duke” of course, was salutatorian. We were gunning for the 1st and 2nd ranked spots for years, but a move-in bumped us to 2nd and 3rd.
A few days after graduation, I hear a knock on my front porch door. There is Mrs. Russell with a gift. A giant red Webster’s New World Dictionary. The inscription read:
Congratulations upon your graduation.
May your life open up like a beautiful flower…
radiating happiness and joy, peace and love.
Lesson learned from a 4th grade teacher: There is no shame in 2nd place, or even 3rd, as long as you gave it your all.