Monday, September 22, 2008


Meet "Moxie-Crime Fighter"
Ferocious Feline
My Grand Kids' Guard Cat
I would venture to say that most of the students and teachers I work with have pets. They love them and care for them more than their "homework". They teach them "lessons" that are just as valuable and important as any school curriculum "rubrics". Probably the biggest one is one of my most important "R's" - RESPONSIBILITY - These cute, little creatures rely on us/them to "love" them and protect them. They provide "practice" for bigger responsibilities as they grow up and mature.
If you want to get "instant buy-in" on a school assignment, make it one about the student's pet(s). Most kids love to tell you all about their pet and will write pages about them. They will bring in pictures, make posters and volunteer to bring them to class for a visit. In my long career, I have found it very useful to agree to those visits, for an hour or so just to be able to get through to a "reluctant" or uninvolved learner. I've had snakes, guinea pigs, ferrets, and many dogs and cats make the visit. Then, of course, everyone in the class, not just the owner, has to write stories about them and their care and feeding. We have had "Pet Faires" where they all bring their animals on a certain day/hour. This stimulates lots of verbal interaction and can even produce many a "math lesson" about their life-spans and costs of care.
When I first started teaching there was this article in the newspaper about "Room 8" This was a cat that had adopted a class room of kids and was allowed to come and go all during the day/semester. No one knew where it really lived or where it went at night or during the summer vacation. It kept coming back each new year. It was an inspiration to those classes and the kids actually cared for each other more because of that cat.
When I "student taught" I had a master teacher who wanted to give me his snake to start my first classroom with. I was all jazzed to do it...except that I would have to keep it over the summer in my garage. My young wife, we were newly married, put her "foot down". No snakes. It was either her or the snake. I had to find some other "classroom pet" to start out with. We had hamsters, mice, rats, fish, but no permanent pythons. One of those early years a kid brought in his "pet snails". We observed them "scientifically" and tried different foods on them. Several boys dared each other to "eat" one as "escargot". I tried feeding them oatmeal and water to get rid of the green slime that continued to ooze out of them. In the end, no one was actually brave enough to sample one, not even the teacher.
As a family, we probably had more cats as pets than any other animal. We had had some sad experiences with dogs and fish/aquariums. Two or three times I had my whole class writing daily journals to my "literate" cat. I had found a rubber stamp of a paw all I had to do..."was leave out a bottle of ink...and my cat would dip his index claw in a spill and write little notes in their journals over the weekends and at night when his master, me, wasn't watching." Wow! Did that take off! Everyone wanted to write to my cat and find out all kinds of secret stuff about me. He would scold them, in writing (printing) about improper spelling and capitals and sentences etc. Many kids were eager to "suspend reality" to use their creative imagination and write to a/my pet. Sometimes their pet would write to mine. These were normally kids who had trouble writing less than a half page a day about their life, which I required weekly.
"Moxie" what a great name for a pet cat. (a cute kitten, right now) It means "courage in adversity". Boy, what I could do with a classroom. What does your pet's name mean? Why did you name them that? What is it's personality? What could it teach you? Do you have "moxie"? Does it have "spunk"? Will you need it to get through school? survive life? RRR


Anonymous said...

"Courage in adversity" is just what I have observed recently with one of the teachers I see weekly. I volunteer in her classroom. She is a cancer survivor. I hope she continues to "live strong" and have "moxie". RRR

Anonymous said...

I recently found out the Penn Gillette, one half of Penn and Teller the Magic Act, named his daughter "Moxie Crime Fighter". That might be very hard to grow up with...even as a girl in our "role expanding" society. I prefer "Starr Spangler" who with her brother just won a million on "The Amazing Race". Now if she can just marry some guy with the last name of "Banner"...RRR