To the Master Gardener Himself
A chance to begin anew
I know, you couldn’t resist reading this story with a title like that! It was the year 2005, my first year as a 5th grade teacher. My classroom was on the second floor of McKinley Elementary in Des Moines, Iowa, a school built in the early 1900’s. I still miss the wooden floors and rocking chair that became my second home. If you had told me, years before, that I would have ended up a teacher, I would have laughed in your face. Literally. It seemed too simple… too predictable. But more on that later.
I was seated at the back of the classroom at a table with a group of six students. For an hour and a half each day, our school practiced SSR (or, Sustained Silent Reading, for you non-educators). The students I sat with were the most advanced, talkative bunch you can imagine. We were reading Charlotte’s Web, and were at the part in our discussion where they each got to share connections they made from reading previous chapters. With this particular brood, staying on track took extra effort. McKenzie raised her hand and was the first to speak. “Ms. G., I was reading this nonfiction book about animals the other day. What are pig testicles?!” she asked intently.
I stared blankly at her for about one second, my mind racing to think of the best words to use to respond to her. No college textbook, manual or student teaching had prepared me for this particular inquiry. Before I could speak, Jacob jumped in and said, utterly shocked, “You don’t know what pig testicles are?!” McKenzie shook her head, no.
Jacob proceeded to cup his hands like he was holding two big, invisible water balloons and responded, “You know, hog nuts!” McKenzie’s face immediately went from confusion to dumbfounded amazement. “Oh…” was all she said in response. And knowing that she now knew the meaning of pig testicles, we went on with our lesson.