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Growing Faith

I love teaching fifth grade. I expecially love the beginning of a new school year. The kids don’t know me yet — well, a few might from a past reading class or special event — but for the most part I am Mystery. They are often unsure of how they should react when I say something outrageous.

Well, when we entered the room this morning I put my lunch and a bottle of Pepsi on the corner of my desk instead of in the cooler — then I forgot about them. A bit later I was reading the Shel Silverstein poem, Peggy Ann McKay. In the poem Peggy Ann is giving outrageous excuses for why she cannot go to school. I do the poem as a drama, dragging my leg, clutching my stomach, and generally moaning and wailing as appropriate.

At the end of the poem Peggy Ann learns that is is Saturday, experiences a miraculous cure, and runs outside to play. As I acted out her rush, I knocked the bottle of Pepsi off my desk. It bounced twice and rolled across the floor stopping against the foot of one of my students.

I scooped the bottle up off the floor, held it out to him and said, “You know, I don’t want to open this. Would you do it for me?” His eyes grew big. He started to reach for the bottle, hesitated; started to reach again, then pushed away, chair and all, and said, “I can’t. I don’t think I’m strong enough.”

I laughed, winked at him and said, “Great answer! I have to be the luckiest fifth grade teacher in this school. I always get the smartest kids!” Then I went to gather the materials to teach math and allowed the students to whisper to each other about being the smartest class.

It isn’t true of course. They come in every size shape and ability level, but there is a reason I have a high success rate with the “problem” students. I respect them. They are not my students to do as I say. I am their teacher and my job is to meet their needs. I set high expectations and I state them clearly, then I make certain the students know I have complete confidence in their ability to meet those standards. I give them my faith and help them grow their own. It works.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Hey, a Shel Silverstein reference! I just made one for someone else on another blog – I quoted “Where the Sidewalk Ends”. LOL

    Congratulations on being the Bestest Blog.

    Stop by and say hello

  2. oh my 4th child is just starting 5th grade…how i would love to have her taught by you…your students are most lucky i assure you.

    the helmet dive was done in a park called Coral is the was magical i tell you..i was so not afraid and i’m a chicken for heights and stuff but not for animals apparently…let me know what else if anything i can tell you about it..

  3. ahhh, i me i’m nothing special really…just a bunch of mushy stuff, that in a nut shell is what i’m full of, lol…

    my blog is a mixture of poems, thoughts, pics and emotions, tons of that and not all happy ones..sort of like me..nothing particular about really theme to it at all i can assure you..

    thank you for your kind words, i go to sleep blushing and feeling quite flattered…God Bless. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, he, he…sweet dreams..

  4. We need a lot more teachers like you!!!! I really enjoy your blog, I cant believe I have never been here before. I have seen your comments on a few of the blogs I visit too…nice to know you and may I add you to my blogroll so I can become a daily visitor?

    Im glad you enjoyed the joke on my blog! Stop in any time!!!

  5. Great philosophy, Quilly. The kids are fortunate to have you 🙂

    And congratulations on Bestest Blog! Now we can become famous together… lol

  6. Great job Quill, you sound like a wonderful teacher. That is what some teachers forget, respect is a two way street.

    I think they do best in a class where the teacher lets the kids know what they expect. Ana had a geometry teacher last year that, well let me just say, she was NOT like you.

    Have a good night, I know you had a long day.

  7. Quilly, I love your stories. And I echo what the rest of them say, your students are lucky to have you. And you’re probably telling the truth without knowing it – they are the smartest class, or will be, once you get through with them.

  8. Found you from Bestest Blog and will visit again. Really enjoyed your anecdotes, especially as I am a teacher too (on Maternity leave). Good teachers are worth their weight in gold!

  9. I love it! Folks talk about self-fulfilling prophesies with regard to children & school, but it’s usually in a negative way. Your students will thrive, I’m sure, with you as their teacher!

    Congrats again on Bestest Blog!

  10. You sound like a wonderful teacher! Our sons (now grown at least from an age standpoint) went through elementary school during a time of minimal enlightenment regarding learning disabilities…it was a struggle and then some…thank God for the few committed, caring, and fully engaged teachers who took the time to make a difference in their lives.

  11. I bet youa re an awesome teacher and the kids soemtime seven talk goo dtsuff behind your back 🙂
    Smart kid with the answer!

  12. I gave a copy of this book to the grandchildren and it is well worn. Your class is blessed to have you for a teacher. I want to turn the hands of time back so that one seat is there for me. Love from glimpses…

  13. I am starting to think problem students really are the best when challenged.

    My 6th grade teacher was the toughtest, challenged us the most and we learned so much and were surprised by our achievements. He was the best teacher I ever had. We were doing oral reports and theme papers which we did not do again until I was a senior in high school. I always got A’s because I already knew how to do those things thanks to my 6th grade teacher. He also gave us all nicknames…mine was “laurabelle”. I wrote him a letter five years ago to thank him and he was kind enough to write back.

    I wish there were more teachers like you and him because the kids are learning life lessons as well as school lessons….can’t beat that!

  14. Shel Silverstein- yeah! My favorite book is the “ABZ”- what a way to learn the alphabet. I wish my teachers had that book available. Humor is good- my husband and I are the “High I.Q. Couple”- we find the longest and slowest line so you don’t have to. Teaching kids that humor is pricelress in life is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Congrats on the “Bestest Blog” award!

  15. I wish my 5th grade teacher were as strong as you are. We literally sent ours to the Nuthouse, oh sorry, Funnyfarm, drat, Paddedcell. Oh, never mind.

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