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Behavior Management 101

My first year teaching 5th grade, Dr. Grisham, a UCLA scientist whose specialty is brain research, visited my classroom. He brought with him a goodly number and variety of brains, and my students and I all got to hold them. He also shared a lot of fascinating information. For instance did you know that calling someone a bird brain is not the ultimate insult? A turtle brain is smaller.

When Dr. Grisham came to my classroom he brought slides, hand-outs and activities. Upon leaving he presented me with my very own goat’s brain sealed in a jar of formaldehyde. For the next several years it served me well.

My first day of school has been pretty much the same for the past 10 years. I start with the rules and procedures. While doing so, I walk around the room and point out special features. Back before the brain started to disintegrate from too much moving and shaking, I would pick the jar up in my circuit around the room. I wouldn’t refer to it. I would just hold it in my hand while I talked.

Every kid’s attention would riviet on that jar. I would hear mutterings, “What is that?” “Is that a brain?” “It’s a brain.” “No way. It can’t be a brain.” “It looks like a brain.” Finally some brave kid would raise his or her hand and ask, “What’s in the jar?”

I would act perplexed, then look down at the jar as though I was surprised to find it in my hand. “This?” I’d say, shaking my head while I set it aside as if it was no importance. “Nothing. Just the brain of the last kid that talked back to me.”

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. I read somewhere that every day so many of your brain cells are destroyed. Does this mean I haven’t got the brains I was born with?

  2. I’ve been doing brain research fo many years. Mostly my own brain. Too bad nobody wants to pay me for my research. 🙂

  3. LOL! Seems to me that the “Parents Who Wanted You Dead” taught you well!!! ROFL! I wonder at the stories that went home to your students parents … and how many of THEM were a little concerned…. *G*

  4. Nessa — start the way you plan to continue.

    Bazza — there is evidence to that effect, yes.

    Gary — your findings are biased and inconclusive.

    Melli — no one ever complained.

  5. HAHAHA, I was hooked when I read goat’s brain. I had the ill pleasure of actually tasting some as I tried to yank it out of it’s skull (damn A&P)…The little bastard was a tough cookie, not to mention the painfully bitter taste of formalin….ewwww.

  6. Adrian — do I want to know why you were jerking a goat’s brain from it’s head with your teeth? I don’t, do I. Never mind. I didn’t ask.

    OC — Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies. I did have an Abby Normal label on the side of the jar. The kids didn’t get it.

  7. Polona — yeah, a brain in a jar is an endless source of humor. Sometimes when I kid would act up, I would just lift the jar, and show it to him/her.

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