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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Desk cleaning, first-year teacher style

May 4, 2009

Stories from a time when we had "more enthusiasm than commonsense" enable us to share a laugh. As Brenda Powers, editor at Choice Literacy wrote, the most memorable stories often begin with a failure — the bigger the better.

As school begins to wind down for the summer, I always remember one afternoon in May from my first year of teaching. My "classroom," a single-wide trailer behind an old, single-level red brick school, was tiny, cramped and the center of my universe. Twenty-four second graders and I fumbled our way through the year with too few books and 2 reams of paper for copies. By May, we all longed for more space and some fresh air.

Our principal announced that student desks needed to be cleaned, inside and top, before the kids left for summer. As we chatted in the lunchroom one day, a fellow teacher shared her trick for removing the sticky residue nametags and number lines left on desks: menthol shaving cream. "Just have the kids squirt it on and squish it around on their desks. It works like magic!" she said.

A quick trip to the CVS and I was ready. Twenty four cans of menthol shaving cream, twenty four second graders and a young teacher with good intentions. Clean desks were on the way.

You can imagine what happened next. The shaving cream did START on the desks. My kids squirted it on and squished it around. For about 30 seconds. Then, chaos!

It was everywhere! Arms, clothes, hair, floor, books, walls, white foam everywhere. To make matters worse, it turns out that 24 cans of menthol shaving cream is A LOT of menthol in such an enclosed space. And it gets dry. And sticky. And we had no running water, or even a bucket of water with rags (in retrospect, THAT would have been a good idea).

Very quickly, our plans changed. "Hands up!" I cried, "get into line. We're heading to the bathrooms!" Bless their hearts, my twenty-four second graders quickly marched, hands up surgeon-style, through the hall of the school to the group bathrooms. I'm sure I heard more than one teacher snicker as we passed their door.

Lesson learned, and event cemented in my memory! How about you? Care to share a memorable story from a time when your enthusiasm bubbled over?

Comments

I have used the shaving cream with powdered tempera paint and we finger painted and cleaned at the same time. It was great, then we put paper over the top and pressed it then pulled it off for a reverse of our table top drawing. This dried into a cool piece of art. And the desks were clean.

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