Kermit and Steve were our classroom frogs. I purchased them mid January and created several weeks’ worth of differentiated, multidisciplinary lessons based on these amphibians. Our class desperately needed something to help us bond and get us through the long, dreaded stretch between winter break and spring. Since we weren’t allowed any classroom pets with fur or feathers, frogs seemed like our best bet.
I had thought of everything with the frogs. I planned measurement lessons using frog races and jumping contests. The students designed race tracks and made them out of cardboard. Kermit and Steve were the subjects of numerous paragraphs we wrote in Language Arts. There was just one teeny-weeny detail I had not completely thought through.
The frogs needed to eat.
Insects and flies were not easy to come by in January. Roberto offered to capture cockroaches from his kitchen, but I politely declined. Keeping our class frogs alive and fed- was going to be up to me.
Since school started at 7:30am and PetSmart opened at 8:00am, I was forced to shop for frog food after school. That meant I would have to bring it home and keep it in my small, single-girl apartment until the next morning.
I wasn’t exactly sure what frog food was, but I was sure it would be something dead. Imagine my surprise when the teenager with Muppet-like brown hair, dusty, tan pants and a bright, blue PetSmart shirt smiled smugly and said,
“Frogs eat crickets.” He paused for effect. “Live crickets.”
Fighting excuses and a constant crawly-skin feeling, for the next few months I made bi-weekly trips to PetSmart to buy live crickets. I purchased a small, clear, plastic aquarium that had a lime-green top with vertical vents. The teenage, PetSmart worker chuckled as he threw part of an egg carton and twenty live crickets into the container I held in my shaking in my hand.
“They’ll need some water,” he said with a cocky smile.
“Ok,” I said and vowed to sprinkle some through the vents. NO WAY I was putting my hand in there.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched twenty live crickets trapped in a container, but it is very gross. They are constantly moving, hopping and climbing all over one another. Some must have realized they were on death row, and took to hurling themselves against the plastic walls of the aquarium. This made a sickening thump noise, which continued throughout the night. Then there were the horny ones. As soon as it got dark, they chirped like it was June.
Like the parent of a newborn, I was up every hour checking the container making sure no crickets had escaped. My sleep suffered. My dating suffered. The only thing enjoying the crickets was my cat, who kept constant, fascinated vigil next to the container. I lay awake, waiting for the inevitable crash and mass cricket escape into my apartment.
I tell this story because this is what teachers do. For the love of our students, we will buy crickets. We will lose sleep worrying about our student’s safety and say silent prayers to keep them out of trouble. Teachers are creative, fearless warriors with immune systems of steel. We have thick skin, strong stomachs and have seen all things gross.
Buying classroom frogs and crickets is something I will never do again. But there will be always something else. Something that challenges our dedication. Something that causes us to rise to the occasion. Teaching is not for the faint of heart, but like it or not, it does make your heart (and stomach) stronger.