Learning to Unlearn Learned Dislikes

There is a new addition to the hallway: compost worms. Two weeks ago, I was given the lucky opportunity to sit in a 2 hour professional development session with a composting expert from the University of Maryland. Then, he gifted us some worms and bins and got us started on vermicomposting (the fancy new word I learned that means composting with worms).

Vermicomposting with kids is AWESOME!

It is natural… getting kids in touch with the earth and in touch with the very dirt that makes the food for the school garden that we use in cooking class.

It is messy… full of bugs and worms and garbage and dirt. Aka, an amazing sensory experience and a hands-on activity that allow kids to be kids by letting them play with dirt.

It is icky… it smells bad. It is full of crawly things and germs. It makes me feel daring whenever I put my hands into it.

One thing I absolutely love about working with small children is that it helps me to overcome my own fears. I spent my whole lifetime up into my twenties absolutely PETRIFIED of thunderstorms. Until I was working at summer camp and was in charge of a little girl who was horrified by them. Suddenly, I found this strength, this calmness, this bravery that stemmed right out of a protective maternal instinct somewhere down in my DNA. I was suddenly able to swallow my panic and change it over to pretending to delight in the storm and even laugh at it.

I’m finding a similar strength in the worms. The kids are not gonna buy into them if I come at the worms making disgusted faces and trying to keep the worms at 2 arms lengths away. I have to dive in so they will dive in.

Truth told, worms give me the heebie jeebies. Always have. I don’t like the way they move. I don’t like the way they feel. I don’t really want to get snuggly with them. I’ve always been a live and let live (and do my best not to smush them on the sidewalk on a rainy day) kind of gal.

Not anymore. Ask my kids– they’ll tell you I love worms! I love digging for them. I love touching them. I love picking up handfuls of rotten food to feed them. Because I have them fooled. I tapped into my need to be brave about the worms in order to engage the students, and I’ve pulled up my sleeves and gotten my hands dirty. And wormy. And germy. And smelly.

And you know what? I lived to tell the tale! And the more I try for my Academy Award for Best Leading Actress in an Act of Pretending to Love Worms, the more I’m coming to actually love them and actually delight in the messy goopy ickiness of their habitat.

It just goes to show that it really is true that students teach teachers just as much as teachers teach students. I love that my students have helped me to grow and change as a person. Pretending to like the worms and catching on to the students’ enthusiasm for the creepy crawlers has opened up a new world for me.

I wonder what else they will teach me before the year is up?

Stay tuned for a list of precious student sound bites that came out of our first worm observation.

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6 thoughts on “Learning to Unlearn Learned Dislikes

  1. Haha! I totally love this: “And the more I try for my Academy Award for Best Leading Actress in an Act of Pretending to Love Worms, the more I’m coming to actually love them and actually delight in the messy goopy ickiness of their habitat.” Teachers are such great actors and we do learn so much from our students. My students recently did a study on homelessness. Truth be told, this was not an issue I was passionate about but they were. Through them I learned so much about homelessness in Washington, DC and homeless animals. I don’t turn a blind eye to the homeless people I see each day and it is because of those 15 spunky 5th graders. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t teaching! You are such a great writer! Maureen and I truly believe you are going to write a book some day!

    • That’s amazing. From your posts, I would have believed that this project emerged due to the topic being deeply meaningful to you. I love that instead, it was your students that sparked an interest an passion in it for you.
      And thanks! You’re too kind. I do love writing. And would absolutely love to write a book. I just have no idea what that book would be about.

  2. Behavior precedes belief. I have had the same experience with bugs and kids, worms, and kids, blood and kids, injuries and kids. I was always worried about how I would handle injuries of kids in my care. I am TOTALLY creeped out by medical emergencies, especially body disfigurement (compound fractures…) I remember once I was watching a friend’s kid on the playground and I heard him fall behind me off the monkey bars. I knew something was wrong just by the sound. His arm was broken, but not breaking the skin. It was cartoon like pointing in almost 2 completely different directions. I didn’t even think. I just picked him and and started talking to him. I had someone call 911. It all worked out because he needed me and I needed to be there for him. Thank God for kids!

  3. Pingback: Is it Scary to Create? | It's Not Quite Elementary

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