Thursday, 9 October 2014

'Please Miss, What's This......?'

I've spent the day teaching a hundred primary school children aged 8 and 9 about moths, butterflies, plants and insects.

They were hysterical. Some amazed me with how much they knew, others gave answers that were so funny I had to bite my own teeth not to laugh....

Me (holding up a moth in a pot): Who can tell me what this is?
Child A (with absolute confidence): It's a spider.
Me: No, have another go.
Child B: Is it a worm?
Me: It's not a spider or a worm. 
Child C: Is it an earwig?

Me: It's a moth. 
Child A: I saw a moth that looked like a Zebra yesterday. It was as big as my arm.
Me: Why do you think this particular moth is this lovely rich orange colour? I'll give you a clue, it's got something to do with the time of year.
Child D: Winter? 
Me: Well, it's Autumn really, isn't it.
Blank faces.
Me: What colour do leaves turn in Autumn?
Various children all shouting excitedly at once: Green! Purple! Pink! Black! 
Me (with admirable patience, I thought): Maybe orange, or red, or yellow? 

Child G: How do leaves change colour? Can we paint them? Have you got some paints? Can we have them? Holding up a paint brush she'd dug out of a pot: Is this for painting them with? Where are the paints? Can I start now? I've got a leaf (waving it).
Me:  Leaves change colour because the chlorophyll that makes them green fades as light levels drop at the end of summer. And we're not painting leaves today. So, who can tell me about the life-cycle of a butterfly?
Child A: They're born like that.
Child E: They're an egg first, then a caterpillar, then a butterfly.
Me (resisting the urge to kiss Child E): Well done! Now, caterpillars eat certain types of plant. How do you think a butterfly knows which special plant to lay its egg on?
Blank faces.
Me: I'll give you a clue. How do we know what food we like?
Blank faces
Me: Where do we put food in order to eat it?
Child A: In the cupboard
Child B: In the oven
Child C: In the fridge 
Me: How about in our mouths? And then, hurrying on before they could say anything else: butterflies don't taste their food through their mouths like we do, they taste their food through their feet. So when they land on a plant, they know whether it's the right one to lay their eggs on.
Various children collectively: Ooooooh! 
Child A: I hope they wash their feet first.
Me: OK. So you've all read the Very Hungry Caterpillar and you all know that the caterpillar hatches from the egg and his main job is to eat and eat and eat until he's REALLY fat-
-Like Philip, says Child A, interrupting.
I could swear their teacher gave a thinly disguised snort at this before she looked away.

Me (steadfastly ignoring the interruption): What do you think the caterpillar does when he's eaten so much he can't move anymore?
Child A (knowledgeably): Philip is usually sick
Their teacher snorts again. I get the distinct impression she's enjoying this.
Child E: He turns himself into a cocoon and then later eats a small hole out of it and becomes a butterfly.
Me (gratefully): Excellent! Have ten points! And do any of you know what the caterpillar does when he's in the cocoon?
Child F: Does he go to sleep?
Child A: Does he play on his x-box?
Child B: I think he dreams about killing things.
Me: He turns himself into caterpillar soup, and when he's ready he comes out as a beautiful butterfly.
Child A: Can you drink the soup?

I was saved from any more by the heavens choosing that precise moment to unleash what can only be described as an unexpected tropical monsoon. It invaded the tent thoroughly and soaked us all comprehensively.

A nearby tent was ripped from its moorings, flew up into the air, flipped over like it was a leaf and then went skidding across the field heading straight for what looked suspiciously like a brand-new minibus, much to the excitement of the watching children. At that point their teacher decided it was time to break for lunch so they all bolted for the nearest stable cover (in the form of an enormous trailer), accompanied by shouts of: 'Matthew! Get Your Feet OFF that!' and 'Lacey! STOP Pushing!' and 'Sam, if I have to tell you again not to do that you will be in BIG TROUBLE!'

On the whole I am rather glad I'm not a teacher. They must have the patience of Saints :o)

Hope you are all well?

CT :o)




  1. Oh dear, you know that I always love reading your posts, but really, this had be in hysterics!!!!! I can just picture this scene with the teacher snorting away and you getting more tied in knots trying to explain all the while no doubt wondering which one is Philip!! Moths are much less trouble than children even if they do escape around your house when you open the moth box! Years ago I remember reading a Maureen Lipman piece about her doing a Joyce Grenfell sketch with a class of children one of whom was eating a button and another girl who kept lifting up her skirt and this reminded me of that!! You are right, teachers must have the patience of saints! xx

    1. I LOVE Joyce Grenfell- she was brilliant and Maureen Lipman is fab too. The kids today were great: enchanting, infuriating, funny all at the same time. It was a pleasure to teach them and to be able to write a funny piece about them afterwards is the icing on the cake :o) xx

  2. Well my sides are sore from laughing. This piece is truly hilarious. I remember when Joyce Grenfell did the piece taking to the class and then Maureen Lipman later on. I do not know how you did not laugh yourself. Yes, I agree, teachers MUST have the patience of Job!!

    1. Bless you, Margaret. I have sore lips this evening from chewing on them to stop myself laughing. Kids are marvellous- I love the way they see the world, so simple and straight-forward and so, so funny. It was a real pleasure spending time with them all today :o)

  3. Oh my this is so funny! Did you take a guess who Philip was? You do make me giggle!

    1. I tried very hard not to guess who Philip was. Little monkey- he knew full well the effect his words were having. They are priceless at that age :o) x

  4. So funny! You did well to keep a straight face.

    1. I think so too. Not sure I would have done for much longer if the rain hadn't mercifully stepped in to drown us all! :o)

  5. This post made me think of my childhood at school. We always had a nature table and so we all got to know things about nature. I knew all the names of trees and lots of wild flowers at a young age but I don't think they do much of that now, shame...

    1. What struck me was how they all knew the names of big, exciting, carnivorous and above all foreign animals like tigers, cheetahs, lions and crocodiles, but no one mentioned any of the British carnivores such as stoat, weasel, otter or pine martin. Something's awry there me thinks. x

  6. A very amusing post CT - couldn't stop laughing and totally agree teachers must have the patience of saints. I really don't know how you kept a straight face!

    I really do think natural history and conservation should be on the national curriculum - I think there was a campaign once to bring back the nature table idea.

    1. I agree about the curriculum. At best it's left to parents to show their children the natural world, so if you have parents who don't know what things are or who don't think it matters you lose out. Yesterday, the children were so fascinated and engaged when I took them out to look for plants it was a delight to see. Their appetite is there if only it were tapped in to.

  7. Lovely witty story but also a little worrying that there are children who really can't tell the difference between spiders, worms, and moths! So good for you for helping with teaching them about these little but very important things in the natural world. Hope you enjoyed yourself!

    1. So worrying- I was really shocked. Parents should take some responsibility for that, but then I guess if they've never been taught about the natural world either it's hard to pass on knowledge you don't have. It was a lovely day and I did enjoy it.

  8. Brilliant! You never know what to expect with children do you? I have taught children about science, medicine and maths at various career events, and you have to be prepared for anything. I can still remember "is it drugs miss? is that blood?...etc...!

    1. They are corkers, aren't they? I just adore the funny things they come up with and their enthusiasm and good humour is infectious. It's sad how many adults stop laughing as often as little ones do. Perhaps there's a message for all of us in that :o)

  9. Top post. I think that is the reason I would love to be a teacher!!! Poor Phillip. The other day Olly explained what camouflage was to Alfie, byusing a moth as an example to illustrate. I was very impressed. Even Alfie gave him a grudging high five.
    Leanne xx

    1. Maybe you should think about doing a PGCE? (if you haven't already). Top marks to dear Olly and using a moth as an example too! Fab! You have a Lepidopterist in the making there xx


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x