What's your education story?

A mouse on the loose, scared students and an unexpected teaching moment

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Chelsea Easter-Rose

Dozens of educators gathered to tell stories of the challenges and joys of teaching at Ash & Elm Cider Co. last week. The event was organized by teacher Ronak Shah and sponsored by Teach for America. In the coming weeks, Chalkbeat will share a few of our favorites, lightly edited for clarity.

We start with a story shared by Chelsea Easter-Rose, an eighth-grade English teacher at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School. For more stories about Indianapolis educators, see our “What’s Your Education Story?” occasional series.

I want to talk to you today about a mouse and my kids.

I work at an urban school, as they are called. All of my middle school students love hot chips. And what we started to realize was, the mice love them too. The kids would eat, and they would brush the dust off, because you don’t want to get it on your paper. And they would eat and the bag would spill and some would get on the ground. And then the mice would come out to the class.

We have one mouse that at this point could be the salutatorian because he’s like raising his hand like he’s in the class. And the mice became part of existence, our day-to-day life. When I hear a squeal, it’s one of two things: It’s a mouse or maybe children might be about to fight. I’m always ready to either catch a mouse or break up a fight.

(One day) I’m doing my uniform check, and I hear a squeal, and I run into room 301. And I’m like, “Hold strong, I’m ready to break up this fight!”

And this is a mouse.

“Miss Easter, get the mouse!” It’s over there, and I see 23 eighth-graders … and they want me to get the mouse. And I’m like, “I don’t see it,” and they’re like, “because it’s dead!”

I look at the mouse, and it’s smashed against the wall. Now I’m thinking, “One of my kids killed a mouse with a dictionary, and now not only do I have to pick up the remains of a dead mouse, now I have to investigate which one of you is about to be a serial killer.”

I walk a little closer, and I realize that something is happening. And I tell (my students), “I need you to be silent right now.” And of course, the only thing a 14-year-old can do when you say be silent is ask, “What’s going on? What’s the problem?”

I’m blocking them. “I need you to be silent right now!”

(Then a student interjects.)

She has some new information she wants to tell me. And she says, “Teacher, I want to tell you something about the mouse…”

I look at the mouse, and it does a little shift … and then the mouse unfurls its wings and takes flight. And the room is silent except for (a student) who says, “Oh s***, that mouse can fly!”

So now, I don’t know what to do. There’s a mouse flying — this is obviously a teaching moment, right? The kids are now running around the room because the mouse is flying, they are freaking out. Mr. Hernandez walks in, knocks the mouse down into the trash can and leaves, so we can all be quiet.

Then Karen: “Hey guys, what I was trying to tell you about the mouse is … I think it’s a bat.”

Here are the next three things I hear children say:

“Karen, bats aren’t real!”

“What is a bat?”

“Hold up, you trying to tell me there’s been a vampire up in this school?”

So we get back to our seats. And that’s when I walk towards the board with our objectives: “Students will be able to identify theme in the story The Lottery.”

The only thing I can think to write is: “Students will be able to know what a bat is.”

What's Your Education Story?

Bodily fluids and belly buttons: How this Indianapolis principal embraces lessons learned the hard (and gross) way

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Christine Rembert at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

For Christine Rembert, principal at Francis W. Parker School 56 in Indianapolis Public Schools, education is the family business.

Her dad teaches chemistry to adults, and her mom is a retired high school English teacher. So it made sense that Rembert, too, would be an educator. As she has transitioned from a teacher to an administrator, she’s done a lot of learning — in fact, she considers herself not the person with all the answers, but the “lead learner” in her school.

And it hasn’t always been glamorous. Dealing with bodily fluids, for example, is a regular part of her day. As a new principal, she confronted that head-on in an anecdote she recounted in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of her story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

The last story I have to tell happened in my first few months as a school administrator, and I’ve learned many things from this story. I was sitting at my desk and doing some work, and my behavior person came in.

That’s the person who’s kind of the bouncer in the school who manages all the naughty kids. So we had that person, and she came in, and she was a tall woman — over 6 feet tall. She looked down at my desk, and she said: Do you want me to tell you the story first?

And I, in all my brand-new administrator wisdom, said no. And she goes, well, I have a teacher and a kid, and we need to talk to you.

And I was like, OK come on in!

Well, note to self: When the behavior person says do you want me to tell you the story, you need to say yes right then.

Because the reason is you have to not laugh.

So the teacher came in, and she has a Clorox wipe, and she’s (frantically wiping her nose). And I was like, OK, that’s weird. She sat down, and the child came in, and she was kind of sad.

I proceeded to hear the story whereby the child had stuck her finger into her (wet) belly button and then held it up to the teacher’s nose and said: Smell my finger.

Public education is like living in a fraternity house.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Rembert’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.

 

What's Your Education Story?

How this Indianapolis high school teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

To say that Sarah TeKolste and her student, Lori Jenkins, started off on the wrong foot would be an understatement.

New to teaching, TeKolste had high hopes for her Spanish class at Emmerich Manual High School, but she was met with sullen students who missed their former teacher. TeKolste wanted to forge a connection with Jenkins and her friends, who sat each day in the back of the class making their displeasure with her teaching blatantly obvious.

But TeKolste didn’t give up — on teaching Spanish or trying to reach Jenkins, who was dealing with personal issues that made school the least of her worries. Now, years later, both agree the tears, exasperation, and efforts were worth it. The two have grown so close, in fact, that Jenkins made TeKolste the godmother of her daughter.

TeKolste and Jenkins were two of eight educators and students who participated in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of their story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

Sarah TeKolste: Aug. 4, It’s the first day of my first year as a teacher. I basically meticulously tailored my resume for the past five years for this moment where I’ll become a Spanish teacher for Teach For America.

And I’ve done all these ridiculous things like make this classroom management system that’s very detailed, and I’d made this classroom vision, and I think I’m really ready for what I’m getting myself into. I’m starting at Emmerich Manual High School.

I spent the summer getting prepared, and I’m basically an overly caffeinated nervous wreck.

On the first day of school, about 50 percent of my students come into my classroom, and they are just royally pissed that they don’t have Ms. Brito as their Spanish teacher anymore. That’s probably my first clue that things might not go super smoothly that semester.

Lori Jenkins: It was my senior year and I wasn’t very thrilled because last year we were informed that there were going to be a lot of changes in our staff and faculty and policy.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I had issues with change because a lot of my life has been constant change, and I had no control over it. Due to financial issues at home with my family, and my hormones and emotions were through the roof. I was just going through a lot at the time. But the only place that I had hope for solace was Ms. Brito’s class.

And when I arrived to Spanish class, there was no Brito. Ms. TeKolste’s upbeat smile, her happiness, it irritated my soul. My safe haven was taken from me, and I had to find it somewhere else, in someone or something else.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of TeKolste and Jenkins’ story.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.