The following is a written account of an actual event that occurred in Scott Jones’s fifth grade classroom in October 2016. Mr. Jones acknowledges that this was not his finest teaching moment. He will also not be making any further comments about this event. Yet, he believes it’s important to share his experience so others can learn from his mistakes…
I burped in class today. For real.
Our minilesson got underway as twenty-five eager faces stared at me from the carpet after a very active lunch and recess. Today’s writing learning target was “ Writers learn how to add dialogue to their narrative to move the story forward and to reveal character.” We were revising our personal narratives, and many students needed help on how to use dialogue properly. I had the perfect mentor text ready to go. I had a nice, organized anchor chart to capture the highlights of this minilesson. I was on a roll.
It was one of those moments that classroom communities have when the stars are aligned and everything is working. Everyone was focused and alert. There was an energy in the class that was palpable. There was no doodling on journal covers, no picking at eraser tops, no playing with shoelaces. I had their full attention. They looked at me. I looked back at them. Our eyes locked with anticipation of the next insightful statement that would float from my mouth and land onto the pages of their writing journals.
As I opened my mouth to share my next pearl of wisdom, it happened. What my students heard next was no pearl of wisdom. More like a nugget of smelly air. It crept up my throat like a foghorn in the dense, morning fog. I was not prepared for this. This had never, ever happened to me before. This burp was supposed to be a private little moment, but it had now been exposed to the world. Writing coach and author, Ruth Ayres, uses the phrase “going public” when describing how writers publish their work. Surely, she did not mean this.
The five seconds of silence that followed felt like an eternity. They were all looking at me with their heads cocked to the side like a dogs. The expressions on their face asked, Did that just happen? It did happen. All I could do was own it and share that this had never happened before. The laughter that followed spread around the classroom until it eventually hit me. There was nothing I could do but laugh. I had literally just burped, and burped loudly, in front of my class.
The next day’s learning target: Sometimes writing is like a giant burp. You never know when you’ll be inspired to do it. Ideas, like a burp, can creep into your mind when you least expect it.