Goodbye to Formal Education: Let’s be Tree Frogs

I am going to tell a story that I likely forgot to share in the hustle and bustle of last month’s adventures…

Do you ever have those moments where you must definitively choose to close a door?

As I quietly began to allow God to move me out of my teaching position this January, I came to some realizations.

  1. I will very likely never be a Classroom Teacher ever again
  2. I may never work in a traditional educational system ever again
  3. While it’s likely that I will do a plethora of work with children and people of all ages, it’s likely that the period of me being “Ms. Nus” in a formal sense, is over

So what do you do when you are not just saying goodbye to a job, but to a role?

If I’m going to be honest, there are many things I have loved about teaching. First and foremost, teaching was an excuse for me to spend time with children. I realized after a tutoring position that the children I worked with found me amusing, and vice versa. Children’s interest in nature, focus on adventure, and curiosity for the unknown taught me to take myself less seriously. While not all classroom moments were perfect, we very often mutually chose to have a delightful time.

While it is very obvious that having a delightful time in working with youth is not restricted just to a scholastic setting, working as a Classroom Teacher allowed me to become an architect of communities, a coach, a provocateur, and more often than not, a mom. Based on my students’ needs and my god-given personality, there was always a lot of nurture, a lot of clear boundaries, and a lot of room to create and explore. Working as a Classroom Teacher gave me liberty to weave together subjects, ask challenging questions, and equip students to launch themselves into the unknown. For me, it was an opportunity to develop and send.

Based on all that JOY, I decided that my exit from the Classroom would have to also be a celebration.

As I winnowed and fussed and cried and pondered, I decided to let my “Leaving the Classroom” celebration be based on one of my favorite memories in my 6 years of teaching. I chose this memory because I feel it summarizes who I was as a teacher, and the part of me that I know I will take with me regardless of the context.

One day when I taught second grade (8 year olds), I noticed that everything about the day was oppressively boring. The weather was off, the students’ school lunches were gross, and we all collectively could barely keep our eyes open during Reading Centers. Most of my students were in groups of 4-5, and working quietly with their peers to complete a 20 minute assignment before they would transition to the next activity. While everyone was well aware of their responsibilities and making some measure of progress towards them, and while the assignments themselves were relatively engaging, the atmosphere was stale, heavy, and old.

I was sitting at a table with about 5 students, who were equally disengaged. We were reading a book on Red Eyed Tree Frogs, but they were next to unresponsive towards my questions.

In that moment, I became aware of a red fruit by the foot that a student had gifted me earlier that day, resting near my teacher supply basket. I allowed the students to be distracted briefly, unwrapped the fruit by the foot, and returning to regular sitting position, began to pretend I was a Tree Frog.

As you may imagine, I eventually distracted the entire class, regardless of how close or far away they were sitting. They were shocked to see an adult so tangibly undignified. While I eventually reeled them back in, they remembered that day because it was an excuse for fun. We ended up watching many a Youtube video on Tree Frogs that year, by their request.

In anticipation of leaving the classroom, I decided that my students and I should also be tree frogs.

I will be honest: This goofy activity was probably more for my sake than for my current students. But in the end, we did indeed have a delightful time.

First, I ordered some plastic frogs.

Then, I got us some red paper cups.

Research and Discovery

On a Friday afternoon, I explained to my students that I was going to challenge them to use their research skills to solve a mystery.

First, I had each student pick one plastic frog out of a cup.

Most students did not expect the color pattern of the frogs they received. At this point, I challenged students to find a frog whose color pattern closely resembled the frog they had chosen. Then, they would have to describe the frog’s name, habitat, region, diet, size, and any other interesting details.

If I’m being honest with you, I made this part entirely up. This frog assortment was never designed after specific tree frogs; it was probably created as a party toy for toddler’s birthdays. However, it was fun to see my students puzzle over which of the frogs were most closely connected to their own. I don’t think they realized I was making it up.

Here is some of their work:

Finally, we watched some goofy videos all about frogs, and took a class photo.

A Hidden Reason

Another reason I chose this activity was because I was able to have the kids keep their plastic frogs. This way, I had the chance to give each kid a little token to remember me without singling out or excluding anyone. While frogs may not be everyone’s favorite thing, I wanted to give them the option of holding onto something permanent, to help with the transition process.

And now?

I have to admit, doing this activity with students helped me process what it would mean to say goodbye before I needed to formally tell them. It allowed me to have another awesome memory with them that I will continue to treasure.

Leaving is hard. All change is hard. But even in saying goodbye, there can be joy.

And in the uncertainty, we can choose to be tree frogs.

Published by Haley Nus

Previously... [I am a bilingual Christian Educator in the heart of D.C. who longs to see revival transform K-12 education both domestically and internationally. I believe that inquiry-based and experiential teaching methods pair seamlessly with godly awe and point us through the gospel towards a Creator who invites us to taste and see his goodness (Psalm 34:8). While I love sharing the gospel with people, I take Jesus's invitation to welcome children in his name (Luke 9:48) and Jesus's exhortation to become like children (Mathew 18:3) literally! In order to shape the world well for adults, we must serve the youngest among us so that we will truly understand who we are as sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).]

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