If you’ve been a teacher for more than a few days, you’ve been here: You’re in the middle of a lesson, you’ve got decent student engagement, you’re feeling pretty good about what’s going on, and...
The phone rings. Really? I mean, really? Yep, just yesterday.
Caller ID showed that it was the front desk, and I answered with what I hope was a friendly, “Hello.”
“Mr. Gels?” our receptionist asked.
I’m not trying to be snarky here, honestly I’m not, but I always get a kick out of it when people ask, “Mr. Gels?” when I answer the phone. I’m the only male teacher in the school, and no one’s ever accused me of having an feminine voice. “Mr. Gels?” Of course I’m Mr. Gels. But I digress.
So I’ve already got that goofy grin on my face as our conversation starts (I really do love our receptionist--she’s great, and there’s a chance she might read this some day).
She continued, “Your turtle is loose.”
Awkward pause as now I am looking for a snarky response as well as wondering just what Tina might be talking about.
“One of the coaches told me that there’s a turtle by the fifth grade door. Her class saw it when they came in from PE. She asked me to let you know,” she elaborated with a smile in her voice.
Ah. The outdoor classroom (I’m the coordinator). The turtle from the pond. Got it. I love my job, I really do.
After saying that I’d go out and take a look as soon as I was able to, I got back to my my lesson.
And stopped again when the coach herself came in to tell me that my turtle was loose.
And stopped again and again when two different fifth graders came in to tell me that my turtle was loose. Sigh.
So, the turtle. Our pond is a small body of water that a fantastic volunteer with a backhoe dug for us seven or eight years ago. It’s home to an assortment of fish (that we put there), snakes (!), insects, and random turtles that appear every now and again. I say that about the turtles because it’s virtually impossible to imagine that they got there on their own. In “the wild,” aquatic turtles of our sort don’t travel miles from the nearest body of water in search of our 10 square yards of water surface. More than once, I’ve had students or parents let me know that they donated a pet or an animal they rescued from the road...hence, “appear.”
While I guess you can tag me with responsibility for the pond, the same can’t really be said for the turtles. They live there, but they’re not technically captive. There’s a fence, but it’s not turtle proof (it does, however, satisfy the legal requirement for our pond). Why does an aquatic turtle suddenly take up wandering? With my grin back, I’ll just say that it’s the season for reptile love and leave it at that.
Anyway, during lunch I went out, found the turtle and returned it to the pond. Has its wanderlust been satisfied? I don’t know, but if you see it roaming around, just let me know. I’ll go out and get it--that’s what I do.
Quick springtime note: If you feel the need to rescue a turtle from the road (and I’ve done it many times), please be safe as you do so. Help the turtle get to where it’s going--don’t take it back to where it was. Its instinct is telling it where to go and it will just try again. Finally, turtles have a home range and suffer if taken from it. Please don’t bring it to me. Thanks!