One of the fun things I like to do in my class is use random names when I teach. One of my favorite names to use is BOB.
For example, when we’re working on math, I might explain that Bob has 6 triangles that are all the same size, and then I’ll ask the kids how many different sized triangles can Bob make from them.
Of course, there was no rhyme or reason to the name; it was just the first one to come off the top of my head. However, soon Bob was making daily appearances in class, particularly during math.
When my wife and I moved from Sacramento to Maine in 1995, my class got me a going-away present: a Mr. Potato Head. But he was a little different; he had “BOB” written in black sharpie across his hat. I was happy with the gift, but had no clue how central he would eventually become to my class. I simply packed him up along with all my other teaching stuff, and took him to Maine with me.
My new 4th grade class in Maine was delighted with Bob, and readily adopted him as their new classroom buddy. He took his place proudly on my teacher desk, and continued to feature prominently in my class lessons.
When picture day arrived, one of my students asked if I was going to take Bob with us for the class picture. I hadn’t really planned on it, but I thought it was a great idea. When we were called down for our turn, each of us had our pictures taken, including Bob. Those photos were then compiled into one overall class photo.
That was the true beginning of Bob becoming my class mascot and icon.
It wasn’t long before we started to go a little nuts with Bob. He went everywhere with us. He went to school assemblies, Friday sing-a-longs, and even on class field trips (although he stayed behind on the bus, to protect the kids’ belongings).
Then I got an idea. Bob should visit the kids at home! I started a “Bob photo album” which the kids would add to after a home visit. As I mentioned in my earlier post, every teacher should find what makes their class “tick”. Bob was that for my first class in Maine. There he was, a small brown piece of plastic with body parts, yet he would help make our year full of fun and laughter.
I was lucky enough to loop up to the next grade with my class the next year. Of course, Bob looped right along with us. Just after the beginning of the new school year, the class surprised me with a Mrs. Potato Head, whom we quickly gave a name via a class vote. “Erma” would be her name, and as you might guess in a class full of fifth graders, she and Bob immediately fell in love. In fact you might say it was true love as soon as they laid eyes on each other.
Potato eyes, that is.
By Christmas vacation, they were engaged, and a class project–based on geography and math–was to plan their honeymoon. The kids had a great time with the assignment, never really thinking of it as “work”. Bob and Erma made sure of that.
At the end of the year, Bob and Erma were married in a grand ceremony. And when I say “married”, I mean that they literally had a complete wedding. One parent made the cake. A student, Conor, played the wedding march on a keyboard. We even had a flower girl, ring bearer, groomsmen, and bridesmaids, all members of the class of course. To this day, I have a wedding album that I keep in my desk and share every year. This year will be their 15th wedding anniversary.
Class mascots can quickly give your room a sense of character and responsibility. They’re also a lot of fun! Whether it’s a live rat, a guinea pig, or a plastic potato with a silly grin, your mascot can become an incredibly rich part of the students’ year.
Include your mascot whenever and wherever you can. Make up a worksheet that features your mascot in the assignment. These days, you’re likely to find Bob and Erma hanging out on my desk, or visiting a student for “study buddy” time. Over the summer, it’s Bob who writes a letter of introduction to the incoming class–not me.
If you don’t have a class mascot, I strongly recommend you consider getting one. You might want to brainstorm with your class what your mascot could be. Perhaps you might want to create one, using wood, papier-mâché, or cardboard. You might even already have something in your class that the kids have taken a liking to, like a stuffed animal or a plastic frog. Anything will work, really. Give it a name, and voilà–I guarantee that it will take on a personality, and a life, of its own.
Better yet, it’s something the kids will remember forever.
Until next time…
Don’t Stop Believin’, and TeachLikeCrazy!
Every time I hear the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey, I think about the 5th/6th grade class I taught two years ago in Redding, California. Every year, I make it my goal to find a fun and lighthearted way to bond with my class. I try to find an inside joke, a story, something from pop culture, a book, or anything else that will help unite my students and me. Two years ago, it would be a song that would identify our class. It started out as our theme song, but soon it became our mantra. Read the rest of this entry