It was clay day, and we had just finished making leaf dishes. The classroom was cleaned up, and the students were quiet. There were fifteen minutes left in class. After schooling the first graders on the workings of the kiln and the different states of water, having really grabbed their attention when I mentioned that steam can cause their dishes to EXPLODE!, there were eight minutes left in class. I pulled out my trusty time-killer, the book Dogs Rule! by Daniel Kirk. The students were settled on the carpet, criss-crossed applesauce, their eyes eager with anticipation, will I be the one she calls on to pick a dog story?
We read three dog stories. After reading the final story, one that entertained us with a dog’s perspective on riding in cars, I asked, “I bet dogs have a really good life, don’t you think?”
“Yeaaaahhh…” they sedately answered, still entranced from the rhythmic readings.
“But you know what, I imagine cats have a better life. Could you imagine being a cat, just sleeping all day and eating?”
“Yeaaaahhh…” they replied again.
I dreamily continued, “You could lie in bed all day, have someone else feed you, and not have to go to school…”
Suddenly, the mood in the room shifted. In an accusatory tone they asked, “You don’t like school?”
“Oh no,” I protested, “I love school, but sometimes it would be nice to take a cat day.”
“Why?” They demanded, their eyes squinting with suspicion.
Fearing that my next words would deeply affect the way they viewed me, art class, and the state of the world, I stumbled with my response, “Well, um, because, you know, sometimes I get tired, and I could, um, just use a break…” They stared at me, unblinking, waiting to learn why a teacher, a teacher, wouldn’t want to be in school.
“Why don’t you just get a sub so you can stay home?” a girl up front asked.
“Oh, well… because… wow, look at that, it’s time to line up.” I hurriedly herded the students into line, thankful to end the conversation, but still surprised that first graders can be so shocked by the mere suggestion of skipping school and spending the day in bed. Just wait until you’re my age, I thought to myself, then you’ll wish we could take cat days.