The Plight of the Disappearing Turtle

by Elie Vogel

As the turtle’s head, arms, tail, and shell slowly disappeared, a dozen 6-7 year old children sit weeping while an elder Japanese lady laughs to her heart’s content. If this scene sounds strange, it’s because it truly was. But then again, teaching students this young week after week yields some interesting memories.
We were practicing weather. I’d hold up a weather flashcard and the students would race to raise their hand to answer which it was. When I usually run these vocabulary games I either allot points or, if I am feeling a bit creative, I’ll let them build a castle then have the other teams slowly disassemble it if they get a correct answer. “Wouldn’t it be interesting to adapt this game not just to buildings, but to other things as well?” I naively thought. The teacher certainly thought so.
Instead of being allowed to pick a different team and take a part of their castle for their own, I decided that a disappearing animal could prove amusing for the children. Watching a giraffe’s legs slowly disappear and maybe an eye or two as well should be entertaining for kids of that age. I thought so anyway. So, the next time we did a vocabulary trivia game, I explained the new rules and had the teams each pick an animal. The turtle team was a bit too attached to theirs. The other teams saw this instantly and kept singling them out for instant erasing.
Head. Left arm. Right arm. Tail. Eyes.
What at first was amusement at their friend the turtle disappearing soon turned into horror. The kids just couldn’t accept that their dear friend, Mr Turtle, was slowly becoming naught. The kids lamented their poor pet with shouts of “That’s unfair!” and “WHYYYYYY?!” as the home room teacher paced the room with a huge smile on her face, occasionally giggling when another team decided that they would use their correct answer to erase a small portion of the headless shell. When all the limbs were gone the shell, admittedly, looked like Melon bread and the other teams proceeded to chant “Melon bread! Melon bread!” at these poor children who wanted nothing more than to see their green pal survive. The teacher even made it a point to visit my desk and tell me that she thought that the previous class, above all the other classes, was amusing. I guess we all have our own brand of humor.

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