Sorry to gush about my lovely students again, but I received an e-mail from one of my students two days after school was out that explained how I needed to go back and check my mailbox on campus.  I did this yesterday, and I found a great t-shirt and card from two of my used-to-be sixth grade girls who are now my seventh graders.

My new custom-made shirt!
Here's the back-story, if you care to know: six weeks ago, my sixth graders and I had an overnight field trip up to the pine trees 80 miles from here.  I had known  Hannah--one of my sixth graders--loved to watch/identify birds because of her writer's notebook, but I didn't know her friend Mimi had picked up on the habit too.  Hannah and I had talked about birds early on in the school year, and when we left the bus six weeks back and I saw a bluejay, I challenged Hannah to a 24-hour "bird-off."  Who could spot and identify the most birds during our stay in the pine trees, that was the challenge.  Mimi overheard, and it became the two of them against me.

At the end of our first afternoon, I was one bird ahead.  I woke up early the next morning, and doubled my number of spottings before breakfast, which I knew would irk the two ladies I was competing against.  There was one noisy little sparrow, however, I could not identify that morning.  There are too many sparrow types, and this one I found was so loud, but I had no idea which type he was.  Luckily, I have an Audubon application on my iPhone, and amazingly, it played for me the exact same song I was hearing from this little fellow in the pine tree: a chipping sparrow, a totally new bird for me.  After breakfast, I told my two ladies about the birds I had spotted that morning (without the iPhone's help), but then I broached the subject that I had used my phone to learn a totally different bird for my list.  I had thought they'd be impressed that such a piece of technology existed, but oh dear, I was wrong.  They deemed me a "cheater" and pretty much called off the contest.

In insisted I was using technology to better my knowledge, but they (both great little actresses) let me have it for "cheating" them out of the possibility of winning the contest.  When we were back in school, they made a sign for my chair with a chipping sparrow on it; the bird was calling me a cheater in the sign. They made signs for their desks that read, "Only non-cheaters can sit here."

Anyway, it became our joke for the last six weeks of school; I was quietly thrilled to see that Hannah wrote her final expository essay on the chipping sparrow.  When I said, "See how my cheating inspired a new topic to research for you," she jokingly turned her back on me and walked away with a "Humphhh."

In my mailbox--two days after the end of school--I found the pictured chipping sparrow t-shirt with the sweetest thank you card from these two ladies.  I wanted them to see me in my "cheater's t-shirt," so I am proudly posting this picture.

Thanks, Hannah and Mimi!  Can't wait to begin your year as "Sev-ies."  I shall wear the shirt on special occasions.

--Mr. Harrison


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