Inspiration in the Strangest of Places

A pile of discarded Beanie Babies and a slew of nine-year olds. Exactly the place you would expect to find writing inspiration, right? Well, that is exactly where I found myself the other day. My mom, known in our family for saving every item holding even the smallest sentimental value, decided to finally rid herself of the Beanie Babies I had collected and had since left in her custody. So here I was, finding myself with a bag of outdated and unwanted stuffed animals.

Naturally, I did what most teachers would do and thought of “my kids”. I did think of “my actual kid” first, and subsequently decided that if another stuffed animal entered our home, my husband just might leave… and that is how they landed in my classroom, looking for a purpose. Little did I know, one of my lovely little souls would give them just what they needed. We were talking about character traits and he said, “I wish I could be like the dragon. No one would pick on IT.” What followed was a heated discussion about what animal each of us was like and which ones we wanted to most BE like. Cue the writer’s notebooks!

I was awe inspired by the thoughts of my students and what character traits they saw in themselves and which ones they saw lacking. Sure, there were the boys that thought the eagle was just cool and the girls that wanted to be the teddy bear. But if you listened closely, you heard the student that wanted to be like the elephant because they know what’s important and stick by their families and she wanted to always be close to her family too. Or the student who thought he was like the scorpion because they are quick to strike and he is quick to be funny (a totally true statement of self-reflection-he’s got a quick wit like no other).

There were so many moments during this impromptu notebook frenzy that inspired me. I’d like to be like the macaw and many days I feel like the chameleon. More on those later.

What about you?

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10 thoughts on “Inspiration in the Strangest of Places

  1. What a great opportunity to see your students through their eyes! I loved the part about listening closely- it’s amazing what we can learn by doing that one thing.

  2. First, congrats on your first slice! And yes…all our “children” inspire us to write, to think and to hope!

  3. How amazing that your students were able to use their schema and what they know about animals to reflect on their own lives! I would have loved to have heard that conversation… keep up the inspiration in any and all ways 🙂

  4. What a great lesson with the Beanie Babies! Did you know that someone has created reading strategies with the Beanies? You can google that to find out what they are.
    I love the insight and honesty that the kids shared.

  5. I have a bag of beanie babies in my room. Left over from my sister’s collecting years.
    We use them in science.
    Thanks for another potential reason to pull them out!

  6. Hi Kim, I have to say that I love this piece for many reasons. The first being how well I identify your mother who saves items for sentimental reasons. Yep, that sounds exactly like me!! ha ha As I see it, your mom held on to those for a very good reason. Look how that bag of “outdated and unwanted stuffed animals” turned out to be an amazing experience for your students and inspirational writing tool for you…:-)

  7. I love this! I work with preschoolers and we are currently focusing on heroes – with a special “science” tangent about animals and their strong and varied traits. Beanie babies would put a real “charge” into the discussions…you have given them new life! I really love the students’ insights about themselves, through animals. Thanks for sharing! Here’s to a fun challenge month!!

  8. Oh how I wish I would have read this before we gave our whole collection away. Dang! That’s a brilliant idea and my fourth graders would have loved it. Thanks for sharing and welcome to the slice. Good luck and keep with it!

  9. Wow, who would have thought?! What a great story, a great reminder of how wonderful our kids are are letting their imaginations take them in wonderful directions.

  10. My daughter’s “abandoned” Beanie Babies have made appearances in my ESL classroom to help students write sentences using adjectives. Sounds boring compared to this. I think they will make a new appearance sometime.

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