Today was a traumatic day for Room 5 (my first grade class). This morning I had a mother (parent volunteer) inform me that while we were in art, she cleaned out our fish's tank. I was so thankful because I would have had to have done it this afternoon, and was not super excited about it. You see....it was my brilliant idea to have a class pet. So, we had a parent buy us a beautiful goldfish and tank, etc. We voted on names...and the girls wanted to call her FiFi....and the boys wanted to call him FireFish. So, I called it FiFi the Firefish. This afternoon, I went in my classroom...(4 minutes before needing to be outside to pick up my kids from lunch)...and I saw the most heartbreaking thing. FiFi the firefish was alive and breathing...but upside down. I called the teacher's lounge knowing others were in there for lunch and said, "Brianne, I need your help....my fish is dying...but it is not dead yet...it is still breathing..and I need to save its life...what do I do?" I heard this response from Brianne (who is one of the most wonderful people ever)...."grab it by its tail, pull it around the bowl...get its heart going and open up his gills." I really was hoping not to touch it...but I did not want to deal with the death of our class pet so, I pushed it, pulled it...and kept saying..."C'mon Fifi...c'mon" She swam briefly, then floated on her side and breathed no more. I now have about 1 minute and 30 seconds before I have to get my kids...and our beloved pet is floating...dead...in our bowl. I am thinking...."Hide the bowl...just hide it." I then saw Mr. O'Neil...a teacher from across the yard...and yell out, "Mr. O'Neil, Help...I really need you!!!" Being super concerned he ran in my room...to hear me say super fast with tears in my eyes, "Our Fish...he is dead, he just died...I gotta get my kids...what do I do with our fish?" He told me to bury it in the dirt and that it could fertilize the soil. (Okay, so that was good and all...but I was now late getting my kids...Fifi the Firefish is still dead and floating in plain sight for 20 six year olds...and he was telling me to pick it up and bury it.) He must have seen the desperation in my eyes because he quickly offered to do it, picked up Fifi and buried her in some dirt. I called the counselor to see if she had anything to offer me (advice, etc) before informing my class that their pet was no longer alive.
I told the class....some accepted it better than I had. Others wanted to tell me about every animal they had ever had die. And one little girl informed me that her grandmother did not eat her vegetables and so they had to put her in the hospital and cut her leg into pieces (yeah, I know....random...and I had to work hard not to laugh on that one). I read a book about life and death to them....and then asked some questions...one of them was, "Who can tell me what the word death means?" A little girl so anxious to answer raised her hand and did the "pick me, pick me, I know...I know" squirm, so I let her answer. She said...."Death is when you can not hear." This time, I could not help but laugh. Anyway, after all of our discussions of death and telling our favorite memories of our beloved pet, we put together a class book in memory of Fifi the Firefish. It was definetly an insane afternoon. One I will never forget.