pic-eatsub1.jpgThe second grader held his picture high enough for the whole class to see. “Look, Ms. Roy, here’s your heart falling out of your body!”

He seemed shocked that my response was simply, “It should be a little more red. And dripping.”

The lesson the teacher had left for me involved the question, “What if dinosaurs had never become extinct?” Part of the assignment involved drawing a picture of dinos taking over the school.

dino-ate.jpgIn both the pictures and essays, I was mutilated, maimed, crushed, and bitten in half. The students seemed to delight in any new variation on the theme of Death by Dino.

I’ll admit, I felt strange serving as antagonist. I’d substitute taught a time or two, serving at my daughters’ school when there’s a shortage. But generally I avoided becoming a stereotype — or a victim.

pic-atesub2.jpgThe boy elbowed his friend, who was also depicting my untimely demise by T-rex. “She doesn’t get mad no matter what we do to her!”

I’m happy to support creative energy, whatever form it takes. And if mangling their substitute is what gets them fired up about writing, then I’ll take it. I fed them fresh ideas. “What about my brains? Did they gush out?” One boy rapidly added a crunched skull to his art. “My hair’s longer than that,” I corrected.

As the students filed out for lunch, some felt chagrin. One girl grasped my waist as she passed by. “I’m sorry I killed you,” she said.

Even the boys begrudgingly admitted, “Ms. Roy, it’s probably a waste for you to get eaten.” As I sent them down to the cafeteria, I felt good about how the lesson had gone. I didn’t censor them, and they recognized the responsibility that came with freedom to write about what they chose. 

Besides, as the line snaked down the hallway, they merrily began planning the death of the principal.

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