Saturday, June 5, 2010

Teacher Fail

When I'm not busying planning my wedding, scouring the internet, and blogging, you can find me in my classroom.  I teach 2nd grade at a lovely elementary school.  I love this age group (7 & 8 yr-olds) and their honesty.  This year, the gods were with me and I am lucky to have 20 greats students.  Twenty precious, mold-able, young minds.
And I'm about to crush their spirits because of my teacher fail.

I feel horrible.

Every year at this school I order fertilized duck eggs, place them in the incubator, and wait 28 days for our babies to hatch.  During the incubation period we learn a lot about life cycles, eggs in general, and tons of info about ducks.  Each year this activity intrinsically rewards me: it fills me with joy to see tiny baby ducks use all their might to come into this world,  my students adore these little ones and show such tenderness, I am reminded of how sweet the world can be, I see life bloom and grow before my eyes and in my students.
But not this year.

I ordered a new incubator, hoping for better results and an easier process. 
This new contraption fooled me, confused me.  The thermometer consistently read too high, but adjusting the factory settings to lower the temperature seemed futile.  I left the top of the incubator ajar to adjust the temperature myself.  I added water to maintain humidity and candled the eggs.  The light showed the ducks were growing! I thought maybe, just maybe, four or five ducklings will make it!

On Wednesday I removed the automatic egg turner, as scheduled three days before hatch.  The delicate eggs felt heavier in my hand, a positive sign.  I reached deep into my soul and hoped to hear a little peep in a few days time.  Before I replaced the lid, I noticed something devastating: blood stain inside one egg.  Death.  I took a deep breath and recalled, just like I teach the children, the circle of life does not always complete a full rotation.  I left the egg incase I was mistaken.

On Friday, I packed up the incubator to take it home.  The eggs' hatch date was Saturday, but every year they hatch 2 days early.  Such ominous feelings consumed me during this entire process that I decided the responsibility fell on me to take the eggs to my house, not allow a family to watch them and call when if the ducks arrived.

Saturday morning I woke up at 6am, thinking I heard peeps.  I laid in bed and listened, trying to decipher if the sound came from outside my window or in the bathroom where I kept the incubator safe from our pets.  In getting up every step felt like a decision: do I check for ducklings and find nothing or maybe something, or turn back and try to sleep and hope they hatch?  I pushed the handle of the bathroom door open.
Nothing.  The eggs looked the same, except more eggs show blood stains.
Cursing myself for doing whatever it was I did wrong, I tried to go back to sleep.
I woke up 3 more times to find nothing, before giving into the day.

I write this at 8:30pm on Saturday, knowing exactly what I don't want to write.
Changing between verb tenses but honestly too upset to care.
Monday will be a tough day in the classroom explaining to twenty-eager students who monitored every day of the hatch countdown, so excited to name the ducklings, who know random facts about Mallards for no good reason, that there will be no ducklings this year.

Not only do I face their reactions, but my own.  I took 14 eggs away from their mother, to be their own mother.  I challenged G-d to do it myself, and it serves me right.
I need to leave nature to nature.
This will be the last year I attempt to hatch ducklings.  While the rewards are great, the burden of death is too much.
I'm sorry kids, but this year we won't have ducklings.
Massive Teacher Fail.


  1. Oh how awful. I would feel terrible too. Kids understand better than we think, however, difficult as is will be, they are resilient.
    Bless you for trying.
    Stopped by from SITS, hope you have a better week.

  2. This is making me really sad. But you did your best. You can definitely turn this into a teachable moment, but I know it will be hard. :(

  3. We did something like that when I was in kindergarten, except it was chickens. Luckily all went well, and I think most of the eggs hatched.

    I think you'll manage the situation well. Don't judge yourself too harshly. Nobody's perfect. I guarantee the kids will be sad at first, but they really are resilient, and they probably won't blame you at all. Children are very understanding and they aren't going to analyze or question the story you give them. When I was in 2nd grade a girl in my grade died, and even though I know it upset me at the time, it didn't certainly didn't define my whole 2nd grade experience. I wasn't traumatized or permanently damaged. It's just a sad memory among many happier ones. I hope it goes alright.

    Cheer up :)

  4. Vicki- when I was in first grade we hatched chicks. Something went wrong and while we did have some chicks, there were others that didn't make it. I remember sitting in a circle with my classmates and teacher (Ms. Denby, in case you were wondering- she was lovely) talking about life and death and why these things happen sometimes. It felt really important. So- I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is NOT a massive teacher fail. You still have a great teachable moment ahead of you- it's just not the warm fuzzy lesson that you expected.

  5. I agree with Jenna that this is a teachable moment. We don't learn because we do everything right; we learn when we make mistakes. Part of the process is to go back, examine, and reflect on what you believe were the causes for this unfortunate event. It sounds as those the incubator is the culprit.
    Don't say "never" Vicki. I learned not to say that. I'm proud of you. Kate Boslet

  6. Don't feel sad. That happens in nature a lot. That's why they lay so many.
    After having A Duck Named Peep (and 3 other duckies!) and watching him grow from a baby to a full fledged adult, well that goofy face grows on you. You just want to save every duck you can. Beautiful sweet and intelligent creatures.


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