Ode to my daughter’s teacher


When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, my kids were 6 and 3 years old. There are so many things that go through your mind when you’re diagnosed with cancer. The biggest concern for me, though, was how it would affect my children. I had no idea how they were going to cope. In fact, I had no idea how I was going to cope! So, my husband and I enlisted the help of the people we knew who knew kids best: our daughters’ teachers.

Mrs. Schiesl (pronounced like the infamous Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series) was my 6-year-old’s first grade teacher. When we told her the situation, she did what teachers do best — she stepped right in and took control. The weight of the world was lifted off of me when she told me she would be Emma’s shepherd during the day. She reassured me that all would be ok and that she would let me know if Emma acted unusually or if she thought anything might be amiss.

Fast forward to some random day. I open my email and there’s a message from Mrs. Schiesl. My heart skips a beat:


I think about you daily as I spend time with Emma. Today, Emma told me she was sad because her mommy is sick. So, we sat together and talked about what a strong person you are. She perked back up and was back to herself in no time. Her resilience is a testament to your love and the strength of your family.

I always hope your recovery is progressing well.


That’s it. So simple. And yet so perfect.

If you’re a teacher, here are the things that Mrs. Schiesl did that made my life — and Emma’s life — easier while I was going through treatment:

She immediately responded to my news with empathy and caring.
She did not muddy the waters by recounting her own personal experiences with illness.
She was a consummate professional at all times.
She understood that my requests were coming from a desire to help my child, not a desire to “get her to handle it.”
She let me know, immediately and plainly, when an incident did occur.

If you’re a parent, I cannot urge you more strongly to involve your children’s teachers in what seems like an intensely personal crisis. While it isn’t easy to speak about your woes with someone you don’t know very well, just know that your child knows this person extremely well. He or she may be the person they spend the most time with, next to you. Your ability to be vulnerable and candid will only help your child and their teacher confront any problems head-on.

Years have passed and I’m doing great. My kids remember what happened, but they aren’t frightened by it. More importantly, as a family we know and understand that our girls’ teachers are an important part of our everyday lives. Emma still speaks of Mrs. Schiesl fondly — in all of her 10-year-old sophistication. She will never forget the gift of patience and love that Mrs. Schiesl gave her. And I will never forget either.

Jenn McRobbie is the author of Why Is She Acting So Weird? A Guide to Cultivating Closeness When A Friend Is In Crisis.

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2017/05/08/ode-to-my-daughters-teacher/

Do entertain the animals: 5 ways to be a better human at the zoo


Your job: Be interesting. Researcher and author Laurel Braitman explains.

Most humans at a zoo or aquarium are really predictable. We go up to the glass and wave, or pull out our phones and take a picture, and then wander off to the next display. You, however, can stand out from the crowd in several safe and fun ways — simply by being less boring to the creatures on the other side of the glass. Note: these tricks seem to work best for smart, social and curious creatures like primates, elephants, parrots, penguins, otters, dolphins and whales — but they might work for other animals, too.


1. Wear a costume (or something shiny, or just a funny hat).
A docent at the Bronx Zoo in New York is convinced that the gorillas’ favorite day is Halloween, because hundreds of people visit wearing costumes and this seems to bring all the apes to the glass to marvel at the sights. But you don’t have to be in full costume — even a weird hat or a shiny outfit can inspire another animal to come check you out.


2. Bring a baby or a small child.
This is probably the biggest no-fail tip. I’m not sure why so many animals are interested in little kids, but it’s probably because their movements are more surprising and they’re more likely to be playful. Some baby gorillas can play peekaboo, and I’ve had penguins swim along when I run back and forth with toddlers and the birds in interspecies races. Sometimes, of course, the animals are interested simply because a baby looks like a good snack.

3. Slip a harmonica or a kazoo into your bag.
It’s incredible how many animals enjoy music. I often bring musicians to play for captive animals — Black Prairie playing for wolves at a sanctuary in Washington State or Grass Widow playing surf rock for a group of Boston zoo gorillas. But you don’t need a full band. Even a harmonica or some respectful percussion might intrigue an animal who otherwise doesn’t get to hear much besides intercom announcements or the din of the public.

4. Act like a circus performer (even a bad one).
The easiest way to be interesting is to be willing to look silly in public. It’s very effective. Turn cartwheels or do headstands in front of animals, juggle brightly colored objects (like citrus fruit), somersault across the floor, take off your shoes and wiggle your bare toes (gorillas in particular seem to like this one), or pull things out of your bag, one by one, with a flourish. Any movement outside the norm for visitors is likely to perk up the animals, and if it startles them, it’s not the end of the world. Most of the time they can simply wander away.

5. Hold up picture books or back issues of National Geographic or, if it’s not too loud or annoying, show them videos on your phone.
Many zoos actually keep televisions on hand to play videos for their animals. One mandrill in Boston was thought to enjoy Disney animated features like 101 Dalmatians. In the San Francisco Zoo, they wheel a TV in front of the tigers to give them something to watch. I’ve seen parrots enjoy watching documentaries about other parrots. Captive chimpanzees flip through magazines and gaze at the pictures. So feel free to hold something you’re reading or watching up to the glass and see if anyone on the other side shares your views. [Read more about animals here.]

Art credit: TED-Ed Lesson: The three different ways mammals give birthAuthor bio: Laurel Braitman is an author, historian and anthropologist of science. She holds a PhD in science, technology and society from MIT. The paperback edition of Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman is available now. 

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via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2017/05/02/do-entertain-the-animals-5-ways-to-be-a-better-human-at-the-zoo/