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Monday, April 2, 2007

teaching with turtles

My fondness for alliteration got me in trouble that first year I taught. It was the only year they let me teach biology. I’ve been teaching physical science and chemistry ever since – 27 years. It was this time of year (maybe May) and I had taken my only biology class down the trail behind the school through the woods to the Tyger River. We were on the ridge looking down at the river when a stirring in the leaf mold drew a student’s attention. She squealed thinking the warm day had brought out the snakes. I used the fallen hickory limb I was carrying as a walking stick to lift the leaves. There before me and about a half-dozen 10th grade girls were two box turtles in a depression, the female with her head in the hole (which I think she had dug herself,) and the male playing piggy-back.

After being in the bright sun and stepping in the shadows, the students’ eyes hadn’t yet adjusted. One of the girls said, “What is that?”

“Aw, it’s just a couple of cooters copulating,” I answered.

They told me that the phone lines between members of a certain Baptist Sunday School class were burning up that evening. It wasn’t long after that that Mr. McGinnis asked me if I would just consider teaching only the physical sciences. That was fine with me.

Speaking of cooters, Hilton Pond had a good article on Yellowbellied Sliders last week.

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