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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Even the Sparrow by Bea Tifton


I just got a message that read, “Did you forget to post your Smart Girls blog?” Well, no. No, I didn’t. But sometimes life just interferes.

When I was a fourth grade teacher, one of the aides from another department asked me if she could observe me teaching for one of her education classes. I really liked this person and thought she would make a great teacher, so I said, “Sure. “ We agreed on a time and I planned to do my favorite social studies lesson.

The lesson was on slave spirituals. I’d given this lesson the year before. I placed the glowing self stick stars in the shape of the Big Dipper on our blackboard and turned out the lights. Then, in the dark, I played a recording of "Follow the Drinking Gourd." When the song was over, The lights came up and we proceeded to learn about spirituals and their significance. The lesson ended with the kids composing their own spiritual. 

Well, that’s what I planned.

But that day, we were outside and, just before time for the kids to go in, almost my whole class came running up, very upset, to tell me that they found a newly dead sparrow. They wanted me to bury it and conduct a bird funeral. Now this was a conservative district in a small town, and I was the bleeding heart teacher. The other teachers called me “Nature Girl” behind my back, and it wasn’t a compliment. I had spent all year teaching these kids about kindness to animals. This was walk the walk time.

I took a deep breath, and when the aid came up, we were conducting a funeral under the tree just outside my classroom door.

I explained that we were running a bit late, but that I was still doing the lesson. She had to get back to her assigned class and couldn’t stay for the whole thing, and later, when we debriefed, I explained what had happened. It turned out to be a much better lesson in teaching than I’d even hoped.  I explained how the biggest thing to remember in teaching is flexibility because sometimes, often, things just wouldn’t go as planned.

Sometimes, you just have to have a bird funeral.



Photo Credits:
Kat Smith "Woman Covering Her Face with Her Hands"
James Wheeler "Leafless Trees Under a Starry Sky"
Yan Krukau "Children Sitting in the Classroom"
Pixabay "Brown Tree and Green Leaf"
Pixabay "Brown and White Fur Bird at Brown Tree Branch"


  1. What a perfect lesson! And how splendid that you had a bird funeral.

  2. "I remember this one great day in math" said no kid ever- but they will remember the day they attended the funeral of a sparrow forever.

  3. Bea, that was lovely and so sweet. Bet your classes loved having you as a teacher.


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