A great mentor once told me that if I ever intended to obtain a “class pet,” I should first test the waters with a “class plant.” I had lofty dreams of brandishing baby ducklings down the halls of my school. I would undoubtedly train my flock to follow me around and collect summer reading assignments from unsuspecting eighth graders on the first day of classes. Also, they would stay ducklings forever and prove tremendously helpful during dramatic readings of “The Raven” around Halloween time. “A class plant,” she said, “that’s where you’d better start.”
I purchased the aptly named, “Mr. Plahnt,” in August of 2012 and my students grew to love him. They took turns watering Mr. Plahnt, and trimming his excess flora. They brought him home over long weekends and holiday breaks to showcase him in the sunniest rooms of their homes. They decorated him with tinsel at Christmas and toted him around as our mascot during the Eighth Grade Olympics. Mr. Plahnt was a star.
Come summer break, I took my plant pal home where he lasted exactly four days. He quite literally shriveled up and died under my watch. Without the constant urging of my students and the watering schedule that they had expertly devised on the black board, I made for a hopeless caretaker. Now, whenever last year’s class comes to visit, I have to lie and tell them that I sent Mr. Plahnt to a lovely farm upstate where he won’t be so cooped up. Still, I had my heart set on ducklings.
At the urging of my dearest friends and colleagues, I acknowledged that the quest for a class pet is a progression. I bought a fish. After much discussion, we voted to call him “Martin Theokoles Fishstick.” While he doesn’t collect homework on command, he sometimes follows my finger when I trace it across the outside of his bowl. I am careful to change his water regularly and keep him well fed. He has the authenticity of a class pet that I could just never seem to muster out of dear old Mr. Plahnt. Most importantly, I am acutely aware that, “it takes a village” (or at least a motley crew of 13 year olds) to properly care for a living thing.
During my run today at Worcester Fitness, I found myself thinking about all of this– how it’s easy to care for living things when we are mindful and patient, and accepting of each other’s help. Sure enough, my view from the treadmill revealed its fair share of greenery as well as a thriving fish tank on the cardio floor, and I was reminded once again of just how lucky I am to be a part of a community like Worcester Fitness. Our club is an institution dedicated to nourishing living things and fostering teamwork among everyone who sets foot through the door. Dare I say it, we might even be ready for ducklings…