Terrific

We started reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White today, and I must confess that I've been looking forward to it all year. Little did I know that I would inadvertently steer the conversation away from the warm, fuzzy, friendship parts of the book, and straight into the facts of life parts of the book.

Let me explain. As you should know (if you haven't read Charlotte's Web, go pick up a copy ASAP), the novel opens with Fern trying to save the pig Wilbur who is the runt of the litter from an untimely death by her father. Fern tries to convince her father that it's unjust, and asks him if he would have killed her if she had been born too small.

He replies, "But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another."

While I was reading this aloud, I was inspired to have my 3rd graders debate whether or not they agreed with this statement. After a couple minutes of talking it out amongst themselves, we had a consensus: every single child disagreed.

"Humans and animals are exactly the same!"
"We should never kill animals!"
"I would never kill a pig!"
"The pig has feelings too!"
"People used to kill animals for food, but they don't do that anymore!" (This comment was said with the utmost confidence.)

It went on and on. Without really thinking it through, I asked them to raise their hands if they had ever eaten bacon. Almost every kid raised their hand. Hamburgers? Check. Chicken nuggets? Check check. Fish? Check check check.

I said, "So, I have to say that I'm really torn over this statement. I kind of agree with Fern's father. I love the character of Wilbur the pig, but I do eat meat."

My students looked at me like I had suddenly grown horns.

"So...you guys know that when you're eating meat, you're eating an animal, right?"

Oops. That was the moment I realized I went just a bit too far. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I was uncovering some far-off truth that these kids had never previously discovered. I just made it a bit more real for them. Probably exactly the kind of thing a teacher should do for 8th grade students. After all, 15 year olds can probably handle hard truths a bit better than 9 year olds.

I guess in that moment I realized that I'm still adjusting from the 8th grade to 3rd grade switch. Maybe I'll get it right by June.