I used to bring Gertrude to my sixth-grade classroom to help kick off our “Muppet” project. In between the yearly projects, she lived with my parents.
It’s been 5 years since I’ve taught sixth grade. (That’s crazy!) So the other day my parents asked me if I still wanted Gertrude. I guess they were tired of her freeloading.
Suddenly, I ached for my sixth-graders and our Muppet projects. I thought about it for a minute and realized it might be fun to ask kids in my schools what Gertrude’s story might be.
“I wonder if I can get a teacher or two to let me do this with them,” I thought.
It took me a few days, but I finally remembered that I co-run a Writers’ Club. What luck! Kids! Ready for a writing invitation!
Gertrude traveled with me to school today, and I took her down to meet some classes. The first class was working on PSSA practice, and as much as Gertrude wanted to interrupt that (she’s not a fan of standardized tests) I moved on to a second-grade classroom around the corner. Then onto first grade . . . By the end of the day, Gertrude had met every class.
I told the kids that Gertrude didn’t know her story. She needed a story!
“Gertrude was lonely at my parents’ house. She wanted to come to school for Writer’s Club. But, she wanted to meet kids before she went to Writers’ Club, so she wouldn’t be too nervous,” I explained.
“Why is she even here when we aren’t even allowed to go to Writers’ Club?” a kindergartner said. I told her what I told every class K-2: “Maybe when you get to be in third grade, you’ll join Writer’s Club!”
“Wow,” I thought as kids crowded around us, trying to be quiet since they understood Gertrude was still pretty shy. “This is a pretty good advertisement for Writers’ Club!“
Of course, kids of all ages wanted to know what Gertrude was.
“Is she a dog?”
“Is she a bird?”
“She’s a gertrude.”
You might have to meet Gertrude to understand her magic. The way she walks is peaceful, almost mesmerizing. You can’t help but stare at her. She’s quiet and shy but brings out the best smiles. As I walked down the hall with her, kids of all ages said, “Hi Gertrude!” and asked me more questions about her.
I have a feeling that if I don’t take her with me next time I’m walking down the hall, the kids won’t talk to me anymore…
I didn’t know what would happen at Writers’ Club, but the magic of Gertrude plus the magic of the young writers did not disappoint. I invited the kids to write about Gertrude, for Gertrude, and to make bird puppets that could be in a story with her.
“But what is a gertrude?” one boy asked, “I don’t find her when I google!”
I told him that someone would have to make her a google entry. “What would her wikipedia page say?”
And friends, when the two girls came up to read me their nonfiction article all about Gertrude, it was a dream come true. They had a description of gertrudes, and talked about how loud noises scare them. They described a gertrude habitat and diet, and ended with a story of a gertrude named Gertrude. They printed their story and put it on our Gertrude story wall.
The bird puppet makers wanted to make sure I brought Gertrude next week so they could write their stories down, and as they started to clean up, a writer came up to me and said, “I know what Gertrude’s favorite food is. Avacado.”
So, needless to say, we added a fast fact section just for Gertrude.