RSS

Green Eggs & Ham & Pepto

In a couple of months we will celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday (which I think would be a really cool national holiday!)  When thinking about the author who has brought so much joy to the world in general, and me specifically I can’t help but recall a memorable Dr Seuss related incident that took place during my teaching days.

I am of course a big big fan of Dr Seuss!  As such I always made it a point to share my love of all his classic works with my preschoolers (whether they liked it or not!) My bookshelf was stacked with all my favorites and I spent many a story time reading them to my kids.  Eventually the Dr. Seuss vibe would spread and the kids would get excited when it was time for one of the books to be read.

One of my kids’ favorites was Green Eggs and Ham.  They may have loved it because of the silly characters, the dynamic rhyming scheme or the fact that I read it to them like 14,000 times.  In any case it was indeed a classroom favorite.

Interesting side story here, but Dr. Seuss actually wrote Green Eggs and Ham as a bet with a friend.  He was talking to a friend about writing, and the friend bet him he couldn’t write a book with just 50 distinct words. Sure enough he wrote Green Eggs and Ham which only has 50 words (repeated throughout the book)

Anyway, love of the book became so wide spread that kids started to talk in rhyme, made pictures and other works of art based on the book, and constantly requested that I read it to them.  One day I got a very cool idea. During circle time, I asked the kids if they would like to make actual green eggs and ham as a cooking project. The response was amazing!  The kids were very excited and wanted to start the project right then and there!I told them we would do it the next day and joy filled the room.  For the rest of the day, making green eggs and ham was the topic of conversation.

Finally the big day arrived.  I had the ham, the eggs, the food coloring to make the eggs green and 15 preschoolers eager to help out.  After a lot of prep work including hand washing, apron tying, more hand washing, and a speech about not using the eggs for anything other than cooking, we got to work. Eggs were cracked, eggs were scrambled, eggs were thrown (not everyone listened to the speech), and then the magic happened.  With a few drops of blue food coloring, the mixture was turned green, and their minds were blown. They were amazed and totally excited for the final product.

My assistant teachers took the kids to the playground as I went to the center’s kitchen to do the cooking. When I was finished, I put out a plate with green eggs and a piece of ham for everyone and awaited their arrival. They came in from outside and I said their green eggs and ham was served. I expected shrieks of joy and kids rushing to eat their Dr Seuss themed snack.  Instead, I got looks of horror and revulsion as they saw what awaited them.  The majority of them refused to eat it and wouldn’t even go near it.  Only three brave souls sat down at the table, and of them only one actually ate the green eggs.  Not being one to waste food, I ate pretty much the entire snack myself.  I asked my assistants for help, but they had the same reaction as the kids so I had to go it alone.

As I sat there later that day in pain from eating more eggs in one sitting than should be allowed, I realized that to a 5 year old the concept of green eggs is much more appealing than the real thing.  In the book they look like something you would eat with a goat or on a train or in the rain, but right in front of you they look like breakfast gone horribly wrong.

I never attempted to repeat the Green Eggs and Ham cooking project during my teaching days, and if ever the thought crossed my mind I remembered all the eggs and picked up a safer book like “Hop on Pop” instead

Green Eggs & Joe

Green Eggs & Joe

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 26, 2014 in 39 and Still in Preschool

 

Tags: ,

Mysteries of Preschoolers (Winter Edition)

Ah winter!  That wonderful time of year when the weather gets brisk and cold, the snow starts to fall, and preschool teachers lose their mind.  Winter is tough to deal with when you are a preschool teacher because not only do you have to deal with cold, ice and snow, you have to deal with getting small children ready and then take them out in cold, ice, and snow.

If you have a child, think how tough it is to get that child dressed and deal with going out in the winter.  Now multiply that by 18, add in a lot of crying, yelling and kicks to the shins and you get an idea of what it’s like to be a preschool teacher during winter.  I did it for 9 long years and to this day my eye still twitches every time the temperature drops.

What made it difficult for me and what makes it difficult for every preschool teacher is that beyond all the regular seasonal items we have to deal with, in winter preschoolers do things that defy logic.  Things that drive us crazy, things that make our head spin, things that are a mystery to us.

Here are some of those very vexing preschool winter mysteries…

– How do they lose so many hats, gloves, and boots? It is just simply astounding how hats gloves and mittens can simply vanish. I’m not even talking about playing outside and one of those items falls off and can’t be found.  I’m talking about standing there next to their winter clothes and suddenly something goes missing. It’s like a magic trick, one minute they are there and then “PRESTO” they are gone. I swear you can put a preschool child in a glass box with their hat and gloves and somehow they will make them disappear.

– Why is it they only need to go to the bathroom after you have stuffed them into their sweater, jacket, boots snow pants and gloves?

– How is it possible that when they put on their own boots they almost always put them on the wrong feet?  It is mathematically impossible that they get it wrong so many times and yet they somehow manage to.

– They can perform complex maneuvers, figure out how to open child proof containers and work an iPad like they have stock in the company yet the ability to work a zipper alludes them.

– They will fight and argue that they do not want to wear their hat and gloves (assuming they can still find them), you relent and 14 seconds outside they complain their head and hands are cold.

– I know the snowsuit is bulky, but when they fall down while wearing one, why can’t they get back up?  They lie there flailing away like an overturned turtle and will struggle until someone comes to pull them up.

– They can’t throw a ball of any sort with  coordination, but put a snowball in their hand and they can hit another child in the face with it from 20 feet away with pinpoint accuracy

– Yellow snow is NOT lemon flavored yet that will not stop them from testing that theory when they find snow while out on walks.

– In fact now that I think about it, for some reason they will gladly eat snow of any color except white!

– The child whose parents worry most about them getting hurt will find new and creative ways to injury themselves (such as sticking an icicle up their nose – true story) every time they step outside

– The colder and nastier it is the finer they are.  If it is a pleasantly mild winter day they will all complain about how freezing they are.

– Speaking of mild days, this mystery involves preschool parents:  Why is it that when the weather starts to turn and it gets warmer do some parents still insist on bundling them up like it is February in Fairbanks Alaska?  Just a little tip but if they say there is a chance the temps could hit 60 that day, you may want to peel off a couple of their layers so they don’t end up boiling through heat stroke while wrapped in a wool burrito!

– Snow is very cold yet that never seems to stop them from stuffing it in their jacket, hat, and pants.

– No matter how much their noses run, they will never seek out a tissue even to the point where they are covered in what can best be described as “snotcicles”.

– When you tell them “Please don’t throw ice” they somehow always fail to hear the word “don’t”!

– They wear 7 layers of protective clothing yet somehow end up getting wet all the way to their skin.

– It takes them 27 minutes to get into their winter clothes yet only 5 seconds to get them off.

– When they have taken off all their winter gear (and thrown them into a big pile that we have to sort through), there is always a glove or a hat or a boot that no one will claim ownership of. It could be they’re not paying attention or they don’t actually remember what their winter stuff looks like. Personally I think the unclaimed item actually belongs to a preschooler from another part of the country. My theory is when preschoolers lose something in one place it vanishes and ends up somewhere else.  That may not be the right answer but trust me some day I will solve the mystery!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in 39 and Still in Preschool

 

2nd Fiddle to Santa

Santa and me in happier times

Santa and me in happier times

December is here which means the countdown to Christmas has begun.  Although let’s face it the countdown began the day after Halloween when stores traded one set of decorations for another and started to force feed us Christmas (I’m sorry “Holiday”) cheer.  I don’t mind the hype, and I kind of dig Christmas music (to a point), but there is one part of the whole season that bugs me.  Between now and the 25th I will do a ton of Christmas themed shows.  That is not the bad part, because I work for myself and lots of shows means lots of money and I am very fond of such a thing.  No no, the part I don’t like is that most of the Christmas shows I do involve Santa.  Now I have nothing against Santa per say (other than fact that it’s been 42 years and I haven’t gotten a pony), its just that when I do shows where he is involved, he is the main attraction.

Usually when I do a regular show, everyone is there to see me.  When I do Christmas shows however I am just an opening act, a warm up, a prelude to something bigger.  I am there to set the stage for the true star of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, my problem with all this has nothing to do with ego.  I have opened for many big performers, bands, and entertainers and was fine doing it. The problem with opening for Santa is that he’s, well..Santa.  He is the one who brings kids tons of presents once a year and really how can you compete with someone like that?

When I am on the same bill as him, I am pretty much meaningless.  I am basically the guy that is preventing kids from seeing Santa. They don’t want stories, they don’t want entertainment, they want presents.  It doesn’t help that when I do these shows they introduce me by saying “Okay kids it’s time for Big Joe the Storyteller, then after him: SANTA!!!”  From that moment on they hear nothing I say because I am talking and all they hear in their head is “Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa, Presents, Santa Santa, Santa, Santa!!”

I am fairly good at keeping an audience’s attention, but in that situation three minutes in and I start to lose them as visions of sugarplums start dancing in their heads.  I try to hold onto them by name dropping Santa in a story or two, but that only serves to remind them of what’s coming next.  What’s coming next is their main focus and I’m pretty much white noise (or in this case “White Christmas” noise – your groan here).  I swear I could just talk gibberish for a half hour and I would get the same reaction I get telling my cute little tales.

Being second fiddle to Santa isn’t the worst thing in the world because at least I can say I am sharing the stage with an icon.  Of course it would be nice to get some of the adulation and cheers the big guy gets.  There was one time last year when I was doing a Christmas show and it was particularly grueling.  The kids had gone off to get cookies before the main event and I sat in my chair collecting my thoughts. A three year old came up to me and said “Thank you for the show!” and proceeded to give me a hug.  I was momentarily touched but then he followed it with “I love you Santa!”    The sentiment wasn’t meant for me but I took it anyway as my own personal Christmas present.  Let’s face it I need all the presents I can get because I am pretty sure I am not getting a pony again this year!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

G-Man

As a storyteller I am a lover of the classics, three pigs, three bears etc.  Stories we all know, stories we all love, and stories I grew up with.  One of my favorites is the story of the Gingerbread Man.  Loved that story when I was a kid and love it even more as a storyteller.  I tell the original version, not any of the newer ones that have been written like “The Gingerbread Boy”,  “The Gingerbread Girl”, The Gingerbread Certified Public Accountant” (might have made that last one up!)

Of course while I do tell the original version, I do make one slight change to the ending.  As you may remember,  at the end of “The Gingerbread Man”  (SPOILER ALERT) he gets eaten by a fox.  Now I have nothing wrong with the ending because after all he was only a cookie, so no real harm was done.  However I made the change after an incident that happened early on on my storytelling career.

When I started out, I would tell “The Gingerbread Man” with the original death by fox ending.  No one seemed to mind and no one complained so I kept telling it that way.  Then one day I was in a preschool in Andover telling tales and I decided to end with “The Gingerbread Man”.  It was going very well and the kids were enjoying it until I got to the end.  After the fox ate G-Man, the happy looks on the faces of the kids turned to shock and horror.  Hands covered mouths, eyes bugged out and some kids started to cry.

Now I was used to individual kids having bad reactions to parts of stories, but never had I witnessed mass hysteria.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on.  Then one of the kids who was crying started to point at the wall behind me.  I turned around and there across the back wall was a mural depicting the adventures of the Gingerbread man who was very much alive.  I also noticed that hanging on a hook at the end of the mural was a Gingerbread man puppet.  I found out later that he was the classroom mascot and the teachers used the puppet during transition time and to tell stories before nap.  So I had pretty much just killed their hero and ruined their tiny little lives. I felt really bad and tried to explain my way out of things but no one was buying it.  I left feeling horrible with a group of sad kids in my wake.  Needless to say I was never invited back to that preschool.

That was a bout 12 years ago and all should be forgotten. However if there are any kids out there who were at that show and are still traumatized from my tale I sincerely apologize. Rest assured the Gingerbread Man did NOT get eaten.  He kept on running and is now retired and living in a nice condo in Tampa.  You can also rest assured that from that day on my version of the story has been amended so in the end the Gingerbread man and everyone else lives happily ever after!

– Big Joe

 

Sign of the Times

I was doing a show at a daycare the other day and was talking to one of the infant teachers.  As we were talking she was feeding one of the babies.  As we chatted, the baby began to tap his hands together kind of like one of those wind up cymbal playing monkeys.  I thought it was odd and asked why he was doing that.  The teacher told me he was telling her he wanted more food using baby sign language. Having never heard of such a thing I was shocked and amazed that a baby could learn sign language. I also realized I was kind of jealous.

After all here was a child who a few months before could only be seen with the use of an ultrasound and now could express his feelings through sign language and here I was a full grown man who didn’t know sign language at all (unless you count the ones I express to those who cut me off in traffic). I was told by the teacher the baby knew at least 7 signs and as if to prove the point the baby started to make the sign for milk.

It is a very odd feeling to be outwitted by a baby.  In my life I’ve been outwitted by a lot of things.  In fact one time in Las Vegas I lost at tic-tac-toe to a chicken and I was stone cold sober.  Of course of all the things that outwitted me, human poultry or otherwise the baby one was hard to take.  After all, it was a baby and not one of those genius babies that can do algebra, just your average run of the mill baby.

On my way home I tried to find a way to spin things so I wouldn’t feel so bad about being outwitted (it didn’t help that while trying to spin things I couldn’t find my sunglasses that ended up being on my head).  I could have gone the obvious route and remembered that there were a lot of things I could do that a baby couldn’t, but that seemed sad and pathetic.

In the end I came to the conclusion that instead of feeling jealous or inferior I should feel proud and hopeful for this next generation.  Every generation reaches greater heights than the one that came before it, it is the way things are supposed to go. There is a lovely line from Louie Armstrong’s song “What a Wonderful World” that says “They’ll learn much more than I’ll even know” referring to babies (Louie would have been very impressed with the sign language baby!)  So while I myself do not know sign language I am very happy for that baby .  I wonder what amazing things that baby will learn, I wonder what discoveries and advancements he will see, I wonder what his future world will be like and I wonder if  that chicken in Las Vegas would give me a rematch!

– Big Joe

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 25, 2012 in From The Mind of Big Joe

 

Once Upon a Time…

Seeing as I am here in the blogging world starting something new I thought I might give me (hopefully tons) of readers some insight as to how I became “Big Joe” the storyteller.  As for the storytelling part, I was telling stories ever since I could talk.  I was the embodiment of the classic joke that when I was 2 my parents thought I would never talk and when I was 3 they thought I would never shut up.  I loved telling things to anyone who would listen even if most of the time I wasn’t making much sense (a characteristic that still holds true today!) As my vocabulary and imagination grew so did my storytelling abilities. I loved telling stories as much as I loved hearing them,  My mom was a big influence on me because she read to me all the time, listened patiently to all of my tales and even took me to see my very first storyteller Brother Blue (who sadly passed away recently).

I carried my love for stories and storytelling into my career as a  teacher.  It was during my first job as an assistant in a Kindergarten classroom that I discovered the power of storytelling. I would always tell the kids stories some I made up, and some that were my favorites. One day we had an early release and one little girls’ parent was running late.  The teacher told me to take her down to the main office and sit with her till her mother arrived.  As I was sitting with her among the various office staff members she became upset and started crying. I decided to console her by telling her a story. I started telling the tale, making it up as I went along and it calmed her down. About midway through my story I paused for a breath and realized it was very quiet in the office.  I looked up and all of the staff that had been milling around were now stopped and listening to the story. One woman looked at me and said “Well what happened next?”  It was then that I realized how powerful storytelling really was.

From that point on, at every stop on my preschool teaching journey I became the classroom storyteller.  It is what I loved to do and every once in a while I thought of becoming a full time storyteller like Brother Blue who I saw so many years earlier. Of course I never thought one could make a living being a storyteller so I started to do it on the side while I taught.  As time passed my storytelling job kept getting bigger and bigger and it became clear that I actually could make a living being a storyteller.  So in April of 1996 I left my job as a preschool teacher and became Big Joe the Storyteller.

Now about that “Big Joe” part. You see my name is Joseph Pagliuca which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. When I decided to become a storyteller I wanted a catchy name like Brother Blue.  Fortunately for me, the last preschool teaching job I had at John Hancock childcare provided me with the perfect name. My first year there we had a child named Joe.  People kept getting confused as to which Joe was being referred to so they designated him Little Joe and me Big Joe.  The name just sort of stuck and for 3 years there I was Big Joe.  When I decided to become a storyteller, I thought Big Joe would be the perfect name. It was short and sweet and easy to remember.

So now I am Big Joe the Storyteller, and as of this post I am Big Joe with a blog.  I hope you stop on by and read what I write because I am definitely never at a lack for words!

– Joe

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 2, 2011 in From The Mind of Big Joe