It happens every year, sometimes more than once. A story time that I think is going to be really awesome just falls flat and is actually pretty terrible.
It happened today for me. I had a K5 class about to come in, and I was really excited about it. I had a group of super funny books lined up. (Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown, Hug Machine by Scott Campbell and I am Invited to a Party by Mo Willems. I mean, how can you mess a story time with those books up?) I was also excited about the song I was going to play on the ukulele in between two of the stories, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I loved that song as a kid, and my son does too, so I thought that most of the kids would recognize it and sing along.
Well, it started out kind of crazy. I played and sang “Shake My Sillies Out” like I do before every class. The shaking got a little crazy this time, and led to some pushing and shoving. I got through the song, sorted out the mess, and got everyone calmed down and seated for our first book. As soon as I pulled out Stuck, I knew I had made a mistake. Cries of “Not again!” and “We already read that one!” rang out from the kids. I asked, “Really?” and they all informed me that I had indeed read this book to them already a few weeks ago. I keep pretty detailed notes of what I read to each class, and somehow, when I was planning for today’s classes yesterday afternoon, I just missed the fact that I had already read that one to K5 this year. I’ve never done that before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
I told the kids that we were going to read it anyways, and they were ok with that, but everyone shouted out what was going to happen next in the book the whole time I was reading it, which kind of ruined the story.
Sometimes moving on is the best way to recover, so I read My Teacher is a Monster, and it went over ok. The kids couldn’t move past my mistake, though. “At least you haven’t read this one to use before, ” someone called out right before I started.
After that book, I tried “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I hadn’t really practiced the song at full volume, because I tried to learn it in my office here at school, and people are always walking in and out of the library, so I tried to keep it down while I was learning it. I thought I was ready, though. It sounded ok to me in my soft, whisper-like singing voice.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t ok. While trying to perform it at full volume, I realized that I couldn’t sing it in that key, so I was switching octaves all over the place, up and down, trying to get it right. If I had more time, I could have changed the key, but it was too late for that. It was a mess. The kids just sat there watching the train wreck, a few of them mumbling along with the words. It definitely wasn’t the whole-hearted, joyful belting the song out that I usually get from them.
I moved on with the story time, and read the last two books. Hug Machine is one of my favorites of the year, and it went over decently, and an Elephant and Piggie book ALWAYS goes over well. Every. Single. Time. I would almost say that the E & P book saved the story time, but the beginning was just so bad, it’s hard for me to really believe that. (I will say this, though. If any author can save a wrecked story time. It’s Mo Willems.)
Finally, it was over, and I let the kids get up to select their books for checkout. As soon as they picked them and lined up to head back to their classroom, I hurried over to my computer to change my class plans on Google Drive. I had another K5 class coming in 20 minutes. I deleted Stuck and replaced it with A Pet For Fly Guy (After double checking to make sure I hadn’t already read that one to K5) And I totally got rid of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (I may never play it again.) and replaced it with “The Fruit Salad Song.” An a cappella song that the kids love that we hadn’t done in a while.
The next class came in, and it went much better. The kids love Fly Guy, and they actually cheered when I said we were going to sing “The Fruit Salad Song.” I guess it had been longer than I remembered since we had done it?
I breathed a sigh of relief after that class walked out. I had gotten through my really bad story time of the year, and adjusted it before the next class. Maybe there won’t be any more like that this year. I can always hope!