Diagramming with Cthulhu

This week one of my students from last year stopped by my room to give me a stuffed Cthulhu. In the life of a teacher, there are very few honors greater than when a former student gifts you an elder god, especially one that is hand-stitched.

I think Cthulhu makes an excellent co-teacher, though his choice of sentences to diagram leaves something to be desired. I’ve discovered, however, that whether I teach diagramming in English or in the language of the Old Ones, the results are equally abysmal. Classroom discipline will definitely be impacted when Cthulhu turns his cute, fuzzy stare on a disrespectful or disobedient student, waves his tentacles, and drives them to madness or at least, reminds them to pay attention and stop trying to hack GoGuardian.

Some of my students have asked me why I have a stuffed frog, and even when I explain, they look at me in confusion. That’s when I realize that their brains simply can’t handle the idea of Cthulhu, and seeing a frog is a coping strategy that allows them to continue to hold on to the scraps of seventh-grade sanity still in their possession.

There are many moments during a school day when I look at a room of seventh graders, some pinballing from the walls, others comatose, some non-stop gossipy under their breath with heads leaning toward one another, others insouciant, some chewing surreptitiously on Cheetohs, others — those very few — thankfully engaged, and I ask myself that question from Talking Heads, “My God! What have I done?” Then a stuffed, green elder god arrives. And I remember what I always have known but forget when I get wrapped up in my daily life: it’s not the diagrams or the grammar or the IAR (or whatever it’s called this week) or the grades or the lesson plans or the rubrics. It’s the kids, those microcosmic elder gods of chaos and creation.

Thank you, L., for the reminder.

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