Penguin Therapy

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In an effort to make myself useful and to escape the obsessive compulsive stressing that goes along with freelance writing, I help first graders with their schoolwork at a local elementary school every Thursday afternoon. First graders are the perfect fit for me: They don’t need help with calculus and they make me laugh.

Yesterday the first graders’ homework assignment was to write seven sentences about penguins. They could write down any fact they had learned from their teacher’s penguin primer or the National Geographic article on Emperor Penguins that was floating around the room. I liked this assignment. I’ve seen a few penguins in my time and thought that, for once, my experience might come in handy. It turns out that the kids didn’t need any help with their penguin facts. They were on fire about this animal’s quirky coolness and I couldn’t spell the big words fast enough to keep up with the information live-streaming out of their little heads, stuff like…

1. Penguins have feet like crampons.

2. Penguins fish for fish.

3. Penguins protect their eggs with their feet.

4. A penguin’s worst nightmare is a leopard seal.

5. Penguins can jump ten feet in the air, higher than the ceiling in the classroom.

6. Penguins can dive 1,750 feet deep.

7. Penguins like to jump off icebergs.

Even after we finished the list, the kids didn’t rush out when the bell rang. They wanted to keep talking penguins. Unlike me, they could have cared less about statistics and facts that show how penguins are disappearing or how quickly the ice is melting underneath their cramponed feet. All they cared about is that penguins exist right now, which is another reason I like first graders so much.

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