As Purple Roomers continue to bond with and learn more about their rat companions, our classroom infestation has evolved into a beautiful exercise of compassionate, exploration and, most significantly, individualized understanding. We have observed our Purple Roomers caring so carefully for our mischief of rats:
Shortly after the rats chose their human, we read Teddy Bear Tears by Jim Aylesworth. Teddy Bear Tears tells the story of a young boy and his four teddy bears who each need the boy’s help in finding comfort and tranquility amidst their bedtime fears. This narrative, paired with the skewed opinions of rats that many of our young New Yorkers have observed, sparked some deep reflections surrounding what makes our rats feel scared and how we can make them feel safe. As each Purple Roomer is tasked with the responsibility to care for, protect, and respect their rats, discussions about their unique rodential perspectives have blossomed. Taking a cue from Teddy Bear Tears, the first Circle Time dedicated to deepening the group’s understanding of each rat focused on their different fears and the subsequent ways in which we can make them feel safe in those moments of unease. Below is an excerpt of our conversation:
Wexler: Airplane loves American cheese. It’s his first favorite food. But every time I give him cheese, I tell him ‘It’s okay! It’s not a trap!’ Because if it’s far away and he can’t see it, he’ll feel nervous. So I always tell him ‘You’re okay. You’re safe with me. I’m gonna make sure nothing takes you.’
Robin: Well, I gotta go get my rat and ask what she likes me to do when she’s scared to feel better… Goo monsters and cookie monsters and someone hurting her but she likes soft pats on her back and being tucked in to my shirt.
Elena: [Dayda] is scared of a boogeymonster.
Mel: What do you do to make her feel safe?
Bayar: [Rattatini feels safe] on train tracks where there are no trains that run on it so she can walk.
Mel: How do you make your rat feel better?
Gunnu: It’s okay! Can Sammy make my rat feel better?
Arlo: My rat’s not afraid of anything. He’s fierce!
Mel: What makes Ratty Rat Ratty Rat so brave and fierce?
Arlo: I just put him in his cubby
Wilson: Spiders. I do a lot of things to make her feel better. I trap the spider with a garbage can.
Hiram: Parter is afraid of poppies. You know, that kind of flower.
Mel: Has Parter seen The Wizard of Oz?
Hiram: Yeah. She’s afraid that they might make him fall asleep… I make sure everything is safe around. And I say everything is safe around.
Mel: Ettore, is your rat, Ettore (the rat), afraid of anything?
Mel: What makes him feel so safe?
Ettore: Peppers and hugs and kisses.
Kian: He’s afraid of somebody scratching him. And punches!
Mel: What do you do to make him feel better?
Kian: I give him pats. I have to do hugs and kisses.
Sedona: Dark birds. So she doesn’t want to get outside.
Mel: Is there anything you do to make Lady feel better when she’s scared?
Sedona: I play the drums. She likes music.
Doudou: My rat, he’s afraid of snakes! And screaming. I hide him.
Wexler: My rat is only afraid of cobras ‘cause they have poison in their bodies. And whenever he hears a ssssss, he’s afraid it’s a cobra over his head or under him that’s gonna bite him or eat him.
These thoughtful responses are only the beginning of each Purple Roomer’s experience of curating deeply personal and compassionate connections with their rats. It has been an absolute joy to observe this process of personalization and to hear about the plethora of unique characteristics that each rat brings to our classroom environment!