5th Grade – We Made the BFG
Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s The BFG? It’s a great story about a Big Friendly Giant who is spotted by a little girl named Sophie. Because she has seen him, he takes her back to giant country where he lives with 9 carnivorous giants. He lets her in on his secret mission of capturing lovely dreams and then blowing them into the windows of sleeping children. A friendship blooms between Sophie and the BFG. During the 5th grade we read that book in my class and we all really loved the experience. Our teacher, Meester Kees, was a very tall man. He was one of those people that you immediately took a liking to, always patient and kind, ready with a smile and encouraging word. We started referring to him as the BFG.
Later during the school year, Meester Kees went out on paternity leave. He and his wife had just had their first baby, and named their little girl Sophie. Like in the BFG!! We were ecstatic! A class meeting was held with our “substitute” – the headmaster. It was decided that on the day Meester Kees came back to school, we would present him with a life-size puppet of the BFG. Not much academic learning went on for the 6 or so weeks that Meester Kees was out. We made a giant frame out of chicken wire and papier mache’d the whole thing into a life-size person sitting on a chair. From peoples’ attics we got all the perfect accessories: ripped pants, sandals, a cape, dream-catching net, dream-blowing trumpet, and a suitcase. We each wrote a dream for our teacher and his family and filled the suitcase with our dreams for him.
I remember one incident where Meester Kees, his wife, and Sophie came to school to visit. I guess it had been unannounced because another teacher ran into our classroom to tell us he was on his way over. There was a mad dash to get this giant thing covered up and hidden away. Meester Kees supposedly didn’t notice a thing. Phew!
On the day of the great unveiling we were all a bit nervous. We’d worked so hard on this present for him. Would he be surprised? Would he like it? Would he know that we loved him? He was, he did, and I’m certain that he knew. I have no idea what on earth the man did with his giant BFG, but I’ve never forgotten the experience.
One of my fondest memories from school was the creation of the BFG. I’m sad to think that my own children won’t have that experience if they stay in public schooling. That type of thing just doesn’t happen anymore, at least not in our district. Yet the lessons we learned were invaluable, looking back on it with adult eyes, here are a few things I learned that year. We did measuring and related math. We worked as a team. We related literature to everyday life. We creatively solved problems such as where to get his clothes and how to hide him on a moment’s notice. We learned to give to another person. We wrote letters and learned how to express our feelings. We learned that adding a new person to a family is a huge deal, one worthy of celebration and love. How could one think those things are less important than traditional academics?