1-800-Viola Swamp

Kate brought her mother’s beloved old book in to school this week.  Miss Nelson is Missing is a classic.  I love that book!  My children loved it.  Over the years I must have read it hundreds of times.

The story is about Miss Nelson, a kind teacher, and her unruly class.  In exasperation she leaves school one day only to return the following day dressed in character as Viola Swamp.  Hmmm…

Naomi, my assistant teacher, started to read the book to the children.  I couldn’t wait to hear those words again.  Now, it is important in this part of the story to tell you that Naomi is a saint.  She has never-ending patience, kindness, and a deep understanding of children.  She is the best teacher.

Wait!  She sounds like Miss Nelson.

So, as Miss Nelson (aka Naomi) began to read, things went wrong.  Really wrong.  Perhaps remembering that the children have now outgrown “their nest” might have been a good idea.  After all, when fledglings leave home to branch out into the world, things happen.  Not always good things.  Fighting and survival come to mind.  And of course, when reading the story began, things happened.

Nobody could see.  Yet, they were all in the front row.

Everyone complained of pushing and shoving.  Gee, there was lots of space.

Children yelled at each other.  Best friends.  Hmmm…

Naomi – I mean Miss Nelson – was beside herself trying to read the story.  It seemed hopeless.  We needed Viola Swamp.  We needed some humor.

Remember Viola Swamp?  The teacher who took over for Miss Nelson?  I called.

1-800-Viola Swamp.

I grabbed my cell phone mumbling loud enough for the children to hear that I needed to call Viola Swamp.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m calling for Viola Swamp.  Is she there?”

You could have heard a pin drop.  The children looked worried.  I covered the phone with my hand and whispered, “She sounds grumpy.”  Then I went back to the phone.  I don’t know how complete silence can become even more silent, but it did.

“Is this Viola Swamp?”

Those fifteen gigantic saucer eyes were now ready for some humor.  After all, laughter is the best medicine and can cure anything.  We needed some curing, and Viola Swamp had been just the right fix.

I smiled.  Big.  Then Savannah asked, “Was that really her?”  Parker said, “Of course not!”  We all started to laugh.  Even Naomi, the real Miss Nelson, belly laughed.  Then, we sat down to read the book.

There are two more weeks of school to go, and children have grown.  They’re ready to move on to their next journey.  With humor and hugs, the next few weeks will be fun!

Viola Swamp told me so.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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53 Responses to 1-800-Viola Swamp

  1. Joy! All of us need a Viola Swamp.

  2. Darlene says:

    What a clever way to handle disruption. Better than shouting at them.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    That’s funny – and a perfect way of handling the situation!

  4. I love this story, Jennie. The last few weeks of school can be a challenge, but your inspiration saved the day! I’m still smiling! -Susan

  5. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Today Jennie brings us a heart-warming and funny story about Viola Swamp… Who? Please, read on and enjoy…

  6. 1-800 Viola Swamp is even closer than ever what with cell phones at the ready to dial her up!
    I liked your ‘nest’ image of growing children…

  7. What a great story. I love the creative approach to classroom management! Very funny and it worked (of course)!

  8. beetleypete says:

    That’s a lovely story, Jennie. I bet you will miss those youngsters when they move on.
    But I bet they will miss you even more! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Meg says:

    I do enjoy your blog, Jennie. How I wish I’d been on staff with you! It does remind me of happy times with young school kids. Kind Regards M.

  10. MC Clark says:

    How funny! 😊

  11. Norah says:

    I love this post, Jennie. What a great way to get the children focused and back on task. Not a harsh word in earshot. Humour is a wonderful unifier. Sad to say I haven’t read Miss Nelson is Missing. I’ll have to get a copy. Sounds a treat. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Be a Friend – Read To Them | Story Twigs the Imagination!

  13. These are the days you make me want to be a child again. How fun!

  14. Aw, that was cute! You’re full of surprises 😀

  15. How hilarious, thanks for sharing your clever remedy! 🙂

  16. I LOVED that book!! 🙂

  17. Di says:

    A situation diffused so well Jennie. And yes, they young ones are clearly ready for their next big step….💐

  18. Rae Longest says:

    I have a copy of Ms. Nelson in my Little Free Library in my side yard. It stays checked out and is so worn out, I probably need to order a new one.

  19. I love that book too!! I have it! It was a book that I chose during a book fair at school when I was in 2nd grade. What a nice trip down memory lane! Thank you, Jennie. 🙂

  20. reocochran says:

    I love this book, Jennie! A fun read and like how you made Viola Swamp come alive. 🙂

  21. This is adorable, thank you Jennie! So important to bring humor and fun into things, isn’t it? ❤ You really reminded me of that right now. Thanks! Blessings to you and all your kids — Debbie
    ps – I've never heard of that book, so good to know (and my mom had me read a LOT of books!)

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Debbie. Glad you liked the post and the humor. When things go wrong, laugh. It is a great book, oldie but goodie. Best to you!

  22. There are times we all need to channel our own version of “Viola Swamp.” Thanks for reminding us.

  23. shoes says:

    Ahhh – I love this. I am a teacher as well and have found humor to be a great way to quickly and positively change the mood in the classroom.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, and you are SO right! I seized the ‘moment’ and humor can be the best medicine of all. It changed the mood in such a positive and funny way.

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