1-800-Viola Swamp

Over the past few days, many bloggers have been reading an older post, one of my favorites.  Every day in the classroom is not always a good day.  Humor to the rescue.  I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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-five 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 was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Book Review, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, picture books, preschool, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to 1-800-Viola Swamp

  1. beth says:

    Always a fun favorite)

  2. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a fun story, Jennie. Using humor to fix a bad day is the perfect approach. I’m glad you were able to pull it off.

  3. beetleypete says:

    I knew you would find a solution, and it was a cracker! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Darlene says:

    This is priceless! A perfect solution.

  5. What fun! When I taught ninth grade, I could have used Viola Swamp.

  6. Humor really is the best medicine. It’s missing in so many places but never in your classroom. 😉

  7. johnrieber says:

    Humor and imagation are the best seeds to grow great minds!

  8. quiall says:

    That was touching.

  9. I think Viola Swamp was my second grade teacher

  10. My students and I always loved the Miss Nelson books. Why didn’t I think of this trick?!?

  11. petespringerauthor says:

    Haha! Would you please stop giving me reasons to like you even more as a teacher? Oh gosh, we could be related. Dialing Viola Swamp is EXACTLY the kind of thing I would do. If we weren’t laughing in my classroom, something was off because I LOVED having fun with my students. Go out and jump rope and get silly at recess—I was there. Dress up in some ridiculous costume like a box of tissue when we did school supplies—that was me!.

    This is the first time I’ve seen this post. Of course, Miss Nelson is Missing was a standard opening week read in my second-grade class.

    • Jennie says:

      I love this!! Yes, we are two teacher peas in a pod. I have worn a pink tutu on my head, crawled down the hallway with children so we could sneak into the storage room to find ‘cool stuff’, and done flying angels with children on the playground (thank goodness for ibuprofen.) I wish I could have been your second grader when you read Miss Nelson is Missing. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed calling Viola Swamp. Best to you, Pete.

      • petespringerauthor says:

        So funny! School should be fun, and what’s a better example than a teacher being a kid again. We had something called Backwards Day at school. Most people did things like wearing their shirt backward, but I wore my tidy whities over my pants. No shame!😎

      • Jennie says:

        Well said, Pete. I call it being one with a child. You are a brave one with the tidy whities! 😂

  12. bosssybabe says:

    Children are such sweet, innocent souls 😊❤️😍

  13. Jim Borden says:

    who you gonna call? Miss Viola! (in homage to Ghostbusters). I agree that humor can often defuse a challenging situation, as can years of experience…

  14. This post made me laugh too, Jennie. I hope you have a lovely new week.

  15. Great solution Jennie and laughter is such a great state changer… another example of why you are the tops…hugs xxx

  16. Norah says:

    Quick-thinking Jennie to the rescue. What fun!

  17. Well done, Jennie! You are the best, and you always have ideas for great entertainment. xx Michael

  18. Carla says:

    I love this. Laughter is the best medicine and imagination is amazing. Well Done, Jennie.

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