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Uncategorized   |   Apr 16, 2011

Spring spheres: immortalizing a teacher’s mistake

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Spring spheres: immortalizing a teacher’s mistake

By Angela Watson

A friend on Facebook made a vague reference about someone replacing the term ‘Easter eggs’ with ‘spring spheres’. Naturally I was a curious about this, and did some quick Googling. What I found really ticked me off…but not for the reason I anticipated.

It seems a teenager in Seattle was looking for community service hours and volunteered at a local elementary school. She wanted to do an Easter egg hunt with the kids. The teacher, probably in fear of catching flack over anything that could potentially be regarded as religious or controversial, checked with the principal and told the volunteer to call them ‘spring spheres’.

The volunteer thought this was ridiculous. Not because EGGS ARE NOT SPHERES (a concept that is apparently lost on everyone involved in the story), but because she thought they should be called Easter eggs. So it appears that she did what anyone who is annoyed with their local public school teacher would do–ALERT THE MEDIA!

Yes, folks, the volunteer called her local radio station to complain. And now this teacher’s questionable understanding of geometric concepts and political correctness is making national headlines.

Thought I’d hardly call myself a fan of political correctness, I’m not that bothered by the term ‘spring egg hunt’. Eggs have nothing to do with the Christian understanding of Easter and are not part of our religious tradition. I could care less about eggs and bunnies, which are symbolically tied to spring, anyway. It’s not like the teacher told the girl to call a crucifix a ‘spring lower case t’.

What bothers me is the idea that disliking something a teacher says has become valid reason to publicize what happened to the entire world.  This wasn’t a district mandate or even a whole-school policy. It was ONE teacher’s idea for ONE activity. The radio station should never have been involved.

It’s different when a teacher behaves in a dangerously inappropriate way. I can even understand the viral nature of these increasingly frequent stories about teachers who write negatively about their students on social media. But can you imagine what the ‘spring spheres’ teacher is feeling right now? She thought she was doing the right thing by accommodating her volunteer and being sensitive to the various religious beliefs of her students. She even checked with her principal about it (which we all know is the ultimate cover-your-behind move.) Now she’s become a mockery and strangers across the country are posting anonymous comments on blogs and websites about how ignorant she is for trying to take the ‘Easter’ out of ‘Easter eggs’. The teenager who called the radio station has turned that teacher into a target for every journalist with an anti-political-correctness agenda. Chances are good that the teacher has no problem with Easter and simply wanted to be mindful of school policies.

As much as I’d like to think I’d never suggest anything as silly as ‘spring spheres’, I think all teachers can admit to saying and doing a few things that would be considered an, ahem, lapse in judgment or content area misunderstanding. The difference? We got away with our mistakes since they were essentially harmless. This teacher had hers immortalized on the internet.

I’m not sure anyone else is going to take this angle on the spring spheres story, so I want to make sure I’ve made it clear: These types of incidents contribute to the culture of fear that is already pervasive in our schools. The run-and-tell-the-media approach to solving differences of opinion is damaging to teacher’s creativity and innovation. The feeling educators are left with is this: Stick with a scripted curriculum and read from the textbook so you don’t get in trouble.  Don’t do anything that’s fun or creative or (God forbid) even slightly related to a holiday. You’re running the risk of offending someone and losing your reputation. Inviting volunteers and other people to your classroom opens you up to scrutiny, so don’t share what you’re doing with anyone: just close your door and teach. And remember: no one gets offended by test prep.

Is the whole story overblown or ‘planted’ by the radio station which the ‘volunteer’ called? It seems strange that we don’t have any details about the exact school involved. But if it’s untrue, a lot of people have been fooled–the Seattle school district was even forced to release a notice about its policies regarding religious holidays. The damage has been done regardless, because the headlines have once again made teachers the political pawns of those who use any excuse to push their own agenda. And equally sad, this is one more story that tells the public that teachers are bumbling idiots whose every misstep should be exposed by the media.

What are your thoughts?

 

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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Discussion


  1. Excellent commentary, Angela! It definitely addresses much of what we are seeing today! Thank you!

  2. You hit the nail on the head. Great job explaining what most teachers encounter in their classrooms each year. Thank you for your honest reflection!

    1. Hi, Erica. Thanks for commenting. I don’t think the general public understands how much the average teacher lives in fear of upsetting a student or parent with something seemingly innocuous, and the media firestorm that might follow. Scary stuff.

  3. Teachers are the new lawyers – we’ve become the butt of every joke and are always blamed first when something is wrong. Sigh…. this whole “spring sphere” story is such a shame!

    1. Hi, Sarah! Teachers are the new lawyers. Yikes! I think you’re right. Hopefully that will change in the future as some of the current debates are replaced with other scandals and issues.

  4. I personally think the student did right. Teachers can’t be allowed to pull dumb stuff like this. It’s better to nip this idiotic “political correctness” garbage in the bud. If national headlines are required for thus, then national headlines will be used.

  5. Angela, Thank you for writing this post! It says many things that I have never been able to articulate well (although sometimes I wonder if that’s because non-teachers just don’t quite understand the fears that can be involved in our jobs these days). And even if I can’t explain it to anyone else, it helps to hear I’m not alone with some of my frustrations.

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