Monday, August 23, 2010


     Somewhere in my classroom a snake is learning to read. Two weeks ago, when we were cleaning up the yard, Joe lifted the vinyl grill cover off the ground and discovered a small ring neck snake curled in the dirt below.
     Hearing Joe’s exclamation, I hurried over and when I saw the snake, I scooped it up and dropped it into a large plastic jar that I keep for such marvelous surprises. I layered some soil, moss and rocks in the jar and the snake slithered into hiding. I planned to take the snake to school and keep it in my classroom for a couple of weeks. Then after all learning opportunities had been exhausted, I would return the snake to the spot where it first saw the light.
     I Googled “Ring Neck Snake” and the information that I found was encouraging. These snakes are shy but they make good pets. They need a place to hide, a shallow dish of water and an occasional snack of small invertebrates. Their favorite meal is salamanders. I strolled around my yard lifting rocks and logs until I uncovered some worms, crickets and a small black and yellow spotted newt. Perfect. I had a snake smorgasbord. The critters were dropped into the jar but the snake didn’t seem interested in the menu.
     Five days later, the only thing the snake had eaten was the tip of the salamander’s tail. Worried, I returned to Google and discovered that my snake’s milky eyes meant it was getting ready to shed. Snakes lose their appetites as their skin gets too tight.
     On Wednesday, I took the snake to school and it was a big hit that night at the sixth grade orientation. On Thursday, the biology teacher offered me a bigger home for it and I transferred the snake into a ten gallon terrarium. At this point, the Ring Neck’s eyes were almost completely opaque. I anticipated finding a freshly shed skin on Friday morning.
     What I didn’t anticipate was finding an empty terrarium. I wiggled my fingers through the rich loam. Perhaps the snake was burrowed deeply in the dirt. I turned over leaves, moss and rocks and uncovered the salamander, crickets and worms. But, there was no sign of the snake. The small opening between the glass sides and glass top of the aquarium must have been large enough for the slithery Houdini to escape. But where did it go? The last thing I needed on the first day of school was gaggles of girls leaping up on their desks when the snake reappeared. I crawled around on my hands and knees and looked everywhere, but the snake was gone.
     The students came for the first day of school today. They asked about the snake. I told them that I took it home. Yes, on the first day of school, I told a big, fat lie, but it’s better than the alternative. There are some students who wouldn’t come into my room if they thought a snake might drop out of the ceiling for a visit.

Somewhere in my English class a snake is learning to read. I hope it learns to spell EXIT.

photo courtesy Julie Williams

1 comment:

  1. EEEWWWWWWWWW!!!!! EEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!! I'm headin' for the hills, while screaming like a little girl.

    I have issues. With snakes.