Holding A Class Funeral

We need to bury negativity.

Easier said than done perhaps when you are surrounded by little people who say “I can’t!”

But you can help them by having a funeral. Let me explain.

In their book Teacher Talk, Chick Moorman and Nancy Weber (1989) tell the story of a teacher named Donna who thought of a creative way for her class to stop thinking in terms of “I can’t!” and start thinking in terms of “I can!”

Donna asked her class of 31 pupils write the words I CAN’T in big capital letters at the top of a blank page and then make a list of all the things they couldn’t do.

One child wrote:

“I can’t kick the soccer ball pass second base.”
“I can’t do long division with more than three numbers.”
“I can’t get Debbie to like me.”

Another wrote:

“I can’t do ten pushups.”
“I can’t hit over the left-field fence.”
“I can’t eat only one cookie.”

When the lists were completed, Donna asked her class to fold them in half and place them in an empty shoebox on her desk.

Once all the papers were collected, she put the lid on the box and sealed it with tape. She then asked her class to follow her to the garden outside and she took the box with her. She got the children to dig a hole and she placed the box inside.

With a solemn voice she announced, “Children, we are gathered here today for a very serious occasion. We are going to bury I CAN’T.”

She asked them to form a circle around the grave, join hands and bow their heads. This is the eulogy Donna gave:

“Friends, we gather today to honour the memory of I CAN’T. While he was with us on earth, he touched the lives of everyone … some, more than others. His name, unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building – schools, city halls, state capitols and, yes, even our White House.

“Today we have provided I CAN’T with a final resting place. He is survived by his brothers and sisters – I CAN … I WILL … and I’M GOING TO RIGHT AWAY. They are not as well known as their famous relative … and are not as strong and powerful yet. Perhaps someday, with your help, they will make an even bigger mark on the world.

“May I CAN’T rest in peace … and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen.”

Then Donna and her class filled in the fresh grave and returned to their classroom where Donna erected a plaque which said:



MARCH 28, 1980

This plaque hung in Donna’s classroom for the rest of the year and whenever one of her pupils said “I CAN’T,” Donna would point to the plaque. This was a cue for pupils to rephrase their statement!

You might have lots of “I can’t” moments in you class but children need to realise that they can! Is it time to follow Donna’s example and get out the shoebox?

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