I have the distinct pleasure of leading an adorable group of ten third graders in Junior Great Books on Fridays this winter. Last week's story was a long, heavy, Russian folk tale that I knew was going to present a challenging discussion. In anticipation of this, I engaged them in some light banter while they opened their lunch boxes and books to the opening page.
"Who knows what next Monday is?" I asked.
They asked if it was a day off from school, if it was spring break yet, the beginning of March Madness or even my birthday.
"It's Leap Day!" I exclaimed and waited for their responses.
They had heard of leap year, but weren't exactly sure how it worked. Most were surprised to hear that this is a leap year and wanted to know what it really means.
I explained as simply as I could and in doing so realized how bizarre the concept sounded out loud. Their faces and raised hands confirmed I had either done a terrible job of describing the Leap Day phenomenon or it truly is just a strange concept to comprehend.
"So, we do go to school?"
"What if someone is born on Leap Day?"
"Is it a holiday?"
I answered the questions as best I could and blew their little eight year-old minds when I addressed the Leap Day Birthday, but I'm sure I left them more confused than amazed - as I had hoped.
I realized our forty-five minute lunch/recess discussion time was ticking by and attempted to end the 'light banter', "okay everyone, let's start discussing this week's story."
One of the boys raised his hand was jumping up and down in his seat, so I agreed to take one more question on the matter.
He put down his hand, stood up and announced, "Mrs. Hayes, no offense and I think you're really smart and all, but this doesn't sound right. I'm going to have to ask my dad about this leap day thing. I understood The Little Humpback Horse way better than what you just told us."
"I understand, Charlie."
And yes, they understood the three hundred year-old Russian folk tale way better.