Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Something Bizarre Happened: The Cookie Monster Debacle

To be honest, the something bizarre wasn't exactly bizarre. It was more like horrifically traumatizing - for me and the kids in one of my second grade mindfulness groups. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it was certainly worse than just bizarre.

I'll have to give you a little background information before I get to the horror, so please bear with me.

Neuroscience is uncovering amazing information about the brain, which is being used to inform mental health practice, education and learning. Mindfulness skills have been shown to increase focus, self-regulation, concentration and learning, and so this year I am using a curriculum (called the Mind Up Curriculum) in 13 of the 17 classrooms in my school.

Briefly, what mindfulness skills are is the ability to use the pre-frontal cortex (our thinking center) to control our amygdala (the brain's center for emotion) which is tasked with keeping us safe. The way I explain it to the kids at school is the amygdala is like the Dad in the Croods and the pre-frontal cortex is like Guy. When we are able to think, we are able to learn, and children who live in poverty or highly stressful conditions don't necessarily get these skills taught to them, for many reasons I won't go into.

Within the last month, I found a You Tube video of Tom Hiddleston teaching Cookie Monster about delayed gratification. It is adorable, and I use it with Chapter Two of the curriculum, where we talk about what mindfulness is and what mindfulness isn't. Cookie Monster's reactions show both extremes, and the kids really relate. Even the fifth graders want to see the video.

In order to understand the rest of the story, you need to watch the video, so here it is. It only takes a couple of minutes, so I'll wait.

Cute, right? So very innocent and sweet.

All right, so here is where it gets bad. I am already cringing inside.

My second grade groups are the last of the afternoon, and one of the teachers is my friend, which means I feel totally comfortable being myself in her classroom. This particular day we started late, I showed the video, did the little game I came up with the integrate the video into the lesson, and then still had a little time.

I didn't want to move on to the next activity, because we wouldn't have enough time to really do it right. One of the video previews said (cringing right now) Cookie Monster Bloopers.

Okay, in my defense, if you have children (or even if you just watch animated movies) the latest thing has been to create bloopers. The Toy Story movies have them, and I've seen them on other animated movies, I just can't remember which ones right now.

The kids wanted to see the bloopers. I thought, "Why not?" I didn't really have anything that fit into the time left, and we were having fun.

So, I put on the video. And it was very like the actual video. Right when I started to think I'd put on the wrong video, Cookie Monster went crazy, little arms flailing and shouted, "Give me the mother f**king cookie! I said give me the f**king cookie!"

Now, I may be wrong on what exactly was said, because - quite honestly - after the first "f**k", my amygdala totally freaked out and I didn't really hear much after it. I am repeating to you what my teacher friend told me Cookie Monster said.

I began shouting "Don't listen! Don't listen!" to try to drown out any further expletives, and jumped in front of the screen, arms outstretched, trying vainly to block the view of the 18 second graders, while simultaneously trying to hit the stop button (a one inch square) on the SMART Board.

While it felt like forever, I think I got lucky and turned it off relatively quickly. I looked around the classroom, and eighteen pairs of shocked eyes stared back at me. And all I could say was, "Well, that was bad."

Then the incredibility of what had just happened hit me, and I had to laugh, which made all the kids laugh too. I finished off the group by having a discussion on how swearing is not necessary or useful, even though lots of people use those words. I was relieved that when I asked if the kids had heard that word before, pretty much all of them had, and many of them said their dads use the word "a lot." 

The class is slow to forget. The last time I went in for group, one of the kids gave me a suspicious look and said "You aren't going to show us that video again, are you?" I guess I can't blame him. I can only imagine how traumatizing it would be to a seven year old to see Cookie Monster attack someone and swear like a sailor.

Just to make sure it's understood, the video was not done by anyone connected with PBS or Tom Hiddleston. Some mean human being created the parody and uploaded it. If I would have noticed the different name, I might have gotten a clue, but I didn't, much to my shame.

I noticed on the You Tube preview picture of the bad video there are now words added to the cover picture, including the f-word. When I played the video at school, there were no words that would give a warning that it was inappropriate. I'm glad the person added the words. I can only imagine how many people stumbled over the video with small children present.

Lesson learned. Always, always preview a video before you show it to anyone.

Sooo, have you ever had a nasty surprise? 
How did you handle it?


  1. I feel bad for you - there was no way you could have known. It was just an honest accident. Don't beat yourself up and hopefully you'll be able to laugh about it down the road.

    1. The sad thing is, I embarrass myself quite regularly. Not often do I take a whole second grade class down a twisted road, but I've learned to just roll with it. I sent a note home to the parents explaining and apologizing, and as far as I know, nobody called my prinicipal, so I'm okay, and do find the humor in the situation. :)

  2. Damn that YouTube. :) Oh gosh, I'm laughing so much. How horrible, but it's funny. Cause it wasn't me.

    But at least you could turn it into a learning situation. I'm pretty sure I've done something similar with my own kids, but can't give you an example off hand. It happens to the best of us. And I'm pretty sure the 2nd graders will be just fine. From the experiences with my son, it seems like going from 2nd to third was that big stepping stone.

    In 1st grade, someone wrote a 'bad' word on the school's bathroom wall. That word: Stupid. By third grade, he'd heard the 'real' bad words. Unfortunately if you're going to let your kids ever watch TV or go out in public, it's going to happen. Can't shelter them forever.

    1. It's okay to laugh, because it is funny, in a horrible sort of way. Speaking of being unable to shelter your kids, I was squirming when we saw Superman because of its scene at the beginning where Lara gives birth to Superman. I was really afraid my kids would start asking questions about how a baby gets out. They didn't though - maybe they are still too little to connect the dots of the scene - and I was so relieved. So not a conversation I'm looking forward to having.

  3. What a cuuute video and what a funny, but sobering experience in the classroom! I'm glad you were able to save face by using it as a teachable moment. Interesting that the kids remembered all too well that their dads said that naughty word A Lot.

    1. Isn't it cute! I love using it because the kids love it, and then get so excited afterwards when the pictures of Loki come up on the You Tube preview pictures. Some of them don't believe it's the same person. :)

  4. Oh no!!! Funny but also horrifying, and I can completely relate. My most recent "blooper" occurred when I was presenting an emotion lesson to a group of preschoolers. I had big pictures of kids with different faces: happy, sad, excited, mad, etc. I would hold up a picture and ask the kids, "How do you think he feels?". In one of the groups, I held up the mad face, asked my question, and one of the kids yelled, "Pissed!" The teacher and I both laughed, which I know is not the best response, but how can you not? We recovered pretty quick and the teacher said, "Or upset. How about upset." :)

    1. I love your story! I would have laughed, too. When things like that happen I have an almost out of body experience where part of me is trying to keep the group rolling, but the other part of me is cracking up and thinking "I've got to remember to tell my husband about this tonight."

  5. Oh Lara, this is hysterical and so sounds like something I would do!! Palm to forehead moment!


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