Those six characters were a part of three short puppet shows presented by the nine Cartersville High students in the Teacher Cadets program, a class designed to be an equivalent of an Introduction to Teaching course at the college level.
The course, offered to both juniors and seniors, has students completing three components -- learning in a classroom setting and observing teachers at work in their respective classrooms, leading up to student teaching during the second half of the semester.
"It's a rigorous course, but it's also fun," said Leanne Maule, who heads the Teacher Cadets program. "It's probably the most relevant course I've ever taught, because the kids are taking what they learned and actually applying it when they go off to student teach.
"They learn a lot about self-esteem, the role that it plays in a child's education, the relationship with the teacher being the key factor to a student's success," she added. "We read a lot of educational articles that I clip and cut out, and we discuss those at a roundtable discussion once a week. They have journals. We have guest speakers who come in, some within the school system, some who are outside the school system. I pull from a lot of different areas."
Students in the program, Maule said, have to pass a background check to make sure they can be allowed to work with younger students. They also become certified as a mentor through the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce and are assigned a student whom they mentor each Friday. The children program participants observe, mentor and student teach are in grades kindergarten through eight.
Wednesday's puppet shows were put on for kindergarten- and first-grade-age spectators at the primary school. McKenzie Vance, a junior in the Teacher Cadets program, said she and her peers had been working on the various parts of the shows for the last two weeks.
"We each had to choose a children's book, each group, and we chose 'The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark,' which is similar to 'The Three Little Pigs,'" Vance said. "So we had to find puppets and then find clothes for our mermaid [played by Kendall Hawkins], and then just practiced for a week."
Hawkins, a junior whose mother is a special education teacher, said he got into the program because he is considering following in her footsteps or teaching history. He said he was surprised over the students' great reaction to the shows -- all three presentations were rife with funny elements.
"Such a small thing can make a little kid's day," he said. "I expected them to be happy about it, but not that much -- they were going crazy. I didn't expect them to laugh that much."
"I didn't think a lot of things that were funny [to them] were going to be funny," said Kiley Perkins, a junior who got into Teacher Cadets to pursue a possible working with special education children. "And it's different how they understand things as well. Like in the first one, 'Say Hello, Lucy,' every time someone said 'Say hello, Lucy,' they'd go, 'Hello, Lucy!' It's just different -- like they had a different point of view.
"I sure do see kids differently than I did, because I know now how they react to things," Perkins added.
Maule said that while her students delved into children's literature and worked in groups during the days prior to the shows, her pupils likely absorbed some knowledge as they presented Wednesday's programs.
"They learn a lot about kids' reactions, what kids like. Their perception of children, I think, changes after they do the puppet show," she said. "They learn a lot of management techniques from it.
"Kiley, she was the one who played the monster, I saw her go 'Shhh!' as the puppet, and that quieted the kids down. So they learn a lot of relational things through the puppet shows, what's entertaining to them."
Maule said a follow-up assignment to the puppet show will involve pictures of the favorite characters drawn by the young spectators. Her students will look at the pictures to compare children's progression of motor skills between the two grade levels.
But one of the biggest lessons students in the program can learn, Maule said, is if the teaching field is for them.
"This class, I think you do either one of two things -- you go, 'Wow, education is not for me,' or 'This is definitely rewarding, this is something I want to do.' And I think both of those are validating," she said. "Some kids get into it because they think, 'It would be kind of neat to mentor and tutor a kid, and that kind of thing,' but then they see the whole gamut of what you have to do as an educator, and some of them say, 'That's not for me.'
"Better to figure it out here than after four years of going through college."