The Great Toothpaste Debacle

August 22, 2019

Dear Families,

Those of you that attended Elementary Back to School Night heard me introduce the Great Toothpaste Debacle. Truth be told, I learned of this experiment 6 years ago at a professional development conference. I posted it on Facebook after the conference and shared with my teacher friends in California.

We each agreed to try the experiment in our classrooms. We also agreed to remind our students of the experiment regularly when unkind words or actions infiltrated the hallways or our classrooms. We agreed to simply say, “Looks like we have a toothpaste debacle.” At the end of the year, we compared notes.

We quickly realized that this activity allowed us to guide our students to redirection quickly. Additionally, it engaged ownership for choices more readily because they had all participated in the Great Toothpaste Debacle. Together, they battled and problem solved to try to fit the toothpaste back in the tube.

The activity served to build unity and teamwork. Because they battled together, they had a deeper connection. They more readily stepped back to re-evaluate how they were treating each other.

As I reflected on this year’s theme, I decided that I really wanted to focus attention on our words. From time to time last year, words became challenging as friends struggled to navigate conflict at recess or in the lunch room. Frustration found expression through words. Often, the words spoken had little to do with the current situation and much to do with a hurting heart.

So, this year, I decided to revisit the Great Toothpaste Debacle. We will explore this topic in our first ES assembly in October. In the meantime, I encourage you to complete the activity at home.

Buy a tube of your favorite toothpaste. Have your student or students squeeze out every last bit of the gooey mess onto a paper plate. Then, ask them to put it back into the tube. As the process leads to giggles and laughter, consider asking the following questions.

Have you ever said something you wished you didn’t? Has someone ever hurt your feelings with their words? How did that make you feel? Open a dialogue that allows them to build a connection between the toothpaste and words that we let out without thinking.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley