I. Read Perception story: Jessica and Tonya combine their Resources
A. Teacher reads story to the class called “Jessica and Tonya combine their Resources.”
B. Story Description: This story is a follow-up to two of the previous stories and role-plays called “Frogs and Newts or Gold Coins” and “Jessica’s Painful Experience.” It is about a time that Jessica and Tonya got together and combined their ideas and philosophies to help each other and themselves further their personal goals. It is called “Jessica and Tonya combine their Resources.”
Jessica and Tonya combine their Resources
© 2000 by Debbie Dunn
This happened three years after Tonya and Derrick learned to be careful that their words only caused gold coins to come out of their mouth instead of frogs and newts. Tonya was now in ninth grade and Derrick in tenth.
Tonya didn’t know Jessica very well. But one day, she saw Jessica sitting off by herself in the cafeteria looking happier than usual. Tonya said, “Hi, Jessica. Do you mind if I sit down?”
Jessica said, “Sure, Tonya.”
Jessica was pleased. She had been making a strong effort to overcome her drinking problem and her parent’s divorce. She had been attending weekly group counseling sessions for three months now under the tutelage of Stephan.
It was Jessica’s perception that Tonya was popular, well-liked, and very successful. And that perception was true to a point. But Tonya had been feeling puzzled about where life was taking her lately. She was looking for answers but didn’t know to whom to turn. She was just thinking about this when she noticed Jessica. Something inside her told her that Jessica might be able to help. So that was when she spontaneously asked to sit down.
Tonya asked, “How have you been doing lately?”
Tonya didn’t know anything about Jessica’s personal problems. She was simply looking for a way to get a real conversation going.
Jessica said, “Much, much better than I was before.”
Jessica wasn’t quite sure why she felt motivated to give such a revealing answer, but she somehow knew it was okay to do so with Tonya.
Tonya asked, “Why, what happened before? That is, if you don’t mind talking about it?”
Jessica stared thoughtfully at Tonya for a few moments. She wondered if by telling Tonya about Stephan and his idea about each person being one jigsaw puzzle piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle, that maybe this would help Tonya to fulfill her jigsaw puzzle piece in an easier manner.
Jessica said, “Well, it’s a long story. Let’s just say that I had a tough time dealing with my parent’s divorce and have been going to this really neat counselor for the last three months. He has some pretty cool ideas that have made me look at life in a whole new way.”
Tonya was intrigued. She asked, “What’s the coolest thing he told you?”
Jessica said, “Well, he has this idea that each of us is one jigsaw puzzle piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle. Stephan says that each of us is very special and very unique. There is something that each of us was born to accomplish. Nobody else can accomplish that special thing in our very special way but us. So if we allow ourselves to get caught up with alcohol or drugs or violence or other dumb stuff, we will never fulfill what our jigsaw puzzle piece is all about and the world will lose out on having that giant jigsaw puzzle ever getting completed. I can’t explain it as well as he can. I hope you get the idea.”
Tonya nodded her head enthusiastically. She said, “That is really neat. I like that idea a lot. Your Stephan sounds a lot like my Grandma Jenkins. She has some pretty neat ideas too.”
“Like what?” Jessica asked.
Tonya said, “Well, back in the fall of sixth grade, I didn’t have many friends. I was always getting myself in trouble by saying just the wrong thing to my friends at school. And man, oh man, my brother Derrick and I used to get into it big time. We fought all the time. It’s almost hard to remember that time because we get along so well now.”
Jessica said, “I can’t believe you were ever unpopular. You always seem to be surrounded by friends. And you and your brother seem almost like best friends.”
Tonya said, “Yes, that’s true now. But it wasn’t always that way. It was Grandma Jenkins who made the difference. I’d really like to tell you about it if you’d like to hear; however, I see the bell is about to ring for class. If you’ll give me your phone number, I’ll be glad to call you and tell you about it tonight.”
Jessica gladly gave Tonya her phone number. She wondered if Tonya would really call. She hoped so. She felt like Tonya had the potential of becoming a good friend.
Sure enough, Tonya called Jessica right after the dinner hour. Tonya asked, “Do you have time to talk, Jessica?”
Jessica said, “Yeah. I’m all done with my homework. I have plenty of time.”
Tonya said, “Me too. That’s why I waited until after dinner. My parents always insist that Derrick and I do our homework first thing. Okay, are you ready to hear about what happened with my Grandma Jenkins?”
Jessica was quite curious. She said, “Yes, I am. Go ahead.”
Tonya said, “Well, one day, back when I was 11 and Derrick was 12, we were having one of our big fights. He was chasing me all around the house because I went into his room without his permission. Of course, I made it worse by calling him a bunch of names. We ran into the kitchen where Grandma was making cookies. She began to look under the table and chairs like she had lost something. Of course, we asked her what she was looking for.”
Grandma said, “I be looking for those frogs and newts that are coming out of your mouth.”
Jessica laughed. “She said what?”
Tonya laughed too. She said, “Yeah, I know. We thought it was just as ridiculous sounding as you do. She suggested that we should concentrate instead on trying to get gold coins to come out of our mouth instead of frogs and newts. Now before you think my Grandma is totally bonkers, she was basing all this information on a favorite Grimm’s Fairy Tale of hers. Did you ever read the Grimm’s Fairy Tales about the two stepsisters and the three little gnomes?”
Jessica thought hard and said, “I might have. It sounds a little familiar. Tell me about it.”
Tonya said, “Well, in brief, this pretty girl and this plain girl became stepsisters when the pretty girl’s father married the plain girl’s mother. The stepmother didn’t think much of her new stepdaughter. One cold winter day, she ordered her to put on a paper dress, go into the woods, and collect a basket full of strawberries. Of course, she was simply hoping to get rid of the girl the easy way. The pretty girl found a house occupied by three little gnomes. They invited her inside. She warmed herself by the fire and shared her hunk of bread with them. They asked her to sweep the back porch. She kindly agreed. While she was out there, unknown to her, they each gave her a gift: she would get prettier every day, gold coins would come out of her mouth each time she spoke, and she would become the wife of a king.”
Jessica said, “Oh! I’m starting to remember. Keep going. This is interesting!”
Tonya continued, “The plain girl got jealous, of course. Her mother gave her a fur coat to wear and lots of good food. The plain girl went straight to the gnome’s house, went inside uninvited, and ate all her food in front of them. She refused to share. When they told her to go outside and sweep the back porch, she was very disagreeable but finally went. Unknown to her, they gave her three gifts: she would get uglier every day, a frog or newt would come out of her mouth with each mean-hearted word she said, and she would die a painful death.”
Jessica sarcastically said, “That’s lovely.”
Tonya agreed, “Exactly. Well, the stepmother and stepsister really began to hate the pretty girl. To try to get rid of her, she was ordered to go rinse some yarn in an iced-over river. A king saw her and immediately asked her to marry him. She agreed. They married and had a baby boy before long. The stepmother and stepsister sneaked into the castle, threw her out the window, thus killing her. Then the plain, now ugly girl, got into the queen’s bed and covered over her head.”
Jessica asked, “How did she expect the king not to notice the difference?”
Tonya said, “Well, the stepmother thought she had that covered. She told the king that his wife was sick and that was why there were frogs and newts on the floor instead of gold coins. In the meantime, the dead queen transformed into a duck. She asked the serving boy if her guests were comfortable and if her baby boy was okay. The serving boy finally said yes. Each night, she became a woman again so she could go in the castle and feed her baby. On the third day, the duck told the serving boy to tell the king to wave a sword over her head three times. When the king did this, she was restored to life, just as beautiful as ever. He hid his wife in the castle. That Sunday, the baby boy was christened. At the party afterward, the king casually asked the impostor wife and mother-in-law what should happen to someone who threw another out the window to his or her death. They didn’t suspect a thing and said that that person should be put in a barrel studded with sharp nails on the inside and roll that barrel into the water. The king said that they had just pronounced their own death sentence. The two of them were killed and the pretty girl and the king and the baby boy lived happily ever after.”
Jessica said, “That was a great story. So get back to your Grandma Jenkins now.”
Tonya, “Well, after she told us that story, she asked us if we really wanted to populate the world with frogs and newts. She said that if we allow bad words and thoughts to fill us up and pour out of our mouth, it is as if a frog or newt is leaping out of our mouth at each mean-hearted word that we say. When I said how gross that was as it would be like throwing up, she said that we would be throwing up and out those frogs and newts and making the world a less pretty place. She said that before we knew it, people would start to avoid being our friend because they would see that we had allowed the bad thoughts and words to take root within our heart.”
Jessica said, “Wow! That’s pretty heavy. What did she say about the gold coins?”
Tonya said, “That’s just what Derrick wanted to know. Grandma Jenkins said that every time we say kind words, good words, healing words, it is almost as if gold coins are popping out of our mouth, filling the world with an abundance of good things. She said that people will love to be around us for they will see that we are truly a kind-hearted soul. She said that because we lived, the world will be a better place and people will be truly blessed to be around us.”
Jessica sighed, “That’s one wonderful grandmother you have, Tonya. So what did you do after that?”
Tonya said, “Well, Derrick and I first apologized to each other and tried to be real careful to only say nice things from then on to each other. We also tried to do that at school. If I ever was tempted to say something mean, I would imagine that a frog or newt was getting ready to leap out of my mouth. I would swallow it down quick. But when I said nice things to people, I could imagine that I was covering the floor with piles of gold coins. Before I knew it, I had loads of friends. Being careful to only let gold coins come out of my mouth, so to speak, made all the difference.”
Jessica said, “That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that idea with me. I’d like to meet that Grandma Jenkins of yours sometime. She sounds like a truly wonderful lady.”
Tonya said, “Tell you what. I’ll check with my parents and you check with your mom. Why don’t you see if you can come spend the night this Friday? Then you can talk with her all you want.”
Friday night came with Jessica, Tonya, and Grandma Jenkins sitting at the kitchen table. Jessica asked to hear the story out of Grandma Jenkins’ mouth. Then she told Grandma Jenkins about Stephan’s theory about the jigsaw puzzle.
Grandma Jenkins said, “That’s a happy thought.”
Jessica sat quietly for a time while they all three munched on some of Grandma Jenkins’ famous chocolate chip cookies. Then Jessica said, “It’s too bad about that plain girl though.”
Tonya asked, “What do you mean?”
Jessica, “Well, if it’s true that we’re each one jigsaw puzzle piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle, then because that plain girl got herself killed, she never completed her piece. And so, there is a hole in the world’s giant jigsaw puzzle because she didn’t know a better way to live her life.”
Grandma Jenkins smiled a beautiful smile, looked around in a secretive manner, and said, “Tonya, I never did tell you the other half of that story, did I?”
Tonya said, “No. What other half?”
Grandma Jenkins said, “Well, actually there is a version of that story where the plain girl did not die. Would you like to hear it?”
Both girls eagerly agreed. They sat back and listened avidly.
This is the story that Grandma Jenkins told.
Well, on the day that the plain girl and her mother were due to die, the pretty girl interceded. She remembered how the two of them used to be good friends before the stepmother interfered. She asked the king if he would postpone the sentence by one year. The stepmother was sent home. But the plain girl was invited to visit for awhile.
With gold coins pouring out of the pretty queen’s mouth, she said, “Stepsister, I have become good friends with the three gnomes who live in the forest. One day, they told me that there is a way for you to NOT have frogs and newts coming out of your mouth.”
The plain girl asked, “How? Will they take this magic spell off of me finally?”
The queen said, “Not exactly! They gave you three gifts, as they did me. For example, the second gnome said that a frog or newt shall leap from your mouth with every mean-hearted word that you speak. That is my gift to her.”
Frogs and newts were covering the floor as the plain girl spitefully spoke. “Then it’s hopeless! You might as well go ahead and kill me.”
The pretty queen said, “Wait! You don’t understand. The gnome said that a frog or newt would only leap from your mouth when you speak mean-hearted words. So all you have to do is make certain that the words you do speak are not mean-hearted but kind. You yourself have the power to break this magic spell.”
The plain girl sat quietly for a time. She wanted to heap all kinds of blame on the pretty queen and the gnomes. She started thinking some pretty nasty thoughts but didn’t say them out loud. Nevertheless, she felt a huge lump begin to grow in her mouth that she knew to be either a frog or a newt. She longed to swallow it back down before it had the chance to leap from her mouth. She felt so helpless and trapped by this situation that she began to cry. At one point, she looked up at the queen expecting to see cruelty or humiliating laughter. Instead, she saw only loving concern. The plain girl actually began to feel a bit sorry for the cruel treatment she had heaped on her. With that kinder thought, she felt the lump in her mouth disappear.
Feeling a little hopeful, she finally opened her mouth and said, “Uh, I’m sorry I was mean.” She cringed, expecting to feel six frogs or newts leaping from her mouth, one for each word. But nothing happened at all except the queen graciously accepted her apology.
Then the queen said, “Congratulations! You’re breaking the spell put upon you. You have just said your first set of words that were kind instead of mean. Do you see how you are in total control?”
The plain girl nodded her head thoughtfully. It didn’t happen all at once. On some days, the plain girl would have frogs and newts come leaping out. Other days, nothing would come out of her mouth but her words. The queen was ever patient and encouraging. Eventually, the plain girl hardly ever had any frogs and newts come out. She was taking control of her life.
One day, the king and queen were talking. The king said, “Am I just getting used to the way your stepsister looks, or is she really actually getting a little bit pretty?”
The queen clapped her hands in delight. She said, “You’ve noticed. Yes! She is getting prettier. Now that she is speaking and thinking in a kinder manner, her outside appearance is starting to match her prettier inside appearance. She is breaking the second spell put on her by the gnomes.”
The king smiled his agreement. Then he asked, “What about the third gift they predicted. What should we do about that one?”
The queen said, “Let us wait until the year has drawn to a close. If she manages to continue improving in all that time, then I think it will fall to you to be the one to break that third spell by refusing to take her life.”
Sure enough, the stepsister of the queen worked so hard in improving her thoughts, words, and deeds that by the year’s end, she was granted the gift of her life. In fact, the king and queen enjoyed her company so much that they invited her to remain living in the castle with them. Eventually, she married the prime minister who had taken a liking to her. As for the stepmother, she refused to change her mean-hearted ways. As a result, she continued to live alone, for the young queen’s father had long since passed away.
But as for the queen, the king, their son, the stepsister, and the prime minister, they all lived happily ever after.
Tonya and Jessica clapped their hands in delight. Tonya said, “Grandma, that’s the best story yet.”
Jessica smilingly agreed and then asked, “So, I wonder what the plain girl’s jigsaw puzzle piece was about? And that of the young queen?”
Grandma Jenkins sat thoughtfully for a moment, then she said, “Young lady, I think your Stephan might not mind if I add to his theory about the jigsaw puzzle a bit. I agree that we are each one jigsaw puzzle piece in that giant jigsaw puzzle; however, I think that our particular piece is a whole jigsaw puzzle to itself. I think that each time you do a kindness, you put another piece of your puzzle in place. Every time you get your homework done on time, you put another piece of your puzzle in place. Your puzzle might have a million, even a billion pieces to be filled in. Your goal should be to get as many of those puzzle pieces put in place so that you can make your own particular puzzle be as complete as it can be. Then that complete piece can be added to the giant jigsaw puzzle that is the world’s puzzle. Does that make sense?”
Both girls nodded. Jessica said, “So one piece of the plain girl’s puzzle could be learning to keep from letting any frogs and newts come out of her mouth. And the pretty girl helped her to do this, so by helping her stepsister to put another piece of her own puzzle in place, she also got to get another piece of her own particular puzzle in place.”
Tonya said, “I get it. And Jessica, you taught me about the jigsaw puzzle theory. So not only did I get to put another piece of my puzzle in place, but by helping me out, you get another piece of your puzzle done too.”
Jessica said, “And Tonya, because you told me about your Grandma Jenkins, I got to put another puzzle piece in place about something that has been puzzling me for quite some time. And because you helped me, you got to put another puzzle piece in place in your puzzle too. Wow! That is pretty cool. When we helped each other, we also ended up helping ourselves.”
It was Grandma Jenkins turn to applaud. She said, “Girls, I think you are both brilliant! That is ground-breaking information you have just exchanged.”
They nodded in a pleased manner. Tonya said, “Grandma Jenkins, I bet you have a million trillion pieces in place in your jigsaw puzzle as you help so many people.”
Grandma Jenkins smiled. “I think that is cause for a celebration. Have another cookie, if you like.”
Grandma Jenkins, Tonya, and Jessica each grabbed a cookie in one hand, their milk glasses in another, and clinked glasses together and then drank. In their imagination, a shiny gold coin was painted on another jigsaw puzzle piece that just got put in place by all three.
Return to Mini Lesson Plan: Jessica and Tonya combine their Resources (grades 6-8)