Here are some fun nuggets from this week:
Journaling. Journaling is awesome. It can really make your classroom into a different place, because the kids write to you and you write back to them. It works almost as well as pure one on one face time. Their eyes light up when they open their journals and see that I’ve written them a paragraph back about their worst nightmare or their dreams of being a football player / visual artist. And that sort of thing, hopefully, will pay off in dividends. I had one student write me:
“Dear Dr. Jones, my story is going to be about six people going to Japan to hunt Godzilla in the woods. They have three things they need to do. Not get eaten, kill Godzilla, and call home. Their names will be sean, billy, bob, michael, billybob, and gertie.”
On tuesday while teaching person vs. nature conflict, I told the story about the time that I was shooting hoops on the blacktop by myself when I heard a fluttering in the forest. Out of the woods came a Killer Butterfly. Twenty-foot tall with sharp pointy teeth. I killed it by hitting its antennae with my basketball. End of story. Then, on the way out of school late that afternoon, I stopped in the street to see a dead butterfly squashed on the pavement. Q., the student who was waiting for his parents to pick him up, looked at me, then looked at the butterfly, and said “so it WAS true!”
Thursday I printed off some news article clips from European newspapers (like Holland, Ireland, Spain) that had stories about 10 pound rats the size of small dogs that killed other animals and sometimes infants. Then I told about the legend of the ship rats from Holland that were told to be able to multiply in the gulleys of trade ships and then, when the time was right, would attack the crew and bring down the whole ship. I did this because we were reading a scary story in the textbook about rats trapping these three men in a lighthouse. I found a spooky audio version of the story, cut off all the lights, drew the shades, lit some candles – and they were perfectly freaked out as we read the story. One girl, at the end of class, pulled desperately on my sleeve and begged: “This wasn’t a true story right? Just tell me it wasn’t true!”
7th graders are right at the breaking point of losing their imaginations. This is the age when they stop believing in things. Well not on my watch. I will fight for their imaginations and dreams as long as I can hold out.
D. is thinking about printing out flyers to post around the 7th grade wing to let everyone know that he has now been appointed “Duke of the 7th grade.” I played scrabble with him today and he tried to convince me that “Daaa” was a word.
A student named B. is the son of two UVA professors. During Back To School Night, (which I attended), his parents asked if we could give him more homework. So today, I wrote everyone’s homework on the board. Then I wrote a special box just for B: “Essay on the modern American kitchen.”
I’ve been putting my foot down quite a bit – a touch of discipline that really needs to be wrapped in love when you do it. You can’t let students walk over you. I pulled a quiz away from a student who was talking today, I’ve written 11 students up for misbehavior while I was substituting, and almost sent a few to in school suspension. You simply have to control your emotions and not show visible frustration. Otherwise, they’ve won. If you can discipline them while saying “I’m sorry, I do this because I have to and its in your best interest,” then in the long run, I think the message will come across.
Certainly more to come – also on how the LORD and spirituality can penetrate the public school classroom