Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lesson #3 - Sometimes the excuses kids make are valid.

Every class has a certain number of students who are constantly looking for ways to escape.  Some manage it by not showing up in the first place.  Some manage it by simply not showing up in the first place.  Some like to employ the device where they offer kindly to help the art teacher clean up...for half an hour.  Some like to attempt to casually slip out the window when you're not looking.  Most however, opt for one of two options:

Toilet passes are fairly easily discouraged, and I have a couple of options that work well.
#1 - You need to ask me if you can go without using the letter 'e' in your sentence.
#2 - My toilet pass looks like this:

#3 - "When you've finished all your work for the day."

You can usually make a kid hold it until the next lesson, and then they have to bother that teacher instead, which is great.

Sick bay passes are a different story though, because who am I to diagnose whether or not a kid is actually ill.  If a kid says they have a headache, or a stomache-ache, I can try to keep them in the room, but ultimately, if they want to go, I'm not going to have them keel over in my room.

Enter Sven, who is probably my most regular "I need to go to sick-bay-er".

Sven is thirteen.  He is very well-schooled in the possible diseases that could cause him to need to be exempt from class, and I am super reluctant to let him go to sick-bay, because I know that 99.9% of the time, he's faking it.  The kid once claimed to have period pain (he obviously overheard a girl use this one, get away with it, and decided to try it on).

However, one day, he tried on a new symptom.  A teacher's worst fear:

I told him he was fine, that he should sit down, stop thinking about it, and it would go away.  The kid is a hypochondriac, and I was bored with his games.

I assure him that it's probably just dandruff, or that he's imagining it, and he assures me that he's 'for serious' this time.  He approaches my with determination in his eyes, it seems he is not going to take his spelling test lying down.

He has one more move.  He slowly, ever so slowly moves his clenched fist towards me, and finally hits me with the clincher, opening it:


True Story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lesson #2 - Don't play with batteries.

One afternoon, while teaching my Year 8 class a rather successful lesson that involved creating a picture of your favourite scene from Hamlet (Hamlet's stabbing of Polonius was the favourite, for the record), I suddenly overheard some giggling to my left. (I'm right handed by the way, so I'm not sure why I drew myself writing on the board with my left hand, other than basic aesthetics).

A child's laughter, contrary to popular opinion, is not one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.  It is in fact a warning system, a siren to let adults know that something very silly, and possibly very dangerous is taking place within their vicinity.  I turn around immediately and witness this:

It takes me a few seconds to work out what is going on, my immediate concern in the scissors, which I confiscate, and then I realise that the subject of the child's aggression is in fact the battery from a mobile phone.  The kind of battery that is covered in warnings about cutting it, heating it, burning it, destroying it in any way shape or form.  And here Dennis is, jabbing scissors into it.  I get a bit panicked...

Dennis is a little concerned at the severity of my reaction, quickly stops giggling (and speaking, and keeping his pants dry) and dropped the battery into the garbage bin by the board before scurrying off to wash his hands.  The class sits in silence until he returns, whereupon a few muffled chuckled are made at his expense (poor Dennis is almost in tears after my claim that he's had a near death experience), before the class settles back to work.

I decide that it's time to give up on the nice passive drawing activity and take some notes on the role of Horatio in the play.

The kids are chattering at a low level, but I'm certain that I overhear a small 'popping' sound.  I look around, and assume that one of the kids has gum, but after a quick scout, I can't see the culprit.  I shrug my shoulders internally, and recommence writing on the board.  Until I hear it again...

It's louder this time, and it scares the wiggins out of myself and Year 8.  None of us can tell where it's come from, and begin to make up lies about what in fact it actually is.

The noise stops at two pops, and we don't hear it again.  Once again, I recommence my enlightening study of Horatio, most infallible character ever...and I start sniffling, not because of the emotion of that final speech (though let me tell you, I've been there), but instead because something is tingling my olfactory sense.

My initial thought was 'that's weird', on account of you don't typically see smoke coming out of a garbage bin.  My second thought was to get the students outside, because as the old adage says, where there's smoke, there's fire.  I turn my attention to the class and am about to open my mouth when...

Thinking quickly for once, I grab my jacket from the desk and throw it over the bin, while evacuating the students out the door and down the stairs to the fresh air.  I call someone else in to babysit and return to the scene of the OMGFIRE!

When I get there, my jacket has done the job (and managed to escape unscathed - go natural wool!).  The fire has halted, though it has managed to melt through almost everything in the bin, and when I lift the bin to take it outside, it has a small rectangular shape that has melted through the base.
True Story.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lesson #1 - There's no such thing as dragons.

I’ve been working through a genre study on Fantasy with my Year Seven class over the past term.  We’ve looked at a lot of different texts, and some strong definitions of the category, and yesterday I spent a double period with the kids doing a very light treatment of the dragon’s death in Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.

After we’d drawn dragons, talked about dragons, written similes about dragons, come up with adjectives for dragons, etc. I set the students to task create a pamphlet that was either pro-dragon, or anti-dragon.  To me, this seemed an interesting task that required the students to use the visual literacy skills we'd been working on in combination with the language skills we'd just developed, with the added bonus of exercising the students' ability to write with purpose.

To my students, it seemed like a good idea to talk about the probability of dragons.

I don't mind discussion, provided that it's productive, and doesn't halt the completion of classwork. The discussion that took place in my classroom was actually neither of these.  Enter the three students who provided today's masterpiece theatre (left to right, Lulu, Susie and Jack):

Young Susie, suddenly perplexed by what she deems to be an 'emergency question', raises her hand quickly and waves it at me with a confused look on her face.

"Miss, do you BELIEVE in dragons?"  She accentuates the 'believe' with such force and genuineness, that even though I want to giggle, I hold it in, and instead explain the concept that we've been studying for the past eight weeks to her clearly.

"No, Susie.  This is fantasy remember?  Fantasy is everything that is imaginary and pretend.  Dragons are pretend."

Susie pauses, and tilts her head a little so that the information can settle.  She's not satisfied with my answer though, and ignores it. "Hmm.. Well – I think they’re real."

Jack overhears this, and while he's no Einstein, he's not emotionally four.  He throws his hands in the air and glares at Susie with a look that could kill a small rodent (though Jack's a nice kid and would never do that).  "Are you serious?!"

Susie of course, replies with an adamant 'yes'.  Jack is unsure whether to laugh or to scream, and I'm unsure whether to step in, or watch the discussion play out.  I mean, they were attempting to have about as close to an intellectual debate as we ever have in that class.  He thinks for a minute, and opts for raising his voice:

Susie's lost of bit of confidence now, and looks to her friends for support.  Lulu jumps in, to the rescue!

and her response causes the real me to almost double over laughing, but the teacher in me to jump in and stop the discussion, but not until Lulu finished her point... "So yeah!  Maybe there’s not like..dragons now. But there were before, and you don’t even know! How do you think we got dinosaur bones?"

FINALLY - I manage to end the argument, with much coercion (largely to Jack, basically by reminding him that not everyone is as clever as he).  The class settles, the kids relax, and begin colouring their pamphlets.  Silence ensues, temporarily, and the world is at peace.  Until, out of the corner of my eye, I see Susie's hand raise slowly in the air.

I'm not sure, but I think that a small part of my brain exploded.
True Story.