"It's not you, it's me.... You're giving me the 'It's not you, it's me' routine? I invented 'It's not you, it's me.' Nobody tells me it's them, not me. If it's anybody, it's me."
- George Costanza on the TV show “Seinfeld” in the episode “The Lip Reader”
The evening after the Spanish fiasco, my husband and I attended our children’s school Science Fair. Every other year, the city hosts a Science Week, in which museums, MIT, Harvard, and biotech companies all over Cambridge participate. Last weekend, they had a big fair at the main library and high school gym. During the week, the students at each school presented their posters.
Younger grades do a class project. Kindergarten is habitat. First-grade is balls and ramps. My daughter’s second-grade class studied floatation. After viewing her poster, I asked her why a cantaloupe floated while a grape sunk. She replied, “Density”.
By fifth-grade, students work in pairs. My son and his friend created a home that ran on alternative energy. Some aspects made sense (greenhouse, solar panels), while others did not (jumping on a trampoline and walking up a slide to produce power).
The middle school students were required to stand in front of their posters, present their experiment and findings, and then people like me wrote down on fact we learned on a sheet. I assume what we wrote is part of their grade.
Inexplicably, there were about three experiments that had to do with Mentos and soda. The significance? I have no idea. My favorite experiment was a taste test between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks coffee. OF COURSE, I could tell which was which. One pair did a study whether or not music interfered with concentration when playing a video game. I kid you not.
Two girls grew grass in a “greenhouse” and “outside”, to see in which environment it grew better. Another type of grass was the subject for a report on the dangers of marijuana. It explained side effects, provided two columns of nicknames, and showed a list of the top pot smoking countries. According to this list, New Zealand was number one, followed by Spain, and then the United States. The student wasn’t there to explain the data.
I loved seeing the students as they proudly and shyly spoke about their posters. My husband said that even though the students are older, they’re cute. “That’s what I’ve been saying!” I replied. “They’re all taller than you,” he said. It’s true. I find it funny that anyone respects my authority when they tower over me. Probably pity.
Irony of ironies, when I got home, I received a call to sub middle school Science the next day. I would be at the rally school**. When I’d subbed for Math***, the students could’ve been better or maybe it was me who could’ve been tougher.
This is the cool part. When students saw I was their sub, they were happy. Not because I was a sub to annihilate, but because it was ME. Tears. “You’re my favorite sub!” one exclaimed. I choose to believe he meant it. Another student asked his usual, “Do you remember my name?” I did.
The absent teacher was the one who usually helped me when the other Science teacher was out. Instead of getting my usual sixth and seventh-graders, I’d have mostly eighth-graders and one seventh-grade class. This was a heavy teaching day. I’d have five classes, and one of the groups came in TWO TIMES. Oh joy. As I knew he would, this teacher left me thorough plans. All I had to do was staple the packets. The eighth-grade packet didn’t seem very substantial, but his plans specifically said the last page would take them a long time. Foreshadow…
First group, first period, two students finished that packet in TWENTY MINUTES. How long is the class, you ask? An hour. AND I’d get them again in the afternoon for ANOTHER HOUR. Awesome. Their packet was about cancer, so none of my papers or my membership to www.enchantedlearning.com were going to help me. Surfing the Internet, I didn’t find much that was appropriate. Perusing the textbook, I found a chapter on cell mutation. Another student verified they hadn’t done that chapter. Voilà, I had my afternoon assignment.
All of the groups were good, although some students worked harder than others, and I had to make sure the ones who finished early kept their voices down to a (somewhat) acceptable level. The nice part about this room is it’s in a corner, not attached to any other rooms. I brought in Brain Teaser cards and someone borrowed playing cards from another teacher so most teens were occupied.
One group of seventh-graders is usually the thorn in my butt, but even they were better than usual. A pair of fraternal twins trashed talked/argued the whole time (as usual), but this time I was better about keeping them separated.
Overall, the kids, although exhausting, made me laugh.
I confiscated a scissor from a student.
His friend said, “That’s not a weapon.”
“He doesn’t need it to work on his packet,” I replied.
“Why don’t you wait until he uses it as a weapon.”
“What if it were a gun? Should I wait until he used that?”
The boys laughed.
Those same boys kept pulling their eyes taut to tease their Asian friend. “That’s racist.” I reprimanded. Then I brought up the film “The Blind Side”, which they’d all seen and it distracted them from… being racist.
I also confiscated a book from a student who kept reading instead of doing her packet. “It kills me to do this,” I said.
A group of eighth-grade girls who finished early wanted to do gymnastics, but I told them they needed a spotter and a mat. Instead, I let them go in the hallway (another advantage of being in an isolated corridor) so they could lean against the wall in a sitting position to see who could sit there the longest.
At the end of the day, the English teacher asked me how they day had gone.
“It went well. I don’t know why some days are better than others. I think it’s them, not me.”
“They’re like that for everyone,” he replied.
“The only difficulty was dealing with those brothers, but I had one work in the hallway and then it was fine.”
“I don’t know what their problem is. We’ve had the parents in multiple times, but they won’t put them in different classes.”
So, there you have it. It’s them, not me.
*I didn’t use “Fair” intentionally. Get it?
**The Pep Rally:
*** When I subbed these students last time for Math: