*Please read on to see what this is about. It’s not about me. (Well, it’s a little about me.)
“Every evening at dinner, Hand, Foot, and Tongue got into a heated argument over who had the toughest job.”
- Squids Will be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables, by Jon Scieczka and Lane Smith **
Don’t cry for me, but last night I was up later than I would’ve liked due to the fact that I attended a Celtics game. I recently purchased the tickets after receiving an email for decent seats at nosebleed seat prices. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Since the Celtics lose virtually every game in the fourth quarter (tired, I guess), they’re not selling out the Boston Garden anymore.
For those of you who could care less about basketball, I’m almost done. The Celtics blew out the poor Charlotte Bobcats. While the game was great, I could feel cold number two coming on as I kept coughing, which wasn’t fair since I still have a cough from cold number one. I was glad (mostly) that I had a job already lined up for today, which meant that I would get another thirty-minutes of sleep. My assignment was for a fifth/sixth-grade class three blocks from my home. I’d worked in this grade at this school a few times before***, but not for this teacher.
The teacher was there, with two pages of detailed plans (Yay!). She had a student teacher, so for a nanosecond, I thought I’d have an easy day. But after reading the plans, I realized that I was running the show.
“How long has she been your student teacher?” I asked, figuring the woman began in January, and was probably just getting her bearings.
“September,” was the reply.
“Oh, does she want to run any of the classes?” I shouldn't have said this, but I was taken by surprise.
“She filled out the paperwork to run the day, but…”
Then I was told that she might want to run Math, though that seemed to be pretty easy, since the students seem to run it anyway. This is a portfolio-learning school, so much of the work is student-driven. When I asked the teacher, she replied, “No thanks.”
After I did a read-aloud of, Half Moon by Eoin Colfer, per the teacher, I posed a “think about” question, “Would you rather have all the money you need for the rest of your life or be able to tell the future and why?” This generated a lot of interesting answers. A couple of people were scared to know the future, while others were clever, saying they’d predict the future to find out the winning lottery numbers, to get rich anyway. One person didn’t want the money, because he didn’t want to leave it to the wrong people upon his death, if others needed it more. A few students wanted the money, so they wouldn’t have to worry about it, while another was worried that he’d have too much free time on his hands and wouldn’t accomplish anything. One girl would use the future to change it, if needed, while another girl wanted to know her future to spare herself from dying in her sleep or getting shot.
It was an interesting question because it led to a lot of speculation about rules within these two scenarios. I told them, “This isn’t like a book. Even fantasy books always have rules and you can’t go outside of them, but here, you are the author, so you can make the rules. If it’s about predicting the future, you can decide whether or not you can change the outcome or whether it’s fate.” Heavy stuff for fifth-grade. I touched on Percy Jackson and the prediction (I didn’t say anything about the prediction for those who hadn’t read it) from the Oracle, and that because I’d only finished the second book, I didn’t know if the prediction would come true or if Percy could change it. If I were there teacher, I would’ve cited tons of examples from other books. Imagine having a lesson where students would explain the do’s and don’ts of each fantasy world? It was one of those moments when my writing and teaching bits came together, and it made me long for my own classroom.
For Writing Workshop, they have been working on fables, so they got to share a few that they’d written, including the morals of the story. They needed some work. Then I got to read three whacky ones from, Squids Will be Squids.
Math went well. I was given a spirited group of sixth-graders, who had to solve three problems on the board. Happy me that I was given the answer key. Then they had to create quadrilaterals with polystrips and metal fasteners. As I went from table to table, I saw that one boy wrote a message in green marker up his arm.
“You don’t want to write, ‘I’m awesome,’ in green marker,” I warned the marked student.
“Because of dye in the bloodstream?” his tablemate asked.
“Well, that’s not good,” I replied. Then I turned to marker boy and lowered my voice. “If you have to say that you’re awesome, it’s not so awesome, if you know what I mean.”
He laughed. His marker was confiscated.
After Math, it was time for lunch, and after lunch, it was time for sixth-grade Science. I was warned by the student teacher that this group would test me, while she’d be in the Social Studies room. Why was I stuck alone for Science when I could be working with someone for Social Studies? Not fair.
The plans for sixth-grade Science were to have students discuss a funny fable (aren’t you impressed with this teacher’s tie-ins?) from the Scieczka book that was sort of science-related, then they’d quietly read, and work on a nutrition packet that was due on Tuesday for the remainder of the period. I expected the worst.
I wound up being pleasantly surprised. After I gave them my expectations (work quietly) and incentive (finish early and get free choice time), they worked quietly. The two problem boys weren't a problem with a little extra attention and reminding. A Special Ed. teacher came in the room to help another student, and complimented me on my classroom management. (Awesome!)
The last half-hour went mostly smoothly, though the problem boys (and a couple of girls who get annoyed by them and antagonize them) were too silly at that point. I sat with them on the rug to make sure they stayed on task. I left, missing my old days in the fifth-grade. And needing some serious medicine.
** If you click the left top to see inside the book, you can see a story form one of the inside pages:
*** The first part of this post is about the other 5th/6th-grade class: