Tuesday, February 1, 2011


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

- Declaration of Independence

Last week I was in the middle of teaching my eighth-grade class about Humanism during the Renaissance period. I had some interesting connections planned to do with Socrates and Plato as well as John Locke and Thomas Paine. Oh, and a little thing called the American Revolution.

But that’s not all. I was going to contrast people’s lack of choice during Medieval Times as opposed to do individualism during the Renaissance. Oh yeah, it was gonna be AMAZING.

The students were engaged; quiet when I was talking, answering questions when I asked, and participating in discussion.

Then a female student to my left asked, “Do you dye your hair?”

I get this a lot, especially from teenage girls. The difference is it’s not usually asked in the middle of a lesson. See, my hair is black. With my pale skin, it must not seem real.

Ironically, when I was a teenager punk-artist, I dyed my then medium brown hair black. But now I hate when people think I dye it because I don’t.

So, instead of telling her, the question was inappropriate,

Instead of ignoring her,

I answered.

“No, see all these grays.” I leaned over so she could get a good look at my bangs.

I told the whole class, “When I was your age, my hair used to be a lighter brown.”

“Really?” a startled brunette with hair like in a shampoo commercial asked to my right.

“Really. Your hair darkens as you age.”

She looked horrified.

I surveyed the entire class. “My hair is going to be on the test.”

Then I returned to the lesson.

Students love sidetracking teachers. We have to make sure they don’t let our sidetracks get in the way of the material. But sometimes we can fool them and tell them a story so they get lulled into listening when I’m really teaching them. Whenever I can, I tell a story about my life if it will make a point about the lesson.

This was (obviously) not one of those times.

Later, I wondered what they’d remember from that lesson:

- Plato trying to convince Socrates to escape prison, but Socrates refusing because he’d rather accept a death sentence than undermine democracy? (The idea was more important than the individual.)

- Feudalism making generations of families stuck in the same occupation? The idea of the individual didn’t exist.

- Humanists promoting the idea of individualism was against church teachings. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake as a heretic.

- The idea of individualism continued with Enlightenment Thinkers.

- One Enlightenment Thinker, John Locke inspired the Founding Fathers. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property was changed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. (How much property can you promise, after all.)

- Americans, like Socrates, were willing to die for democracy. But this time, they were willing to die so their new government could maintain their freedoms.

If I had been the student, I would’ve remembered that my hair was going to get darker as I aged. That thought would probably freak me out. But back then I would’ve laughed because that would be a LONG - WAY - OFF.

(Should I tell the students time accelerates as you get older?)


  1. What?! Hairs darkens as you get older? And time accelerates too?

    Hmmm... If anything my hair is getting slightly lighter as I age.
    And perception of time is probably linked to how much you have to do... I can imagine busy people with three fulltime jobs feeling as if time where rushing by.

    I engineer my life to be as simple as possible, have been doing so since I was a teenager... As a result the passing of time feels relatively constant.
    Perhaps I'm not old enough yet... ; j

    And that was one busy lesson you had going there, all that and your hair care practices! : j
    Reminds of a time when a young lady in street complimented me on my hair, and then asked if it was a wig.
    At least they think it is YOUR hair! : j

  2. You crack me up -- My hair's going to be on the test.

    You should have told them about time speeding by as you age, and then told them their body will start to sag. That would have gotten them.

  3. Ha ha ha! I think you should definitely tell them that time accelerates - of course, they won't believe you.

  4. I have no idea who those guys are you are talking about. Are they on "Jersey Shore"? I want to hear more about your hair.

  5. My hair's going to be on the test LOL.

    Seriously, I started off with hair the colour of sand. By my late teens it was brown. Now to me it looks dark brown but years ago my hairdresser told me it was dark blonde. I never really believed her until silver-white (not grey) hairs started to appear. It seems in the end I'll be going back to my blonder roots!

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  6. @ Alesa, my husband went from blond to brown to blackish gray to white. So, yeah, it can go lighter! Usually it darkens and dulls before it grays.

    A wig? I haven't heard that one. Actually that's not true. When I began straightening my hair, one aunt saw me and didn't believe it was real. So she pulled it. Hard.

    Glad time isn't accelerating for you and your hair holding up!

    @ Anne, if I mention the sagging part, I'm worried they're going to scrutinize my baggage!

    @ Shannon, they won't believe me. To them, everyday is unbearably long. And the poor souls are enduing it in middle school. Life is cruel.

    @ Bossy Betty, there's not a Jersey Shore type in that entire class. Maybe in New York... But I guess all girls appreciate nice hair.

    @ Ellie, blondes seem to go full circle, except it's white instead of white-blonde. Having dark hair with white is the strangest - they really stand out!

  7. Hahahahahahaha oh dear.

    I hope that they don't only study the hair color.


  8. Hahahahahahaha oh dear.

    I hope that they don't only study the hair color.


  9. I'm giggling. What a great story. They'll probably remember the hair thing, but the other lessons will stick with them too.

  10. I love how you said that your hair was going to be on the test. It's good that you kept a sense of humor about it. I must admit that my classmates and I did that to a teacher once in high school; we kept distracting him with random questions so that he didn't have enough time to give us his usualy daily lecture. He knew what we were doing, but he said it was okay as long as we didn't do it everyday; anyway, the answers he gave turned out to be pretty educational too.

  11. Great comeback about the hair ~ :) But, here's hoping that the sidetrack got them to remember what sounds like a great lesson!

  12. Wow! What a question to throw in the middle of such a profound philosophical life learning lesson!!! Give that student a gold medal! LOL!! What a question!!! But I love your reply!!! Love it!!! How could your students forget such a lesson??? I hope to remember this post because of how quirky and surreal it is!! :-)

    Take care

  13. Wow! Students do know how to sidetrack teachers and get rid of boredom for a few minutes at least!

  14. Hahaha! This made me laugh, Theresa. I remember how the students used to try to sidetrack me! One thought I was rich (yeah, right!) and kept asking me if I went to Harrods every day. :)

  15. Brilliant!! Kids do love a sidetrack!! I go off on tangents without the kids asking questions but there's always a point to it... well most of the time.

    Loved this post!

  16. Not only do teenagers get sidetrack, so do elementary kids. As a teacher we always have to be on our toes and quick thinkers. Just like you were. Funny!

  17. @ Misha, they took the test and I think they got more info than just my hair color. Whew.

    @ Angie, I hope so. They're so funny how they just blurt out what they're thinking. Clearly not thinking about humanism.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, I remember the distractible ones too! And I also remember a science teacher who would tell us about his friend George. Well, George wasn't very bright. Once he tried to make a diamond by putting a piece of coal under his house. He didn't understand about the time and pressure needed. He always told us stories like that to illustrate his lessons.

    @ Donea, I hope they learned it too. Usually when I tell them I think something in history is exciting, they look at me with skepticism. This was one of those times.

    @ Old Kitty, teaching children is surreal! Perfect word. They make me shake my head and smile all day.

    @ Nas, I get they need a little break. That's why I answered. I just have to make sure to reign it in or I'd never get through any lessons.

    @ Talli, I can see poorer students doing that. A favorite of my students is to ask about my kids. What sucker parent is going to be able to resist questions about their kids?

    @ Elembee, I will admit. Hair had absolutely NO point to my lesson. What made me admit to this, I have no idea!

    @ Choices, in the end, reading my post took longer than the actual exchange. But it did make me question my belief that my lesson was fascinating. If talking about the color of my hair is more interesting...

  18. I think you handled that situation well, Theresa. (I wouldn't have had the nerve to ask my teacher personal questions when I was a kid.) The content of your class was awesome. Loved the lecture outline. Thanks for teaching me!

  19. LOL my hair used to be light blond now it's bordering on light brown. I use chemicals.

  20. Haha, I used to love sidetracking teachers! Sorry--I was one of those kids :)

  21. LOL, hair getting darker. I got ripped off mine just went gray. I love your teaching stories, reminds me of my delinquent years :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  22. Students do love to try and sidetrack the lessons ALL the time, don't they?

    I love your response to this one! Awesome :)

  23. Funny post, Theresa, I have forgotten what my natural hair colour is by now.

  24. I would have remembered the hair comment as well. Only because I wouldn't have believed you. I will say that one student will remember and years down the road will look at herself and say "I remember when,"

    Great post!

  25. @ Roxy, I wouldn't have had the nerve to ask either, but others in my classroom did.

    I can give you more detailed notes on the fabulous lesson! ; )

    @ Tessa, I used dye a lot before I needed it just to change it up. As my hair got darker, I realized it was a better color for my face. But the grays are beginning to drive me nuts.

    @ Meredith, students appreciate students like you because it makes classes less boring!

    @ Jules, those who go gray early miss the darkening I guess. Sorry!

    @ Jemi, teachers are in a daily battle with their students. Teachers want to cram in as much information as possible while students want to absorb as little as possible. The only hope is for the teacher to figure out how to make the information palatable.

    @ Brigid, it's probably fun to mix it up. It's hard to dye my hair at present time. "Natural black" comes out too black. "Darkest Brown" isn't dark enough. Should I begin mixing 2 dye packages?

    @ Jen, thanks! So some poor former students will remember the lesson as they bemoan the darkening of their locks. Poor them!

  26. haha! yes, tell 'em! I was blonde when I was a kid. Now I'm dark brown (but I dye it black) :o)

  27. That's quite a lesson! I don't know why but I always think of Socrates & Plato as being bald. hahaha

  28. Hahah... too funny! I hope they managed to remember that amazing lesson too though!

    You're right, students can become distracted, and then try to DO the distracting! :)

    Ahhhh... it's funny, because when I was younger, it seemed like we had forever... when you're 13, 30 is ages away, but time does unfortunately speed up, even though the older you get, the more you want/need it to slow down.

  29. Now the real question is ... Will you put a question about the hair issue on the test? Maybe an extra credit point?

  30. There is a lot of good information in your lesson, Theresa. Thanks for giving us some facts. I know it clarifies much for me.

    Substituting and student off-topic comments can keep anyone on their toes. It's like the grade school, "You know what?" question wherein you answer, "What?"

    By the way, I like your hair color and complexion.

  31. I have pale skin and dye my hair black (so here I am reinforcing the "not real" connection). But as someone who spent her teenage years with mousy brown hair, I would have been thrilled by the idea that my hair would darken as I got older. I always wanted to be a raven-haired beauty.

    Your lesson reminded me that I spent the last week watching the "John Adams" mini-series on DVD and loving every second of it. American history pretty much rocks, so hopefully the kids thought so too!

  32. @ Jessica, as my hair was darkening, but wasn't nearly black, I thought it would look good black and dyed it. But I think I'm too old to carry true black. I think your hair looks good!

    @ Vicki, if they were bald, hair was even less of something to talk about during my lesson.

    @ Writing Nut, that's exactly how I feel about time. It would go so slowly. The older I get, the faster it goes. Scary.

    @ Joanne, I didn't put a question about my hair on the test. Decided not to reinforce that aspect of the lesson!

    @ Victoria Marie, oh the famous "You know what?" "What?" can keep kindergartners talking (at the same time) for hours!

    Thanks for the compliment.

    @ Lisa, I wanted to be a blonde with straight hair instead of medium brown and curly. Got the straight part now, but I'm so not a blonde!

    I wish I were teaching American History - my favorite subject. I snuck a little in this time.

  33. This is the best post ever! My students ask me about my hair all the time. I shave mine, though, so it's like I'm asking for it.

    Glad you allowed yourself to be sidetracked. There is nothing as great as a hair convo.

  34. "a startled brunette with hair like in a shampoo commercial asked to my right" *snort* LOVE!

  35. @ Elana, students are fascinated with hair. And you do have cool hair, so I'm not surprised students ask you all the time.

    @ Christina, the girl has Breck Shampoo ad hair!

  36. You sound like a great teacher. I once tried to explain in a high school English class why Melville's Moby Dick was so wonderful when you used Eagleton deconstruction techniques to examine the text.

  37. NO! Let them have their ignorant bliss for a while. I don't think I realized your hair gets darker as you age...but I've been coloring mine blond for 10 years or so, so I don't even know what's beneath this dye.

  38. @ Michael, thank you. Let me guess, they didn't appreciate Eagleton deconstruction techniques, did they?

    @ Stephanie, it's best not to know the real color sometimes. I take after my father and his mother, so I'll probably have most of my color when I'm old. But I'm sure I'll crack, and start dyeing again soon enough.

  39. You're so right. They love it when they sidetrack you from a lesson, or at least think they have.

  40. @ Missed Periods, it's so true. Sometimes we see it coming and use it to our advantage.

  41. Hi Theresa .. great history lesson & future history lesson .. graying hair, getting older faster .. etc etc & losing track - though you didn't I see. Good post - enjoyed this .. thanks Hilary

  42. @ Hilary, glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I got the parallel lessons going on simultaneously. : ) Thanks for the comment.

  43. My hair has been blonde since the day I was born. I really, really hate it when people ask if I dye it. I love my hair.

    I'm already feeling the acceleration of time, and I'm fourteen. Do you think that means I'll die young? Interesting thought...

    I'm almost done reading through your blog! I think I started reading in April (because I remember being amazed that you weren't doing the A-Z challenge) so only two more months!

  44. @ Brooke, I still can't get over what a strong writer you are at your age.

    I don't think I'd ever do the A to Z Challenge. Too much structure for me and too many days to commit to posting. But you never know.