Some of you might remember that I once wrote about a student of mine who was particularly fond of hobos. I'm too lazy to look for the link, so instead, I'll just reprint his most phenomenal statement ever. When defining success:
If you're a hobo with no friends, I think of that as absolutely no success. But if you're a friendly hobo, then that is success. But not much.
The wisdom runs deep for one so young. Recently, in my current class, we asked them to write a definition piece on success as well. I'm not sure anything was quite up to par with that classic, but here are two of my favorites:
Success is like a shining river flowing beneath a set of mountains, with freshwater salmon swimming gracefully upstream.
I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. This second one's a bit more clear:
Success is not crying over the fat kid who took your animal crackers.
That's right - it doesn't matter that you're a loser who can't defend your own recess snack. All that matters is that you didn't cry about it.
I recently learned the mixed blessing that is having students remember what I teach them. We had a multi-day lesson on subtext a few weeks back, and it recently came back to bite me in the... well, etc.
It showed up when I made a joke about one of my students. We all have a good rapport in my classroom, so good-natured ribbing is common. One of my students chose to respond to a difficult question by looking it up in the book instead of trying to work it out on his own like I'd asked them to do. After the snickering died down, I said, "Well, now that we know C. can answer the question with the aid of the book..." The class laughed and "ooh!"'d at him for getting "dissed." I made with the innocent eyes and said, "What? I didn't say anything about his ability to do it without the book!"
"Yeah," one of the students said, "but you implied it." And then - I kid you not - three different students said, at the exact same time, "Subtext, Miss David!"
Well, at least they're listening to something I say, right?
As if we didn't have enough to do already, the STAR tests expect us to be teaching our kids vocabulary in the fields of science, math, and politics. Oh yeah, in our oodles of free time we'll just work on making sure they know all the academic language for their other classes, because certainly they know all of ours already. I mean, look how well they did producing metaphors.
On their most recent practice exam, they had this wonderful question:
Which of these refers to diseases of the brain?
Now, I knew the right answer, but I'm a college graduate. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have known that in high school. And even with my college education, I had never even heard of "epidemiology" before. What the heck, California Department of Education? Why do you keep setting up our kids to fail?
Not to end on such a low note, let me share an interesting moment from class the other day, where our students realized just how different their two teachers could be.
Ms. D. and I have come to the point in the year where there are clearly the classes that more often have me as their teacher and the classes that more often have her. When one of us is teaching, the other is in the classroom, but working on other things and only adding occasional comments to discussion.
During one of Ms. D.'s classes, I was sitting on the side of the class quietly working as she discussed the night's homework with the class. She explained that they would be making revisions to a piece of writing from the year, to practice reflecting on their own writing. You can understand the 16-year-olds were not thrilled about this "opportunity for growth," as we were framing it. S., however, sees a chance for something positive to come out of this, and raises his hand to ask, "Can we revise this all the way up to an A?"
"No," Ms. D. answers. "You're revising these for a separate 'revision' grade, but it won't affect your actual past scores."
S. looked disappointed for a moment, then perked up. "What if we pay you?" he asked.
Offended, Ms. D. exclaimed, "No!"
Unfortunately, I ruined her effect by looking up at that same moment and saying, "How much?"
What can I say? We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.