Diapers and Dragons

Thursday, September 23, 2010

These Are The Reasons I Love My Job

I love working with these kids. It's craziness sometimes, but that's half the fun. Scratch that: it's most of the fun.

Today each of my sophomore classes brought laughter and spur of the moment crazy creative learning moments. You wanna hear about them? Yes? I thought so.

First, I had my fourth hour class write words on my dry erase boards next to my silly stick figures awesome artistic portrayals of the three main characters from The Scarlet Letter--Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Hester Prynne. After much laughter over the art, they went at it with gusto. The markers were squeaking like a horde of voracious mice.

And then I saw what they'd written.

Spell Check is their friend. *sigh*

So we learned some spelling for a little bit. But what had me in almost immediate stitches was one word written next to Chillingworth's figure. "INTELLIGOUS" proclaimed the board, in big green letters.

I mean...really?????

This is where the impromptu vocabulary lesson came in. After the hilarity died down, I told the kids to pull out a scrap of paper and, without consulting with each other, each write down a definition for this new word. Then they shared them and we voted on the best ones. After weeding out the rather mean if not entirely mean-hearted ones targeted toward the (fortunately quite self-confident and very nice) young man who had apparently made the thinko in the first place, they had come up with several that were just awesome:

intelligous (in-tel'-i-jus) adj.  1 being or appearing to be fabricating intelligence by creating one's words, but inevitably failing miserably  2 describing a person who is not only intelligent but also a genius  3 smarticle or brainilicious  4 Sum1 who is lyk, SOOPER SMRT. That's a caps S-M-R-T, gyz  5  the nice way to tell someone that they really are stupid  6 (and my favorite) when you know English things goodly.

That last one got a spontaneous ovation from the class. My students? Are awesome.

We're making a class shirt. No, really.

Then in fifth hour, also a sophomore class (but a lesson behind because of our schedule this week), I had a sudden moment of brilliance. Let me see if I can retrace the rabbit trail of the conversation that led to this (class discussions can take interesting tangents): We were talking about the different characters and how they relate to each other in what had been going on, I know that. They've gotten to the middle of the book...Dang it. Can't remember where we went with it, but suddenly we ended up talking about FaceBook (no really, it related somehow) and I thought of this hilarious viral post (don't worry, I don't mean it has a virus, I just mean it was passed all over the internet through virtual word of mouth, which is called "going viral") and had an AH HA!!!! moment.

I get them once in a blue moon.

So I told my students they could opt for an enrichment assignment--meaning they didn't have to do it, but could get a grade if they did, and those who chose not to would be excused. It can help grades, but it's not extra credit. Make sense? They could make their own versions of FaceBook Walls for each of the main characters (up to three) with status updates, comments, likes, and so on. The FB Walls would have to be accurate to the characters and the interactions between characters in the book. If they could make their project actually look like FaceBook, awesome, but it's not a requirement.

I have kids who are ramped up like you would not believe. And here's the sneaky part: they'll really have to know the book and the characters to pull this off, including the subtleties and the relationships and all the symbolism laced throughout that novel!

I love getting kids to think critically--and outside the box.

Of course, I also then had to calm down the one kid who wanted to create YouTube videos Scarlet Letter/Puritan style (you know, if they had YouTube back then sort of thing?) I haven't allowed video projects since my third year of teaching when my craziest student of all time thought it would be a good idea to light himself on fire for a video project "based" (and I use this term as loosely as possible, in this case) on the book Fahrenheit 451.

Yeah, no.

I love working with these kids. I love relating to them personally and intellectually. I love seeing them grow over time. I love running into them for years, or years later. I love feeling like I've had an impact on people through my job. All of these are reasons I love teaching.

These lessons aren't the sort of thing that will ever show up directly on any standardized test. But I'll tell you this: my students are learning about words and grammar and literature and critical thinking in a way that will stay with them. They're getting excited about the class--excited about learning. And that's the sweetest reason of all.

6 bits of love:

Tim Riley said...

Sounds like a great day! You're so right, moments like these make teaching an incredibly rewarding gig.

sAm said...

Consider that FB idea stolen! I'd been thinking of something similar...but I think I'm going to have them be people from a historical time (right now we're doing the Revolutionary War), and they can do a FB wall...Love it!!!

Betty Herbert said...

Oooh, very excited by your post! In real life, I teach teachers to use creative learning. Most of them hate me, silently. I wish I'd bowled up in your classroom!

Katie said...

How fun! Absolutely WONDIFEROUS!! ;)

4everalway5 said...

My roommate is an English Education major. I had to read this post out loud to her. It reminded us of one of our favorite teachers from high school, she also taught English classes. Keep up the good fight and thank for not being just another boring teacher.

Ed Pilolla said...

that's pretty cool that you veered the subject on the spot to spontaneous definitions of intelligous. i can remember the great energy in classrooms where teachers weren't afraid of riding some wrinkle that developed during class. i guess when your kids are revved up about something you know you're onto something.
lighting himself on fire?? he could have gotten away with lighting the bradbury book on fire, which happens to be one of my top 5 faves of all time.

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