So many times this week I’ve thought, “Ooh, I can’t wait to blog about that!” And yet somehow, the time has not presented itself. It is now nearly 10 PM on Thursday; I really should be either grading the quizzes I’ve dragged back and forth all week, or in bed, but darn it, I want to write! I used to write during school; my conference period or lunchtime, typically, but now I don’t have enough time to get even my next lesson perfected during that time. My conference is 48 minutes long; lunch is exactly 30, and I spend at least ten minutes of each pumping or trying to go to the bathroom – heaven forbid I try to make copies! Most days I get to 3:30 and realize I haven’t been to the bathroom, and the only reason I didn’t realize it was because I hadn’t made the trip to the drinking fountain to fill my water bottle, which means I had hardly any milk to pump because I was dehydrated…suddenly, cause and effect seem to rule my life more than any other earthly force. On the bright side, everything is so packed in that the days go by really fast…can’t believe it’s nearly November…nine Mondays until Christmas! And only eight until break – that’s a better countdown…
Now that I’ve nearly three weeks back in the saddle, I’ve decided my hardest class is actually my freshman world history. They’re really sweet kids, but I am hampered by a number of things. First, I am super rusty on any of the history they are learning right now. We just finished up a unit on the fall of Rome and medieval Europe, and I hardly feel like we scratched the surface, mostly because I hardly remember a thing from the last time I studied ancient Rome (high school Latin class – and I’ve BEEN to Italy!) or medieval Europe (freshman year world history…in high school). While we spent about ten minutes on the Crusades, much to the devastation of my history-buff husband, my students know the five Romance languages that evolved from Latin (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian), that “magna-” is a Latin root for great (Magna Carta, Charlemagne), and AD stands for “Anno Domini,” which is Latin for “Year of Our Lord.” You know, all those linguistic English-teacher-y things.
The second reason I struggle with them is that they have literally no filter. I am used to teaching juniors who want to be treated like young adults and are thinking ahead to their impending adulthood. These freshmen…they just can’t stop talking, and it’s so silly. I don’t want to be cruel, but at least when I eavesdrop on my juniors – and granted, most of them are AP, but still – I hear conversations about the SAT, or the text we’re reading, or at least some joke that is vaguely clever. In my freshman classroom, I overheard exchanges like this:
Girl: Knock knock.
Other girl: Who’s there?
Other girl: Super who?
This is the same group that when I told them they were so squirrelly, someone replied, “We’re not squirrels!” and tittered at his own joke (incidentally, he laughs rather like I imagine a squirrel would).
In addition, this lack of filter causes them to say the first thing that pops into their heads, regardless of the level of appropriateness or relevance it displays. We were discussing current events yesterday, and I asked them how Ebola was spread. One red-headed boy in the back shouted, “African Americans!” as loudly as he could. I can only assume he meant “Africans,” as in the area of the world where the virus originated, but he’d still be wrong – though maybe a hair less politically incorrect? I was looking for “bodily fluids.”
A final example of this total lack of filter was the Ghost Pepper Episode. Apparently, some seniors in the marching band got ahold of what they claimed were ghost peppers and shot a video that went viral in our little community of them consuming them.
So, naturally, the freshmen start passing these things around and eating them in class. I didn’t realize that’s what had happened when one girl asked to go the restroom since she felt ill, but it turns out a whole bunch of little freshmen band kiddos were quaffing peppers during the school day. One of the teachers I talked to refused to let a kid out of class to get a drink for a full fifteen minutes; I bet he regretted that decision.
It apparently never occurred to the freshmen that this could possibly be a bad idea or somehow turn out poorly for them. A junior in band told me one kid got so sick after guzzling post-pepper milk that his stomach had to be pumped and he had intestinal burns (while I can’t verify this tale, it sounds completely plausible).
Finally, despite all the hard work I know their middle school teachers and their other high school teachers put into them, they seem almost paralyzingly incapable of using the tools they’ve been given. As part of our Medieval Europe unit, I gave each student a topic and a day with the school ipads to research as much as they could find, then present it to the class so we could take notes. Then, I used those notes that they gave me, combined with the chapter from the textbook that I photocopied and handed out, and wrote their 30-question multiple choice test. I took those questions and made them into a Jeopardy game on the SmartBoard, which we used yesterday for review…and even after literally giving them the questions and answers, I had 3 students score in the 90 percents and nearly two-thirds of the rest of them failing. Sometimes my juniors pull stunts like this, but they are at least honest about it; something like, “Yes, I know you gave us the packet, but I just didn’t study.” When my history students came in today and I handed them the test they looked like Ralphie on Santa’s lap in A Christmas Story (“Test? Test? What’s a test?”). One kid asked, “How long have we known about this test?” I told them Monday…it’s only been on the whiteboard, smartboard, website, and my intro and conclusion every day.
There were four short answer questions at the end of the test; they had to choose one (all of which were printed on the front of their review packet I gave them on Tuesday). One of the questions was, “How did religion affect the lifestyles during this period?” Darned if nearly every student picked that question…and answered it as if “this period” meant “today.” I got essays on how terrorists are fueled by religion, something about church and state and not being judged, and a particularly weird one describing the world’s three religions of “Christianity, Jewishness, and atheist.” Why any of them thought I’d ask a question about modern-day religion when the entire test and class is about Medieval Europe is absolutely beyond me. I was thinking, y’know, the Crusades, or something about the clergy being the most educated social class, or SOMEthing vaguely related to the entire rest of the test. Last time I checked there weren’t a whole lot of terrorists floating about the Dark Ages…