Sunday, September 26, 2010

bungalow math

+ sweaty adolescents
in a bungalow

= an aromatic
and pungent Monday






The weather in San Diego is beautiful. Today it was dry, upwards of 95°. Like a thumping bass in the car next to you at a street light, insistent and relentless, is the thought that tomorrow I will be in the bungalow with 36 thirteen year olds and no air conditioning.

Oh, I tell myself, it's so much worse elsewhere. Think of Jamaica--no a/c and 60 kids in a class and no books. Or Haiti, whose schools are still being constructed.

But I can't stop the thoughts from pounding. That bungalow is a slow cooker. There will be kids in there for four consecutive hours. My windows face south so there won't even be a breeze. Sitting in the wooden oven that is my portable classroom is a challenge for all but recent immigrants from Jamaica or Haiti.

Do you know what thirteen year olds smell like after being in the sun for an hour? Do you know how they complain when their comfort zone is messed with? Do you know how hard it is to teach and learn about mercantilism (not so sexy in the best of conditions!) when sitting in a 100° room? I do, and hence the dread.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GLORY in a middle school hallway

After lunch, I am racing down the hall to beat the incoming crew when I notice we have two new boys with disabilities. One has Down syndrome, and the other is lying in a carriage-type contraption, body all twisted, head craning, arms flailing, being pushed by Ms A.

"Hey, guys, are you two new here? I'm Ms M!"

Ms A. stops pushing so I can attempt to shake hands. She responds for them: "This is A., and this is K; they're both 6th graders." K, with Down, pays no attention--he is on a mission to use the bathroom and won't lose focus. But A.'s face lights up as I approach and shake his hand.

And then the GLORY.

Another student, an able bodied small blond kid I've never seen comes up beside me, fully focused on A., sticks out his hand and smiles, "And I'm T.! Welcome to our school!" and shakes A's hand heartily and sincerely before patting K. on the shoulder. A. squirms with delight.

Middle schoolers can be brutal.
But let's acknowledge how they can shine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

55°N, 37°E

A few ways to help kids remember which way latitude lines run, and what latitude lines do:

The first two letters of LAtitude are L. A., which stand for Lines Across: __________________

Your face has a line of latitude--your mouth! Here's the ridiculous rhyme I made up on the spot, stupid enough that they will remember: "Latitude divides North and South, just like your mouth."

Lat = fat (ie, the lines parallel global girth)

And then I added kinesthetic learning. Arms out perpendicular to the floor, but forearms bent in with palms to the floor, we moved them out as we made tough guy faces and said aloud, "LATITUDE ATTITUDE!"

And on a paper of horizontal lines marked off by degrees, I fielded what they wanted to find and scattered them on the lines: "Bolivia!" "Atlantis!" "A million bucks!" "Waldo!" (Note: no one thought to find world peace or Osama bin Ladn.) I had their names written on decks of cards, and I asked a question, had them think of the answer, then drew a card. The class chorally confirmed or denied the student's response, and if the response was in error, the student could fix the answer or call on another student for assistance.

Then we moved onto our atlases and found countries there, although one kid actually didn't know where Canada was. Sigh. People, I teach 8th grade in the United States. Our continent is not exactly teeming with countries. Anyway, I taught them how to say yes and no in Russian, just so when parents asked what they learned in school today (such a predictable question!), instead of saying "nothing," the students could say, "Oh, we learned Russian."

Thursday, September 2, 2010 Taylor Mali

Click HERE for the slightly edited version of his passionate poem, "What Teachers Make".