Thursday, November 17, 2011
School has its ups and downs, but despite the downs I no longer consider quitting. I really like my job and I love the kids I teach. Lately I’ve been realizing that my lessons can be a little boring so I tried some activities today that an awesome, seasoned teacher recommended (she’s seasoned because she’s been teaching for so long, not because she’s been sprinkled with herbs). Today we tried “La U” which is where the students stand in a u-shape around the classroom. I ask them questions in order and if they get it right they get to sit down, but if they get the question wrong they have to stay standing until the next round. They can’t sit down until they get a question right.
I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. The first period I tried it with started making fun of the kids that were getting answers wrong. Some of them even called one kid a loser while holding their hand to their forehead in the shape of an L. I didn’t realize that people did that in real life. I have loads of self-esteem and a great sense of self-worth, but what they were saying would have even hurt my feelings. I stopped the game and enacted the most severe punishment I could come up with – I removed their candy privileges for the rest of the month.
Taking away candy is a big deal to 13 and 14 year olds. One day in September I gave out fun size Twix as part of a lesson. Every day after that the kids would ask if I would be giving out more candy. It got a little frustrating. One such exchange went like this:
Student: Are we getting candy today?
Me as turn my pockets inside out: I’m a part-time teacher. I can’t afford to buy you candy all the time.
Student: What if we brought it in?
Me, slightly confused by the direction of the conversation: Sure, if you bring in candy I’d be happy to pass it out to you.
I wasn’t quite sure why she needed me to give her the candy. I figured she could just cut out the middle man and keep the candy for herself. But then again candy tastes twice as sweet when it’s also a prize. Much to my surprise and the joy of the other students she did bring in candy and I happily passed it out to even happier students when they did something awesome. Unfortunately I really love my students and it was so fun to see how happy they were to be getting a small piece of candy. So the day after Halloween I went to the store and bought bags and bags of Halloween candy for a generous discount. I’m hoping the candy will last all year.
When the next period came in and I explained how La U worked I also told them that the other class had lost their candy privileges by being rude. One girl perked up and asked, “So if we’re good, do we get candy?” and I said, “If you’re good it’ll be like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in here!” I watched their eyes light up as they joyously contemplated this impossible dream. In this class, after each student answered a question all the other kids clapped ecstatically. They clapped and cheered even louder when someone got a question wrong. The classroom nearly exploded with goodwill and camaraderie. I know they were cheering because they wanted candy, but it made me so happy to see them encouraging and cheering for each other. They cheered and cheered and I couldn’t stop laughing. I wish every day could be like today. And every day can be like today -- if there’s candy.