Fun


Spurred by my recent foray into ideas for increasing critical thinking, here’s an idea that I think combines a lot of different ideas, including critical thinking and logical inference, into a skill-building activity that engages a virtually universal student interest: music.

(more…)

Tonight was the opening night of our high school play, which is the delightful parody High School Non-Musical. I had been planning on seeing this for quite some time, since the cast are mostly students of mine. My wife happened to get into a conference this weekend, so I went alone, opting to stay after school until the show started.

It was nicer than I expected: a colleague invited me to go out with her husband and their 5 kids, and I enjoyed talking with them about family and teaching and numerous other things while we watched their kids interact.

When we got back to the school, it was basically time to grab a seat so we could get good ones, and it was a blast. The kids were funny (although the humor was very subtle and very much contingent on pop culture and literary references, from Monty Python to Shakespeare), and many of them really surprised me at just how good they were and how much they did during the play. It was a pretty decent performance, and I really had a good time.

But perhaps the best part was afterwards, where the students had congregated in a hallway to sign “autographs.” I went through and had the cast sign my program (even a few who aren’t students of mine), and some of the students told me that I was the only teacher who stuck around after the show, despite several teachers (and even one student teacher) having attended the performance. We had some laughs, and many photos were taken, including one of me and all of the senior cast members. I loved it.

And more importantly, I hope they loved it and will remember me in that moment.

As a teacher, I want my students to learn. I want them to grow, to explore, to expand their minds. But I also want them to know that I care about them, and I am grateful for extracurricular opportunities like this to share that with students.

So I can say with confidence: Yes, it was certainly worth the wait.

…a mask and a cape. (No, not like these guys…)

We’ll be in day 2 of talking about Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and instead of going with a traditional veil (which I think might be somewhat awkward on a guy – but I could be wrong, since Mr. Hooper is the veil-wearer in the story), I decided to do a mask for the de-facing effect. I actually somewhat wish I could have found a Darth Vader mask in time since I sometimes refer to the anti-transcendentalists as the “dark side of the Force” (I also compare the Over-Soul to the Force when we talk about transcendentalism), but for today, a simple black mask that covers most of my eyes and my nose will do.

The cape, of course, is flair. It also has a hood, but I haven’t decided whether to wear it or not since it’s a little small. (The whole deal was homemade but not quite custom-made.)

As always, circumspection is required before getting hopes up about possible success, but I’m not worried about that so much – I just want to shake things up a bit. We’ll see if I at least do that.

It’s been a while since I last wrote here, faithful readers (I know some of you are looking around, even if you’re new to the blog). Much has happened since school started up again – so much, in fact, that I’ve been buried in other work.

But I’m ignoring all of those other things for the moment to focus on a small victory.

(more…)

Or, You think I’d learn, Pt. 2.

Okay, forget the self-deprecating title of this post: I don’t think I’m stupid, but I sometimes wonder why I just don’t seem to learn. I even have a visualization for the sort of philosophy I have on teaching and learning:

Old experiences and ideas + New data and information = New understanding of the world Transforming self and external reality

Yet, when it comes to stuff that works, I don’t seem to have mastered the idea of thinking back to my best lessons and reflecting as such: Self? [Yes?] You remember that lesson that went really well? [Yeah, it was awesome; you–er, we rocked it in the class.] Well, maybe I should try that again. If it works one time, then maybe it might fit here, don’t you think? [That’s a great idea! Go you! Er, us!]

Case in point: today.

(more…)

I am so far behind, both here and in real life, so here are some highlights of the past, uh, week or so:

(more…)

It’s not really a victory in the classroom, but I count it a victory nonetheless.

One of my professional duties is lunch duty, which probably sounds ridiculously boring but which I find to be a very useful time. This is for several reasons: first, it’s non-instructional time, and the amount of actual supervisory work is incredibly low. I also have duty for the first period of lunch (out of two), and this period happens to be almost the exact disjunction of the set of students I currently have in class – that is, I teach 10th-12th graders (well, most of them), and this period covers 7th-9th grades – so I have been able to get acquainted with a number of students who I will (most likely) have in class in the next few years. Consequently, I think I have begun to build positive relationships with many of these students, and I think this will work out in my favor.

But these aren’t even the best things about having lunch duty. My favorite part is, to be blunt, basketball.

(more…)

Post now updated with post-data – see bottom of entry.

I have often been disappointed at the reaction that some students have had to activities I’ve prepared, especially the ones I’ve been excited about. I once tried to do an activity with eighth graders that was essentially an improvisational exercise utilizing an understanding of the four types of sentences – declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, imperative – based on an improv bit that was done on the late great improv show Whose Line Is It, Anyway? where the participants are given a certain type of sentence and can only use that type of sentence to carry on a dialogue. (The Whose Line? bit focused on questions, and they also did something similar with song titles.) I thought it would be fun and it would engage current knowledge – well, it bombed, badly. Part of it was a lack of understanding of what they needed to do, and part of it (I think) was a lack of motivation to be creative.

So when I started planning an activity today, I decided to temper my enthusiasm with a little cynicism about how well it will be received.

(more…)

That’s “Thank God For Short Weeks.”

Today is the last day of instruction, and only the first half of the day meets for classes (so no juniors – hoorah!). It couldn’t come soon enough.

The last few days since I last posted anything have been extremely trying. Notable moments (good and bad):

  • Tuesday: Celebrated the National Day on Writing in a few classes by doing writing of some kind, and I taught a mini-lesson on six-word memoirs; several of the students really got into it, giving me such gems as “Promises are made by truthful liars.” Also, sophomore hits me in the head with Dan Brown’s latest novel (I wish the student had better taste in smaller books). Oh, and I had to correct my seniors on the true etymology of the F-word (it’s from a common Indo-European root with analogues in several Germanic/Scandinavian languages; it has nothing to do with acronyms like “Fornication Under Consent of  the King”), which is, um, not something I had ever really expected to come up…
  • Wednesday: Discussed evaluation with principal, which by and large was good; asked for some feedback on how I could improve and talked that out a little. A sophomore class really pushed me over the edge, and I gave another detention to one student in particular who has repeatedly pushed me too far.

I need the break, and I wish I were getting one: tonight is my older brother’s wedding rehearsal (I’m in the wedding party, my first time in that experience), and tomorrow is a few parent-teacher conferences in the morning (that might give me some new material to write about) and the wedding in the late afternoon. I am going to be wiped out, most definitely.

Wish me luck.

This Youtube video was posted by a friend on facebook, and it got me thinking…

About what? you might ask. Well, I’m glad you did!

One of the most remarkable things that this experiment suggests is that fun can be a viable method of behavior modification. If you want people to start using stairs (which is beneficial to them in terms of health, but don’t ask people to listen to reason on something like that), then find a fun way to entice people into using them: make the stairs a friggin’ piano.

I see a very logical extension of this “fun theory” into the classroom – if you want students to modify their behavior so that learning can occur, make the classroom fun. Throw out the stuffiness and stifling atmosphere and encourage one that pushes students to get up, to take risks, to let comfort go and reach for the unknown.

I don’t know an easy way to do this – and certainly I would be open to suggestions – but I think it can be achieved. It is, if nothing else, food for thought.

Next Page »