Saturday, November 22, 2014

Make 'em Laugh

This has been a long, long, long, long week. It's been frustrating. It's been tiring. My body has been fighting...something. I couldn't talk for two days. I had a rough meeting or two that made me cry, and I hate crying (don't worry - I didn't cry in the meetings, I just blubbered for twenty-minutes locked in my classroom afterwards). I'm in the November doldrums. I have an observation on Monday that I do NOT feel happy about (connected to my rough meetings). I feel like pouting and feeling sorry for myself. 

So, to cheer myself up, and put a positive spin on things, here are a few stories from this week to add to the powdered sugar incident.

We have been studying Mayan, Incan, and Aztec culture in Reading. The reading curriculum is kind of all over the place, topically. It's making me realize more and  more that I am not a Reading teacher, but solidly Language Arts/English (Poetry! Characterization! Alliteration! Conceits!), but that's okay - it's not a bad thing to get out of your comfort zone, right? Right?

Anyway, the stories we have been reading have been mostly creation myths. This is the first time I've had a hard time teaching my content as a Christian. I mean, I haven't taught creation myths in Christian school, but to me, when I read creation myths from other cultures, I see so many parallels with the Biblical creation story. I mean...the Aztec creation myth has a flippin' flood that wipes out all the of the people on the earth, except for two people, for the love of Pete! (By the way, I say "For the Love of Pete" a lot, in class, and my students ask if Pete is my boyfriend.) If I was teaching in a Christian school, I would totally be all over the connections to the Biblical story, and talking about why so many cultures have similiar myths that parallel the Bible's. I mean, one of the questions the curriculum wants me to ask is: Why do you think every culture has a creation myth? What answer are they looking for? How do you answer that question if you are not a Christian? I mean, I know what answer they are looking for, but it was hard to lead a discussion about creation myths that was at odds with my own personal worldview. 

But the funny thing is that my students have no compunctions over voicing their worldviews. Out loud. Without raising their hand. As we were reading the Aztec creation myth, a particularly gory tale appropriate to the Aztecs love of blood and live human heart sacrifices, we got to the part where it said that Quetacozaol, one of the Aztec gods, wiped out all of humanity, but two, for being greedy and selfish, in a flood. Sound familiar? 

"NUH-UH! THAT'S NOT TRUE!" shouted Z, one of my little girls who struggles with speaking out of turn. "THAT WAS JESUS!" she yelled. 

It was really, really hard not to laugh. And say: AMEN!

In my Language Arts class, we've been discussing Childhood and the wonders and delights of childhood and the imagination. One of the warm-ups was to describe their favorite make-believe game. Now, I love telling stories (surprise, surprise), so I decided to share about one of my favorite memories of playing make believe when I was a little girl. I made the mistake of prefacing it by saying it was a funny story. Never, ever tell 'em it's funny. Show! Don't tell!

"I wanted to tell you guys a funny story about when I was a little girl. So, I loved to play make believe, and had a really active - stop talking while I'm talking! - imagination. Seriously - Stop. Talking. Rude! Anyway, when I was around three years old, I had an imaginary husband named Baseball Boy. I don't remember all of the details - I think we had some kids. I would tell my parents all about Baseball Boy. He drove a car just like my dad, a Land Rover, and we lived in this park-ish area near the bridge to Kayes'ndi, the other side of the city we lived in. 

"Often, when we drove past the park to take the bridge, I would remind my parents that I actually lived there, with Baseball Boy, and would frequently ask them if they could drop me off there. One day, when we were driving by the park, I asked them if they could stop and drop me off, because it was time I got home to Baseball Boy. So, my parents agreed, stopped the car, and I got out. We waved goodbye amicably. My mother probably asked me to say hello to Baseball Boy, and then they started to drive away. 

"And I promptly began bawling and started running after the car. In my mind's eye, the car was driving away at hundreds of kilometers an hour, but I know that my dad was only driving about 1 kilometer/an hour. In fact, I'm pretty sure the back door of the car was open - they hadn't even shut it after letting me out, and the car wasn't driving fast enough to even swing it shut. [I still see them driving away - it's like a scene in a movie where everything around the focal point of the shot gets blurry.] 

"Of course, as soon as I started running after it, they stopped, and I jumped in the car, bawling. I was so convinced in my imagination that Baseball Boy was real, and that we lived in that park with our children (wish I could remember their names), but I was also convinced, of course, that my parents wouldn't actually leave me there. But they did. And they laughed at me. I still remember my parents chuckling with each other as I sobbed in my mom's arms all the way home."

[By the way, this is the same mother who had me convinced that if you hung upside down for too long, all your innards would fall out - it happened to her when she was a kid, but it was okay, because she stuffed it all back in side with a wooden spoon. This is the same child who then went to school warning off all her friends from hanging upside down on the playground because all your innards would fall out - Nuh-huh! - Huh-Hunh! It happened to my mom! I still remember how red my mom's face was after I told her that I told all my friends at school. It was the first time I realized what "blushing" meant.]

A few students chuckled, and a few asked some questions, just to clarify the details (What kind of park was it? Were there trees in the park? Can I get a drink? How many kids did you have? Why did your parents drive away? How fast were they going? Can I get a drink? They have cars in Africa? They have bridges in Africa? Can I get a drink?). 

Then, K raised her hand, and I called on her.

"Miss Bowers?" She asked, a puzzled look on her face. She looked genuinely perplexed. She probably had to get a drink.


"What was funny about that story?"

Honestly, stand-up comics, you should come and try out your material out in front of 11-year olds before hitting the comedy clubs. They'll be the most honest critics of your material.

Here's to more "funny" stories, to a three day week, and to Thanksgiving Break just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Most Important Meal?

We have universal breakfast at my school, which means everyone gets breakfast in the whole school (even the faculty and staff), and we eat breakfast in homeroom. It's a pretty cool program, because a lot of our kids might not get breakfast. However, sometimes kids bring in their own breakfast, which we let them eat at the same time.

This morning, one of my students asked for a spoon. Since we weren't eating something that required a spoon, I asked her what she needed it for. She said: "So I can eat my breakfast!" (Duh.)

She then proceeded to show me a pint-sized zip-lock bag filled with a white powder.

"What. Is. That?" I asked.

"It's my breakfast. It's sugar!" she said merrily. (And no wonder she was merry - she was planning to eat sugar for breakfast!)

I don't know what perplexed me more. That she had so unwittingly brought a bag of white powder into a public middle school. Or that she was eating powdered sugar for breakfast. (Frankly, between you and me, this finally explains a lot of the behavior problems from this girl...)

"Go. Put. That. In. Your. Locker. Now." I said.

"Oh! my! gosh!" quipped the 11-year old bundle of sass and attitude as she stomped off to her locker to put away her "breakfast."

Feel free to laugh. Or cry.