Monday, April 25, 2011

tonight we're going to party like it is July 4, 1776!

A couple of weeks ago, we put together a little shindig for the graduating eighth graders at the home of their beloved art teacher. As we started to get overwhelmed with some of the preparations and planning for this middle school soiree, trepidation began to grow in the form of questions like "will they think this is fun?"

Well one of the many blessings of teaching these students is that they are so grateful for any outside time and opportunities for socialization that they are given. Just the fact that they were getting to go to their teacher's house on a Friday night was cool enough, believe it or not. You should have heard them when they were given the news that they could stay after school, change out of their uniforms, do their homework, and help clean the building until it was time for the party. You would have thought someone had given them tickets to Six Flags, they were so excited.

As the day approached, anticipation grew. Students began to ask me what I was wearing to the party which made me chuckle inwardly. Sure enough, on Friday after lunch one of the students announced that they only had a few more hours left until the party, and another responded, "Yeah, just a few more hours and we are going to party like it is July 4, 1776!" I love being an eighth grade history teacher.

Here are a few pics from the party. The kids were right: a great time was had by all.

what's in a name?

Recently I got to talking with my students about names--their nicknames, middle names, how they got their names. etc. And I shared with them the following little story: my parents planned on naming me Morgan, and in her excitement my mom announced this to everyone she knew. A few weeks before I was due, a couple in their Sunday school class also had a baby girl. When my mom asked what they had named their little bundle of joy, she was horrified to learn they had stolen her name--Morgan. So they changed my name to Emily Grace which I like much better, for the record. After a few minutes of conversation, one of my students said, "Wait a minute, Mrs. Freeman. Your parents were going to name you Morgan? Then, your name would have been Morgan Freeman!" We burst out laughing.

I think I have a lot in common with this very sophisticated African American man. Can't you see the resemblance?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

etiquette 101

"I believe that my race will succeed in proportion as it learns to do a common thing in an uncommon manner; learns to do a thing so thoroughly that no one can improve upon what it has done; learns to make its services of indispensable value."
- Booker T. Washington

Last week our middle school students got the opportunity to brush up of their etiquette. Each year the kids get a refresher course on the finer points of etiquette (especially dining manners) which is actually much more like etiquette 410 (not the introductory level course) because it is very advanced. Everything from which fork to use for what course to how to get rid of an olive pit (in with a fork, out with a fork) is taught from top to bottom. The next day, the students got the opportunity to practice these rules as they divided into groups and had a beautiful, multi-course lunch in some of the most beautiful homes in Dallas served by very loving hostesses.

This is always a really fun activity, and the kids did really well. The only snafus we had were a lot of low talking and one putting a few too many scoops of sugar in his iced tea. Throughout the whole experience, I could not help thinking of this quote from Booker T. Washington which I shared with the kids afterward. Washington is really talking about excellence for all people in any arena as opening doors of opportunity and as a recipe for success. It was so encouraging for me as a teacher to see my students practice the art of conversation and fine dining when these are skills that are largely lost on society as a whole, especially in their age bracket. These are little skills which my kids are now equipped to perform with excellence which will make them stand out in a crowd of their peers and will hopefully open many doors for them in the future. And even if they forget to cut up their meat only a few pieces at a time and tear their dinner roll and eat one bite at a time at least they will always be courteous and mindful of others.

seating the ladies
beautiful place settings

Monday, April 4, 2011

crying or laughing

This time of the school year always feels like the last big drop on a roller coaster. Spring Break is the little pause at the top before the final free fall. In the midst of this chaos, things come unhinged: students and teachers included. Here are a few such moments.

Here is an excerpt from a disciplinary conversation from Friday:
Me: Earlier in the week, I expressly warned the entire class that gum was forbidden at school. You were chewing gum, so you will reap the consequences.

Student: I wasn't chewing gum.

Me, in honest astonishment: Really? I caught you with gum in your mouth and you went to spit it out.

Student, completely serious: I wasn't chewing gum. I just had it in my mouth.

Me: Seriously?! You are in seventh grade and that is your excuse?
I was pretty upset after this little exchange. Then I shared it with a colleague, and she burst out laughing.

My eighth grade students are getting ready for a little party at one of their teacher's homes this weekend. They are so excited to hang out with one another outside of school and especially to have an opportunity to not be seen in their uniforms. As they were planning how all of the necessary preparations were to be made before the party, one boy chimed in: "I'm going to bathe like the Romans" (awkward pause) "And only shower once a year."
Oh, please no.

The construction/layout of the seventh grade lockers begs for trouble to be had. There is an alcove of cubbies hidden from much needed adult supervision. We have nicknamed this alcove the abyss in hopes of instill fear of that secret space. Unfortunately despite repeated warnings, there are children venturing into the abyss and, thus, into mischief. But today was the last straw.

I could not decide whether to cry or laugh every time I walked down this hallway this afternoon. I think the kids felt the same way. Pretty clever though. (Notice the abandoned binder which is probably full of time sensitive material to be turned in tomorrow. Oops.)