Monday, March 26, 2012

Feelings and Fevers: In the Classroom

Spring is here, and so is spring fever.  I just want to be outside, and so do my students.

I had the hardest teaching day last week at the high school.  My 9th graders didn't seem human -- heads on desks, eyes blank, bodies itchy.  It was like talking to sacks of potatoes.  Or maybe that was just me, and it's all a projection, as usual.  In my 10th and 11th grade classes, we explored slang.  After my 10th grade class, which was chattier than usual, a student came up to me.  "This lesson was..."  He stopped talking, took a breath, and I braced myself for all kinds of negative adjectives, none of which I was in the mood to hear.  "Were we so annoying today?" he asked me.  I sighed.  "You know you guys are one of my favorite classes," I told him, "But sometimes you are so loud."  He looked at me with serious sparkling eyes, "Yes I know, but I don't know what we can do about it."  Sigh.  "I think you guys can be better.  I'm just having a bad day," I told him.

And this, so often, is what it comes down to.  I had 9th graders for two painstaking periods, and I let it get to me.  Then, I had my 11th graders, many of whom refused to participate, one of whom spent the whole class applying her makeup.  Then, by the time the 10th graders rolled around, I was kesz.  Finished.  Spent.

I need to not let challenging classes get to me.  I need to not declare a lesson to be a failure just because a couple of kids don't have it in them to participate.

We are humans after all.  We're all doing the best we can, and that is different from moment to moment, class to class, day to day.

I need to remember one of my students in 10a, who said the sweetest thing the other week.  At the beginning of our lesson, I saw that the kids were largely ignoring me and had their vocab out.  This means one thing: they had a test coming up.  I stopped what I was doing and asked them if they wanted to study for their test.  I offered to help.  But one of my students said to me, "No, Jessica, I want to do what you want for us to do."

It's not always like that, but it is sometimes, and that is what I should focus on.

Meanwhile, in primary school . . .

Today we talked about feelings in my 6th grade classes.  First, we reviewed feeling words in English and Hungarian.  The kids and I both love this part.  I love it because it really helps my vocabulary, and they love it because, well . . .  I think half of them love to see me fail, and half of them love to see my Hungarian improve.  

In a class last week with my 7th graders, we did a modified lesson with "Bieber Fever" and I was writing vocabulary related to being sick on the board.  After teaching this lesson about 10 times last week, I now know sick, snot, booger, fart, sneeze, tissue, headache, stomachache, sore throat, fever, puke, cough, flu, cure, prescription, and even diarrhea.   One of my students called out to me, "Your Hungarian is awfsome!"  (Awfsome is how he pronounces it.)  

Then there are the other kids, who come up to the board, erase the entire Hungarian word I wrote, and write it anew, just to add an apostrophe I missed.

It is humbling to be learning their language, and I think it helps them to see me struggle, to see me so confused ("Where is the D sound?!  Hungarian is crazy!"), and to see me trying.

Back to the feelings lesson . . .

After vocab review we built sentences and practiced "I am/I feel sad" and "She is/she feels sad."

The fun part was the relay race.

I divided the class into two teams, and taped photos depicting different emotions in the middle of the board.  The kids had to race to write complete sentences (i.e. "She feels bored") on the board next the the appropriate picture, and the first team to finish won.

The kids were into it, and I actually got some photos of the process.

A worksheet followed this relay race, giving the kids a chance to practice the vocabulary and sentence structure we practiced.

This lesson was successful all around!

Gems from the classroom lately:

Me: Don't you want to come up and play charades?
7th grader: No, no.  I am socially awkward pingvin [penguin].  --laughter--

Two of my 8th graders wrote this dialogue:

Doctor: Hello, what's your problem?
Patient: I've a diarrhea.
Doctor: Oh, you must drink a lot of fluids! And I write a prescription for you.
Patient: Hey. Who cut the cheese?
Doctor: Sorry. 

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