Friday, April 27, 2012

Teaching: Ranting, Raving, Cute Pictures, and a Video guaranteed to make you smile

Yesterday, if you had asked me about teaching (or even if you hadn't -- sorry Kathryn), I would have been ranting.  I was sweaty and seething after a day at the high school, just wrecked.  I taught five classes in a row, and it was just one of those days.  The whining was incessant.  The kids couldn't even be quiet during a movie.  In one class, instead of watching the movie, kids played mah jong and some kind of shoot-em-up game on the computers.  The violent tapping of keys and idiotic teenage chuckling was really getting to me, not to mention the talking.  Okay, if we are having a lesson and kids are bored, they start talking, I get it.  But this was a movie.  A movie.  Can't they at least sit quietly through a movie?  Shouldn't they be grateful I am showing them a movie?  

I went up to one of my kids, putting a hand on his shoulder: "A.  This is the only time I am going to ask you to do nothing the whole class.  Can't you do that?"  He couldn't.


After my tenth grade class, a student stayed in with me to show me a short video clip.  A 12th-grader in the hallway saw me in the classroom.  We often chat in the hall.  He has been known to say cute things such as "If I had your shoes, I would do the same."  [referring to my living and teaching in Hungary.]  Okay, so that is the only cute thing he has said, but it was pretty damned cute.

So, I saw him in the hallway and he called out to me: "She's crazy!" meaning the girl in the class with me.  The girl who could hear him.

I walked outside of the door.  He was grinning like an idiot.  Okay, that sounds mean to write, but it's an expression so you can picture this grin plastered on his face, right?  Anyway.  "Don't be a dick," I said to him, and shut the door.


On the bright side, I saw one of my tenth graders in the hallway and asked how his day was going.  "Sucky," he said.  He's one of the few students I talk to honestly about my hard days, and I told him my students were being buttheads.  He thought I meant that I anticipated that his class was going to be difficult.  "I will bring the energy," he told me.

True to his words, he walked in and said, "Hi Jess!  What's crackalackin?"

Oh I was so grateful.

But on a whole, my day was tough, and it got to me, as it does 75% of the time (and that might be a generous figure).  I was so frustrated with my students, with the Hungarian education system, with how out of the loop I feel, with the lack of communicated, the lack of motivation, the "joke" that my job sometimes feels like.


Today, on the other hand, after five classes in a row at the primary school, I love teaching.  

I am consistently, amidst my moments where I am saying to myself "Jump ship! Jump ship!" or muttering not-so-kind words under my breath, having small moments where I do silent fist-pumps and say to myself, "Yessss!  You kick ass!  You are a real teacher!"

Like this one:

7th grade class: B is working with D.  D is going to dictate sentences, from memory, to B.  B says: "This will be terrible.  D has a slow brain. He can not do it.  He will not know the words and he will have problem."  He has a smile on his face; he knows he is being a jerk.  "B," I say to him kindly and firmly, "if he has trouble, you will help him, because you are a helping kind of guy," and I walk away.  

I know he is helpful, and I know he is not cruel.  He has the potential to be kind and helpful.  It feels good to remind him of this.  To expect this from him.

Here are some peeks of the lessons this week.  One of the many perks of living with Kathryn is that we can share lesson plans.  She had the ingenious idea to do a lesson on taste, and this has been very popular with my 5th, 6th, and 7th graders.

First, we learn taste words in English and Hungarian.  

 Then, I introduce a food (we tasted dark chocolate, gummy bears, granola bars, wasabi peas, sour candy, pretzels, and cranberries) and the kids guess what it will taste like.

Next, we close our eyes and taste the food.  This is Milan's thinking pose.

 About to taste yummy gummy bears.

Laura is not sleeping.  She is in dark chocolate heaven.

I asked them to let the dark chocolate melt on their tongue.  After a moment, I told them they could chew the chocolate.  "No!" Laura cried out, her eyes still closed, savoring it.

After they guessed, and tasted the food, they wrote down what the food actually tasted like.


In one of my favorite seventh grade classes, we did a lesson about the post office today.  Here is a video of a post office role-play.  But before the video, I have to share this with you:

We were brainstorming about the post office, and I asked them: "Who works at the post office?"

"Post officers!"


B: Hello.
R: I want some postcards.
B: Here is some. Choose one.
R: It's all ugly. Please give me some more nice.
B: Here that's all our postcards.
R: I want this one.
B: Okay, that's 1 pound.
B: Are you serious?
R: Yes.
B: 1 pound??
R: 1 pound.
B: I don't give it to you until you don't pay it.
R: Give it, please.  I will pay it.  I promise.
B: You promise?
R: I promise.
B: Are you serious?
R: I, I serious.
[Jess - call he police!]
B- Hi police.  He steal postcard from me.  ... Oh!  No, he is back.  He is going to pay.  
R: Here it is.  My invisible money.
B: Oh thank you.  It's a new technology.

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