I have some of the best kids in my classes. Really. Yeah, a few have black souls, but mostly, I got the good ones this year. Today seemed to be full of moments that reminded me I have a job I love (caveat: I love the kids/classroom parts, not so much the PD/contract agreement/other teachers’ dramatics parts).
Like most days, my 2nd period class perked me up on an otherwise boring and sad Friday morning. I am Really Tired by the end of the week and Friday morning tends to be a rough one. Anyway, guess who wants to talk about punctuation AND Slaughterhouse Five… with smiles on their faces, insightful comments and Grumpy Cats drawn on their quizzes? MY CLASS! (OK, except for a girl or two with googly eyes and black souls. But you can’t have it all.) I ask them to talk about Kilgore Trout, and they do! I tell them to talk in small groups, AND THEY DO! Get this: one of the kiddies BRINGS ME ONE OF HER FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT THE BRAIN and shows me the section about memory because it relates to Billy Pilgrim’s time traveling. And she lets me keep it until the end of the day, when she comes back to my room to chat and tell me SHE WANTS TO BE AN ENGLISH TEACHER! Whew. That’s gonna give me a cavity.
So the day rolls on. Third period is much more serious; these kids mean business. I have 4 of the top 10 in the junior class on my roster (yeah, they might be smarter than me, but I have life experience, dammit!). Nothing bad happens. Just a lot of serious questions and attention to the minute details. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose… especially since soon, during 4th period, is THE FIRST ANNUAL WRITER’S CRAFT SOUP AND DRAMATIC POETRY READING!
What the hell, right??? The soup part was the kids’ idea. Don’t ask me why. I think the first cold day we had made them think of soup, and we do have class right before lunch. I thought when they asked me to have a soup party it would be one of those things kids ask and then forget or don’t follow through on (this happens at least 94% of the time). I was so wrong. In the last week they did some serious soup party planning, down to who would bring the spoons. I walked in (late) this morning to 4 crock pots already plugged in and hot! It turned out to be SUCH fun – and every kid who didn’t have to go directly to another class afterward STAYED during 5A to continue “souping.” And get this – my newspaper kids starting popping in and one of my news girls asked, “Can I read my poem?” and hopped up and read it! Just like that!
Maybe to an outsider this seems silly, but to get a high school kid to do ANYTHING in front of their peers takes some serious persuading. Through creative writing in the mix and it’s a little easier, but this was POETRY, which seems to only really be popular with a certain type of (girl, horse-loving, stuck-in-their-own-head) student. But here was one who wasn’t even being graded on her dramatic reading skills (my ploy to make the soup party seem like a legitimate educational experience) that offered to read for the sake of sharing. I was really impressed by all of this.
The party ended and later, one of my other newspaper kids and I were chatting about something – Slaughterhouse Five I guess. She asked me some questions and then mentioned that her mom was a teenager when she was born, but that it turned out OK for her because she got to know her great grandparents. She had some amazing stories! She knew that a few generations ago her great-great-great(?) grandfather was a peacekeeper before cops really existed, and he was once shot off of a horse. WW II also came up; she had a grandparent who fought. Of course this reminded me of my grandpa – the whole book does, really. My student said something like, “I wish I knew more about what [my great grandpa] experienced during the war. This book makes me wish I knew more about what he went through.” I know exactly what she means. My grandpa, who died last year, was 90 and was able to tell me a lot in our 30 years together… but not the kind of personal things about dealing with war, and coming home to adjust, that permeate the novel. Not because he didn’t want to tell me I don’t think, but because I never asked. I should have asked.
A great, tiring, soupy, reflective kind of day.