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I Live for the Applause

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“Alright, class. Those new irregular verbs I just taught? I want you to write a song about them and perform it for your classmates!” Speaking these words with some trepidation, I assign my students one of their final projects for the school year. In the short stretch of agonizingly long days between the beginning of May and the end of the school year, I am hard pressed to find ways of motivating my students to learn and retain something of what I am teaching. Weariness and impatience loom continually.

As I finish explaining and giving directions, I remember that image is everything in middle school. Having potentially embarrassing situations foisted upon them is not a favorable scenario for most of my students. I watch them leave the classroom, assignment in hand and accompanied by a chorus of groans and complaints, and I wonder if perhaps I’ve made a tactical error in assigning this at all.

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I start class with my guard up, prepared for performances to fall flat. Yet one by one my groups of students trek to the front of the classroom, and as each group comes forward, not one of them chokes or refuses to perform. Instead I am serenaded with three-part harmonies, violin accompaniments, and choreographed dance moves.

What truly speaks volumes about their engagement, though, is the performance of my student Jimmy.

Jimmy is one of my quiet ones. When he does speak, the words come out hushed and crowded together, anxious for the moment when Jimmy can once more be silent. When I look up at Jimmy’s group, I am fully prepared to see him melt into the background, mouthing the words rather than making actual sounds.

Nothing prepared me to see Jimmy take center stage and begin a minute-long rap sequence as his group beat-boxed behind him.

Through the thunderous cheers and applause that ensue following his performance, I look and see my little, shy Jimmy grinning from ear to ear, and I can feel my face reflecting his as I’m filled with rejuvenating joy.

Butterfinger Monday

Getting back into the rhythm of school can be difficult after a break. No one is accustomed to a normal sleep schedule. The students are staying up till 2am; the teachers are dealing with the repercussions the next day.

Monday brought with it the normal grinding of the gears as everyone prepared to begin school once more. After hours of being on my feet in a pair of insufficiently supportive footwear, I was drained mentally and physically. When I finally stole a brief window of time in which to sit down, I felt it well within my rights to dive into the box of candy that I keep for added incentive in my class. Now, in my defense, those fun-sized Butterfingers are small. One bite, maybe two. Somehow that justified my eating four of them in a chain-smoking fashion, one right after the other. Soon my desk was littered with the debris of wrappers. butterfinger-miniature-candy-bars-128343-im2

To my chagrin, at this very moment of my gluttony, four of my eighth grade students chose to enter my room. They took a quick assessment of the situation. Three of them would likely have ignored my situation out of mercy, if it were not for Anastasia.

Anastasia is a dear, sweet girl, but the basic social graces of tact and white lies have never clicked with her. Generally, her straightforward and loud (the child has the volume control of a bullhorn) commentary is directed at her classmates.

“Bryce, did you fart?”

“Jill, your shirt has a big stain on it!”

I say again, Anastasia is a sweet girl, and for the most part has absolutely no idea how her comments may sound. Thankfully her class is very forgiving and understanding, and at least one member is gracious enough to pull her aside and inform her of better way to handle the situation. She is getting better, but on Monday, in my classroom, to my shame and chagrin, the first words out of her mouth were:

“Miss Latin! Did you eat ALL the chocolates!??”

Happy Monday indeed.

Thrift Shop

Most days, I rank high on my students’ coolness meter.

 

I know about the new British Invasion.

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I’m aware of what “twerking” is.

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I watch normal television shows, and I even have some “good” music on my computer.

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Yet, despite all of this, I lost many cool points in the eyes of one student today.

There I was, teaching some lovely Latin phrases, when I happened to mention that I’d purchased a new Latin book from a thrift store. Quickly Suzy, the Valley Girl of the class if there ever was one, pipes up:

“Wait, you got that at a thrift store? Why?”

Choosing to brush off the disdain in her tone, I replied enthusiastically,  “I like thrift stores. The sweater I’m wearing right now is from the thrift store too!”

“You bought that sweater at a thrift store? So it’s like……..used?”

So. Not. Cool.

Pretzel Day

Today was one of those days that the good Lord deigned to send me a string of students in the midst of drama and strife, looking to me for answers.

First, there were the boy troubles:

“Miss Latin, I liked Georgie, but then I told him that I didn’t want to be in a relationship till high school because it’s too much drama, and now he keeps complimenting me and won’t leave me alone. He keeps showing up to my basketball games and it’s soo annoying!”

 

Then the dear, impulsive student who can’t pay attention to save his life:

“But Miss, Anthony started it!”

“But was he the one running around the classroom yelling?”

“No….but he said something to Sarah…….He started it!”

 

Then the brother-sister combo:

Lily: “Miss Latin, my brother hit me on the head with his folder!”

Me: “Jimmy, is this true?”

Jimmy: “No! I didn’t do anything to her.”

Lily: “Yes you did, you hit me with your history binder!”

Jimmy: “…………but it was just your shoulder!”

 

Finally,  the girl-crying-in-the-bathroom:

“Jenny told me a secret and I accidentally started telling Martha, but Jenny is mad at Martha, so now she’s mad and me because I told Martha. I’m just so tired of drama!”

 

Coincidentally, this happened to be the day that one of my favorite students brought me a plate of chocolate-covered pretzels she’d made. And that was all it took to bring me to a state of teacher bliss.

Affirmation

Parent-Teacher conferences happened last week. I spent the two weeks leading up to them filled with worry and dread, picturing all of the negative things parents could bring up.

The idea of parents in general tends to terrify me. I never feel so young, inexperienced, and short as when I’m looking at someone whose child I’m teaching. After all, who do I think I am to waltz in and start teaching their children with nothing but a college degree and some high ideals? What do I know that they haven’t already figured out?

Yet, aside from one disgruntled parent, the two days of conferencing left me feeling refreshed, encouraged, and affirmed in my calling. Crazy. Parents telling me that their child loves Latin (even if their groans in the classroom say otherwise), that they look up to me and respect me, that I’ve been influential in shaping their perspective on life.

I say these things not as a way of building myself up, because in no way am I responsible for this. Praise Jesus He has deemed fit to use me in this beautiful way. Without Him acting and speaking through me, there is no way on earth that I could do anything but stumble and generally make a great mess of anything I touch. How glorious it is that He has so clearly shown the results of His work in my life.  I feel utterly blessed.

 

– Miss Latin

 

P.S. Had a student come up to me this morning in utter horror that I had shown her mother one of her quizzes during conferences. “I had to study my vocabulary for 15 minutes last night, Miss!”

Praise Jesus, miracles do happen.  ML

Well, hello!

I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve begun and then left to wither and die after growing bored with them after a few weeks, so I have no promises on how long I’ll be able to maintain this one, my most recent effort.

 

That being said, this is mainly as a vent for my own personal stories that I feel are noteworthy and illustrative of the humorous situations one encounters when dealing with middle-school students. Given that these things happen to me on a daily basis, I don’t think that I’ll be lacking for material.