oh, the things they know

Thursday, April 4, 2013

every single day when my kids come into my classroom, they have a warm up to complete. it literally runs like clock work. i set the timer and project it on the white board, and they get to work.

the warm up serves several purposes: first, it gets the kids settled into their seats and ready to go when the tardy bell rings; second, it gets their minds focused on whatever our lesson is for the day; and third (probably the most important), it gives me a chance to do a quick check to make sure everyone is okay, to see who might be having a rough day, to see who might need a quick pep talk, band aid, or nurse pass, and to get an initial gauge of the class as a whole.

there are some days when i can tell they aren't that into the warm up, there are some days when i can tell the warm up has them stumped, but most days, the warm up serves its precise triad of functions.

and then there are days like today when i can instantly see that the warm up exceeded the realms of my greatest expectations. today's warm up had their full and undivided attention and devotion. seriously - in every single class today, they were completely silent and hard at work for the entire five minutes of warm up time.

after the timer goes off, i give them the opportunity to share what they wrote or created with their table group. this is intended to be a reward: my thank you for coming in, getting settled, and getting into the right frame of mind for class - socializing with a purpose.

sometimes i ask for volunteers to share what they wrote, but not always. sometimes students ask if they can share what they wrote, but not always.

today ended up being one of the greatest days of sharing that we've had all year, and i was so proud of every single one of my students!

the bottom line, as i learned today, is that our kids know a lot about what's going on in the world around them. no matter how much we try to protect them and sugar coat the realities of the world we live in, they are plugged in and they are paying attention to what's going on in the news.

an unexpected consequence of today's warm up led into conversations about school safety and what layers of support are already in place. one even went as far as to say, 'my parents try to make everything in this world seem all rainbows and unicorns, and i appreciate that they're trying to protect me from what they think i can't understand, but the world can be a really evil place.' i felt like the very least i could do was acknowledge what my students were already very well aware of. to know about it but not know how to talk about it has to be a kind of scary feeling.

just to give you an idea of what twelve year-olds are able to do in five minutes, here are two examples from kids who picked option 1. both of these drew unsolicited, completely spontaneous applause from their classmates (and i don't generally consider my classroom to be a "clappy" kind of place...happy? yes; clappy? not so much.). i think you'll see why these kids garnered support from their peers when you read what they had to say.

   the world today is what you can call a free for all. asking the question 'is it safe?' is like asking a blind man for directions. you can't really know what's safe in this world anymore. like maybe you knew that man forever and then it turns out he's actually the person trying to kidnap you. honestly, i say no, the world is not a safe place. the world itself is safe, but the people who occupy it can be scary and dangerous.
   i remember when i could go outside on my front lawn and pick clovers and stuff, but now i'm scared of being taken way because i see it on the news every day. also war. it's really big here, and safety in other countries is crumbling. again, i say no, the world is not a safe place because of all the murder and kidnapping, war, and horrible accidents. the world is scary and dangerous.

if you ask me, that's a pretty amazing peek into the mind of a twelve year old girl. and let me tell you - it's one thing for me to type it and for you to read it; however, it's an entirely different thing to hear these words that a twelve year old wrote in five minutes as she confidently reads them aloud to her classmates with no hesitation or fear of judgment. 

and then there's this little guy who has dreams of going to oxford and who will probably be a supreme court justice one day - mark my words, he will never ask a clerk to write his briefs. i hope we reward him appropriately when he accomplishes all that life has in store for him.

   the world is a dangerous place because it worsens everyday. it is a plaguing disease just to say people are getting better. it is  a phony remedy to heal the cuts and bruises caused from falling down just because the world kicks you to make you fall. children find guns, and russian roulette becomes their favorite game. they say 'don't worry' but it would only take one minute for that life to be changed forever. did you realize the word funeral still has 'fun' at the beginning? 
   so don't tell me people are getting better. the thieving memories of all that's good is being taken away by the demons who play on the playground. the seesaw just happens to be you. the corruption of mind control makes beauty in everything turn to the suffering of others. no one knows how to save a life, no sweet words can prevent dark thoughts. cliffs aren't the way to go; there has to be a better way for our world to thrive. 

how do you not applaud this thinking, this expertise, this opinion, especially when it's from a twelve year old boy who was given five minutes to read the prompt choices, decide which to address, and then compose something this incredible on a first try?  and again - one thing to read it, another thing to hear it spoken out of the mouth of the young author.

and as these difficult issues sprouted from today's warm up, i felt really, suddenly compelled to reassure them that no matter how bad they find our world to be, if we are ever presented with a dangerous situation at school, any one of the adults in our building would do anything and everything within our power to keep them safe and protect them. i had their full attention when i shared this with them - the appreciation and relief on their faces was pretty obvious...this was something they needed to hear, and there was no way this conversation would have come to the same level of life if it was planned or scripted.

sometimes the best things  emerge from organic beginnings and unintended side effects of something as simple as a warm up intended to direct their minds towards the tuck family.

and because i know that was kind of a downer, let's end on a happier, more positive note. here are my two favorites who wrote about using your imagination as a tool:

   a human's imagination can bring new ideas, great settings, and creative thinking to and for the future. it all starts within your mind. the first step to any great change is your imagination. it brings up stuff you've never even thought about before. 
   your imagination is like a world of brilliant ideas and creations. when an idea pops up, some how you feel like you want to bring that idea out and make it your reality. even if it's as simple as imagining what you want to draw before you draw it, and your mind knows exactly what you want your hand to do the moment your pencil hits the paper, you still have to appreciate what your mind can do because with a strong imagination, you can do anything. 

this was written by a bilingual little lady who can make connections between two completely unrelated things like nobody i've ever seen. she also asked if she had to answer only one of the prompts or if she could try to write to both of them. she ran out of time, and she promised me that she would write to the other prompt tonight, even though that's not expected or required of her. i can't wait to see what she brings me tomorrow.

   your imagination is a powerful tool. because if you could not imagine new ideas, we would not have light bulbs or any other innovations we have now. and life as we know it wouldn't be here. we would have lives that are harder than we could ever imagine. 
   your imagination is also very powerful because if you didn't have it, you would never be able to draw or write. that would mean no books. and with no books there would be no learning. and i can't imagine a world where i couldn't use my imagination to create something new and great every day. 

this is from a little guy who loves dogs, has an incredibly empathetic soul, and always has a great story to brighten my day.

whenever people look at me and think i'm crazy for working with middle school kids, i wish they could be a fly on the wall of my classroom when days like this unfold out of nowhere. if people could get a tiny glimpse into the minds of these kids, they'd never second-guess my career choice - or the depth of reflective insight created by the kids in my classroom - again.


days like this are the ones that pull me through the lulls.

days like this are pretty fabulous.

and nights like this are made for sleeping...



Mrs.Campbell said...

this is much happier than the browning post...I think I know who at least 2 of these kids are and they could totally solve the world's problems!

it's just me... said...

You definitely know at least two of these kids...we share the first two. I just added a preemptive spoiler alert to the Browning post. :)

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