Thursday, May 24, 2012

In this Job, You Don't Retaliate

     I wasn't a frog kisser today.  In fact, I did something I  rarely do.  I lost my cool.  It was the bad timing of the end of the year mixed with the stupid things we do when we are fourteen-years-old.  When it turned into making fun of other people, I lost it.  It was a controlled anger, but it was anger, nonetheless.  It stuck with me all day and made me feel sick to my stomach.  I just can't stomach anger.
     I've been reading Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom.  Tonight I was reading about a doctor who treated the rabbi horribly, but when the doctor's brother passed away, the rabbi made a condolence call.  Mitch asks the Rabbi, "After the way he treated you?"  The Rabbi responds, "In this job, you don't retaliate."  These words stopped me cold.
     I was so caught up in my righteous anger, I forgot that in this job, you don't retaliate.  No matter how bad today was, tomorrow is a fresh start.  I would hate to be judged by the way I acted today, or pretty much any day, really.  I am far from perfect and should be the last one to throw stones.  Especially at fourteen-year-olds who are still learning how to become adults.
     I am not sorry I got angry.  Sometimes a moment can only be taught by getting angry at the situation.  Bullying people is one of the issues I am willing to take that kind of a stand.  However, the lesson will be overshadowed by my quest to retaliate and destroy the last few days of school.
     Imagine what a world we would have if we all said, "In this ______________, you don't retaliate."  In this marriage...this friendship...this country....this school...this family...this church....this world... What a beautiful world it would be!   

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quack Attack

     Today was our first annual Quack Attack.  Students who completed 30 hours of service since January chose a rubber ducky of their choice.  Every extra ten hours of service earned another ducky.  They giggled as they dove into the bag of duckies, looking for the right personalities for their duckies.
The manly men among us chose construction workers, cowboys, and army ducks.  The ladies chose beach duckies, princess duckies, and ones covered with flowers.  They wrote their names carefully with Sharpies so they wouldn't get lost in the attack.
After eating cookies so we'd have energy for the attack, we headed off to the gym.
Two of our guys held the water balloon launcher handles while we carefully took turns tucking our duckies into the holder, 
pulled back,
and sent duckies sailing across the gym.
It was an awesome sight. 
 The winners won a stuffed duck from Kohl's Care for Kids Foundation so we could continue to serve others.  They also got a large candy bar.
 You've never seen such big smiles!   Teenagers love to give service to others.  I love to serve them.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Getting out of their Way

     We admire creativity, but we rarely allow it in school.  This week I took a leap of faith.  I presented a project idea to my students, but instead of the usual controlled options, I only gave three guidelines.  
  1. You have to create a mash-up of two or more books we read this year.
  2. It will be presented to the class in 3 - 5 minutes.
  3. Everyone needs to have an equal share in the work.
     Hands shot up in the air.  How many can be in a group?  What should the project look like?  Can we have music?  Can the whole class be a group?  What books do we have to do?  My answer, "Whatever you want - be creative."  They sat silent for a second and then broke into excited conversations.
     I wandered around the room awestruck.  Everyone was so different.  5th period decided to work together.  They pushed the tables out of the way to create a big empty space in the center of the room.  Then they began cutting giant butcher paper squares and fashioning them into a giant game board.  Their plan is to create a Jumangi type game.  They will roll giant dice and act out the stories through the cards they land on.  
     In another period, three boys are busy writing new words for "Boys in the Hood" to fit the right rhythm with the new words from "The Outsiders" and "The Dangerous Days of Daniel X."  When the words are complete, the boys plan to add their own beatbox music to perform for us.
   I learned a lot the past few days.  My usual tendencies would be to provide a few well-structured projects for the students to work from.  Luckily, I have been doing too many things on too little sleep and my creativity stalled.  Up against a time frame, I was forced to take a leap of faith and see what would happen.  What a wonderful piece of synchronicity.  Without my own loss of creativity and a unmovable deadline, I would have missed out on the true lesson of creativity.  When I got out of the way and stopped trying to control everything, my students truly began to learn.   
     My students are amazing teachers.