Friday, October 28, 2011

"I Hear America in Need"

Each year, I like to have my students re-write Walt Whitman's poem, "I Hear America Singing." It allows me a glimpse into how they see America in its current state. My only criterion is that they have to entitle it and use the first line "I Hear America __________," where they include the word they feel is appropriate.

Last year, this was a success and I received two very well-written responses. They were very personal and very insightful.

This year, one of my favorite students, TP, wrote a great free verse poem that actually gauged the current state of affairs quite well. He wants to be a journalist when he grows up and I think that's a fantastic idea.

I Hear America in Need
I Hear America in need
In need of a leader that can settle everything
That can bring balance between the parties
That can handle healthcare
That can handle employment
That can handle taxes
America is in need of a change
America needs a leader
Can't you hear the crying?
The pain that our economy is in?
It's not that bad as of now
In the future - it will be
I open my ears and I try to see
I hear America in need.


TP: 1 - Walt Whitman: 0

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Middle School Dating

Today, I was allowed an ultra-exclusive glimpse into the dark world known as "middle school dating." I went in not knowing what to expect. It was a scary place. It all started with a conversation.

EW: "Mr. Lowe, I'm going on a date tonight! To church!"

Me: "Wait, you're going on a date? You're 13. And to church?"

EW: "No, it's a halloween party at church. Well, it's not really a date because we're not seeing each other, but we're going together."

Me: "What's the difference?"

EW: " 'What's the difference?' Well, the difference is that we're not dating or seeing each other, but we're going together. Huge difference, Mr. Lowe."

Me: "I'm lost."

EW: "Well, there are five steps to dating someone and we're not on step five yet."

Me: "Five steps? That's too complicated. You like him or you don't. You date him or you don't."

Obviously, I'm not learned in the arts of middle school relationships.

EW: "Yes, there are five steps and you have to follow them closely to get anywhere."

She said it in such a condescending, Duh-Mr.-Lowe tone that I almost felt like I was an idiot for even asking.

And the steps are as follows (and don't you DARE deviate from the list or your relationship will never, ever, in-a-million-years work for you.

1. You like each other
2. You text each other
3. You talk to each other
4. You're seen in public together
5. You're in a relationship

At first, I thought this was a bit absurd, but as I measure up the steps of my relationship with my wife, I realized that these 13-year-old girls might be onto something.

My wife and I were set up on a blind date by my fraternity brothers. So we didn't really have the chance to like her prior to speaking, but I had seen pictures and that was enough to spark an interest. Then I called her (instead of texting). We talked. We were seen in public. Then we were in a relationship.

I guess middle school relationships never end....until 4th period.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Proving Me Wrong

Baby days are upon us! The "Teen Living" class at the school issued out plastic, crying, life-size babies to students so that they can have a smack in the face of how bad it sucks sucks sucks to have a kid when you're not ready.

In one of my classes yesterday, there were four plastic offspring that wouldn't shut their soundboxes off. Finally, all of them were silent at the same time and it was bliss.

At the beginning of the 8th grade hall at my school is the classroom that houses the severely-challenged or mentally disabled students who have around the clock care. The door is always shut and nobody really knows they're there because the classroom is entirely self-sufficient (stove, washer, dryer, etc.)

Yesterday, as soon as my room was free of crying babies, the door swung open and a young girl ran in. I had never seen the girl before, but it was immediately apparent that she had severe problems. Somehow, she had broken away from her teacher and had, for some reason, picked my class to enter.

Now, I was a 14-year-old kid once, so I know how easy it is to find the faults in someone else and laugh them to scorn. In my experience as a teacher, I have found that more often than not, kids will jump at every opportunity to tear someone else down. When the girl ran in, I thought that the kids would erupt laughing and make her the center of attention for the wrong reasons.

I was wrong.

The entire class sat there silently and watched as the embarrassed teacher ran in to corral the young woman. When the girl and her teacher left the classroom, nothing was said and we were able to get right back on task.

I'm not sure if they noticed their behavior, but I absolutely did. I was very impressed at how they all decided to not make this girl's life harder than it already is. I was impressed that they had the maturity to understand that it's not her fault that she's disrupting our class. I was impressed that they understood the magnitude of the girl's problems and chose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

There are many days when my students reinforce my belief that 8th graders make stupid, careless decisions.

But there are also days when they prove me wrong. Very wrong.

Yesterday, I was proud to be their teacher.