Sunday, May 16, 2010

the spirit of the sea

i am a teacher. and as you can probably imagine, friday afternoons are the worst part of any week. worse than mondays. no one wants to be working anymore, myself included. especially right after recess. especially 3 weeks before the end of the year. unfortunately, nobody asks us about these things and thus we are forced to continue on, slugging our way to the end of the week, attempting to learn...something.

the kids' response to such moments is to play. in all the ways they aren't supposed to. as the teacher, my response is to devise new and interesting punishments that will not only reinforce good behavior, but also keep them busy for as long as possible. this past friday, my brilliant solution was Definitions. and not from the watered-down textbook glossary. no, no. from the intimidatingly large and decrepit dictionaries that have dutifully sat in the classroom library all year long.

oh yes, it's pretty much as wonderful as it sounds. the students are given an organizer usually used for learning new vocabulary and are required to copy words, definitions and pictures from the aforementioned dictionaries. silently. those of us who don't understand silence get extra practice in the form of extra organizers. those of us who do essentially get "time off for good behavior" in the form of reward tickets. justice is served, definitions are (hopefully) learned and silence reigns in the classroom. everyone wins. almost.

the downfall of this punishment is that it creates extra work for me to grade. at least, i thought that would be the downfall. turns out i seriously underestimated the joy that could be gleaned from the 9-year-old mind (relatively) freely splattered on a page.

seriously, these kids come up with some amazing things. the kick i got out of some of the pictures alone was worth the time spent grading the extra work. equally wonderful were some of the words that the kids chose. most were pretty run of the mill - strawberry, flower, fruit. some wanted to be rebels - missile, rifle, pistol. and some made mildly interesting choices - become, broil, wednesday. but you have to wonder about the kid who goes home saying, "mom, today ms. wood made us do definitions and guess what i learned about!" but you can't guess. because you didn't even know it was in the dictionary.

davy jones' locker. defined, illustrated and exemplified correctly. followed by davy jones. also defined, illustrated and exemplified correctly. did i mention that i derive great amusement from piratey things? this may be the best assignment i have received all year.

so i thank you, darling, for bringing me this joy. because i should have seen it coming when you raised your hand in class and asked, "ms. wood, how am i supposed to draw the spirit of the sea?" and yet, i didn't. somehow, i just didn't.

sadly, your classmates may have different words for you. for you have sealed the fate of this particular punishment. it is here to stay, my friends. so get your pencils ready. especially on friday afternoons.

update: we, sadly, were forced to repeat this punishment the next week. this time the same student chose ginger beer and gin as two of her words. i'm beginning to have some real concerns about sending her home with this knowledge...

No comments: