Saturday, August 25, 2012

How to be Popular, Part I

Last week, I projected the following Quick Write on the board:

It's from this tumblr which is my favorite source for thought-provoking, visual writing prompts.
So, when I first read them this prompt, they looked at me like this - 

So then we googled "hierarchy," "algorithm," and "variables". Myriad was already a vocabulary word. They were still unsteady. They needed more scaffolding, which is a fancy education word for what I was about to do - reference Mean Girls. I reminded them of this scene where Cady is informed of the tribes in the cafeteria.

We identified who we thought would be at the top of the hierarchy at North Shore High School and the bottom. Then we talked about the variables that pushed the Mean Girls to the top of that peak. After which, they were ready to write. I told them they could write a narrative or informative piece on this theme - that directly answers the questions or just touches on them.

Several of their Quick Writes were post-worthy, but I'll start with this one from the younger brother of a boy I taught my first year. Enjoy.

"Formula of Popularity"

Some people would say, “John Grisham*! What do you know about popularity?”, and I would say EVERYTHING because I am very interpersonal; it’s just that I don’t care enough to put it in action. But for those of you that are conceited enough to want to become popular, here you go.

The formula of being popular: [height (chest hair)² - grade point average / athletic abilities + 2(wit + immaturity) (muscle size)³ + shoe size / waist size – inability to talk to women (drugs that will ruin your life) + (swaggin’ vocabulary x texting grammatically incorrectly) + stupidity] how “bad” you are = Popularity.

I know some of this stuff only comes from time/puberty, but some of this stuff you can control. For instance, if you work out a lot, your waist size will go down, and your muscle size and athletic ability will go up, thus raising your popularity.

Keep in mind that if any of you are like me, you won’t really care about this stupid thing called popularity, and you life will be a whole lot simpler. And if you read this, but don’t use it (like me), you will be classified as a dork or nerd, but you will be very popular in my book.

*Name changed to protect the innocent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You Foul-Mouthed Trollop

So, this is the week of school when I look at the children and say, "Hey, that whole summer reading thing was not a suggestion, so how about you actually go buy the book at least." Luckily, this very timely news article made a showing in my Facebook feed before we had that nasty little conversation. 

Long story, short - 

A student logged into Yahoo Answers, where dumb questions go to fester and die, and asked the internet to do his summer reading for him:

Note that sahweet username, by the way.

Unfortunately for said student, the author, D.C. Pierson, is one of the few Americans who has access to wifi. And, basically, Pierson took this kid to the mattresses:

I saw this story as a golden, learning opportunity for my little angels, and promptly ran off a class set of the article. After I gave them time to read it, I assigned the following Quick Write - 

"Fast forward to when you're a published author. You're trolling the internet one day like D.C. Pierson and see a similar post where a student is trying to avoid reading your masterpiece. Do you confront him? If not, why not? If so, write your response."

Curious, I peered over their shoulders as they worked. One student raised her hand, "Ms. P, can we use the word 'trollop' in this class? Is that appropriate?" 

If I played soccer and my classroom was the Olympics and word choice was like a goal (follow that metaphor, and you deserve an A), this is what I would have done right then...

But, alas, I maintained professionalism AND dress code and just said, "Um, sure?"

Interest piqued, I traveled to her desk to skim what she had so far. And promptly had to apologize to the student across to her when I almost spit my Diet Coke in his face in violent laughter.

This is the stuff sarcastic, English teachers' dreams are made of. I'll be reading her piece to students until I retire.

Her Quick Write - 

        Well this is awkward. Hi, Dorothy Parker* here. That’s right. The author of the “but it’s so long, how can I finish this in 2 months with my ‘social life’ going on” book. Well, first of all, whatever social life you have won’t crumble and collapse at the astounding miracle that you read a book. It might, just might, better your social skills by providing you with the pride that you are the sixty-six percent that actually read and gain knowledge from reading. Heck, reading actual books might just teach you words other than ‘swag’, ‘YOLO’, and worst of all, ‘cool.’ 

       And with those new big-kid words you just might get a real job with better pay and better people. And, who knows? Your new job probably won’t require a hair-net. We want to keep those luscious locks free and flowing in the breeze, right? 

"Reading equals Freedooooomm."

     And if some dope walks into your new office saying, “My swag is enough to land me this job, brah,” you can just calmly say, “You foul-mouthed trollop, go read some real literature.” So all I’m typing is, if you read, you might just learn something.

At this point, remembering I taught her last year, I promptly pulled a Tina Fey. And high-fived myself.

*Name changed to protect the brilliant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Didgeridoos and "Dencher" Glue

When the students came into class on the second day, this Quick Write was projected on the board:

In order for me to monitor who finished when and to get to know them a bit better, I had them write their favorite piece of advice on a sticky note and post it on a piece of chart paper.

There our collective advice sits - ready for tomorrow's Meet the Parents night. I'm pretty sure their folks are going to go wild when they see what they wrote.

(Note - I tried to maintain their original spelling/punctuation. Do forgive us. It's early in the year.)

We are dealing with middle schoolers here, so oftentimes their advice touched on the theme of "Lookin' Fly". You know -

  Keeping up Appearances:

"And if you don't wear your braces prepare not to have a wife. My teeth are so jacked up, when I smile, I scare every woman I see."

"One more thing, don't play bingo, you'll get bingo wings."

( wings...)

"Don't bathe and bake in your own self-made puddle of oil sheen and UV rays - you have been warned. You WILL be pale and wrinkly like a sun bleached raisin - dry and shriveled."

(She took Creative Writing last year, and it shows.)

"Use wrinkle cream so the 50 year old men will like you."

"Enjoy having no wrinkles, and eat as much candy as you can before you get diabetes or lose all your teeth."

Another common theme was 

Love and Marriage:

"If you ever feel drawn to cats ignore it."

"Ohh!! and don't get married, all they do is nag all day everyday."

"Don't ever have kids."

"Make sure you have a cat or some kind of animal as a backup plan just in case your husband does get tired of our shananigans."

And finally, like middle schoolers, much of their advice defied any sort of categorization whatsoever...

Grab Bag:

"Don't quit your job to fofill your lifelong dream of becoming a didgeridoo player. You didn't make it in the business. Now I live on the side of highway 51 and have a pet racoon names Chester."

(Note: do you know how to spell didgeridoo, but not "fulfill" or "raccoon"? Also, this child started his letter with something to the effect of, "That bachelor party in Vegas seems like a good idea. It's not.")

"Always! Always! Remember your dencher glue!"


"Make sure you know hoe to play checkers and bingo. That's about all you can do with a bad hip!"

"Your gonna get put in the crazy house."

(Note: With handwriting and spelling like that, YOU'RE going to put Ms. P in the crazy house.)

"Do me a favor and don't be lazy."

"When you get a chance to buy a library, please do. Because it turns out the library can be a pretty snazzy place to live, and there's only things like Early Arthritis to read here."

"By now technology has taken over. I'm sitting beside by holographic Border Collie hovering in my elevated chair."

And my personal favorite.....

"When the lady that drives the nursing home bus drops you off at Kroger...

Make a run for it."

Love and prune juice,

Ms. P

P.S. Any advice you'd like to give my middle schoolers? Please share.