for example

3 12 2008

it makes me sad when i stay up for hours and hours grading students’ portfolios and then ten or twenty of them don’t even bother to come the last day to collect them, EVEN THOUGH it’s the only day we set aside to work on (and for them to get help from me on) their last paper. to distract myself from this sadness (because going into reading their last papers surly won’t work at all) i have an encore of fun-classroom-moment nuggets!

nugget 1: i’ve worn my hair up, and skirts, to teach in all semester, or at least almost all semester. the last couple of weeks, when the weather started getting really cold, i gave up on both, at least partway (although i’m doing both things today, because the dress is christmas colors and it goes well with santa socks and the cookies the ones who do show up are getting), and got comments, like you do. one girl stared at me and said “i didn’t think you owned jeans.” others said things, when i came in with a ponytail, like “your hair is so long!” i’m not sure what they thought the bun was made of, but apparently hair was a surprise. so on this first pony-tail morning, i’m in my first class, they’ve been set to some valuable task, and i pull my hair-tie out to adjust it because it’s crooked. and there is oohing and aahing because apparently teachers having actual hair is startling. someone says “go like this” and imitates a 2-second headbanging, because the 80s are a funny historical phenomenon to them rather than a reality of any kind. if you know me, you know, then, that i had to oblige. just for a second or two, to applause, and then i put the ponytail back in and turned to look at someone’s paper. in the back row, i hear one girl say to another “can you imagine if we got our psychology professor to do that?!” before they leave that morning, i give them grief about putting their names in the filenames of their papers before they submit them (because i don’t care how organized you are, 90 papers called “paper 4” are going to get lost, over-saved, mis-filed, and otherwise screwed up, and it takes upwards of if not over an hour to re-name all 90, which is several papers i could have graded instead), and the sentence that left my mouth to that effect was something like “and would you PLEASE put your NAMES in your FRICKING-FRACKING filenames?” as i said this, i could see the usual startled darts of faces look up who think i’m going to cuss at them; it makes them listen. J looked not just interested but an adorable combination of disappointed and pre-scandalized, so in a quieter voice, not yelling at the class, i added “and yes, i can say ‘fuck,’ i’m an adult.” she fell halfway out of her chair giggling, and everybody else looked at her in bafflement, because they didn’t hear me at all, having had their ears tuned to “ignore teacher who is yelling at us about the same thing again.” “i know, i know,” she sputtered, “but i really wanted to hear you say it!” “merry christmas,” i obliged (it was mid-october).

nugget 2: the day before thanksgiving break, i took 10 pairs of scissors to each of my classes–i meant to take tape, too, but the tape from my office had mysteriously disappeared–to add to whichever pairs and whatever adhesive they’d found in their dorms to bring along, and we did an activity involving slicing one of their papers up into pieces to recombine and add other things to to create a new paper (they like this, just like they like anything involving crayons. school supplies are a big hit around here). making my rounds during my noon class, i ended up back at a table where A & Ch & J had mostly finished the work they were assigned (at least for that part of the activity) and were using the scissors and some of the scrap paper i’d given them to make really clunky, square, elementary-school snowflakes. “no, no, no,” i said. “you’re doing that all wrong.” i sat down on the empty table in the row in front of them, took a piece of discarded paper up, took J’s scissors, and asked them about the details of what each was doing with his paper while showing them how to fold a proper paper cone so as to make a six-sided snowflake and snipping out little triangles. “whoah,” A said, watching my hands. “she actually knows how to do that.” “this is going to be all art museumy,” B said, wandering over. “i didn’t know that,” J said about the number of sides (someone always doesn’t know that). Ch started folding a cone of his own. when i unfolded the snowflake, more ooohing and aahing ensued. i waggled my eyebrows at them like some b-movie kung-fu master, handed J his scissors back, and gave them their next task, soon getting pulled into helping some of the girls at the front of the room. the next time i looked back at their corner of the room, there were four or five snowflakes taped to the wall, along with a sign that said “happy holidays,” and, made from a piece of blue scrap paper someone found in the pile (i didn’t see it happen and was never sure who, although my 6pm class decided that they were sure it was B) a hand-turkey. we left them there for later-comers to the room, because, really, who wouldn’t want to be sent off for break with well-wishes, snowflakes, and a hand-turkey?!

(yep, that worked. i totally love them again. off to #4 for the day!)




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