Thursday, May 6, 2010

An Apple-and an Ulcer-for the Teacher

Kamp Kumbaya

A note of explanation, Dear Readers: Mama Kat instructed me to write a poem for Prompt #2, but prose seemed more appropriate. As one of our final newspaper deadlines approached, the last page of the newspaper-the one that is called "ETC.," & which contains many random & silly bits-had yet to be put together. Seems like the ETC. Editor had a crisis of some sort & chose to go to lunch instead. So, Mrs. Scribe stepped up & wrote the following. The graphic above, included with the article, was PhotoShopped by one of my cherubs. The photo below, snapped by another intrepid reporter, captures a classic moment on The Couch. Here's to all of y'all who teach on this last day of Teacher Appreciation Week. We all deserve either a bonus or a swift kick to the head...I'm not sure which.

One of my English students asked me a question the other day.

“Mrs. Scribe, why would you ever want to teach high school students?”

I wanted to give her an inspirational response, something about “Helping young minds grow” and “the benefits of a rewarding career.” Instead, though, I told her the truth.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” I said, without hesitation. “But y’all do tend to perturb me from time to time.”

That, and I’m in a unique position, each and every day, to watch the ways in which the teenage mind works.

You see, I’m the school’s Journalism teacher. And as such, I don’t spend a lot of time in the front of the classroom, lecturing my cherubs and stuffing their brains with factoids and finite theorems.

Instead, I get to witness a gradual progression, as my students’ frontal lobes—that part of the brain that controls actions and consequences—mature.

Simply put, my newspaper and yearbook students are “in charge”—although I guide them with a firm hand—and sometimes ceding power to the masses can be a painful experience.

Having teenagers run the show can be enlightening and rewarding. The situation also can also wreak quite a bit of havoc and confusion—and that’s on a good day.

I’m probably stating the obvious here, but the fulcrum upon which the the average high school student’s existence balances is procrastination. We teachers like to think that our students come to school every day for the “learning,” but that’s a somewhat misguided notion.

The kids, for the most part, like coming to school because they get to hang out with their friends. And our students flourish in any situation that will foster social interaction.

Here’s where the Journalism kids come in.

Yes, they have deadlines, and for the most part they meet those deadlines. Yes, they follow a code of ethics and they’ve been trained in the ins and the outs of being good, honest reporters. And yes, they really do work hard—but they are also experts in the fine art of sitting around and doing practically nothing meaningful at all.

The bane of my existence still remains the fact that when teens have the option, they’ll procrastinate, every time.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Journalism office fosters the lethargy and laziness that I so often denounce. The center of my journalistas’ world—the nexus of their nefarious unwillingness (sometimes) to work—is a somewhat dilapidated couch.

My students tend to try to cram as many kids as possible into the couch’s comfy recesses. Then, the rest of them get chairs and pull them up in a circle. I call this the “Kumbaya” Effect.

When the Journalism kids have their “Kumbaya” on, they look like they’re at summer camp. Any minute, I expect them to break into a chorus of that well-known ’60s folk song.

My students tell me, on occasion, that I need to “chill.” They tell me that all work and no play is, well, just that. They tell me not to worry, that everything will “get done.”

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t usually write for the student newspaper. The reason I’m stepping up today is because of the “Kumbaya” Effect. Big-time.

Look, It's a Bird, It's a Plane!


Jeanie said...

Very well written and from my long ago memories, spot on. Journalism was my favorite class in high school, so much so that my college degree is in journalism. I still have good memories of my journalism teacher.

Susie said...

Sounds like you have a great job:-)

Christy (Columbia Lily) said...

I don't have a couch in my classroom and yet apparently my kids attend that same camp. =)

sheila said...

You're awesome! My middle child (yes, I know, the MIDDLE ONE! lol) is the drama kid...artist...poet...writer..actress. So I know exactly what you deal with daily. She's going to major in college (she'sgoing to be a HS senior next year) in Creative Writing and photography. Which is a new path which she swore would only be acting.

I admire your desire. Everyone needs an inspiring teacher.

Tracy P. said...

That's priceless! The kumbaya effect. We see a lot of that around here, and haven't even gotten to middle school. Although my daughter volunteered to do her book project a day before it was due this week, so there might be hope. :-)

Ann said...

when I was in Primary school in Borneo, we sang KUMBAYA, our teachers never told us what it means, I still don't.

Thanks for visiting

Cheryl said...

This was an awesome post. Loved loved it!

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

Well... thanks eversomuch for implanting that song in my head. ;)

Procrastination is not reserved for your journalistas I'm afraid...! I spend an awful lot of time sitting here reading blogs in a day rather than getting my work done.

How lucky those kids are to have you though. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. If only all of my high school teachers and college profs were as in tune with us as you seem to be with them.

yonca said...

I think the only way to do great work is to love what you do.Your students are so lucky to have you. Have a great weekend and Happy Mother's Day Melissa!

Lucy said...

I shouldn't have but I giggled all the way through this post and the picture at the end, awesome, it sums up High School kids great! I feel for you and I know the saying you get summer off, it isn't enough, not enough at all!!!

miss jo said...

What a lovely essay. I can just picture the cherubs' frontal lobes working away...I particularly like this line: "Our students flourish in any situation that will foster social interaction," including such a low-tech concept as a Kumbaya Kouch. Kinda reminds me of the carpet squares Ella Una used to sit on @ Wee Care on Capitol Hill.

HappyChyck said...

Amen! We don't have a couch, but the floor does just as well. Sometimes when teachers pass by my classroom, they get this expression on their faces like, "WTH is going on in there?"

And to think I hand-select the best and the brightest and then I don't work them to the bone everyday!'s kind of a perk of being awesome enough to be on the staff, right?

Quasi Serendipita said...

I can't believe that road sign - is there really a place called Kamp Kumbaya???

Sarah said...

great way to crack that soft whip!

Rachel Cotterill said...

How old do you have to be to grow out of the procrastination thing, do you think? ;)

paige said...

Honesty is good, especially when it's as good as this. I love this post.

Betty said...

I think you're the best teacher ever!
B xx

Nishant said...

Sounds like you have a great job
indian classified site

dkzody said...

The sides of your file cabinets remind me of the backs of mine. I use them to post yearbook page numbers and CD numbers as they go off to the printer.

Joann Mannix said...

We have the Kumbaya effect in this household, too. I think they find something inspiring in the mass huddling. My 3 girls do it with me, sandwiched in the middle as they talk about getting it done, or their day or just about anything. To me, it's one of my favorite times.

Oh, and I was a journalism student and my group was the same exact way.


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