Friday, July 09, 2010

I Fancy Myself A Modern Day Robin Hood

I've done a lot for these kids and for this job. Money, time have all been doled out in copious amounts to educate these kids. Through all the crudola these putzes have given me, I still find myself wanting to give more. Like a mother bird gathering food for her fledglings, I can hear their unspoken bleating cries calling out for further stimulation. The need to give unto them is so strong I would do anything for them. I would even steal for them.

I continued my sound unit with the remaining kids who did not get it yesterday. I decided to nix the whole letting them make the Screaming Cup thing, since I was beginning to hear the shrieking everywhere I went (I actually saw one of my students at the market, and he snuck up behind me and did the cup thing. Not cool, dude. But I probably would have done the same thing). Previously, I had just given them a simple drinking straw to play with, but I felt like stepping it up.

You can make a slide trombone version of the reed straw by taking a Slurpee straw as the reed, and a Big Gulp straw (which is just slightly larger) as the slide. It works remarkably well, and has always been one of my favorite experiments.

When I usually do it, I only need a few for myself and a friend or two, so grabbing an extra straw as I walk out of 7-11 isn't a big deal. But when you have to acquire straws for 40 something straws, it becomes a bit of a logistical issue.

My sister drove me to work that day and stopped of at 7-11 with me. I had planned this maneuver out the night before, and after synchronizing watches, the operation commenced.

I sent my sister down one side of the store where the food is, as a distraction, to buy something for lunch. Meanwhiles, I snuck around the other end to where the Slurpee and soda machines were. I first raided the Slurpee straws, grabbing everyone they had and stuffing them in my pockets. I next moved to the Big Gulp station, and grabbed as many straws as I could. One of those two handed jobs (ha). As I met my sister at the counter (since it would look suspicious if I walked in and didn't buy anything), I realized a complication. I was trying to hide my pilfered straws below the level of the counter, but that was rather difficult since I had to hold the bundle with two hands, hunched over to keep the straws at the appropriate level. I became self-conscious of my suspicious posture and I began to panic. So I tried some inconspicuous whistling. But in my panic I had forgotten I don't know how to whistle. So as I stood at the counter, spitting more than anything else, I turned and realized that there was a mirror right behind me, revealing to the cashier what I was hiding. The jig was up. I straightened up, waved my bundle of straws at the cashier, and rushed out of the store before anything could be said.

The children are beginning to sense that school is beginning to wind down, as each day they are becoming more and more unmanageable. I think they've been squished together to long, as the forced interaction with their peers is starting to strain their relations and cause tension. Today was a day of drama. Many hurt feelings, much crying. Several kids were pulled from my class throughout the day to go through some conflict resolution stuff. The ones who weren't, I had to deal with myself.

I don't really know how to deal with most crying children. As an example, I had C group in the afternoon, and I had them cut something, so one of my kids, S-----, was using the scissors. At one point in the class, one of the kids came over and pulled on my shirt, and told me that S----- was crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said F---- was being mean to her. I caled Faith over and asked her what was going on. Apparently F---- came over to her and asked "can I have the scissors to give back to Mr. Sakimoto" (by F----'s recounting). It didn't sound right, but since S----- wouldn't say a word, I had to assume Faith was telling the truth. But knowing how S----- and a lot of these kids are, it wasn't impossible. For a lot of these cases, my first instinct is to just tell the kids to suck it up. Some of them are so damn sensitive, that I have a hard time imagining them functioning in the real world. Some of them just need to grow a pair.

I also want to throw things at most of them. These kids have no retention, at all. I'm not talking about the material, but simple instructions. I tell them everyday "if we cannot get through the class without interruptions, we will not do the experiment" to which they all perk up and straighten up. I tell them "if you keep talking, we will run out of time, and you will just sit at your desk for the rest of the time, while everyone else does the experiment". This usually gets them to quiet down. Until the minute had moves another tick, or I start to talk, which they take as a sign to start talking as well. And it's impossible to get their attention. I flash the lights on and off, I yell, sometimes I just sit there until the talking stops. I really want to throw things at some of them, because more often than not, it is a few brats who can't keep quiet, who can't keep still, and who are ruining it for the rest of the students.

I feel bad about large group discipline. I always hated being punished as a group in school because the offender was never me. I was always quiet, respectful and well behaved, yet I would have to sit in the cafeteria at recess with my classmates because Chris couldn't stop himself from throwing food. And I can see the same frustration with some of my better kids. One girl, A----, is at times a little rambunctious, but always quiets down and pays attention the first time I ask her. But her classmates cannot. And I see the selfsame pain, frustration and fear that she won't get to do the experiment. I've learned ways to sort out the good ones and make sure they are rewarded for their outstanding behavior, but as the day wears on, and I become more stressed, agitated, and aggravated, it become harder and harder. And so it goes as it goes.

I've been told many many times before that children have an amazing, unhindered and unfettered creativity (watching too many TED talks). But I have yet to see it.

I decided to do something ambitious with my older kids with the last few days of this program. I love the show Mythbusters. Sure, it lacks the rigor of true scientific testing, and I find many faults with their methodology, but I love their spirit, and it's some of the best television out there. And I had tested the waters before pitching this idea. I had talked to many of the kids and asked if they had seen the show and knew what it was about, and many of them said yes, and seemed really excited to do a Mythbusters like experiment. So we went ahead with it.

The first day I decided I would just introduce the project, and have them brainstorm and come up with original ideas for myths. It was a struggle getting them to understand what a myth was. I tried to explain as best as I could, and gave many examples (like "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar"), and I explained that it had to be something we could test and find out an answer to, but at the end of the brainstorming, many of the kids came up to me with lists like:
  1. Egyptians
  2. Zeus
  3. Zombie
And then I tried to explain that it was like a story that you had to test to see if it was true. And I got lists that looked like these:
  1. What if you went to the beach with your family and saw a bird?
  2. Is it true that I saw you at the market yesterday?
I know they're trying, but I swear, so many WTF moments. To their credit, some of them came up with good ones, here's the complete list from my E group (the oldest ones, and the only ones who were able to come up with a list at all. The other groups either complained that it was too hard, brought me unusable things, or cried in the corner. Whoot):
  • Do you sleep better with the lights on or off?
  • Can you get sick from a dream (some of my kids claim this happens regularly)?
  • Which catches more flies: Jackson Chameleon or a Frog?
  • Which is dirtier: A fly or a cockroach?
  • Can an average man lick his armpit?
  • Does a dream catcher actually catch bad dreams?
  • Does a gnat live better in water or Playdough (WTF?)
  • Which will wear down faster: tennis shoes or high heels?
  • Fire starting methods.
  • Age at first white hair.
  • Can you stand on 100 paper cups (I actually like this one).
  • Can you count to 1000 in a minute?
Seeing that many were hopeless, I came up with a few fairy tales ones. My favorite one is the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, particularly the line "and all the King's horses and all the King's men, couldn't put Humpty together again." What I would like to do is to drop an egg from a reasonable height, collect the broken shell, whites, and yolk, and see if you can reassemble the egg with glue and tape and such. I'm really excited about this, and might even do it myself, though after seeing what these kids are capable of, I'm a little doubtful they could handle.

As a closing thought, I have a suggestion for school systems across the country. Kids need to be trained in fine motor skills. So many of them have the hardest time folding paper in half, cutting with scissors, tying knots, passing string through a huge hole. I know they're young and uncoordinated, but many of them are simply hopeless without an adult. And so many are unwilling to try. They tell me it's too hard. And when I tell them they just need to give it a try, they become mad, or sad, and start crying. I can't deal with this. I need to start associating with people my own age for a bit.

And with that rantification down, I give you my shirt pocket:

: Many many Big Gulp straws, many many Slurpee straws, my ID, a pair of scissors, a homopolar motor, a Nature Valley Honey Oat bar, three pencils, two dry erase pens, one of those sweet high end erasers (confiscated), a paper airplane (confiscated), a paper clip necklace (confiscated. They were my paper clips), a slide trombone reed straw thing (confiscated. I warned them not to play with it in other classes), an eraser shaped like an Unagi-don (I kind of just wanted it).

Three more days of teaching, and a Field day type thing on the last day. The end is almost in sight, and I'm feeling groovy.

And if you've actually taken the time to read my inane ramblings and incessant rantings, thank you. I can't imagine people actually read this blog, let alone these obscenely long posts. And since very few will reach this point: baba booey baba booey baba booey baba booey.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, baba booey baba booey shenananadaga whadda ba boop bop to you, too.

    Your life is very interesting and fun.