The Swag Bros Are Dead, Long Live The Swag Bros

, , , | Learning | August 15, 2019

(I am a student teacher at an elementary school. It is the end of the school year, and as a reward for turning in their homework every week, my partner teacher has me take a group of students out for an extra recess. We get outside and I notice two of the students, a pair of boys who are best friends, standing by the fence, crossing their arms, and bopping to some unheard tune.)

Me: “What are you guys doing?”

Boy #1: “We’re the Swag Bros!”

Boy #2: “We just dropped an album on YouTube and it already has seventy million likes.”

Me: “And this is… your swag dance?”

Boy #2: “Exactly.”

(I continue patrolling the playground. A few minutes later, I see that the boys aren’t playing together.)

Me: “What happened to the Swag Bros?”

Boy #2: “We broke up. The Swag Bros are no more.”

Me: “Oh, no, that’s so sad!”

(Not long after, I see the boys back together, along with a third boy. All three are doing the weird crossed-arms dance in unison.)

Me: “What’s going on here?”

Boy #1: “The Swag Bros are back together, and now we have [Boy #3]!”

Boy #3: “We just dropped our new mixtape and it already has a million gajillion hits!”

(Long live the Swag Bros.)

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Words Can’t Express How Nice This Is

, , , , , | Learning | August 14, 2019

I work at an elementary school in a third-grade classroom. One of our students is selectively mute; she physically can talk, but English is not her first language and she has severe anxiety about speaking it, so she just doesn’t talk at all. 

Every day, the students rotate to different stations to practice reading and writing. One of the stations involves pulling a popsicle stick out of a jar and reading the word on it aloud. If you get the word right, you get a point. Early in the year, I’m walking around to the different stations, and I see the mute student playing this game with two other students. I stick around to watch to make sure she isn’t being left out.

When it’s her turn, to my surprise, another student picks the popsicle stick and says the word aloud, and then the mute student writes it on a piece of paper. They tell me that they came up with that solution on their own so that they could still include her even though she didn’t talk.

Throughout my time at that school, I frequently find that her classmates come up with solutions to games and activities that allow her to participate, and from what I have seen, no one mocks or excludes her. It warms my heart to think of how naturally the students have accepted her and found ways for her to be part of the group so that she is never left out.

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Don’t Question The End Result

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 13, 2019

I work with a group of elementary school students who need extra help in math. Right now I’m doing multiplication flashcards with three students: two girls, and a boy. They’re all brilliant students, but the girls have a lot more self-confidence, while the boy frequently has fits where he keeps saying he’s stupid and the worst at everything. It breaks my heart because he’s shown that he knows the material, but if he gets the tiniest thing wrong — or even if he gets it right! — he goes into a full meltdown. Often he will say the wrong answer just so he can complain about being dumb. 

During this practice, the girls are on a roll, and the boy is getting increasingly upset. He’s getting the answers right, but he doesn’t say them fast enough so the girls are getting all the points. I try to remind him that it’s just a game, and what matters is that he knows the correct answers, but he’s not having it.

After a little bit, I notice that one of the girls is being more hesitant about answering the questions and even starting to answer them incorrectly. Soon, the other girl starts to do the same thing. I realize that they’re doing poorly on purpose so that the boy has a chance to give the right answers.

Normally, I wouldn’t want the girls to sacrifice their practice time, but as the boy gets more and more points, he gets visibly happier and stops speaking poorly about himself. When the game is over and he sees that he won, he’s through the roof! The girls seem genuinely happy for him. I know it’s not the most honest method, but all three of those students are equally good at math; the boy just needed a confidence booster to get him out of his rut.

At the end of the year, the school hosts an assembly where the principal reads the names of the students who tested at or above grade level for math and reading. All three of those students’ names are called, and to see that boy’s smile as he is recognized for his hard work is beyond worth it.

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Seriously Flipped Out

, , , , , , | Learning | August 7, 2019

As a child, I was fairly quiet, a bit of a dreamer, and fairly easy to upset. Thus, when my first-grade teacher asked to speak to my mum one day after school, Mum figured I’d probably just had a run-in with a more brash child, or skinned a knee, or something like that.

Not quite.

In class, we’d been discussing what we wanted to be when we “grew up.” The usual occupations were brought up and discussed — teacher, firefighter, policeman, ambulance driver — and then my teacher made the mistake of asking me.

I said I wanted to be a dolphin.

“Oh, you mean a dolphin trainer?” my teacher asked.

Nope. I wanted to be a dolphin. 

When I was informed that I couldn’t actually be a dolphin, I started crying. Attempts to persuade me that I could work with dolphins or by dolphins were to no avail; I was determined to be a dolphin and only a dolphin, and nothing else would suffice.

While mum admitted — years later — that neither she nor the teacher could keep a straight face when discussing “the dolphin incident,” she — and the rest of my family — still take great delight in bringing up my early career choices at every opportunity.

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A Sadly Familiar Pattern

, , , , , | Learning | July 9, 2019

I went to a private school from second through seventh grade. Each year, my school and the nearby private schools held a competition called Math Olympics. Basically, it was a Saturday where you took a math test against people in your grade, and people got ribbons for the top five scores.

I placed second in third grade, and was all prepared when the time came around in fourth grade. Like a spelling bee, there was a qualification round during class one day, where two “olympiads” and two alternates would be chosen.

The teacher passed out our tests during math time, but as people started getting to the last problem, she found that many people were asking for help. She went around just repeating, “Number 20 is a pattern,” to anyone with their hand up, dealing with other questions if they were on a different problem.

By the time my tablemate got to problem 20, I had already turned in my paper and picked up my book to read. He put his hand up, having been too involved in the first 19 problems to catch what the teacher had been saying, but there was a note on the board saying that she’d give a hint about it.

After what felt like a long time without the teacher coming over, he started waving his hand, trying to get attention. Eventually, he made small sounds when she walked by, which she did at least three times after I started paying attention. It was annoying, so I just leaned over and said, “Number 20 is a pattern.”

That, the teacher noticed. She snatched the boy’s test off the table before he could even pick up his pencil again, and told us both to stay in the room while everyone else went to lunch.

We sat there, alone, long enough to take our lunch boxes from the backpack area, eat lunch, and throw away our trash before our teacher brought back the principal.

The principal took us one at a time to tell her what happened, and I told her the truth of the situation — that the teacher had promised everyone a hint, but was ignoring my tablemate, so I told him exactly what she had been telling everyone else.

Despite explaining myself as best I could, it was deemed cheating, so neither of us were allowed to compete. I went on to win first place in later years, but I still find it unfair that I got labeled a cheater for that.

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