This Student Is Just On Fire Today!

, , , , , | | Learning | August 22, 2019

Some years ago, when I was in seventh grade — ages 13 to 14 — we had physics and chemistry as a combined course. One day, we were all sitting in the lab while the teacher was talking. Suddenly, we all heard a “woosh” and people screaming. One of the boys was apparently bored and had built a small bonfire of matches, doused it with turpentine, and set fire to it! The flames were huge but thankfully died out quickly with a little help from the fire extinguisher. 

Everyone was thankfully okay, but one girl got some of her long hair burnt off, and her T-shirt had no back anymore. It was the only time my class got sent home early.

The girl had to get a bob haircut to save her hair. The boy’s parents had to pay for the haircut and a new T-shirt. The boy had to sit at the teacher’s desk every time we had physics/chemistry from then on. When asked why he did it, he just stated that he was bored and didn’t know how much damage he would cause. The burn mark from the fire was still on that table when I graduated.

Quiet Departure, Loud Reaction

, , , , , , | | Learning | August 21, 2019

(In my two last high school science classes, I am notorious for sitting alone in the back corner at what is supposed to be the teacher’s desk, messing around on my laptop and blatantly not paying attention. But I take my textbook home, do the classwork there, and make 100s on all my tests, so the teacher doesn’t care. Other students aren’t doing so well with their grades. One day, I raise my hand and ask to go to the restroom; the teacher gives me permission but the other students don’t hear her. I walk out of the room.)

Student: *screaming* “Oh, my gosh. [My Name] sits back in the corner and never does any work in here, but we get in trouble if we’re talking or don’t pay attention for one second! She just gets up and leaves the room and you don’t even say anything!”

(The teacher found the outburst so funny she gave me permission to leave the room whenever I wanted without asking.)

We Hope Player Six Shouted “Q”

, , , , | | Learning | August 19, 2019

(I’m at a winter youth retreat for middle-schoolers. We’ve started playing a simple word game; the first person says a word, the second person says whatever word first pops into their head in relation to the first, the third repeats the pattern, and so on. We’re on our second time around the circle.)

Player #1: “Star.”

Player #2: “Astronaut.”

Player #3: “Space.”

Player #4: “Time.”

Player #5: “Continuum!”

(Everyone stopped to laugh. By far the most memorable combination I’ve heard while playing that game!)

When In Doubt, Be Kind

, , , , , , | | Hopeless | August 18, 2019

I work at a public elementary school in an area characterized by opioid addiction and homelessness. I am working closely with one particular student who I know is experiencing homelessness. He lives alone with his mother, who is neglectful and borderline abusive. Whenever he says something about it I send in a report, but there’s nothing I can do beyond that. The school social worker visits their home regularly and is working with his mother on being more present, but I don’t know if that helped at all.

Additionally, though he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he shows many characteristics of autism and is frequently bullied by his classmates. We have been working together all school year on social-emotional health, finding ways to control his temper and articulate his emotional needs. He has been making incredible progress all year.

For one of our sessions, I decide to play a text-based computer game with him that simulates living in poverty. You have to balance work, rent, health emergencies, and other situations on a very limited budget. In the game, you have a child, and various scenarios regarding your child appear throughout the game; for example, your child is in a play, and you have to choose between going to the play and accepting an extra shift at work for some bonus money.

My student chooses the options that would best benefit the child, every. Single. Time. Even if it costs more money than he can realistically afford, he is so invested that he wants his imaginary child to have the best life possible. When we finish the game, he turns to me and says, “I’m a good dad.”

I still get choked up thinking about this child who had every reason to be angry at the world, but still chose kindness every. Single. Time.

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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