Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I love 8th graders.  Sometimes I have to turn away to hide my amusement during class, other times I just laugh with and/or at them.

Today was no different.  We began our unit on the founding documents of American government.  I use a chart called OPVL (Origin, Purpose, Value, Limitations) to help students understand primary and secondary sources.  While introducing and modeling this chart to one class, a student raised his hand and asked, “What does the ‘O’ stand for again? Orgi?”  He had no clue what he was saying, even when the rest of the class erupted in laughter. 

Bless their hearts.


“cause you a black male”

We use silent lunch at our school as a consequence for poor behavior.  Philosophically, I am still waivering on the merits of this type of system.  Professionally, I have learned to rely on it as a motivator for students who need to sit up, shut up, and work. 

Today I assigned silent lunch to two of my young men in 3rd block.  It was convenient – since that’s our lunch period, I just dropped them off on my way.  The teacher who oversees silent lunch is untouchable; think Madea, but better.  As I was leaving, one of the boys said to me, “But Mrs. Russ, why are we in here?”  To which the silent lunch warden responded:

“Cause you a black male, that’s why.  Now sit down and shut your mouth.”

I smiled and shook my head as I left, because I knew what they were doing without having to look back- they were sitting down and shutting their mouths.  I also knew that I could never, ever get away with saying anything like that. 

I have been reminded countless times over the past four years that I am a young, white female.  I cannot do anything about this.  But it is useful to know that, even in 2011, there is a collective history that I do not share with my students.  The silent lunch warden does, and she speaks to them differently than I do. 

There were many days when, before I knew myself as an educator, this angered me.  Now I am grateful that I can rely on the strengths of my colleagues, and proud that I have my own history and attitude to bring to the classroom that my students appreciate and respect.

but what about weed?

Each year, I am forced to act shocked about and interested in the ongoing debate over legalizing marijuana.  I hear the same arguments every year:

“Nobody ever got high and killed someone, but people get drunk and kill others all the time.”

“Marijuana is actually good for you.”

“It’s legal in most other countries.”

Today I was pleasantly surprised to be in the midst of the debate over marijuana and field this question:

“But what about weed?”

In case you were wondering, there is a difference (on “the street”) between the two, though I would never be so bold as to attempt to recount it here.  Plus I’m pretty sure the Feds are reading.

Today was especially long (longer than the usual 10-hour day) because we hosted Back-to-School night for parents.  It gives families an opportunity to come, meet the teachers, walk through the schedule, and sign up for conferences if necessary.  It was mildly productive, but I did have two eventful visits. 

First there were Daron’s parents.  He transfered into my class last week, and on a block schedule that means I’ve seen him about 2 1/2 days.  I didn’t even know that his name is pronounced darON, not DAREon.  Woops.

Then another student of mine stopped by with her mom and younger brother.  They were the last of the night for me, so we informally chatted about the course and I discovered that the mother holds a degree in history.  We began discussing various topics related to history and Civics.  In the context of the Bill of Rights and equal rights, she then revealed to me that she has a partner and they have a civil union together. For some reason I became very excited about this, and I’m afraid I came off a little too eager.  She might even think I was trying to hit on her. 

Tomorrow’s class with her daughter should be interesting.

did you know: history according to my students

I love hearing the conclusions drawn by my students about historical events, mostly because there is often an element of truth in their otherwise naive comments.  About once a week I set my desks up in a square for Socratic seminars.  Today was our seminar about the Middle Ages, and it provided some priceless historical narrative.  My favorite comments are below:

“We could never have another epidemic like the Black Death; we have lots of medicine and shit…stuff.”

“The Jews started the Crusades because they killed Jesus.”

“No one really won the Crusades because everyone still has a different religion today.”

“Feudalism began with Charlemagne, when he converted to Christianity.  Well, he became Roman Catholic, whatever they are.”