Going with Your Students’ Flow…Even if it’s to the Toilet

going with the flow

going with the flow

Sometimes when a student asks a question you groan inside because it’s so off topic (even if it’s a good question) because you just don’t have time to go into it at that moment.  Sometimes a question is related to the material but you just have so much to cover you dread how long it may take to get back to the lesson you had planned.  However, sometimes you DO have the time or the kids are just SO excited about the question/material that you go with the flow, even if it leads into the toilet 🙂

In my Tuesday class, which is a mix of 5th-10th graders, we are talking about explorers and exploration.  The focus this past week was specifically on Columbus and his voyages.  I knew that it was inevitable that one of the kids would be asking about what the sailors did on a ship when they had to go to the bathroom.  Well, since I have a ton of flexibility in the curriculum, and since the kids were SOOOO excited about it, I went with the flow 🙂

In the course of answering this student’s question, we discussed how the sailors would have chosen which of them was responsible for emptying the toilet bucket overboard (a lot of kids made connections to how chores are rotated and shared at home).  That then led to another student asking how they cleaned themselves without toilet paper so we talked about the pros and cons of corn cobs, pine cones, leaves, and yes, bare hands, which led us to talking about the different ways people relieved themselves and dealt with their waste around the world (such as someone living in crowded London versus a Cherokee Native American).  There were a lot of “ew that’s gross!” and “didn’t that hurt?” and “why didn’t they invent toilet paper/indoor plumbing sooner” type comments which in turn evolved into an interesting conversation about the timing of inventions and technology.

Well, almost 20 minutes later, they were back to working on their Columbus activities and we had thoroughly covered everything I know about anything related to going to the bathroom from the first human to today.  The kids were SO into the conversation that I felt pretty ok having gone so far off track with them.  They had ALL participated, they were animated, and I heard comments like, “I didn’t know that before.”  That was the only validation I needed to know I had made the right choice this time.

A Week Into My New Job And…

first week in new job

I’m a week into my job teaching with the home school co-op and I discovered (not really to my surprise) that I have a LOT to learn about working with middle school kids (especially since my classes are a combination of 5th-8th grade).  I knew that it would be a different universe than having sophomores and juniors, I really did.  But still, what a wake-up call I got this week!

1. Maybe it’s this group or the topics or maybe their age or that I’m new to the co-op or any combination of the above but something that took me an hour in a high school classroom took me 35 minutes with these kids, and that was with me stretching it out.  I know it’s only been two days, but their mentality seems to be once a question is answered that’s it, regardless of how open ended I make it, no matter how many other opinions I ask for, once one student participates they act as if no one else has anything to offer, and they’re ready for the next question/point/topic.

2.  I talk too fast.  Yes I already knew that, but it seems as though I’ll have to slow down more than I usually do.

3.  It’s painfully obvious who the “cool” kids are and who the “geeks” are, and my classes only have 4, 9, and 15 kids.  I just want to hug the “geeks” and assure them I was in their shoes and that they’ll be running the world one day.  I want to tell them being smart and worldly is what’s cool.  I want to take the “cool” kids aside and tell them how mean and shallow they’re being (and yes I know this age group is finding themselves and figuring life out and whatnot but geeze).  On Tuesday, “J” blew me out of the water with an answer to a question.  While I was amazed at his train of thought and commended him for so clearly articulating each angle of the argument, I heard snickers and comments in derogatory tones about his being a human encyclopedia and other things along those lines.  Depending on how next week goes, we might have to spend a class solely on non-academic stuff, and focus on being decent human beings (I would word it a lot nicer for them of course), otherwise it will be a long year.

4.  Being in a co-op situation, I have unprecedented levels of parental involvement.  I went from having virtually none in my last school, to a range here (depending on the parents) from none to completely up my butt.  There’s going to be a huge learning curve for me in juggling what the parents want in the classroom versus the program director let alone what I’d love to do.

With all that said, the kids are great overall.  The other teachers (I’m the only new one) are all really friendly and supportive.  I LOVE having small classes (in my last position all my classes were 32-38 kids), I love having relative curriculum flexibility, and of course I love the flexibility it gives me in my personal life (I’m with the co-op for 2 days and with my daughter the rest of the week).  I’m excited for my vision for the year, but I’m definitely definitely definitely nervous about figuring everything out as quickly as possible.  I especially want to get a handle on the social stuff asap so we can have a smoother year in terms of academics.  I know everything will fall into place, it always does, but I want it to happen quicker than I feel like it might.