Every child and every class is different, but my job would be easier if they weren’t

by Mr. Sheehy

I have two daughters and they remind me daily that they are drastically different. Last night Annie reminded me by refusing to sit in her chair, the second day in a row she expressed that such an action was equivalent to grabbing her pinky finger and twisting. Ellen would sit in that chair for two hours; she’d eat only two bites while there, but when she’d discover at the end of a meal that she could request release with a wave of her hand and the simple statement, “All done!” she always acted like it was an astounding revelation – one that had not occurred to her until just that moment. “Wow – I can get out of this chair and move. I have legs and there is a way to use them!”

Precocious

Annie never forgets that she is a moving creature. She has learned how to walk and she sees no reason why she should stop and give up that pursuit, even for meals. When we do get her in that chair, she eats like we’re going to take the food from her if she stops. May I never forget the sight of Annie with half a banana: into the mouth the banana goes, clutched in her two hands as she smashes it via some hidden and mysterious manner inside her mouth. Slowly, the banana shortens, never emerging from her mouth, until finally Annie slips the last inch entirely into her jaws. “More,” she then declares, ready for the other half.

I see you, but I'm so busy right now

As if I did not comprehend how different two seemingly similar things could be, my two English 11 classes choose to present additional object lessons. I decided to start Twitter accounts for the class – who says you can’t have a group Twitter account? Not me. I used Twitter as a type of chat room as students read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.” I always have students asking questions and expressing their thoughts as they read, and I thought it tragic that they sit next to classmates doing the same thing but never get to share that thinking in a non-disruptive way. Enter Twitter – a stream of thinking about the reading, done entirely in silence, so if a student is focused on the reading, there are not external noises to pull him away. But when that student is ready to check in with classmates and share his thinking, there it is.

My first group justified every hunch I had, connecting with the text and responding to each other’s questions:

  • Sometimes you just can’t get over someone even though they are something you know you don’t need

  • Ok if she was in love w/ 1 man 1 night and now she thinks she loves him how does he know that won’t happen to him.

  • he doesnt its a risk he has to take if he wants her enough

  • She drives off with another man. What a tramp

And then came my second group, a batch who couldn’t seem to get past the anonymous nature of the logistics (which existed because we were all logged in as the same person). I liked the anonymous thing because it gave shy or quiet students the chance to speak up without being singled out, and it even gave me the chance to jump in without students knowing it was me. For this crew, however, it meant the opportunity to play out an inside joke they have about Wendell being a closet serial killer:

  • wendell has a meat clever in his bag, he showed me at lunch when he was cutting up his meat:)

  • LIAR!!! Wendall I know you have one…

  • this is all libel!!!!!

  • Don’t make fun of him, its a mental thing. Serial killers aren’t MADE, they’re born. Silly

They did get on task, but the temptation to express their real thinking was too much in the end:

  • so its not the same girl

  • well you know i think that this new girl is worse then the first one

  • Ok what is the denial thing about? Is he denying the future or what’s going on… HELP!!!

  • i bet dexter liked doing the wives’ lingerie

  • oh man shut up and start working

  • what goes on the sticky notes?

  • No wonder we’re all faililng……

I love these students and I find them terribly amusing. Unfortunately, of course, they find themselves terribly amusing too, and somewhere in here I’m supposed to help them learn about American literature and the English language. How I’m going to do that, I don’t know, but from the looks of things, it’s not going to be by using the same methods as I use with my other English 11 class.

I end today with two poems from Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser:

I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.

Mouse nest in the toe of my boot,
have I been gone that long?

May grace & peace be with you today.

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