Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fly on the wall...

Sixth period.

I have just finished telling the entire sixth grade that I am going to be paying attention to who is dawdling when they line up after recess, and those kids will have detention with me, because it isn't fair for them to make their classmates and teachers wait and eat up educational time.

We go upstairs. We'd all be more patient about post-recess dawdling if we didn't have to walk up five floors to our classrooms.

For homework this week, they are writing letters to various public figures in response to some articles we read about the gender and race gaps in science and math fields. I decided to ask the kids what they think, what they recommend. It's not a perfect assignment, by any stretch of the imagination; I would do it very differently next time. But it's a first try. So, I hand back the first drafts of their letters, and make some comments, and give them some addresses and job descriptions so that they can decide to whom to write (I had them get their ideas out first, then choose the audience based on the focus of the letter).

Next, I am going to model how to make a scale drawing.

But I never get that far. A large black insect starts buzzing around the room. One by one, as it passes them, the kids freak out. I tell them briefly to calm down, that I understand it's a little startling but that it won't hurt them and that they'll have to ignore it. I return to my modeling of scale drawings. It flies around me for a few minutes. I ignore it - more modeling! - but a few kids find it urgent to warn me rather loudly. I ignore them. Ignore, ignore, ignore. The dramatics continue. I pause, and wait, and watch 25 eyes follow that dang fly around the room. It is clear to me that this ridiculous fly is all anyone cares about. I repeat my speech, remind them that we have only 40 minutes left for them to work on their rollercoasters. Even as I am speaking, I can see that I have about 4 kids' attention. I tell them it won't hurt them. My pathologically-disorganized, rarely-heard-from kid raises his hand. I'm sorry, Ms. Frizzle, but that's not true. That's a horse-fly, and they bite.

Who knew? He's an entomologist.

Not this one, I want to say, not in the middle of winter, not in my classroom, not if you just freakin ignore it! But I just thank him.

This horse-fly thing is like my anxiety attacks: somehow I have let it take on a life of its own, and it is bigger and badder than ever. (Although, thanks to my friend placebo, I had hardly any trouble breathing today, and I didn't take anything. So there).

I tried to minimize it, and somehow maximized it.

I pause again, trying to figure things out. Little miss gifted-underachiever, easily the most disruptive student in the whole sixth grade, has now rolled up an important Prep-For-Prep letter, and is simultaneously swatting at the fly, offering to kill it for me, and telling me that she has to give this letter to the principal, it is Important and she forgot about it until now. I decline her offer to take out the fly.

And that is how I ended up having them pack up their belongings, put the chairs up, line up, and walk down the hall to my other classroom (the only benefit to teaching the 7th grade), where we did NOT do rollercoasters but worked all period on revising our letters.


Anonymous k said...

Males feed on nectar, females feed on middle school students...

Hope it is gone today!

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What articles did you all read about the gender and race gaps?

2:06 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:49 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

Students are easily distracted, and often take the opportunity to take advantage of such situations. That's not at all unique.

Wait till someone sees a mouse, if you're unfortunate enough to have them.

On the positive side, learning to deal with these situations will make you a much better parent if and when you decide to become one. Now I'm not a science teacher, but perhaps if you think about it you can prepare yourself to steer the next such distraction into an educational opportunity.

As an English teacher, this situation makes my mind wander toward Shel Silverstein poems. I'm sure he must have written one about a fly. If I saw this as a possible recurring situation, I'd have a class set of copies prepared and ready to go.

7:23 AM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

The funny thing is, I've had mice, roaches, and even PIGEONS (more than one) in the room, and had classes deal just fine. Which is why this particular class being unable to stop flipping out kind of surprised me. They did get a lot done when we moved to the other room, and Friday's lesson was pretty good with them, so I don't feel like I really wasted too much time just to make a point. Let's just call it a modification, LOL.

10:33 AM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

The important thing, I guess, is that you recognized a problem and dealt with it, as opposed to the alternative and much-favored approach of sitting at your desk like a bag of potatoes.

Pigoens? I'm considerably older than your students (or you, for that matter), and I'm fairly certain that would have freaked me out as much as it would any kid.

5:11 PM  

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