Friday. Always a day when things seem to drag and everyone is ready for the weekend. I was especially ready for the day to end today due to the fact that last night the basketball team had an away game at a tournament that didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. For the game we had to take an hour’s bus ride to get there and so by the time the game was finished and we were headed back to our own school, it was after 10 p.m. This made my morning today drag and I didn’t want to get out of bed.
I was expecting the day to go poorly and for my head not to be in the “game.” However, between my coffee this morning and being able to wear jeans to work (always a great thing!), the day was speeding along and I was ready hear my juniors complain about having to write their research paper.
Today was the day that the juniors “chose” their authors. I had come up with a list of authors that they would be able to research. Instead of being able to simply call out a name though, I printed out the list, folded up the names and put the names in a basket. The students were then able to draw a name from the basket. At that point they had three options to choose from: 1) They could keep the author that they had drawn, 2) They could exchange authors only once with another student, or 3) They could redraw and choose between their original and new authors (but could no longer trade).
This made the choosing process extremely animated and discussions were already beginning about the different authors that students had drawn. (I had a mix of contemporary and classic authors, poets and novelists, American and British.) The whole selection procedure went well in my 2nd hour class-there were exchanges and redraws, and a few kept their original author and researching began.
Everything changed though when it came to my 8th hour class though. It is in this group that I have one student who is extremely self-motivated when it comes to reading and learning new topics. We, as a class, always know that he will have some piece of random information to share with us each day, no matter the topic. It was this particular student that became very fascinated with the selection process and wanted to know each of his classmate’s authors. If they didn’t know one, he always was ready with an example of something that author had written. It was as he realized some of his favorite authors had already been drawn that he became anxious. He had already drawn an author, Charles Dickens, and had originally been very excited to research him. But as other names were announced, he became focused in on them and tried making deals with his classmates so he would be able to switch for his top choice, J.R.R. Tolkien.
It was through the process that no one wanted to trade with him because they did not want to get stuck with an author that they didn’t want either. So, unfortunately for this particular student, he became increasingly anxious and worked-up as his chances of choosing his “dream” author became slimmer and slimmer. He eventually made the decision to try his luck at a redraw. He was the last student to redraw and Tolkien’s name had been put back into the basket….
I made sure to mix up the names plenty so that there would be no tampering with the selection process. I even made sure to hold the basket above his head so he could not peer into it as he drew his next name. It was at this point that he held his breath and reached into the pile of names. He drew one out and….it was Maya Angelou! The devastation of not getting Tolkien overtook him and he crumpled into his seat and actually started pouting! A Junior in high school…pouting over not getting an author.
At this point I couldn’t handle it anymore. I started laughing at how intense he had been about this particular author. It was as this student continued to lay cover his face, but would randomly make a comment about having to research Charles Dickens that I lost it. I was laughing so hard at the situation that I actually started to cry. The rest of the class was laughing right along with me as he muttered from behind his hands at his desk.
It’s having a memory like this one, and seeing the passion that can be built inside of a student for a particular author, that remind us of how important teaching is. These memories make the late nights and the lost weekends all worth it. It makes writing an otherwise “boring” research paper more fun and more competitive between the students. And it makes a long Friday one of the greatest days to have.
I hope everyone’s Friday was as great as mine! Happy Teaching!