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A very geeky school

December 24, 2009 pm31 4:24 pm

The math teacher entered the room yesterday, first period, and the kids were already seated. I saw (I’m the math teacher) that they had slightly rearranged the desks leaving the front a bit further back than it would normally be. I also noticed that of the two boys I have lately kept near the front, because they focus better and distract their neighbors less, one was a bit further than usual, but Kelly was all the way in the seat he loves in the very back. Bit of banter with the class as I note their creativity and yes, the day before vacation is not yet vacation and we are doing work, and I notice Kelly already off-task a bit, and rather than wait for a minor disruption to develop, I suggest he should move forward.

Now, the kids who get moved up front don’t like it much, but I make sure they have the same opportunities to answer questions, interact with peers (though I control which ones) and they actually benefit. Just Tuesday I noted that after fussing about his seat, Kelly did substantially more work than he usually does, and was faster to get some challenging material, answering more questions, etc.

But of the ones who don’t like sitting forward, Kelly likes it the least, and has complained that he is being punished (not true, but I’m sure in his teenaged brain, that’s the way he perceives it). And he’s not loud, but he does articulate for his classmates that he doesn’t want to be up front. We all know.

And, pretty much everyone in this class likes everyone else, or in the rare instance, tolerates everyone else. Kelly likes and is liked. So the kids feel his “suffering.”

By the way, this sounds like a bad story about a kid. I barely write about my school, and I don’t tell bad kid stories. Keep reading.

So, before I interrupted my thought process, I wrote: “I notice Kelly already off-task a bit, and rather than wait for a minor disruption to develop, I suggest he should move forward

Kelly, why don’t you move forward?

And Mario, next to him stands up, and says “I am Kelly!”

And across the room another stands: “I am Kelly.” More students rise: “I am Kelly” “I am Kelly”… and another and another.

When I stopped laughing I asked them about the movie. Only a few had seen it. We talked briefly about the story, and then, even though they are only wrapping up the New Deal in their US History classes, we spoke briefly about the context, about blacklisting, naming names, and Dalton Trumbo. When they got tired of history, we started some math.

And Kelly got to stay in the back.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 24, 2009 pm31 5:21 pm 5:21 pm

    Fantastic. Wish I was there. Can you get them to read “Johnny Got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo. One of my favorite books of all time.
    Jim Matthews

  2. December 24, 2009 pm31 5:35 pm 5:35 pm

    Can I get them to read? Hmm. Math class. In my discrete elective they will read a little from Dostoevsky’s diaries about gambling, but in general… The Number Devil… don’t think I can work in “Johnny Got His Gun.”

    But I encouraged them to watch the clip that they were loosely reënacting:

  3. canwetalk permalink
    December 24, 2009 pm31 6:10 pm 6:10 pm

    What a revelating movie! I had forgotten about that pivotal part in the movie.

    I would have enjoyed it, too, seeing them reenact that scene. How wonderful and delightful.

    Enjoy the holidays.

  4. Jules Trachten permalink
    December 25, 2009 am31 11:45 am 11:45 am

    Terrific classroom atmosphere. Albeit temporary, you have created a social structure with these kids. Good for you.

  5. December 29, 2009 pm31 7:06 pm 7:06 pm

    Interesting, in a number of ways – and does speak well of the relationships and the kids.

    FWIW, all my kids up to the age of 16 are sat in designated seats, which I think is pretty usual in the UK. (Post-16, maths – and school itself – are not compulsory and everything changes as a result.) If a kid makes a case for a move to me – and this has to be outside of class time – he may get it.

    In general I start ’em alphabetically, I seat a few based on their need to be right at the front because they’re concentration-challenged, and (as is the culture in my department) when I reseat en masse I tend to do it based on their current standing within the class – the better you’re doing, the further back you sit, on the basis that they should need less of my attention in the early, busier, parts of lessons.

    This may be one of those US/UK cultural difference things – like uniforms, say.

  6. December 30, 2009 am31 10:10 am 10:10 am

    Most of us assign seats. I used to, in every class. I still would in younger classes, in freshmen classes. Most classes are still in regular rows, as well.

    So, no, this is a jd2718 difference, not a cultural thing.

    • December 30, 2009 pm31 2:42 pm 2:42 pm

      OK, thanks. I would like at some point when we’re less busy and tired (maybe this summer?) to spend a while on email or whatever with you discussing those differences – I think it’s a potentially thought-provoking conversation. (No problem if you don’t fancy it, of course :).)


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