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A clever classroom revolt

July 3, 2022 am31 1:03 am

I had a very clever classroom revolt one day in 2009. I wrote it up. This a rerun of that post.  It is from 12½ years ago. I called it “A very geeky school.”

I changed the kids’ names – but they’ve all long graduated. “Kelly” was actually Walt – get it? Like Walt Kelly? Pogo? Anyway I think Walt just finished law school. The ringleader? I’m not sure who it was. But I’ll guess Sam, with Jake and Nathan participating. They were all class of 2011, and juniors at the time. 

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.

There should be more to the story. Walt had not been too fond of me, but after that day he seemed to like my class, and frankly me, better. We spoke some. I taught all four of these guys the next year. And I ended up writing Walt’s – and the others’ –  college recommendations.

I also should have provided a link to the scene from Spartacus.

The movie’s writer, Dalton Trumbo, has been jailed for refusing to name names during the witchhunt. Released, he was blacklisted, but continued to write using pseudonym’s or fronts. It is fully appropriate that the first movie to have Trumbo’s name on it in a decade has this most dramatic of refusing-to-name-names scenes.

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