The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 22 2012

Fun Friday Stories

Day 14

Story #1: Fun With Names

I have a class points system. It’s pretty basic; if everyone is doing the right thing, you get a point. Everyone’s writing silently during independent work – you get a point. Everyone is tracking me during the lesson – you get a point. Every week or two, if a class hits the required number of points, it earns a reward. These are usually either experiments or fall under the broad category of “Mr. Adler does silly stuff.”

Yesterday’s reward fell into the silly stuff category. I told my classes that if they earned 50 points over the whole week, I would tell them my full name. When I actually revealed my name, I added that as they left the room, they could say bye to me however they wanted. For reference, my full name is Daniel Howard Adler. Here is some of what I heard:

  • “Goodbye Daniel!”
  • “Goodbye Howard!”
  • “Goodbye Howard Man!”
  • “Goodbye D-Dog!”
  • “Goodbye Dwight Howard!”
  • “Goodbye D-Man Howard-Son!”

And, my personal favorite:

S is probably my most straight-arrow student, a 4-foot-6-ish girl who participates assiduously and as far as I can tell, would never step out of line in class, even if you paid her to. As she leaves the classroom, she shakes my hand, looks at me with clear trepidation, and says: “Goodbye … D-Money!” She then scurries away as quickly as humanly possible before I can see her blush.

I think I love my kids.

Story #2: Turtle Talk

Normal people with normal jobs share banter with colleagues at the water cooler. I am not normal. I share banter with 11-year-olds while we clean the turtle tank.

Every two weeks, the turtle tank has to be cleaned. The filters are removed and scrubbed, the turtles’ little rock is scrubbed, the water is emptied, and then the tank is scrubbed. Kids LOVE cleaning the turtle tank. I cannot explain why. After two weeks, the tank smells like ass. Turtles may be cute, but their feces are no cuter than any other species’.

First, my “Turtle Trackers” started to clean. Then a few kids hanging around helped out for a few minutes, until their parents inevitably showed up and they had to leave. Finally, it was just me, J and D, brother and sister and my most consistent turtle assistants.

The first moment of turtle joy came when I started to teach D jokes. By jokes I mean puns, which means none of them were even remotely funny. Think, “What did the daddy tomato say to the baby tomato when he jumped on the baby because he was walking too slowly? Ketchup!” (yes, you can groan now) I would tell D jokes, then send her to tell them to my homeroom partner, Maggie, an avowed pun detester. Maggie would then send D back with equally horrible “jokes.” “What do you call a man on his knees at church? Neil!”

This went on until finally D came back to me looking extremely bashful. She shook her head back and forth saying, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to.” Finally: “What do you call a teacher who makes really bad jokes? A Mr. Adler!” Low blow, Maggie.

Cleaning the turtle tank takes a long time, about one-and-a-half hours, even with help. Like I wrote on Thursday, it’s been a long week. The end of my week gets pretty hectic with a packed schedule and grad school on Thursday nights. By around 5:30, my eyelids were drooping as I held one end of the tank up so J could scoop the last of the water out. I prayed I would stay awake long enough to join my colleagues at the bar, so I wouldn’t have to just go home and pass out at 8 pm.

As we finished up by wiping down the table and floors around the tank – we’d done our fair share of accidental splashing – D noticed my lethargy. She said, in what is by far my favorite quote of the week, “It’s been a hard week of being Mr. Adler.”

There is something wonderful about a 10-year-old girl showing concern for me. I think that’s one of the best parts about teaching. Yeah, I was tired. But when you can appreciate the company of your kids over a nice pair of reptiles at the end of the week, being tired really doesn’t seem so bad.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

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