The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 09 2013

On Broken Copiers and Dead Turtles

Day 170: So, sometimes, your normal day runs into an obstacle or two. Friday was one of those days.

We have three printers at school. Sometimes, one breaks. Friday, all three broke. This left me without a printer on a day when all of my classes depended on my ability to print quizzes and final exam review packets.

I spent most of my prep period fiddling around with printers, shaking toner cartridges, and resisting the urge to curse loudly. With 10 minutes before class, it became apparent this was not a battle I was going to win. Time to, as I tell my children, call an audible.

I borrowed some lined paper and blank paper and walked to class. When second period showed up, I calmly told them we were facing some minor technical difficulties today, and had to change the plan. I typed up the 37 vocabulary words they needed to know for the final, and gave them some options – make some flash cards, write out sentences, write a story, or make a mind-map. Annnnd … Go!

Two of my classes were 100 minutes long, and as you can probably guess, a few students managed to get off task with that much time to make flash cards. But by and large, kids were on their game. Flash cards were created and cut, sentences were written, and one quartet even wrote a story about Shanaynay and her magical photosynthesis.

Just when it seemed the day was finally over, one more obstacle. I have two class turtles. Well, had. In the middle of eighth period, when I was in the office, two of my kids ran in and dragged me back to my classroom, screaming about a dead turtle. Kids had been cleaning the tank, and so the turtles were in a bucket in the back of the room. Sure enough, there was Sammy, listlessly bobbing in the water.

Within moments, I had 20 students crowded around me. I got the turtles out of the room into the hallway, where more gathered, and all attempts to disperse the crowd failed. I sent JP to find the janitor, so we could bury the turtle, but the principal brought him back, letting me know it was causing a bit of a ruckus to wander around the school with a dead turtle.

So, despite lack of shovel, I and about 20 children went outside in the rain to bury Sammy. As JP filled in a muddy hole, several students spontaneously broke into “Amazing Grace.” Students kept running up to me to either let me know who they thought had killed the turtle (I suspect me, given how long I’d waited to clean the tank) or ask me if I was sad. The whole thing was so damn cute, it took all of my effort not to laugh and keep looking appropriately somber.

I’m not sure there’s a consistent take-away from both the copier mishap and the loss of my turtle, so I’ll tackle them separately. The copier fiasco reminds me just how much teaching has taught me to stay calm and be flexible, and I’m very glad I’ve gained that skill. I can only imagine how well it will serve me over time. And the turtle adventure reminds me just how great and caring my kids are, even when they disrespect me, or reveal the depths of their pre-teen angst and hormones. I will really miss them next year.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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