Archive for April 29th, 2014

I had a few random, funny and profound things happen in public school today:

1) As I was coming into my second school I overheard the chemistry teacher telling his AP students about very energetic reactions. I came to the door and said, “Like it not, Mr. V, you are going to get a reaction out of me,” to which he replied, “That was spontaneous!” I reiterated, “Yeh, that was totally spontaneous.” The students just stared in stunned silence. I went across the hall and opened up my room and settled in. Meantime, Mr. V was continuing on about changes in energy of these reactions he was describing. I came back in a few minutes to the doorway, pointing to my brain case and said, “Mr. V, I just wanted your students know that since my spontaneous reaction I am much more stable.” Again the students just stared, though two muffled laughter. Later Mr. V reported that as soon as I left the whole class broke out in laughter because they thought that I am crazy. Maybe, but I’m stable.

2) Later in the day as I was teaching, my teacher’s assistant (TA) brought a bellwork paper to me from one of my students. Bellwork is questions that student answer as review for previous day’s learning and hand in at the end of the week. Early in the week this girl had written on the bellwork, “You look nice today.” The next day she wrote, “You are looking good.” By this time I am a little embarrassed, but my TA pointed to one more entry on a bellwork at the end of the week, “I don’t understand this question,” alongside which my TA had written in red ink, “What’s wrong, is my beauty distracting you?” Oh, my goodness, I wonder what kind of reaction I’ll get out of that one? I guess I’ll have to at least explain that I have a TA.

3) The third occurrence which actually happened first is a bit more serious. I have a girl in my first period class who almost daily greets me with a question about how I am feeling. She is frighteningly perceptive about my emotional state, predicting how I feel by the way she asks about it: “Are you frustrated, Mr. F?” “Are you having a good day, Mr. F?” “Are you angry about something?” “Why do you seem so happy?” “What is bothering you?” “Are you sad?” “Things are going real well today, aren’t they?” “Are you tired?” Now I will be the first to admit that my emotions are easy to read- wear them on my sleeve, as the saying goes- but sometimes I try to hide them because I have a job to do, or I don’t want to upset my students, or because I don’t want to talk about it, or sometimes I don’t think they are even showing. She is almost always right or at least leaning in the right direction in her perceptions. It caused me to think about the saying that we should be thermostats rather than thermometers. That is, we should affect the emotional, moral, and intellectual temperature by our attitudes and actions rather than just reflect it by indicating and becoming the temperature of, giving in to, the surroundings. But I thought, thermostats are also thermometers, for if you don’t know what the temperature is, you can not affect it in a positive way for good. You may be heating things up when they should be cooled down, and vise versa. So I decided that this girl has a very notable talent that she probably acquired from a less than comfortable surroundings where she needs to read the temperature to stay out of trouble. If she uses her readings carefully, both in terms of not insisting that she is always right when she may not be and using the information to better her reaction to it rather than copying peer pressures, she may help herself and others move toward more profitable responses. For my part, I have decided to stop being annoyed at the perceptions and use them as checks on both my emotional state and how I am coming across to those I am supposed to be serving. That is humbling and challenging. And I’ve decided to give this girl the nickname, Thelma (“Thermometer Lady”). It almost works; it is a mash up after all.

4) I’m on a roll now, so here is a “foot in mouth disease” story from several weeks ago. My Physics students were discussing problems they had attempted for homework in a whiteboard session. Students collaborate in small groups to write answers to problems on 2′ x 3′ dry erase boards. Then they defend their answer before the rest of the class. Properly facilitated and fully engaged participation on the part of students makes this possibly the most fruitful form of group thinking. One of the groups had a particularly confusing problem for them that had precipitated much heated debated among the three group members. In fact, one of the students had gone so far as to prepare his own whiteboard with an alternative answer. The two other students somewhat disdainfully commented that A had drawn up his own answer. Realizing that A, who is an Asian student, had the right answer and that the whole set up had a teachable moment, I quieted the other students by saying, “Listen up, A has a minority report!” The class went totally silent and African-American Miss S looked totally shocked. I went on about how we should listen to A because sometimes the Minority Report was the correct one and that he should be heard. I could hear S mutter, “But, Mr. F…” My students just stared (or glared?) at me. Now all this while I had been thinking Majority and Minority decisions of the Supreme Court and the minority reports that the fewer justices give when they vehemently disagree with the majority. Suddenly it occurred to me how my students were perceiving what I was saying. I laughed rather uncontrollably for a few moments which further horrified my students until I explained that I had not meant at all what they had heard. We now wait for the “Minority Report” with a chuckle.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains