Saturday, January 30, 2010

36 degrees

Very cold start in New Orleans this morning. Very grey.

It rained yesterday. I made the best of it. The students were anxious and ready to leave as soon as they arrived. Conflicting directions from the administrators didn't help the mood of anyone, as it made our morning routine a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.

I fought hard for the students to be given a break. They tested for four days straight, from 8:30 to 4:00, following up with tutoring until 5. I told them friday would be a day of activity and reflection. Then I was told there was just one more section of the test they would need to take...

First, I objected because I had already told them we were finished. I did this in front of the class. I did it on purpose, because I knew I wasn't going to win, and I knew this new turn of events was going to damage their trust in me as their teacher. Secondly, I objected because another student advocate, the dean, had planned a high school vist for Friday morning until 10:00. Apparently, these administrators hadn't talked to each other.

Well, I was still called a liar. I did succeed in getting this last test pushed back so we could attend the high school visit, but then we were left in limbo for an hour and a 1/2 and the visit was canceled.

Toward the end, with 30 min. remaining, we broke out some games- heart beat and pulse- which always boost morale. It was student led, which always makes me feel good. We took our tests, and then it was on to fly high friday, which is what we call our half day of classes, followed by a school culture building activity. Sometimes the classes act together and sometimes we break off. The Alpha Kings (a self moniker for the 8th grade boys, which sounds more like a gang than an academic fraternity) wanted to play football in the rain. I let them. Even played with them, and no one got hurt.

I was satisfied when one student said, "Man, we do everything- car wash, christmas chicken dinner, now football in the rain!" And I expected some repirmand from the principal, as we sat musty and excited during the 2nd quarter awards ceremony for the last hour of the day.

When it was my turn to go up, the Alpha Kings cheered. Not sure for what- we had no A or B honor roll!! I did give three best improved awards.

The Alpha Kings are a complex experiment that is a little out of my hands. I preached, you are your brother's keeper from the very begining, and fiercely individulistic from a grab what you can culture, they rebeled at that notion of accountability. Through meditation (every morning no matter what) a class chant, and class missions, like a peace walk and a car wash, they have become one. There is very little bullying and only the top alphas really get into it, and I'm glad to say that we've had no major infractions, though we appear wooly. We had one fight this year, which was a reactionary when one student thought another spit on him.

I'm also proud of their collaboration and inventiveness. The Alpha Kings have sayings, like the "Be the anvil." They have 2 daps (one I know, the other is secret), a very annoying slow clap, a particular way of standing in a straight line (also very annoying), and a game they invented called Wolves, in which they howl each other's names.

They think they're pretty elite, but how elite can they be when their mediocre students and athletes? We're going to talk about that.

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