Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Okay, Burn Her Already. Or Something.

So. Fifth grade. They study US history, as you may recall. And the particular fifth graders who's story I'm telling are covering the Revolutionary War at the moment. (And I am determined to be able to show you all an awesome video of them singing Miley Cyrus' timelessly classic hit "Founders if the USA" . . . which will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome, lol.)

Apparently this is a yearly thing - the kids come in one day and their desks are gone (out in the hall), their teachers have been "replaced" by "Mr. (/Ms.) Cruel," and overall classroom conditions are sort of vaguely unpleasant. To get things back the way they should be they have to write their own Declaration of Independence from Mr. Cruel, turn it in to the principal, and she has to accept it.

This? Is awesome.

I? May be slightly evil.

I spent most of yesterday trying not to giggle as I watched those kids have to sit straight - no backs touching the chairs! - and use chalkboards - nice cursive, if we couldn't read it they had to do it again. Most of them just kind of took it, but to hear some of them moaning and groaning you'd think the Geneva conventions had been violated or something. But it was really amazing how quiet the classroom was . . . no raising hands or shouting out answers, if they had something to say they stood up and waited. It was kind of weird, but awesome. And no one was allowed to ask for help, so I think a few kids discovered that they actually do know how to add and subtract fractions after all - yay!

Most interesting was watching them alphabetize their spelling list - again, on a chalkboard on their laps and in "elegant" cursive. It took some of them a lot longer than it would have taken with pencil and paper on a table, and a few of them had to do it over and over again because they spelled one word wrong or got to in the wrong order or their handwriting was illegible. I'm sure you all remember my opinion of rosy-tinted everything-today-is-awful internet nostalgia, but I'll never deny that some things were probably better back in the day. It's just too bad we couldn't go really old school and pull out the switches for misbehavior, lol. Instead they have to do push ups . . . which, ultimately, is probably more beneficial than a beating, you know? And I have to admit that I felt a little bit of maniacal glee in making the kid who enjoyed the push ups and was trying to get "punished" with more write lines - "I will not pull Sally's pigtails." style. In cursive. And I made him redo it when I couldn't read it.

(side note - this is a boy who uses text speak in his writing assignments. Pretty sure I created his own personal circle of hell. *insert evil laugh here*)

The best part of the whole project has been the conversations I've had with the kids. They generally start with comments about aren't they glad they didn't live 200 years ago, and was it this hard when I was in school doing it this way? To which I can only respond with a quite incredulous "Just how old do you think I am?!?!"

The good news: they've gone no farther than 9 years too high.

The bad news: they're old enough to realize how close they are to 17, so no one's erred on the ten years too low end. Most of them are actually pretty close.

Anyway, that leads to a conversation about how they started transitioning from chalkboards to white boards when I was in 5th or 6th grade. And did they have phones then. And when I said yes the first assumption was that I had a Zack Morris brick cell. And when I said explained that cell phones weren't very common and we had a regular telephone and one of the kids said "you mean the kind that goes on the wall?" I said yes, but I have to wonder whether the picture in his head was something like this or something like this.

Then there was today. Someone mentioned Mr. Cox, and a couple of others kids jumped on the whole "it's not Mr. Cox, it's Mr. Cruel!" thing and that led to wondering where Mr. Cox has gone. (their teacher is clearly the same, but the story is that he had to leave suddenly, but was very sad and stuff) And that led to silly stories about their teacher being a superhero or some James Bond-esque spy on a secret mission and fun stuff like that. And then along comes (Claudio), who has made a bit of a reputation for himself when it comes to saying off the wall things. And he declares that there can only be two reasons for their old teacher to be missing: "either he's dating, or he's sick."

Because, you know, people who are dating have neither time, inclination, nor reason to do anything else.

Maybe you just had to be there, but I've pretty much given up trying to hold in the giggles when kids say those darndest things. I had him repeat it a couple of times - I couldn't believe I'd heard him right! - and then I was only there to be gawked at for a few minutes. None of the kids got what I found so funny, but they definitely get a kick out of how red my face gets when I laugh that hard.

It's entirely up to the principal whether she accepts the declarations and gives the kids their "freedoms" back or not. (btw, did I mention there's no recess, they have to march around the block instead, and lunch is ten minutes and then it's right back to work?) She's a stickler for grammar and such (yay!) and one missed sentence capital will get the whole thing rejected and they have to do the whole thing again. On unlined yellow-y paper that looks kind of Declaration-y. Clearly spaced, line-wise and paragraph-wise. In nice, legible cursive. My class has already had one (possibly two) drafts rejected. Apparently the longest this has ever gone on is just over a week. I kind of want this to keep going on . . . it's so much fun to watch!

Like I said, I may be slightly evil. :-)

P. ost S. cript
Talk about begging for Mythbusters to try it! How does this even happen?!?!


  1. The 5th grade teacher I student taught with does the same thing! But they don't have to take their declaration to the principal. And I was so sad I missed it! If I get to teach 5th grade, I'm so doing that.

  2. brilliant.

    and the video? fire hydrant? weird...

  3. Note to self: Don't park a car on top of a geyser.

    (The video would have been cooler if it included air cannons shooting basketballs over the top of the empire state building)