Week 2.  For my 7th graders, this is the time when the gloves come off and my academic lambs take a beat down.  My class is a BIG change for my new students because I am frustrating in my lack of perceived help; they don’t want help, they want me to give them the answer.   On the day that I issue textbooks (never to be used again after this activity) I give them a little longitude and latitude review (simple); BUT the last 3 questions cause them a lot of problems.  I asked them why lines of longitude are basically the same length and why lines of latitude are different lengths.  Most get those two questions; some needed my Winnie the Pooh ball to help understand.  On the last question I asked them to draw the EXACT representation of 90 degrees North; to set it up we talk about Ockham’s Razor.  Days, it takes days for them to get this right.  I am little help, short of telling them that they are not completely accurate.  There is frustration by them and a little taunting by me.  My rule is that until one student gets it that the question will go unanswered and even then I only recreate lines of longitude intersecting at the poles with string to provide a hint.

There is a sense of “do it for me” in some of my kids that is frustrating.  It is not from a lack of capability; it is a learned helplessness.  For example, I gave my students a class guide that contained pictures and written instructions to complete the simple task of taping papers into our interactive notebooks.

Class Guide - Day 8 - Stone Age Part II - Page 1Class Guide - Day 8 - Stone Age Part II - Page 2

As I walked around class there would be about five kids that were dumbfounded by the task and looked at my with puppy dog eyes and asking for help.  For those you that know me; this was not going to go well.  I would ask them to read the first task and then look at the picture; then I would ask them what they thought they should do and walked away with an “L.A. Law lawyer pivot”.  I hate self-imposed helplessness.

My We the People 8th grade history class is going pretty well, even though the period flies by and I never get to everything.  This came to a head last Monday I tried to force 2-hours of learning into 42 minutes.  I had to apologize to the kids on Tuesday and put one of my best kids in charge of calling me out if I sacrifice understanding for coverage.  I have to confess that I feel the time racing out of the hour glass as we compete in November and we have so much to learn.  I count my blessings that we did a good job and identifying kids; they bring an energy to the class.  I joked after we talked about John Locke that we should tattoo “life, liberty, and property” on our arms as a reminder of the state of nature; the next day some of my kids had their tattoo.

Back to school night is always interesting to me because we have it so early that there is not a chance that I know their child’s name; however, I can always tell which classes will have my better students; those are the classes that are standing room only.  Needless to say that my We the People class was full; even though they were 8th grade parents who do you attend B2S night at the same rate as 7th grade parents.