Believe it or not, we teachers do not know everything. Whether its how to solve that really, really confusing math problem or how to solve a really, really silly fight between two best friends. We rely on plenty of other resources to help us out. For that math problem? Simple. The Teacher’s Guide that comes with the textbook. The friend problem? Either the guidance counselor or time alone in the hallway to work it out.
But today I was faced with a problem that no one but you can help me with. Why? Because I want to know what you would want me to do if the situation I’m about to describe was your child:
Today was the culmination of our Short Story unit. As a celebration of learning, we had a scary-storytelling festival, where each student had the opportunity to share an Urban Legend they had written. When I planned this project, there were a couple things I took into consideration:
- I had to find a way to fit 21 stories into 90 minutes.
- The attention span of one kid listening to another kid tops out at 90 seconds, maximum.
Thus, in my instructions, I clearly stated that there was a 2-minute time limit.
The festival started out great. We dimmed the lights, pulled up the fireplace video-loop on the projector, and used my Iphone flashlight app for effect. I had told the students in advance that I didn’t want them to memorize their stories, just read them. All of the students came prepared with their stories. Except for one: Jack.
Sidenote #1: Jack is the kind of boy that would drive you bananas every single day, if not for his smile and quirky sense of humour. Jack is never prepared for class, talks to incessantly to everyone but works well with no one, and truly doesn’t understand why the rules and expectations of the classroom have to apply to him.
Jack did not have his story with him but begged me to let him present anyways. According to him, he didn’t need the written version because he had memorized it. I gave in and let him go.
As you may have guessed, Jack’s story was a disaster. It started off…ok, but it quickly became very clear that he was making it up as he went along; it made no sense and was going on and on and on. After 2 minutes, the other kids stopped listening. After 5 minutes, the kids started staring at me, trying to figure out what I was thinking, studying my face for a reaction.
Sidenote #2: When I was in grade 8, I had the worst, most embarrassing event of my academic career: right in the middle of my big, huge, end-of-year speech, the teacher interrupted and, in front of the whole class, corrected me in a way that negated my entire presentation. I felt so dumb. I hated her after that and never forgot it and swore that I would never make a student feel like that.
That story was what I was thinking about when the kids were staring at me.
Jack’s story passed the 7-minute mark and still, no end was in sight. 13-year-old voice in my head begged me to let him keep going. The 20 sets of 12-year-old eyes staring at me begged me to make him stop.
If you were Jack’s parent, what would’ve wanted me to do?