POP 4: Sorting out Problems (with Oil etc.)
Thought long and hard about how to rescue the hate-the-teacher brewing yesterday. Tempting to decide that all 8th graders are a&^ holes and I should just tighten up. Ooh, and it would feel so righteous. It doesn’t ever work. (And never, ever check rateyourteacher.com immediately after a year like that. Nuff said.) So this is what I came up with instead:
Apologized first for being in a bad temper yesterday then set out a new policy:
“If you really have to say something to your friend, quietly step outside and say it. So long as you don’t disrupt class, I’m fine with that. Of course, you might miss some important instruction and it might affect your academics. I’ll keep a record in case your parents want to know what’s going on. But if you keep your grades up and are quiet about it, great.” Stunned silence.
“So we won’t be in trouble?” “Not unless you are screwing around outside.” (Which happened within 10 minutes of the new policy.)
“Can we get anyone anywhere in the class to come out with us?” “No. Just at your table.”
So several kids tried it out. A couple tried the window puppet show thing. Quietly told them to knock it off and let them back in. A couple more went out to finish their conversation and came back in and got to work. Then two guys asked if they could have a third friend join them. Uh, no, it’s not going to be a party out there. I shoo them back in after a couple of minutes.
But here’s the thing, the kids in class felt like they were CHOOSING to be there and all of the ire of yesterday evaporated.
We settled back to watch some telly. First the blackberry clip from The One Ronnie for a bit of a laugh together. You should really check this out 🙂
Then the more informative but less entertaining clip on oil exploration, production and refining. Allowed them a few minutes to add to their notes, then had them put those away and passed out paper bits. As they watched the Best of the Best slide show, they wrote down problems with oil, one per bit. I’d had a chance to make a few corrections, added a few pics to the slides, and the problem of ocean acidification that no one had mentioned yet.
I accidentally watched the documentary “Crude Awakening” last night – didn’t really cheer me up, imagine. But I did get some perspective on the sheer wonder of oil and it’s profound effects:
A barrel of oil contains as much energy as 12 people working for a year, and that Americans use the equivalent of 25 barrels each a year. Don’t quote me on the figures, but seriously, it’s like having 274 slaves each. We are each living more luxuriously than the Pharaohs of Egypt, with less danger of assassination or having to marry your kid brother.
Along with righteousness, knowing it all and telling ’em stuff is pretty tempting too. But it works more quietly and powerfully to let them discover much of it themselves and be shocked, outraged or whatever. So I’m resisting the urge to show heavily slanted stuff like “Home” or “An Inconvenient Truth” at least to start with. Instead, they had to figure out what the graph of oil discoveries, and production is saying. It’s pretty sobering to hear 13 year olds figure out that oil has probably peaked. They still remember the sandbox in kindergarten and know that a valuable and scarce resource will probably result in wars. But unlike adults who figure it out, most don’t seem especially downcast about it.
Finally, the groups sorted out their problems into categories they named themselves, toured around to see what other tables were thinking and made their first pass at identifying a problem to work on. They are starting to talk to each other about who’s working with who and what they want to study. Nice to hear them referring to what they learned in the TAP projects last year – several did plastic trash and one really wants to save more Manatees and is trying to make some connection with oil. Good try. No.
So over all, it was a much, much better day. Felt like there was learning and enthusiasm back all round.