In the faculty-office right across the hall from my classroom is a big, yellow yoga that has udders. Seriously. Udders.
Actually, I have no idea what they are. I figure they must be to keep the ball in place so that a person doesn’t launch off the ball or go flopping to the ground. Personally, that’s exactly what I would do because I am so likely to flop around.
Of course, turn it over and it’s like one of those ball-toys from childhood, you know…those bounce ball toys that have handles on it.
During my planning period today, in between photocopying, grading, sending emails, chatting with other teachers, and meeting briefly with my principal, I dug out the yellow-uddered-yoga-ball and sat on it. Okay…I bounced on it. But that was with the udders/stoppers in the down-position as in making sure the ball was firmly planted to the floor.
And then I turned it over so that the udders were in the up-position. And held on. And went for a bounce.
Okay, I’ll confess it; I bounced around the office. In my nice, professional clothing. I bounced around the office and laughed like a lunatic.
Several hours later, my AP Lit seniors came to my classroom and I just happened to have the yellow-uddered-yoga-ball in my classroom. And, naturally, the students were curious about the udders. I explained that they were probably intended for holding the ball in place.
Naturally, this became the greatest source of interest for the students.
“Can we sit on it?” someone asked.
“Go for it.”
And the chaos erupted. As classes changed and students entered and left the room, the yellow-uddered-yoga-ball became a seat, a toy, a source of incredible laughter. One boy sat on it as was deemed proper. Udders-down.
Then, the udders went up. And skinny-adult hands grabbed ahold and the launching began.
Round and round the room, the students took turns playing on the ball. One boy, the tallest in the room, naturally, was getting some serious air. His hair would lift as he hit the apex of his bounce and would then collapse-fall back to its gravity-down position as he struck the floor.
And then up again, a tidy mushroom cloud.
And down again, yuppy and professional.
Another student took a video which she then programmed to her phone to go at triple speed. And there was bouncy-boy happily bopping around the room. I’m at the board writing information for students. Others are giving me papers, materials, etc.
And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter in high-pitched squirrely voices as bouncy-boy orbits the room on his yellow-uddered-satellite.
Today, I worked with my sophomores on Hamlet, Act V when everyone pretty much dies. We started with the gravediggers and I laughed at all the jokes that I got and they didn’t (They don’t know what the word bunghole but I always have to laugh because I think of Beavis and Butthead). Then, we moved into the bloodbath and, next thing I know, I have students lying around the room, half in and half out of desks as their characters had died.
Last week, we acted out Act Four, Scene Three (or was it Act Three, Scene Four) when Hamlet confronts Gertrude. We did stichomythia sword-fighting with pool noodles so the students could see and feel the tension created by Hamlet’s animosity for his mother.
I just finished reading a former teacher’s blog about politics and how the political world drove her out of teaching. And, frankly, I understand.
All this material about Common Core and end of year testing and No Child Left Behind….I keep on hearing this information. And it’s being developed by people, politicians, individuals who have no background in teaching, who don’t know what it is to devote one’s life to other people on a daily basis. I have to write lesson plans that are saturated with codes and numbers and information so that other people can justify my work. And I don’t mind being held accountable.
But come in to my classroom any time, any day of the week, and you’ll see teaching.
Sure, my students today were sitting on yellow-uddered-yoga-balls and they were laughing and having a grand time.
But in this race towards having high numbers and blue ribbons and self-congratulatory senses of greatness, we keep on forgetting who our real “clients” are.
Even my seniors, in the end, are still children.
Ten or so years ago, my classroom was a trailer and the snow started falling. During my class, I told the students that we should have “snow turret’s syndrome” and just randomly say the word “snow.” Therefore, here’s how class discussion went:
“Today, I snow observed that the character, Laertes, was seeking snow revenge for his father’s death.”
Today, I observed that the character, Snaertes…”
Because another form of Snow Turret’s Syndrome is to have the first two letters of any word start with “sn” in honor of snow.
Then, when the snow really started pelting down, we went outside and ran circles around the trailer and picked up fluffy clumps of snow and threw them at each other. And we laughed and laughed and laughed.
One student, this brilliant young woman, paused as she came back into the trailer. She smiled at me and thanked me, saying, “you remember that we’re still kids. And you let us be kids.”
Even I had forgotten that my students were still kids. And I still forget sometimes. It seems like the smarter they are and the more we expect from them, the more we forget that these students are just kids. And they need to be kids. And they need to laugh.
Yup. I love hearing my students laugh. I love the crescents of their smiles. Because too often they come to me and their faces are drawn with anxiety and tension. Another sleepless night. It worries me when fifteen year olds have black circles under their eyes due to another long night of studying.
My techniques don’t work for everyone. I’m a bit weird when it comes to how I teach. But it works. My students laugh; therefore they relax. When they relax, they are ready to learn.
So, yeah, they bounced around the room today on yellow-juddered-yoga-balls. And they saw a video of them bouncing around the room on those balls with the speed set to double the pace.
And they laughed at me as I laughed so hard I bent over my podium and squeezed my eyes shut and tears wept out the edges.
And then, later, we analyzed the “African Queen” character from Heart of Darkness and discussed Conrad’s treatment of the African natives and the symbolism within the novel and the diction and syntax.
My techniques will never have a code or a number beside them. I tried presenting on how to fight student apathy and I had to admit to my audience that my techniques weren’t going to work for everyone and that people needed to do what they were comfortable doing.
For me, it’s bouncing on yellow-uddered-yoga-balls. And hearing the beautiful sound of laughter, even if it’s high-pitched squeaky laughter.