Unacceptable…

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We are in the midst of a unit on the War of 1812.  This week we talked about the Battle of Fort Mc Henry and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. You know that song that you have to stand-up for at sporting events…what the heck is a rampart anyway?  After learning about the battle we examined the words of the song and the kids interpreted the first verse.  Last night I gave them a question to answer, “Should the Star Spangled Banner be the National Anthem?”  The kids came in today and presented their answers.  The kids all had such good answers and reasons and details to back up their answers.  One of the best lines might have been, “If it’s too hard for Christina Aguilera to remember, it’s too hard for rest of us.”  I am not sure if his argument for dumbing down the words so that everyone singing it could connect with the lyrics would convince Congress to change the song, but it sure made sense to the class.

On the whole the kids did pretty well, but many just laughed and and some just offered up silly alternative songs.  For many of the assignments I had tears in my eyes.  Because they are still in middle school, I tend to be a bit forgiving, but maybe I am not being rigorous enough. After reflecting on their presentations today, I do wonder about whether I am setting them up for trouble in high school.  I can imagine the kids coming in with the same type of assignments next year and the teacher saying “this is unacceptable.”

Check out below the homework this kid handed in…he hand the nerve to write his answer on a basketball.  He didn’t tell us why, until someone asked at the end.  Something about how the new anthem should reflect the competitive nature of our country and the same spirit that millions celebrate as they reverently cheer on their favorite sports teams.  He said he wanted to use a symbol that everyone would understand. I picture him walking into a class in the future, in line to hand in his homework, everyone putting their papers into a folders, and he steps up to try to place his ball in, but it just doesn’t fit like the rest of them, and he hears the teacher say, “This is unacceptable.”

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I think a lot of the kids just did not take their assignment seriously…end of the week, one little question for homework, just throw something together for an easy “A.”.  I could tell who is thinking that immediately after handing out the directions, they are always the kids who ask, “Can we do it in a group?”  You know they only ask so they could do the work of one person split amongst three.  I tried to answer without being an Ogre… “But you only have one night to do this, you can’t expect to get together and organize something that would be quality work in one night.”  After teaching for twenty years I know that any group project that gets done in a rush outside of school in one night usually is a mess.  The greatest examples are those videos of kids messing around, full of horseplay and laughing. I had one group of three kids attempt to get it done in one night and they played a video for the class that is a perfect example of what happens when kids get together.  Of course, two of them left before the project was finished and so didn’t have access to it when their friend texted them saying she was sick and couldn’t come to school—yep, first period, first group called on.  What a way to start.  They had to sneak a cell phone call in front of the class to have their sick friend guide them to the right url on youtube. Good thing I didn’t see it because we have a no cell phone policy and would have had to confiscate it.  Check out these kids fooling around in this video and not taking their work seriously as they try to answer “Should the Star Spangled Banner be the National Anthem?”

I picture them walking into a class in the future, in line to hand in their homework, everyone putting their papers into a folders, and they step up to the teacher and ask them to open up youtube so they can show their video to the class, the teacher tells them they can’t watch it, their work needs to be in the folder like everyone else, so they drop their flash drive with a back-up copy into the folder, but it just doesn’t fit like the rest of them and falls out onto the floor.  As they walk away they hear the teacher say, “This is unacceptable.”

What am I going to do with these kids? I gave them one night to answer a simple question and instead of getting papers I could just place into a folder and grade when I got home, I received songs, poems, court cases, videos, role playing shenanigans, and someone made a cardboard TV and stuck his head through it while doing some acting with mustaches drawn on his fingers. It took us THE ENTIRE PERIOD to get through them.  I can’t seem to get them to take their work seriously, follow my directions step-by-step, and understand that in order to be successful in the future they need to pass in work that fits in with everyone else.

I hope when they leave me they continue to do “unacceptable” things. I hope they live their lives not accepting the staus quo. I hope they keep pushing the boundries of the directions we live by.
I’d accept that…would you?

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