It’s no secret that my class’s content is mind-numbing. I sympathize with my students who have fallen asleep, cheeks pressed to their sanitized desks and drool unspooling from the corners of their mouths, lulled into slumber because The Odyssey is boring. Who can blame them? It’s terribly long, was written eons ago, and is a poem. I struggle to contain my excitement, too.
(You have no idea how much middle schoolers loathe poetry. But I adore yelling: Guess what? We’re going to read a poem today!!!! And delight in the resounding chorus of teenage groans of displeasure following my pronouncement.)
Anyway, to further torture students, I try to make it as awkward as possible for my own entertainment.
Because messing with the kids is the best part of my job.
Here’s how I tortured my students this week:
- I made them do their work in Kami. If you’re unfamiliar with Kami, it’s a PDF annotation program. The students despise it because despite an autosave feature, it only saves frequently not constantly. Apparently they’ve never known the despair of writing an essay in Microsoft Word that you’ve stayed up all night to complete that’s due to a professor in a couple of hours and losing your work because you accidentally closed the document without hitting “save now.” The. Horror. Google Docs has spoiled them. Experiencing the collective agony of pre-Google technology will make them better human beings.
- I made them talk to their laptops. Well, I specifically asked them to converse with Kami and ply her with compliments so she’d be more willing to save their work. An ALARMING number of students performed the exact opposite of my request and told Kami horrible, awful things, calling her names. One student even expressed to Kami a disquieting desire to light her on fire. Middle schoolers are terrible at being kind, but they loved talking to inanimate objects–even though they were being total Regina Georges while doing so. Weirdos.
- I made them listen to the cyclops scene from The Odyssey straight through, it’s thirty minutes long, without stopping–on a Friday. Sir Ian McKellen narrates the audiobook for them, but Gandalf fails to impress them. I did soften the blow by playing some pop culture clips of the Lotus Eaters beforehand. At least I didn’t test them?
- I talked to myself obnoxiously to fill awkward silences. My second block refuses to warm up to me, laugh at my terrible puns and dad jokes, and to be anything but serious. I will loosen them up, and if it means I’m narrating my inner monologue audibly for the rest of the year, then so be it.
- I called myself beautiful. Actually, I referred to myself as a “lustrous goddess,” like in The Odyssey, and the boys laughed in horror at a grown woman’s audacity at calling herself pretty. If you want your ego shattered, I suggest employing this strategy. Another good strategy is to ask them to guess your age. ONLY embark on either of these methods if you can brush off the comments and have a sense of humor about their reactions. (Also. What. The. Hell? What kind of society have we created that it’s not socially acceptable to call yourself beautiful and that it makes people and children uncomfortable when you do?)
What did you do, teacher friends, to add a little humor to your classrooms this week?