Shadow dancing

I spent the late morning/early afternoon at Grafton Middle School and, sadly, failed in my parental duty. I didn’t embarrass my son AT ALL and, in fact, I was running into other parents (sometimes literally, sorry, halls were crowded) everywhere.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the boy-child’s teachers. The kids were really enthusiastic in most of the classes and I have to point out that Mr. Mitchell, who had 27 kids jammed into his tiny social studies classroom, had them completely riveted while talking about Zimbabwe (referencing Robert Mugabe’s #4 placement on Parade magazine’s list of the 10 worst dictators — and then going through the list and discussing each of them and their atrocities — was a nice touch, as was including photos of Mugabe’s mansion in his lesson).

And yes, the middle school is really crowded — 27 seemed the norm for the kid’s classes and room sizes varied — and it’s not, physically, in the best shape. At this point in time, however, he’s thriving there and I can’t imagine pulling him out just because I’m not a fan of the building.

Highlights from my notebook:

  • I can’t believe the size of the binders the kids are carrying around. One kid’s binder was at least 10 inches thick, something which I marveled at until he opened it up and a rolled-up sweatshirt tumbled out. Backpacks go in lockers during the school day, of course, but the kids in the hallways were all carrying stacks of books and binders — if we could put the books on barbells, we could almost count the switches between classes as physical education!
  • Label on the wall of the Earth Science teacher’s classroom: Campbell’s Primordial Soup.
  • Why I should not shadow my son: he volunteered to bring in play dough, which I must make after writing this, to make scale models of maps.
  • Easy Batman costume demonstrated by a kid acting up before class starts — remove cloth book cover, put on head.
  • The kids reading out loud in Language Arts don’t. pause. between. words. awkwardly. like I remember the kids in my school — even as high as high school — doing when they read out loud. Thank God.
  • The classroom clock worked in only one of the four classrooms I visited.
  • I totally rocked the “Jeopardy!” game the Language Arts Extension teacher sprang on the kids as a quiz. Proof that Mrs. Athanas can think on her feet: she had created a Powerpoint version of the game to use on the classroom’s SmartBoard, but when it failed to work during a trial run before school, she quickly whipped up a substitute on an easel. I’ve never seen kids so eager to explain forms of literature before.
  • I’ll admit it: I skipped out on the morning classes because I feared Mr. Hammond. I’m told he’s been springing math quizzes on the parents, and THAT really would have embarrassed my son!

3 thoughts on “Shadow dancing

  1. Mr. Hammond told the kids about the work to rule issue while I sat in on my daughter’s math class. He seemed genuinely saddened by the fact that he would not be able to give the kids after school help or even lunchtime help until after Thanksgiving.

    Mr. Mitchell was great! He is an excellent speaker and keeps the kids’ attention in such a positive way! Of course I felt like I was 100 years old when he was talking about the “low points” in American history and he mentioned that he was only THREE years old when the ball went between Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986!

  2. I had a great day shadowing with my 6th grader and found it didn’t stress me out nearly as much as when I shadowed my now freshman student. Some of the classes I was very much a part of the woodwork, which was fine, and others I had a little more involvement. My impressions of the teachers are excellent and that many of them have the patience needed for the job. Science class and Social Studies seemed crowded as far as space, not just number of students. There is not much room for the teacher to move around the tables, those huge binders falling on the floor etc. Mr. Mitchell leads a lively interactive class and I am glad to see that he brings history to current events. It is good that at this age they are becoming more involved in current events without scaring them too much (heck I’m scared!). I like that the teachers for the most part try to include all the kids in highlighting their work and participation, even the quieter ones or ones without the most professionally done poster or writing…great for a confidence boost. Another impression I had is also the age of some of the teachers. Made me feel old, but I think the kids relate well to that, also since many of them are having male teachers for the first time, it helps that they are really into what they do.

    I am sure that some of them are sad/disappointed about the work to rule vote since so many of them are so dedicated to their students. This will really affect these students since I heard several teachers talking to kids about coming back to the class with their lunch to work on assignments, finish a test or study with the teacher. These teachers work hard but in this economy and with so many people struggling to keep a job, find a job, pay ever rising costs of health ins/health care, I have less sympathy for their plight. Lots of us do not have unions to help protect our jobs. Grafton has amazing teachers but there are a few I know of who should retire or move on and because of union, it is a real challenge for administration, who admit they want them gone (unofficially, of course), to make that happen. There aren’t many jobs that you can underperform and get away with it and plenty of jobs, especially today, where you can work your @$$ off (as our teachers do) and still lose your job or be underpaid.

    My big question is WHY WERE THE NEGOTIATIONS BEEN SUSPENDED? Is it true that the teachers suspended talks?

  3. Science was definitely a crowded classroom — I had to keep moving my knees so the kids at the desk in front of the parents could push their chairs back.

    Just as problematic, I thought, are the lockers in the classrooms. A student came in mid-class during Social Studies to get something out of her locker and while she seemed to be trying to be as quiet as possible, it was still an interruption and the kids near the locker had to move aside so she could access it!

    I’m at the point where I don’t even want to know age anymore. One of my reporters pointed out during the World Series last year that she had just BEEN BORN when the ball went through Buckner’s legs! (We won’t even go into the culture shock of the college intern noting that she was born the year I graduated BU.)

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