Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Clear Message

One of the struggles I have had as a teacher is creating assignments that are just challenging enough to promote intellectual growth without accidentally convincing anyone that s/he is a hopeless dolt. Because I teach in a middle school, that's supremely hard to do. The young people come to school overwhelmed. They are adjusting to multiple teachers and multiple sets of expectations. Also, they are being beaten silly by hormones and the general self-consciousness that arises when one's own body turns on one. Since the work of just BEING is so strenuous, all homework assignments I give are greeted with a groan that loosely translates to: "Why, oh why, must adults always ruin my life with their incessant demands?"

So, as a teacher, you learn to seek feedback from other teachers, parents, and your daily horoscope before you ask the children if you make them work too hard. But, sometimes, the young people perceive that one assignment, more than any other in their memory, is the biggest suckfest of suckiness that ever sucked. And they find a fun way to express that.

Do you know how you can tell that your students consider the project you have assigned them over the next couple of weeks to be excessively demanding?

Well, I'll tell you. After you have explained the project, the students look around at each other, dumbfounded. And then one brave soul stands up, points his pen at you, and shouts:


Eloquent, no? I laughed so hard I almost changed the rubric.