Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More Tales From the School Yard

My days fly by. I'm busy, I use my voice a lot (talking, singing, etc.), and I collapse in bed each night...and I'm so, so satisfied.

Here's some Tales From the School Yard.


With my Monday-through-Thursday middle school VAPA class, I'm quite content to give them a project to work on, and not spend a lot of time talking at them. They don't want to listen to a lecture on art or music--they want to make something. We only have thirty-five minutes in the class period, so it's best for me to give quick instructions, show them where the supplies are, and let them loose.

I let them talk as they work. Middle school kids need that social interaction, and as long as the noise level is reasonable and they're talking about safe topics, I'm happy. Every once in a while, I hear snippets of what they're talking about...and often, those snippets make me laugh.

Take today, as I listened in on some 6th grade boys talking about...hominids. Hey! They know what a hominid is!


"Ms. Cooper, are you an ancient hominid?"

I chuckled softly to myself. "Yes."

"No she's not!! She's a modern hominid!"

"No, I'm ancient. Truly ancient."

The discussion went on without me, and quickly became a debate about whether humans and apes are related. There was one kid who seemed particularly adamant that we are not, in fact, apes.

"Ms. Cooper," he asked. "Do you believe we're related to apes?"

Well, yes, I do, but I'm not about to get into a religious debate with a student. I evaded the question deftly and quickly...and listened as the boys at that table continued the discussion. The second it started sounding like more "argument" than "debate," I piped in.

"Guys...why don't we discuss something else, that's not likely to make everyone argue and get angry? Like...how 'bout them Niners against Pittsburgh?"

Well, that got them off and running.


One thing that's sweet and adorable about the elementary set is that when they love a teacher, they really LOVE that teacher. I joke that I feel like Ms. America walking through the school--waving, smiling, responding to the greetings of children as I pass through. There are times I walk down a hallway with a ukulele strapped to my back, a laptop under one arm, and a hand to my lips, reminding a squirming class that they're supposed to be quiet in the hallways as they go to lunch, not yelling, "HI MS. COOPER!!!" at the top of their lungs.

It's not uncommon to be navigating a crowded hallway at the end of the day, arms loaded, and get bombarded by two or three hugs in a row (if one kid does it, it's monkey-see-monkey-do for the next kid in line) that keep me from making forward progress. It makes me smile. I'm glad the kids are enjoying their classes with me.

That said, they really need to stop coming up behind me at my desk in the library, and hug-bombing me!

Bat Woman

As a feminist, I strive to present my students with a world view that promotes equality among all people, and tolerance for views other than their own. It's tricky with the young set. I'm unable to stand in front of a room full of middle school kids and say, "I'm a feminist!" Most don't really even know what feminism entails.

So I lead by example as much as possible.

Last week, a 6th grade boy commented that the girls in his class were better at drawing. "That's what they do. They don't do sports and stuff."

"Wait a minute!" I replied. "Ladies, how many of you play sports?"

Some hands went up, complete with those exasperated eye-rolls (directed at the boys) that are so perfected by preteens.

"See? Girls do sports. Hey, your VAPA teacher runs half marathons. Do you know how many miles that is?"


"Point one. Thirteen-point-one. That point-one makes a difference."

"It's only..what, 150 meters?"

"Yeah, but when you get to mile 13, you are not done. You still have to run that extra 150 meters."

I got some nods and grudging preteen respect for that one. Then I looked at the boys and said, "Plus, I can dead lift one hundred pounds."


"Yeah, what, did you think I'm not athletic? Humph." (I was totally playing up my indignation.)

I got a big high-five from one kid at this. And hopefully I showed the boys that girls can be just as athletic and awesome as they can.

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