My second hour class had lots of questions for me this morning. The period lasts only thirty minutes, and I had a lesson to present. But how could I not let them speak for a few minutes?
“Do you like ‘Star Wars’?”
“Do you like horror movies?”
“What is your favorite band?
I took their questions. Building relationships is more important than anything on my lesson plans, especially during the first few days of the school year…and especially at the start of a school year in the middle of a pandemic.
Alas, I did finally announce that I had to give a quick mini-lesson before class time ran out. I asked the kids to take out their papers from yesterday and a pencil. Then I asked them to mute their devices. I watched on my screen as all the microphone icons gradually began to turn red. Just seconds before the final microphone went dormant, just before silence fell across the “room,” I heard little, squeaky Eddie exclaim, “You’re the best teacher, Mr. Ramsey!”
That boy gets an A.
A half-hour later, it was time for lunch. I checked my school emails. A lot of requests from the office and questions from colleagues. Then there was a ton of junk mail from companies who have jumped on the distance learning bandwagon and are now trying to cash in on the turmoil of the pandemic.
And there was an email from Kenneth, one of my craziest boys from last year. Apparently, he and his fellow eighth graders were learning to write proper emails in their language class:
“Hello Mr. Ramsey. How are you? This is so weird. Who even types emails? This is so old school! Anyways how’s the new 7th grade? I’m assuming I’m still your favorite student… jk…I miss getting Jolly Ranchers from you…Maybe you’ll answer back. Bye boomer
I couldn’t resist. I emailed him back:
“Great to hear from you! Sorry for the late reply, but after all, I do have a job to do! Email is a good way to keep in touch. It was designed by a boomer long ago. Yes…you are my favorite student (wait…do I say that to everyone?) and you can have a Jolly Rancher when the pandemic is over. Sorry, but I don’t do home deliveries! Honestly, it was great hearing from you today. After all, you are ONE of my favorite students. Hope the year is off to a good start for you. Stay healthy and stay in touch!”
The afternoon classes quickly passed and, before I knew it, we were upon our ninety-minute independent work time. I left my “class” open and went about grading papers. A few minutes passed and I heard the “doorbell” alert announcing the arrival of a student in the waiting room.
“Hi Luke,” I said. “What can I help you with?”
“Are you done with all of your homework?”
“Do you need help on anything?”
I watched the boy quietly fiddle with his cell phone. “Here,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
He fiddled a bit more. “Wait,” he said. “There’s a commercial.”
Finally, he shoved the phone to his computer’s camera. “See?”
I watched as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker engaged in their famous lightsaber battle.
“I remembered you said you like “Star Wars” in class,” the boy exclaimed.
He grew quiet again and clicked away at his phone. “Have you ever played Minecraft, Mr. Ramsey?”
I admitted I’d never played but that I was interested in learning. “It’s pretty easy,” the boy said. “Plus, it relaxes me. You should get it on your phone. Now they have an education edition. You should get it for class.”
We made small talk for almost a half hour. He clicked away on his phone. I clicked away on my keyboard. I even covertly opened a new tab at one point and checked out the new Minecraft education edition…
Junior high school kids often get a bad rap – especially the boys. But I love their quirkiness, their humor, and their great hearts.
They may sometimes go out of their way to challenge this old teacher, but they never fail to amaze me and always seem to reconfirm for me the real reason why I continue to teach.
We’re good for each other.
Tim Ramsey has been a public school educator since 1983. He has served as a teacher in the elementary, junior high school and high school settings. In addition, he has taught community college and graduate-level classes. He served as a school administrator from 1998 until 2013 when he retired. A true advocate for children, Tim quickly decided to go back to the classroom where he is currently a seventh grade writing teacher at Westwind Elementary in the Pendergast Elementary School District.