Kids these days

You just never know how my students are going to react.

The new semester began this past week, and I have two completely new sets of senior English students to deal with and hybrid speech class of holdovers and newcomers. I like the freshness of two new classes – especially since this is the final semester for my seniors. It should be interesting.

Sure is starting out that way.

Two week one incidents at relatively opposite ends of the spectrum stand out to me in large part because I believe they both stem (at least in part) from a picture of my grandson.

Lucker_Opening_Day_Pp SLIDE 1On the first day of any new class I show a PowerPoint presentation that outlines my classroom policies and procedures; it also has some personal info about me, contact information and a few stray tidbits of stray oddities or bits of humor, just to keep my students attention.

This year’s version features a couple of pictures of my grandson Felix, who turned two in November. The first shot is on the first slide: a close up of Felix waving WITH HIS LEFT HAND and the title WELCOME TO MR.LUCKER’S CLASS!

Felix makes it all seem quite inviting.

There are a couple of other Felix shots scattered through the twenty-one slide blockbuster, including a simply gratuitous slide labeled ‘OOOH – ANOTHER PICTURE OF MY GRANDSON!’ Not that I am showing any grandfatherly overkill here, but I also used the ‘welcoming wave’ shot as the desktop wallpaper on my laptop; OOH ANOTHER PICTUREwhenever I am hooked up to my Promethean board (all the time during the school day) and I have nothing else feeding, there is Felix waving at everyone.

The reaction to the PowerPoint was predictable: ‘awws’ and ‘ohhhh, what a cute baby’ predominate, along with the also predictable, “Mr. Lucker, that your baby?” Which then prompts the brief, personal background segment of our introduction, teacher-to-new class.

One young woman was not so charitably inclined toward my little presentation.

Upon running through my list of family notables, I simply note that I have three kids, “ages twenty-nine, eighteen and almost fifteen” which prompted a rather forceful “Why there so much time between them?” from the girl. A bit taken aback, I replied that my daughter is from my first marriage, the boy from my second.

“You should have stopped.” Her tone showed annoyance.

“Ummm…”

“You shouldn’t have done that. You should have stopped after the first one.”

“Okay…” Even some of the other kids were looking at her in bewilderment. I had obviously struck some visceral chord in the young woman, but I just kept on with the presentation, answering the mostly innocuous questions the kids had about me, asking some of my own about them.

The girl remained silent the rest of the class.

As for the other females, a number of them were quite animated upon leaving at the end of the period; two informed me point-blank (and with some pride) that they had babies, another mentioned her baby sister, a couple of more added random comments about liking babies, and wanting one of their own…someday.

That was all on Monday.

On hall duty outside of my classroom on Thursday, one of my new students approached me, smiled and directly but politely asked, “Mr. Lucker, do you have one of those little refrigerators, like a dorm-room size one?”

“No I’m sorry, I don’t.”Some more things about me

“Oh. Do you know of any teachers up here on this floor that do?”

“I’m not sure, but I’ll ask around. You need it to keep your breast milk in?” (I knew she had been using restroom breaks to pump.)

“Yeah, it only keeps for an hour or so at room temperature, so I am looking for a place to keep it til I go home.”

“Let me ask around a bit. I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Thanks, Mr. Lucker.”

We put this one directly into the ever-bulging ‘conversations-I-never-dreamed-I’d-have-until-I-have-them’ file.

DesktopwithFelixpicShe has refrigerator options in another building across our rather expansive campus, but we are working on getting something squared away in our building to save some time and minimize being out of class. She is genial and greets me warmly every day, a do a number of the other young women in the class. The other group of seniors I have is pretty much the same, though without the extremes in reaction – though one young woman in that class told me she had a baby, and another has mentioned her baby in conversation about other, un-child related topics.

I attribute my new semester’s surprisingly open and free-flowing dialogue with my female students to those pictures of Felix, and I figure I have maybe another year or two of classroom mileage out of his cherubic countenance and bonding with my teen moms and assorted others.

A picture is worth a thousand words – or, sometimes, just a few well placed, well-chosen ones.

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“E.T. phoooooooone hooooome….”

E.T.phonehomeYour word of the day, as it was for my two senior English classes on Friday, is

‘nomophobia.’

Nomophobia is the fear of not having mobile phone connectivity. Though I am no clinician or diagnostician, I am a high school English teacher. My students are indeed afflicted with nomophobia; you would think, sans their phones, they are lost in space, and hurtling away from earth to be lost forever.

Many of them need twelve steps far more than they need six bars.

Nomophobia became a ‘hot-button’ in my classroom as we dissected an article entitled Technology Addiction: Warning Signs of A Cellphone Addict that I had them analyzing…after we read it aloud in class.

That was fun. At least for me.

My second period class got the point; there was lots of nervous laughter and a good deal of acquiescence to the logic. There was one tense moment as a student’s phone gave a loud message ‘ding’ during our discussion. I simply looked at the class, smiled and said “I.Ron.EEEE.”

They laughed.

?????????????????????????????My third period seniors, however, chaffed at the notion of any sort of ‘addictive traits’ to wit: “That’s bull***! Just because I got all the stuff on that list don’t mean I’m ‘addicted’ to my cellphone! F*** that!” I smiled, tried to contain a chuckle. “Sure thing. What.ever.you.say.”

They did not laugh.

Three hours of classroom fun was only the icing on the cake; the entertainment started before school, as I was copying the article. Chatting with a couple of colleagues who were waiting to use one of the copiers, I made note of the article and wondered aloud what the response would be. The title intrigued a few of my fellow educators, so I gave them each a copy, which they accepted with a series of smiles and chuckles.

One of our math teachers, Mr. Mac, a guy roughly my age, about split a gut laughing. “Oh, man, they are gonna be all over you for this!” Two of my twenty something colleagues read it a bit more intently, laughed nervously. “This is….interesting” said one social studies teacher quite tentatively…as she fidgeted and fondled her iPhone. She laughed awkwardly, blushed a bit, “Ummmm, yeah. Interesting.” The other, a math teacher, read the article, pursed his lips, frowned. He held his iPhone and said nothing.

ETphonehomeObservant old-pro types that we are, Mr. Mac and I laughed heartily. One might even say that my laugh was more of a cackle.

‘Nomophobia.’ In Mr. Lucker’s classroom, this is not an alien concept.

Erudite

A rip-roaring morning start to a pretty good all-around day in room 261

Start of second period, first class of the day. Bell has rung, my senior English students are working on their daily ‘Do Now’ journal. The lights are off (as usual) so they can see the on-screen writing prompt. I am standing behind my desk reviewing the roll. A student who I don’t know very well (but I do know he is a guitar player in a band) a kid who is generally pretty quiet stands up, grabs his notebook from the basket on the stool up front, heads back to his seat. As he walks past my desk, he instigates the following exchange:

conformity“Mr. Lucker, we should have ‘nap day’ today.”

“Nap day? Hmmmm…I don’t think so.”

“No, really, Mr. Lucker – we should. Really. It’s a perfect day for nap day.”

“No, Andrew*, I don’t think we will be doing that.”

“Awww, c’mon, Mr. Lucker” he pleads, jovially sincere. “….you gotta give it a chance!”

I respond the only logical way I can to his word choice – by singing. “Soooooo all you are sayyyy-ying…..is give naps a channnnce….”

The kid stops, wide-eyed and staring at me. His mouth hangs open. He awkwardly chuckles in disbelief.

“Naa,” I add dryly, and in normal speaking voice, “I don’t think so.”

I turn my attention to my monitor, scroll aimlessly through the document on my computer screen as Andrew* returns to his desk, sits. He is staring at me and slowly shaking his head, as I pretend not to notice.

Hey, it’s not often that one of my classroom straight lines gets closed out (and grasped) with punchline intact.

Lessons Learned in Mr. Lucker’s Class on the Last Day of School

Photo1792If you are a high school sophomore, soon-to-be-a-but-probably-not-yet junior, and you bring a water gun (‘squirt gun’ in Mr. Lucker’s youthful vernacular) into Mr. Lucker’s classroom on the last day of class, and Mr. Lucker watches you (pseudo surreptitiously) fill  said squirt-gun from a water bottle, he will wait until you have jussssst about finished reloading before he confiscates the squirt gun by asking you for it.

Then, just so you understand where Mr. Lucker is coming from, once you sit down, he will silently empty said confiscated water gun by watering the potted plant sitting on his desk while you glare at him, he looks back at you, and everyone else is watching for your reaction.

Ostensibly, the squirt gun (sans water, of course) could be returned to you during the customary last-day teacher escort to the busses .

Unless, of course, you pout about it, asking Mr. Lucker repeatedly when you will get your water gun back, and when told that he is under no obligation at all to return said squirt gun to your possession, you walk out of his classroom and stomp around the hallway in a snit, complaining over and over “You got my water gun! When am I gonna get it back”!?

Photo0407Mr. Lucker will then return to his desk and finish emptying the water gun into his plant dirt.

At this point you, and the rest of the class, understand that Mr. Lucker doesn’t abide last day shenanigans. Even in the last period on the last day. Especially the last period on the last day.

Class dismissed. Have a nice summer.

Homeroom Homeruns

We recently had an extended homeroom (two hours with fifteen juniors I usually only see twenty minutes a day) while we coded in bubbles on ACT test forms for testing later this month. (Not as easy as you might think: between college locales to send scores to and a actformscareer interest survey plus all the general I.D. and contact info, there is a lot of #2 pencil action to work through in those ten pages).

One of the young women in the class brought in a bottle of Gatorade – not an uncommon occurrence. She was the first student there, and we were chatting as I walked to the hallway to monitor hall activity when I heard her make a choking sound, followed quickly by an emphatic, “Ewww! Grrrrrrosssss”!

“You okay”? I inquired, moderately concerned and  turning around.

“Aggh! It’s this Gatorade! Mr. Lucker, don’t ever buy cucumber Gatorade”!

“Cucumber. Cucumber. Gatorade”? I thought she was joking or had misread the label

“Yeah! I thought it is a cool color, I thought it would taste good – it DOESN’T”! She held up in disgust for me to see.

limecucumbergatoradeTurns out the product is actually Gatorade’s new ‘lime-cucumber’ flavor. Not one I would have plucked off the shelf, but okay.

As a few other students filtered in, they saw the girl sitting at her desk, still muttering ‘yuck’ and wiping her lips vigorously with a napkin.

“What’s with you”? Asked one.

“This Gatorade is nasty. Its cucumber”!

“Let me try it”!

This is not an uncommon thing at school; students frequently share beverages, but being aware of the germ potential, their lips never touch the bottle – they simply raise the bottle high and pour. Their accuracy in hitting open mouths and nothing else is remarkable. If only their concentration skills pouredextended to academics.

The first boy to take a gulp shrugged and said, “It tastes stupid”. He offered it to another young man, who looked at the flavor and declined, asking (logically, I thought) “Who wants to drink cucumbers”? The girls filtering in and offered a taste all declined, most scrunching up their noses and/or shaking their heads. Finally the bottle was passed to one of our football players who asked for it with a brusque, “Let me try that”!

Matt* poured a big swig down from a range of about six inches above his mouth, then went about smacking his lips repeatedly – bugsandcarrotreminiscent of Bugs Bunny rapidly chewing a carrot before asking “What’s up, Doc”? He swallowed, then thought for minute.

“Tastes like salad” was his matter-of-fact reply, adding hopefully, “Can I finish it”?

Salad? Ewww! That’s disgusting”! Exclaimed a just arriving young woman to multiple murmurs of agreement.

I just shook my head and turned my focus to the crowded hallway.

The morning continued uneventfully bubbling in wide-ranging info on our ACT forms until we reached the section that asked for college locales to have test scores sent to. This required going to the separate instruction booklet they had been given and navigating a lengthy, small-font list of college and university codes. It was a bit confusing. I assisted those that needed it and returned to the front of the room for the next stage of our step-by-step, by-the-book process.

“Okay, now take a look at box ‘R’ on your forms”. I started to run through the instructions when one of the kids stated “Mr. Lucker, how you know all these forms and stuff”?

“It helps that I have a junior in my own home, so I’m getting proficient in all this ACT and college stuff. Now, in box ‘R’….”

testform“You have kids”?

“Three of them. Now the first thing in box ‘R’…” I was holding my copy of the form up to show them

“You got three kids”? Said one with surprise.

“Yes. Now, in box ‘R’…”

“You got a wife”?

“I do. Now…”

“I knew that he had a wife ‘cause I had his class last year. But I didn’t know you had three kids, Mr. Lucker”! Responded one girl, who indeed, was a student of mine last year.

Deep breath. “Okay. I have a wife, three kids, two boys and a girl, one grandson, two dogs – one big, one small…the goldfish died. I’m five-five, wear a size nine shoe and my blood type is O-positive. Can we finish this thing”? I was still holding the form in the air. There was a moment of silence as the class, staring at me, digested my statistics.

“Your fish died”? asked one girl with noticeable sadness in her voice.

testingpicI sighed. “Years ago. Can we finish this thing”? I waved the ACT form as a flag of surrender. Or ‘charge!’ – I’m not sure.

Their heads bobbed back down toward their desks and we finished box ‘R’ (and the rest of the form) without difficulty or detour.

Just another start to the day in room 261.