Due to a couple of four-day weeks, we haven’t hit the fifty day mark for our students despite being together for ten business weeks. Some of my students practically wiggle in their seats to gain my notice. Others lounge back seemingly without regard or care for my opinion. I despise the hypothetical questions that some students pose in an attempt to be funny.
I assigned the students a short story to read and annotate for figurative language with a partner. After finishing the annotation together, they were to wok on their own to create a conclusion to the story. I gave them no limit on the length of their conclusions. From my desk in the back of my room, I heard Blurt Boy tell his partner that he would just write a sentence or two since it wasn’t important. Before I realize it, I snap out,”If you don’t care for the assignment, it’s better not to show your contempt in front of the one who assigns it, don’t you think?” No response. He and his partner resume working with focus after being busted. The on-task hum of students working with partners resumes, and some time passes.
Since it’s a scary story, I issue a challenge to my students, “In my ten years here, no one has scared me with his or her conclusion. You’re welcome to try.” Their faces lit up and minds whirled to find just the right about of macabre to terrify me. I don’t scare easily when I am reading their writing, so I have no concerns. “I can’t tell you how long your conclusion needs to be. Each one of you is different and has something different to say. Some students will use one page; other will use more. Just write a conclusion that you think will knock my socks off,” I conclude.
A hand shoots up, and one of my sweet young ladies who loves to read and write asked, “Even if it’s five pages, you’ll read it?”
“Yes, baby, I’ll read it.” I am encouraging them to write freely and express their creative storytelling. In our next unit, they’ll write a short story. This is an excellent lead-in activity. I smile at her warmly.
Blurt Boy decided to join in on the question without once again raising his hand, “What if it’s 194 pages long?”
My smile evaporated, and I looked at him in silence. The expressionless face I utilize appeared. “Is that an appropriate question when my students are trying to write their conclusions? Apparently you want my undivided attention.” I sat in my chair, folded my hands, and stared at him. He now had my full attention in class. B. Boy returned my look for a beat then began working. “Oh, no,” I interrupted and gestured excitedly with my hands, “don’t stop now. I want to see the show. You have my undivided attention.” He looked up once more and saw I meant business. He had the grace to lower his eyes. The other students watched wondering what I might have done next. After a sufficient dose of my unwavering attention for something other than a simple explanation, he resumed work on his assignment. We spoke after class about his abortive attempt to be funny and using one’s sense of humor at the right time. I bid him farewell and released him to his next class.