Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Put your Pickles away, boys!

Early Release days are a little piece of hell inflicted on secondary teachers in my district. One day a month, students leave two hours early so that teachers can meet to work on curriculum pacing guides, common assessments, vertical alignment and such. Teachers sit in those meetings hollow-eyed, quietly sharing their Early Release survivor stories.

A short day, in and of itself, should be a good thing. Most people are buoyed by the idea of an abbreviated work day. High school students are extremely buoyed by the idea. They come to school more alive and energetic than any other day of the month.

Anyone who has kids or works with them understands the effect of a change in routine. Our school has decided if we're going to change the schedule, we should go for broke. School clubs meet throughout the day, so students come and go all day long. I don't want to insinuate that kids use these meetings to skip class, but suspicious behavior abounds. The kid who doesn't know Joe Biden from Nancy Pelosi is suddenly an avid member of Young Democrats. The class potty mouth is hustling off to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This morning, the poster boy for urban cool tried to convince me he was in the FFA (Future Farmers of America).

The cherry on the top of the day is lunch. There isn't enough time to allow 2300 kids to eat in the cafeteria, so they pick up sack lunches and bring them back to the classrooms. You haven't lived until you've eaten lunch with 32 high school freshmen. Usually, the kids get some sort of cold sandwich, chips, and a bag of carrots in their sack lunch. (I really, really hate those carrots.)Today, the kids got soyburgers, chips, and a giant pickle in their sacks. Yes, you read that correctly. Giant pickles.

Oh, the hilarity of a giant pickle in teenage hands.

My collaborating teacher looked at me and said, "This is wrong on so many levels." And so it was.

The pickles were a hot topic of conversation in our after-school meeting. If the anecdotes are to be believed, the comedic possibilities of a giant pickle are endless. Even the most well-behaved students couldn't resist a comment or a gesture. The classroom management conundrum is whether to address the pickle comedy or to ignore it. One of my colleagues lost her patience and snapped after a particularly graphic giant pickle moment and uttered words she never thought she'd say in front of her class.

"Put your pickles away, boys!"

My decision to ignore the pickle-induced hysteria was likely the best decision I made all day.

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