students: overheard

January 2, 2008

“Yo, you ever have [Ms. Other History Teacher]?”

“Dude, her class is awesome.”

“It was great. She lets you do whatever you want. She never gets mad or anything.”

“Every time she turned around, we’d be throwin’ spitballs.”

“I slept most of the time.”

“Yeah, I didn’t learn anything that year.”

“I failed.”

“Still awesome, though.”

“Dude, totally!”


Who knows why they do anything?

December 19, 2007

Today a different kid came in to talk to me for no apparent reason. This one is a tenth grader (I teach his younger brother). “Miss!” he said. “Check out my report card! Not what you’d expect from a kid like me, right? A kid who looks like he’s from the ghetto?” (Points of interest: the school has a dress-code, so he was wearing a shirt, tie, and dress-pants when he said this, and also he speaks beautifully, unlike 80 percent of kids I’ve ever taught.)

“90, 91, 85, 94… This is an excellent report card. But wait, what’s this comment? ‘Is a distractive influence in class?'”

“Oh, that? I don’t know. I’m not a distraction!”

“Then why did your teacher put it here?”

“Sometimes I guess I talk a little.”

“A little?”

“I can’t help being hilarious! I say stuff, the other kids laugh! That’s not my fault. What, am I supposed to pretend not to be awesome and funny?”

“Well, what if you just didn’t do it every day?” (I’m friends with the teacher who left the comment, and I’ve heard about his class.)

“Miss, that would be dishonest.”

“Or, it would be a smart way to get your 85 up to a 90.”

He looked at me like I was totally crazy. Then we talked about baseball for twenty minutes.

At least they didn’t ask about Santa

December 11, 2007

“We’re going to be studying medieval times, class!”

“What’s that?”

“That’s… Okay, think about Kings and Queens and princesses and castles and knights.”


“Yes. Princesses are real. The daughter of a King is called a princess.”

“Miss! Are dragons real?”

“No. Dragons are made up.”

“Is Dracula real?”

“Well… There really was a guy named Vlad the Impaler and Transylvania is real, but vampires aren’t real.”

“Is Frankenstein real?”

“No. Frankenstein isn’t real.”

“What about the Mummy?”

“Does anyone have any serious questions?”

“Miss? How do you REMEMBER all this stuff?”


“No, the DaVinci code isn’t real. That’s how they get you.”

December 7, 2007

I’m home sick. Well — I’m home almost sick. I’m home if-I-don’t-take-a-day-off-I’ll-get-incredibly-sick-and-die. And as always, I’m spending my day off grading, lesson planning, and waiting for someone to come fix something in my apartment. Being an adult sucks.

I got a great email from a student yesterday; we’ve been talking about the Roman and Byzantine empires in class, and he’s reading Dan Brown’s Demons and Angels (I think). He found a reference to Emperor Constantine and was so excited (because we talked about it! In class!) that he had to email me immediately.  It made him happy, because the things he learned were actually useful, and it made me happy, because the ancient history I was teaching turned out to be actually useful. Everyone wins! (Except Dan Brown, because those books are terrible and I just don’t have the heart to tell my students that when they’re excited about reading.)

I might bump her to 65, though.

November 27, 2007

Grades go in Friday, which means students are panicking. I had a long conversation yesterday with a young lady who has been alternately napping/screaming through my class all year. Most of the other teachers really dislike her, but we get along fine, maybe because I am totally honest with her when she’s annoying, but work really hard not to be mean.

Her: “What can I do tonight to fix my grade? Can I go home and make up some missing homeworks?”

Me: “It’s not just about homeworks. It’s about participating the right way in class every day.”

Her: “Listen, if you want me to, I’ll take this textbook home and read the whole thing and write you a report for tomorrow. Will that get me to a 70?”

Me: “Your grade right now is a 40, so probably not. Plus, I don’t want a report. I want you to come in to class every day and participate and hand in the homework. Also, your project is two weeks late.”

Her: “Okay, so if I do the project and give it to you tomorrow and I go home and do extra credit can I get a 70?”

Me: “No. It’s about every day. You can definitely get a 70 for third marking period, but you’re going to have to bring your A-Game to class every day.”

Her: “So, what can I do tonight for extra credit?”

I feel her pain, and I hate failing kids who really want to try and do better. But I think it’s the wrong message to tell them they can make up for a whole marking period of shitty work in the last couple of days. Teaching! So unexpectedly full of moral dilemmas!

idk, my bff 9th graders?

November 19, 2007

Y’all, I have a student so dyslexic he actually said out loud in class today:

“Wow, that’s Greece? OGM!”

It was particularly funny watching the other students slowly work out what he was talking about.

Not even before school. At lunch, five minutes before class!

November 15, 2007

“Hey, Miss? The project is due today, right?”


“The one we’ve been working on for three weeks?”


“The one we planned out in class and all wrote the first part of together and did peer-editing on and spent the entire class writing for the last three days?”


“Well… I don’t know if this is a bad time, but uh… What’s the project about?”