robot children

October 29, 2007

My students wrote dialogue to perform in class between different castes. My Untouchables sang and danced “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” In another group, a princess ran off with a low-caste boy and then they both committed suicide when their parents caught them. It was unspeakably awesome.

The best part, though, was that I told them I had a headache (and I did, ow, caffeine-no-sleep migraine bad) so they all applauded for each other American Sign Language style, hands in the air. “Wow,” I said, “that was awesome. How did you guys all learn that?”

They rolled their eyes at me. “Miss,” said one of the boys, “you told us about that, like, the second day of school. Don’t you remember?”

Uh. No. But I’m excited that they do!


Oh no, you guys. My coworkers just totally found this page!

October 24, 2007

(I knit a sock!)

One of my favorite things is when I hear my words coming out of the students’ mouths. Yesterday, for example, when we started talking about reincarnation and Hinduism, I heard a “But they don’t really believe that, do they?” from the back of the room. Steam started coming out of my ears and I opened my mouth to lecture.

“Yo, we all were respectful about Christianity and Islam, even if it wasn’t our religion,” pipped up three different voices from the room. “You can ask questions, but you can’t make fun. Religions are all based on faith anyway! What proof do you have that Jesus was the son of God?”

I didn’t have to say anything. I love that.


No, you’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!

October 18, 2007

Today, as part of our study of Christianity, we looked at the Sermon on the Mount (a pseudo-primary document).  We spent a long time looking up “meek” and “merciful” and other words they didn’t know.

It’s taking all of my resolve as a Real Grown Up not to bring in the Life of Brian tomorrow. I don’t think the kids would understand why “What did he say? Blessed are the cheese-makers???” is funny.


secretly I’m an atheist anyway

October 16, 2007

The unit on belief systems is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite to teach. I love it because it brings up lots of good questions, and students are very engaged. I hate it because it brings up a lot of stereotypes and uncomfortable questions, and because every kid in the room has seen The Passion of the Christ or Borat, or wants to tell me about this one episode of South Park that they saw.

Today I managed an activity I never thought of before, and it worked like gangbusters. I had five volunteers come to the front of the class and do an agree/disagree line about statements like “I would only marry someone from my religion” and “I think about my religion when I decide what to eat, drink, or wear.” Then we labeled the agree disagree line as “reform, conservative, orthodox” and talked about how different families fall in different places, so when we read that “Jews believe X…..” it doesn’t mean every single Jew does the same thing all over the world.

It seemed very effective. We’ll see how it works on Thursday, when we start talking about Christianity and Catholicism. (Oy.)


a priori

April 19, 2007

So at the moment we’re reading two diaries; one of an Israeli girl and one of a Palestinian girl, both from the same week of fairly horrific bombing during 2002. I think reading diaries from people their own age makes it more engaging; I’ve had students volunteer to read out loud in every period, and normally I have to shame them into reading.

The problem with teaching, sometimes, is that I’m not smart enough to figure out what they don’t know. I taught the same lesson on the same diary five times over a couple of days, and it wasn’t until the fourth time on the second day that I realized they didn’t know what “terrorism” actually meant. Once we cleared that up, everything else fell into line.

Well, except I keep having this conversation (as is to be expected):

“Miss, who was in Israel before 1948?”

“The Palestinians, imperialized by the British.”

“Okay, but who was there first?”

“Well… The Jews were there until around 70 A.D.”

“But who was there first?”

“Before the Jews there were other ancient people there; Babylonians, Sumerians, those guys.”

“Miss! Who was there very first?”

“…Cave people?”

“Well, lets give Israel back to them.”


What are they learning in church?

April 16, 2007

According to my students (in three different periods!) the difference between a “Christian” and a “Catholic” is that Catholics believe in God. (Christians presumably do not.)

It wouldn’t be so disheartening if we hadn’t talked about this at least ten times in the last year or two.


moment of total lack of understanding

January 5, 2007

“Okay, guys; what are some ideas that have been ‘culturally diffused’ around the world?”

 “Religion!” “Numbers!” “The alphabet!” “Time!”

 “…wait. Time? Miss? Time is just time.”

 “Sure, but we divided it up into hours, and everyone agrees that there will be 24 in a day.”

 “Miss! That’s not true! A day is how long it takes the moon to go around the sun!”

“…it’s really not.”

“It is! And that’s a day, and you can’t change it. It’s not like Chinese food.”

“It’s not like what?”

“Chinese food came from China to here. But a day is just a day!”

“Right, but ‘minutes’ and ‘seconds’ and ‘hours’ are just the amount of time we all agreed on. We could have ten hours a day, or even just two.”

“That would be awesome. School would be over faster.”

“No, that’s not how it… Yes. Okay. Fine.”

“Miss? Which came first; Adam and Eve, or dinosaurs?”

“Everyone put your heads down and stop talking. Please.”