May 19, 2011

How I Earned "Cool Points" with my Students

Today I subbed for an eighth grade team.  Anyone who has ever worked in a middle school knows that the eight graders can be quite the handful... especially this time of year.  They're already a pretty surly bunch, but now they have graduation and high school on their brains, making it extremely difficult to get them to do any quality work.

My schedule for the day was to supervise two separate groups in watching Mr. Holland's Opus, a movie none of them have even heard of before today.  Despite being a fantastic movie, it was hard, as expected, to get certain groups to focus.  At the risk of offending everyone with this statement of gender-bias, it was mostly the boys.  My colleagues and I often joke that middle school boys are like puppies in a box - they just can't keep their hands off each other.  It's actually quite comical to think of how many times I have to redirect this behavior in a given day.  It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to bring in their kindergarten teachers for a refresher course in "Keeping Your Hands and Feet to Yourselves at All Times." 

Anyway, for those that haven't seen the movie, it takes you through three decades of Mr. Holland's teaching career.  To show the passage of time, we see dramatic changes in the students appearance and behavior - as appropriate for each time period.  Well, in the 90's intro, there's a shot of the students walking into the school, including two guys, and when the camera pans down, you can see that they're holding hands. 

Immediately, the immature and judgmental boys in my class freaked out (could've seen that one coming), and someone from the back corner declared, "That just ruined the whole movie!" to which my response was, "Say the guys who can't keep their hands off each other!"

Of course, my statement earned me tons of props from the rest of the group because... well... I pretty much "pwned" them.

Lesson learned: if you make fun of your students, you instantly become their favorite substitute.  And... the boys kept their hands to themselves for the rest of the day!

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