I can’t figure out what’s going on. We’re at least 3 or 4 chapters behind where we usually are. I haven’t been trying out that much new material. One of the science teachers made a comment the other day about how many times we’ve had weird (read: shortened period) schedules this year. Let’s see…

Extended Advisory Schedule: First period 20 minutes longer, all others four minutes shorter.  Normally our first period is 10 minutes longer than the other classes. That extra ten minutes is technically called Home Base (my crew calls it Homies) or Advisory. This is what’s left of our Advisory program which was part of the whole middle school idea that was so popular 10 years ago or so. We used to have an extra 1/2 hour period in the morning where we were supposed to do team building and character building and values building and all sorts of construction projects. That was when they changed the sign from junior high to middle school. (Before Advisory it was an entire period devoted to something called Teen Skills. Don’t even get me started on that.) We’ve had four or five of these, ostensibly to cover the school handbook. Uh huh. That’s what we did. Yeah.

Late Start Mondays: Kids start @ 9:30, periods are 9 minutes shorter. This is for Teacher Collaboration Time (TCT).

Assembly Schedule(s): Most periods at least 9 minutes shorter, one period normal length or longer. Since our multipurpose room won’t hold all the kids at once (it was built in 1970), whenever we have an assembly, we have to have two. One is for the seventh graders and one is for the eighth graders. Two election assemblies. Two magazine fund-raising drive assemblies. Etc. Everybody has to do their shtick twice. So when we’re on an assembly schedule, if it’s a second period assembly (they try to mix it up – further confusing staff as much as students), the kids go to second period twice. The seventh graders get herded to the assembly by the second period teacher, while the eighth graders have class, and then it reverses. We’ve had quite a few assemblies this year.

Bus Evacuation Drill/Disaster Schedule: Always variable. Sometimes it’s duck and cover for an earthquake, sometimes it practicing loading them on the bus to evacuate in case our local nuke plant melts down. Sometimes it’s a lockdown drill, and we talk about how one of our district high schools had an actual lockdown situation and people ended up being locked wherever they were for more than four hours. Yes, the rumors of alternative trash can use were confirmed.

That science teacher just might be on to something.

Anyway, we’re way behind, just getting toward the middle of chapter five. That’s where, since we’re going to get “Nothing Gold Can Stay” soon, I usually break out “Richard Cory.” Here’s a blast from last year (9/23/09) about that:

The boys are in the church cutting their hair (some of the girls visibly wince as Johnny “starts sawing” on Pony’s hair with the same knife he used on Bob) and killing time with Gone With the Wind. We’re talking about irony and “Richard Cory.” We go through the poem, and I keep the fourth stanza hidden from them. They laugh when they find out that “crown” means the top of your head, and that in Jack and Jill, Jack really breaks his head. I explain that “clean favoured” means good looking, and they are quick to realize why the poet used “quietly” to describe how he is dressed (“arrayed’). “It means he’s not showing off.” Good.

They are also pretty good at getting what “he was always human when he talked” means. Seventh graders are very quick to spot someone “putting on airs” as they said in Tom Sawyer’s time. They tell me it means he’s down to Earth. Nice.

Then, after the first three stanzas of description, I stop and ask, “Now, who, in The Outsiders could we compare to Richard Cory? Who is rich, good looking, popular, well dressed, yet down to Earth?”

“Sodapop?” Rich? Well dressed. Quiet? Ummm no.

“Two-Bit?” The class slaps that one down for me.

“The Soc? Bob?” What? We were doing so well.

Finally, I find someone who gets it. Cherry.

“But it says he! The poem’s about a guy!”


“Now what was Cherry trying to get Pony to understand when they were talking back at the drive-in, and after? What was she saying that he was not believing?”

“That Socs have problems too! Things are rough all over!” Uh huh.

Beauty. Now I lay the last stanza on them.

“Cherry’s gonna commit suicide?????”

NOOOOOO. “But what she’s trying to say, AND what the poem is trying to say, is that what’s on the surface isn’t the whole picture. Remember Ponyboy saying at the end of chapter 2, ‘I know better now,’ about the Socs not having problems? He was foreshadowing that something will happen to change his mind.”

“Oh. Ok. But…?”

No, Cherry will be with us until the end of the book.