There was a comment over at seventhgradeenglish.com (how’s that for cross-promotion?) about how the commenter had just finished The Outsiders for the 75th time, and watched the movie at least as many times. Twenty five years times 3x each year. Several thoughts ran through my mind as I read the post.

One: Yessss. Another veteran keeping the flame alive.

Two: Only three times each year? But many of you are at them thar newfangled charter schools and such-like, and this person probably also has a period of advanced martial arts and one of calculus, and has to serve lunch and coach soccer.

Three: 25 years? This person must’ve seen the move when it came out. And it’s just as cheesy today. I think I showed it one year, back in the day. Remember; look for SE Hinton as the nurse nagging Dally. And Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze and the Karate Kid.

Four: 25 years? And the book is just as vital as it was then. I’ll still be teaching it 20 years hence.

Five: I just did this math with the kids back in October. “Whoa, you really know this book, don’t you?” Duh. For me, it’s 15 years of reading it aloud in class  X 5 times per year + 4 or 5 times reading it as a youth = 80 times.

That’s why I tell the kids: we only read books I like.

This math thing is something the kids (and many others) do not get. Some of us at the secondary level have to multiply everything by 100-150.

“Have you finished our essays yet?” This is the next day after collecting them.

“How long would you like me to spend on each one? You wrote about 600 words each. How about 5 minutes?”

“What? We spent a week and a half on those!”

“OK. Six. I have 140 of you this year. What’s six times 140?”

Pause. Wait for puzzled looks, random numbers, sincerely wrong guesses, and finally…

“Yes, 840 minutes. Now divide 840 by 60. I’ll wait.”

Repeat the above. (Oh, their poor math teachers.)

“Yes, 14 hours. Do you really think I had a spare 14 hours last night? Ummm, I have a life. Plus I like to actually sleep and eat.”

(There’s no way I spend 6 minutes on a 600 word essay. Three, four tops.)

The classic seventh grade response to all this is always, “Why don’t you just give us all A’s? It’d be a lot easier for you.”

“Quiet, you.”

So now their research papers are due tomorrow.

“How about 10 minutes per paper on this one? That makes the math easy.”

It still takes longer than you think for them to multiply 10 and 140.

“Now 1400 divided by 60? I’ll save you the trouble. It’s almost 24 hours. If I collect your papers tomorrow, and spend 2 hours a day doing nothing but reading your papers, I will just finish them in time for the last day of school. Remember, I do actually have a life. SO. If you ask me or bug me about your paper between now and the last day of school, when I give them back, I will put yours at the bottom of the pile and make you come back in September to find out what you got. Got it?”

I always have a couple of factors working in my favor. One is that it never happens that ALL of them turn in papers. I’m estimating at least 10 this year don’t even give me a token encyclopedia paper. There are also at least 10-15 who turn it in early, allowing me to get a head start.

And of course, I don’t really spend 10 minutes on each paper. If you still do, we need to talk.