We had missed a few days of reading The Midwife’s Apprentice, so I told a couple of the kids scheduled to read to us today for their 120 Seconds presentations that they were postponed until tomorrow, so I could carve out a little more time for reading MWA.
You’d have thought I was the governor calling in their pardons, seconds before the warden pulls the switch.
I wanted to get to the end of chapter 6, where Alyce/Beetle saves Will, one of the boys who’s been taunting her, from the river. It’s also the chapter where she asks the cat what he wants to be named. It’s also one of my favorite parts of the book, and if I were a seventh grader doing my 120 Seconds, it would be the part I’d read out loud. When Will says that Beetle “were brave” because she didn’t run away, Beetle replies,
“Naw, I be not brave. I near pissed myself.”
I always have to pause for the pandemonium. Sometimes I repeat the line, milking it like a bad comedian.
“I guess she was scared… ‘I near…'”
During the performances, I set up a web cam that just broadcasts to my lcd projector. Most of the audience looks at the big screen which faces the performer, so the performer doesn’t feel quite so stared at. That’s the idea anyway. Some years I post some of the performaces as “podcasts.” Mostly it’s so they can show Gramma. I have software that lets you add masks or avatars to your image, and sometimes I let them use it to take the edge off for the more nervous ones. One day this week I was playing with the software/camera as the kids came in. I told them I had new webcam software that allows the camera to reveal the true you.
“Now you know the truth.”
“You’re freaking me out.”
“Just doing my job.”
On the day of each show (I try to do 5/day until we’re finished), I choose 3 judges, pass out the ballots, explain the rubric again, and choose from the multitude of volunteers for Uh Counter.
Even though I have trimmed them down to two minutes, and even though they’re fun, they still sometimes disrupt the groove of my classroom. And so we rarely get our five-a-day in. Sort of like vegetables.
1) Kids constantly go overtime. From the way they act all flustered and nervous beforehand, you’d think they’d want to get off the stage as fast as possible, and that there would be a lot of penalties for being too short. You’d think. But there are way more penalties for being too long than for being too brief. In fact OT penalties are more common than penalties for “likes” and “umms.” I tell them up front that it’s up to them to practice, and time it out, that I won’t stop them. Some of them just don’t realize how long they’ve been chugging away. They’re afraid to look up, and just keep on reading. One year, I got one that went 9+ minutes; the period finally ended the madness.
2) Kids constantly “forget” their books on the day of the show. Or “lose” them. Or leave them at Dad’s house. Or, “I really wanted to read BlahBlah, but I went to the library and they didn’t have it and then we went to Barnes and Noble, and they didn’t have it, and my mom said that…” Or…
3) The judges have math issues. It takes forever for them to add the 7 numbers, and more often than not I have to fix addition errors.
4) As you all know, then you have the general chaos of switching around, the debriefing after each performance (“Maybe look at the rest of the class, and not just me? Slow down and take a breath. I really liked the way your voice changed with each character. Relax. You don’t have to pee do you?”), and etc.
But it’s worth it. The kids are doing great this year, and some of them are really nailing it. I have a video of the best one so far, but I have to make sure it’s ok with him before I post it. I don’t think it will be a problem.