“We’re all weird!” (Again.)

Posted on November 2, 2010Filed Under 8th grade, Flowers for Algernon, Monsters on Maple Street, Rerun | Leave a Comment

Eighth Grade: Finished with Nothing But the Truth. Pretty much all of them liked it. I do only have one class of eighth graders, but for my first time through this book with students, I’m pretty stoked with the response. I’ve talked to some former students whom I thought would have liked the book, and they gave it the thumbs down.  I think it validates my “it’s all in the delivery” theory.  Just like reading The Outsiders aloud. Final projects came in today, so we’ll see whether that translates into a good final product.

We’re reading “Flowers for Algernon” now. Man, I love that story. I still remember reading it in a sci-fi anthology back in the day, and going, “Whoa.” We’re about a third of the way through. Charlie just saw through his “friends” at the factory after they got him drunk for the second time. The kids are all suitably outraged (“I want to punch those guys in the face!”) and saddened (“How mean!”). But “______’s a card when he’s potted!” might become a thing in this class. (Go read the story again.)

We took Rorschach tests and made up stories for a couple of plates from the Thematic Apperception Test. It’s been groovy. Haven’t decided yet whether to show the movie, Charlie. That whole vaguely psychedelic, motorcycle sequence might be a bit over the top. We’ll see.

Seventh Grade: Finished with Outsiders. Projects due next Tuesday. I want to do The Giver next,  but another teacher is still working on it with her classes, so I have to stall for time. So I’m looking at a sci-fi double shot to lead in to The Giver: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and “A Sound of Thunder.” Both are a lot of fun, and usually blow their minds a little bit…and I mean that in a good way.

But it’s my bedtime, so this post from a couple of years ago about MoMS will do nicely for tonight.

I always start this play by discussing a few things:

1. What makes people afraid. We start with death (and spiders) and come around to the idea that it’s really the unknown that most people fear.

“If someone came back from the dead, and said, ‘Hey, it’s pretty cool floating around on a cloud, riffing on your harp all day,’ I don’t think anybody would be afraid of death. ”

2. What fear does to you. It makes you dumb, especially when you’re in a group. We talk about Franklin Roosevelt’s famous line about nothing to fear but fear itself, and after a quick summary of the Great Depression (it’s convenient, if painful, that we’re reliving certain aspects of that currently; this year’s bunch seemed to grasp the ideas better), I ask them,

“How many of you have made a dumb decision because you were scared?”

Every hand goes up.

“And what do you get when you have people in a group who are are scared?

“A mosh pit?”

“Close enough. A mob.”

3. Scapegoats. They love to either vent about how often they’ve been the scapegoat for an older sibling, or brag about how often they have passed blame unto a younger sibling. All of them have been at both ends, and none of them see any contradiction. We talk about Hitler scapegoating the Jews (and others). Soon we will talk about witch hunts.

4. Idiosyncrasies. Oh they love to talk about this one. After we get past the word itself (“No, it has nothing to do with being an idiot”) and its dictionary definition, I start giving examples by asking questions…

“How many of you – I always have a few every year, in every class – are one of those people who…makes your bed right before you get into it?”

At least four or five (sheepish) hands go up. The rest are flabbergasted. “What? Why? What the?”

(Remember, I’m leading them into “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.) “I knew it. There’s always a few. You people are mighty strange. Well, I’m guessing we also have a few of you who…well, how many of you are the kind who… how many of you, when you eat cereal, put the milk in first, and then the cereal?” A few more hands. This one, most of them can’t cope with. I knew someone way back when, who got mad after he had poured an insufficient amount of milk on his cereal, and the milk ran out. Cereal ruined; wet, but not wet enough. Ever after, he always poured the milk in first. Most of the kids think this is just weird, though.

“I knew it. You people are almost as weird as the night-time bed-makers.”

“But that’s how I was taught!”

“Sorry.”

“How many of you have a lucky pair of socks or something?” Lots of hands.

“I have some lucky purple und-”

“That’ll do. That’s more like a superstition, but, you’re getting the idea.”

So we do a lot of sharing of idiosyncrasies. (BTW: Wade Boggs used to have to eat chicken before every game. We talk about how a lot of professional athletes have idiosyncrasies and superstitions.) Then I ask them,

“What if all we knew about you were your idiosyncrasies? What if you were judged only by your -isms? Like you people who put the milk in first – you’re just sick. And don’t get me started on you people who have to tap your toothbrush three times. And you night-time bed-makers…”

“Hey! Wait! Wha?

“See what I mean? We all have -isms or idiosyncrasies, and-”

“We’re all weird!” Proudly.

Yep.

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