One of the things I like to say about teaching junior high is down at the bottom of this page in the footer. You’re too lazy to scroll, aren’t you? Fine. “Five shows a day, 180 days a year.” And there aren’t many crowds tougher than 7th graders.
“This is boring.” The worst of all sins.
Most of us who teach junior high have a shtick. A role we play, some isms we like to use again and again. Idiosyncrasies we play up for entertainment/attention value (oh the sharing I get when we talk about that word idiosyncrasy during “Monsters are Due on Maple Street“). The key is to make the shtick such a natural part of the classroom routine, that it doesn’t distract too much. Well, sometimes we need the distraction.
There’s the Raffle King. There’s the Timer. There are the clickers. The Cage. Mental Floss. Nutty videos. MYOB. All of these are stalwart features of my classroom shtick. And as of a few years ago, there’s also the Quiet Stick.
(four or five years ago – me visiting another teacher’s classroom before school) “Leenie! What the shiggy are you doing? Where’d you get this, and WHY ARE YOU THROWING IT AWAY?”
This is when I first beheld the Quiet Stick. In the garbage can. This is early in the year, and it’s Leenie’s last year before retirement. She’s already starting to clean out. But, hello? This should be something solemnly passed on to a younger teacher, and handed down like samurai sword. With some sort of secret ceremony and maybe a blood oath – Tom Sawyer style. Not dumped in the trash like last week’s crosswords, and forgotten.
“It’s one of those signs the marshal holds up at golf tourneys, while the guy tries to putt. I don’t have the pole any more. I don’t know why I even still have it.”
“Can I have it?”
“Why would you want it?”
“Why would I want it? The real question is, how did I get this far without it?”
I still don’t understand its power. But it is real. Most times, all I have to do is hold it up and point animatedly. Often, it just takes a point in its direction to quell an impending uproar. Now and then I have to wave it a bit. There have been a couple of times, I tell the kids, when I have had to “kick it up a notch.” But now that there are chunks missing, I don’t want to risk breaking it…
When I got it, the Quiet Stick did not have those chunks out of it. This is something I point out to the kids without offering further details. Sometimes, I think, it is best to let the junior high imagination do some of the work for you.