No Begging

If a parent or person in authority has said, “No” to a request for something, to ask for it again is disrespectful. It communicates disbelief, disregard, and hubris; not very classy character traits.

I heard a report of Scarlet’s behavior when Mommy was visiting someone the other day that lead to a lesson on what it means to be classy. Scarlet approached one of my wife’s adult friends and asked if she could have something. Being an only child, Scarlet has no shortage of toys. We buy her what she wants, as well as purchase things she hasn’t even dreamed of wanting. So, for Scarlet to ask someone outside of the immediate family for something was unnecessary, awkward, and therefore inappropriate.

I like the idea of Scarlet feeling comfortable speaking with adults. And, I even like that she feels confident requesting things, but soliciting other people’s property is just wrong. “If Daddy were hungry,” I explained to her, “And he saw someone eating a sandwich, would it be okay to go up to the person and ask for it? Of course not!” That would be weird. Additionally, it puts the person being requisitioned in an awkward position. If she says “No” she won’t look very polite, and if she says “Yes”, but doesn’t want to give up the item, she could feel bitterness toward you.

One of Scarlet’s new sayings is, “That’s not fair.” Erika Watts, of  Dorky Mom Doodles, shared a handful of New Year’s Resolutions, recently. One that cracked me up used a metaphor of Sauron’s all-seeing eye from “Lord of the Rings” to explain that she normally could not touch a candy bar without her kids knowing it. The Dorky Mom writes that this year she resolves to eat a candy bar by herself. Good luck, Erika! Is it fair that Mom should eat an entire candy bar without sharing? Guess what, honey. Asking mommy to share the candy bar isn’t fair to mommy.

 

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Scarlet and I have been enjoying “Classy Talks” on the way to school.

This lesson was more than a one time, fifteen minute car ride discussion. One afternoon, Scarlet asked if it was classy to beg. This threw me for a loop. I hadn’t used the word “beg” when discussing with my daughter the inappropriateness of asking others for things. I remembered my own childhood, a million years ago, when we would say, “You beggin’!” to our friends when we didn’t want to share something that they were requesting.

 

I always try to answer my daughter’s questions as truthfully as possible. Also, I want to prepare her for life, by educating her on potential scenarios that the world might throw at her. If a kid told Scarlet that she was a “beggar”, what would she think that meant? What should she think of beggars? Is begging classy?

These are tricky questions to answer. Begging has negative connotations, but is begging wrong or bad? In my class and this blog I use the word “classy” because it is funny, cheesy, and denotes having manners. I do not use it to promote classism. It seems to me that a poor artist can be much classier than a wealthy person who treated others badly to attain riches. Additionally, homeless people and panhandlers do not all come from the same stock. Some people, John Bird among them, dismiss beggars as drug addicts, people with drinking problems, or mental health sufferers (Branigan, 2002). Bird was homeless for a time, and began the magazine “Big Issue” to help homeless people, but his life is only one annotation on the issue. His callous dismissal of these people isn’t helpful.

A book that provided a paradigm shift for me is “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon (2013). This book presents several types of people that society marginalizes and controversies surrounding their situations. Deaf, dwarf, prodigy, parents of criminals, and children of rape victims are just a few of the categories that Solomon writes about. And, each one was explored and explained far beyond my prior knowledge. The one that was the most foreign to me, and therefore presented the most new information, was the chapter on schizophrenia. Movies make light of multiple personalities, but Solomon made it real. His book contains thorough stories and lengthy interviews with people who live with the condition. Solomon’s mission is to help regular people feel and understand what it would be like to live life through the lense of someone who has to deal with these maladies on a daily basis. It is easy to dismiss homelessness as a byproduct of mental health deficiency, but “Far From the Tree” (Solomon, 2013) spells out the difficulties in helping people with schizophrenia. Neither medicine nor counseling help people who hear voices in their head, completely. There aren’t enough funds for these people to be housed by expert facilities. It was through reading this text that my view of homeless people completely changed. I no longer saw their situation as a choice. In some cases, begging or asking for help IS the classiest thing for a person to do. Alternatives include self-medicating, wasting away, and completely losing one’s mind. Just writing this makes me want to give to panhandlers.

Before getting carried away, Ole Moen makes a compelling point in “Don’t Give Money to Beggars” (2012), published in Practical Ethics by The University of Oxford. After dispelling the typical cases for giving money to panhandlers, Moen presents the argument that when someone gives money to a panhandler, they are taking money from someone who may need it more. He argues that panhandlers in America are not as bad off as those in other countries and parts of the world. Moen calculated the typical charity shown to the typical beggar on the corner of a busy intersection as about $50-$70 an hour. Not begrudging these people, but suggesting that this money might be better spent furthering a reputable helper of homeless people in the worst part of the world, Moen suggests people donate to charities that do more good than the tiny feeling of giving a guy a buck. He is not calassed. Moen is calculated. This counter-intuitive idea would be tough to sell to my seven-year-old, but it is one that I can mull over. If Scarlet and I consciously gave some of our funds to a few organizations that help people in need, and if we also checked on these groups to see what our money was doing, I can picture her understanding why we don’t give to beggars on the street. It isn’t that we don’t want to help them. We do.

Kate R. wrote an article for Grand Rapids Kids, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Panhandling and Helping to Those in Need” (2014), after her 7 year old daughter witnessed a man with a “Hungry” cardboard sign on the side of the road. The daughter asked her mommy, “Why doesn’t that man have any food?” Kate R. used what she calls the “Santa Approach” in dealing with this and many other tough questions. She told her daughter, “I don’t know, sweetie. Why do you think the man doesn’t have any food?” This launched a discussion where the mom could correct some misconceptions and educate the daughter on some of the hardships adults face.

Kid Power: Take Charge of Your Safety ran a piece called “Handling Panhandling So Panhandlers Won’t Handle You” by Irene van der Zande (2013). She begins with a story about being 14 in Mexico and having many panhandling children swarm her after giving one of them a dollar. This can be a scary feeling. I remember a time I visited Jamaica. I was walking through an outdoor market. Right after I bought a necklace from a vendor, I noticed I was being followed. It was a lesson on the title “Mark”. I had been marked as someone with money, who was okay with parting with it. I was a target. I love the bit of advice that Van der Zande (2013) begins with: Rather than handing out money or help thoughtlessly, think clearly about your decision and make it a conscious action. When you unthinkingly give time, money, or other resources, you are in danger of being tricked. Also, the author points out that this is simply not safe. The next few bits of advice run along the same line; it is good to have a plan, maintain a safe distance from panhandlers, and don’t get surprised. Be smart. This is a beneficial, short read; I highly recommend it.

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Explaining things to kids is classy.

It’s interesting writing about begging from both perspectives: How to handle people who are asking you for money and how to get your kid to stop pestering you for stuff. The safety tips from Van der Zande (2013) seem like they could apply to parents protecting themselves from their own panhandling progeny. I can picture Dorky Mom Doodles author, Erika Watts (2019) maintaining a safe distance from her children by locking herself in the bathroom with her candybar;) Probably, we should teach kids that although adults may ask strangers for money, and there are complicated reasons for this, you, learning youth, who have everything that you need, should not practice this.

Amy Morin’s article “7 Ways Parents Can Put an End to a Child’s Pestering” (2012) actually does read like a pamphlet for dealing with panhandlers. As I read about “Never Give In”, the 1st way for ending childhood begging, I remember my experience in Jamaica. If I hadn’t purchased the necklace, I could have feigned poverty, “I have no money.” As far as the vendors would be concerned, I was a poor youth and not worth attention. Once I did show that I had money, however, Morin suggests to “Stay Calm” (no. 2) and “Ignore Ongoing Protests” (no. 3). As I evaluate these tips, I am thinking that a parent could instruct a child (age-permitting) on not begging by teaching how to deal with panhandlers. Morin goes on to suggest to parents that they set firm “If/Then” stipulations that have clear consequences. She ends with the advice of helping kids learn how to deal with disappointment. If parents give in to the begging, we could be training kids to do more of the same.

Finally, Heather Steiger seems to be a no-nonsense mom who preaches against giving an inch in “5 Phrases That Will INSTANTLY Make Your Kids Stop Begging” (2016). These staccato sayings are sure to end all young person’s panhandling practices. The only thing is that they seem to lack nuance. It is like treating every request like an assault on your parenting. “This conversation is over!” may work at getting your kid to discontinue begging, but at what cost? Do you really want to communicate that “One more word out of you on this subject will reap serious consequences”? I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to close the communication door for any reason. I don’t want Scarlet to beg or pester me or anyone else, but it isn’t worth instituting the silent treatment. Steiger’s article begins with her witnessing a child giving a parent a hard time in a grocery store checkout. The mom caved and let the kid get a candy, with the concession that it be eaten after dinner. Steiger saw this as the kid running the relationship. It is tempting to view the checkout line mom’s actions as weak and potentially harmful, reinforcing the annoying activity. While Steiger might be able to get that kid to never beg again, with one of or a combination of her 5 phrases, do we really want our kids to be threatened with loss of love? Check out the article; It’s a very short read; and see if you agree or disagree with me. In my opinion, assuming rigid, black/white answers is rarely classy. It is far more classy to communicate why begging is not classy. Good luck!

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Scarlet enjoys her 7th birthday. Even kids who seem to get everything beg from time to time.

 

 

I’d love to learn your thoughts on this matter. What do you think? Is begging just part of childhood? How should panhandling be explained to children?

Sources:

Branigan, T. (2002, December 23). Big Issue founder says begging is bad. Retrieved January 28, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/dec/23/pressandpublishing.homelessness

 

Moen, O. M. (2012, September 22). Don’t Give Money to Beggars. Retrieved January 28, 2019, from http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/09/dont-give-money-to-beggars/

 

Morin, A. (2017, November 10). 7 Ways Parents Can Put an End to a Child’s Pestering. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/stop-your-child-from-pestering-1094978

 

R., K. (2014, September 3). How to Talk to Your Kids About Panhandling and Helping to Those in Need. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://grkids.com/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-panhandling-and-helping-to-those-in-need/

 

Solomon, A. (2013). Far From the Tree. New York, NY: Scribner.

 

Steiger, H. (2016, February 26). 5 Phrases That Will INSTANTLY Make Your Kids Stop Begging. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from https://www.yourtango.com/2015278597/5-phrases-that-will-instantly-make-your-kids-stop-begging

 

Van der Zande, I. (2013, March 20). Handling Panhandling So Panhandlers Won’t Handle YOU! Retrieved January 25, 2019, from https://www.kidpower.org/library/article/handling-panhandling-so-panhandlers-wont-handle-you/

 

Watts, E. (2019, January 15). New Year’s Resolutions: The Parenting Edition. Retrieved January 16, 2019, from https://dorkymomdoodles.com/2019/01/15/new-years-resolutions-the-parenting-edition/

 

Complaining Is NOT Classy; Communicating Is

img_2277I’m excited to share some of the classy mini lessons that I have been giving my daughter on the way to school. Sometimes the lessons are prompted by behaviors. This one was not. In fact it seemed like it was better received, because I was not telling Scarlet that she did anything wrong. I was simply stating a fact: Complaining is NOT classy. There was no need for getting defensive. We had a lovely conversation about it.

 

An hour later, third graders began filing into my classroom. Some students didn’t like something that they read on the morning board. When I heard their groans, I got everyone’s attention. I told them about the lesson that I had just shared with Scarlet: It isn’t classy to complain. Rather than whining about having to take a quiz, you should communicate. Tell the teacher (me) that you understand that assessments are necessary, but you would rather experience dynamic lessons than complete a boring quiz. This will make the teacher (me) feel good about your appreciating his (my) hard work, and maybe he (I) will reconsider administering a quiz today. Whining just makes you sound lame.checklist

When teaching Scarlet the lesson, I used her teacher, Mrs. Brans, and a writing lesson as a hypothetical situation. I told Scarlet that if Mrs. Brans had you writing all morning, and then announces after lunch that the class was going to do more writing, it would not be classy to complain, even if you are extremely unhappy about this prospect. It would behove you to communicate to Mrs. Brans that, although you really like writing, you practiced it all morning and are tired. Ask Mrs. Brans if there is any way you and the class could take a little break, before continuing with more writing.

I asked Scarlet if this sounded reasonable. Her face was bright all over. She seemed to get it. Complaining just adds to problems. Communication paves the way to problem-solving.

After lunch I was thrilled to have some of my students try this trick out on me. When I told them we were going to do centers, a girl raised her hand and began, “Mr. Weimann, we have done centers the past couple of days, and while we like them just fine, we are a little tired of them. Could we do something else instead?”

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Students might be more likely to complain when they think that their communication wouldn’t be taken seriously. We need to make sure they feel like we are listening.

“No! Keep your comments to yourself and do what you’re told!” I like kidding with my students, and this was my way of saying, “Nice job remembering my little lesson from earlier.” I was really proud of her for doing exactly what I had taught. To reward this classy kid, I made a checklist on the board of things I wanted the students to complete in order of priority; No centers. This afforded me the opportunity to walk around and help students. Also, we began a new improved football pinata for our Reading Super Bowl celebration, next Friday. It was a fun-filled, project-finishing, complain-free afternoon… all because feelings were classily communicated.

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After readers theaters, kids communicated to me the need to just veg out. This is what ensued.

#OneWord2019  “Classily”: Define your actions with class

How many teachers have great classroom management, but can’t manage their own offspring? My daughter Scarlet is great. She doesn’t need all that much managing, but there are times when you wouldn’t guess her father is the “Captain of Class”. She can hang with the best of manners-missing marauders. And, I’d be lying if I didn’t mistake her for a bratty buccaneer every now and again. Due to location, Scarlet will never join the ranks of the Polite Pirates in my classroom, but that doesn’t mean she can’t share their class.img_7120 2

At the turn of the year I saw many people posting #OneWord2019 on Twitter. They were inspiring and motivational. It was right around this time that I made a family decision: This was going to be “The Year of Class”! I was going to bring all of my lessons on how to behave classily home from school and share them with my daughter. #OneWord2019 “CLASS” seems pretty generic, coming from someone who already writes and teaches about classy behavior all of the time.

Then it dawned on me: Class is a thing, akin to perfection. I know that my daughter’s behavior will not be perfect; I don’t want it to be flawless. I’m okay with Scarlet making mistakes. What I want to teach her is how to make them classily.

There it is! That’s the word!

Classy is full of criteria: Does it meet certain standards? Is it good enough? Through my many musings on the subject of what it means to be classy over the years I’ve come across more than one paradox. For instance, a classy person is a “man of action”… But, someone who appears to “try to hard” does not look very classy. And, the less one works, but things are happening all around him, the classier. Which is it, hard work, little work, hidden work, delegated work…? Now that I am going to be teaching my daughter, I want to be sure. I will be her teacher through more than one grade.img_2888

More than the amount of work, what type of work, or whether you work at all, the most important thing is how you conduct your work. One student writes a two-page narrative, while another punches out a paragraph. The first always writes a lot. The kid didn’t use any new skills that had been recently taught. The second student struggles to string four words together, typically. Perhaps he usually complains of not having anything to say. But this time, his attention during your descriptive writing lesson is paying off. And, the pep talk about taking pride in your work has sunk in. You can’t believe your eyes. A paragraph has blossomed on a paper without one prompting. What is a better measure of success, growth or achievement? Rather than grading the work on whether the final product was classy or not, why not grade the process on how classily it was performed?   

Here is another paradox. I make a big deal about how my students sit in class and stand in line. Posture is important to me. “Put your shoulders back and raise your chins, because you are proud,” I tell them. Am I instructing them to be proud of themselves, or do they think that they are better than other classes? Am I teaching my students to raise their chins or look down their noses? The answer is don’t make it a competition. You don’t have to be better than other people to think highly of yourself. If others are better than you at things, should you think lowly of yourself? Stand classily, regardless of your “standing” in the world. You are you; be proud. Be proud of being right there and standing nicely, if need be.img_3087.jpg 

My daughter was excited when I told her that this was going to be “The Year of Class”. I explained that I would be sharing a little of what this means each day. There have been days that Scarlet reminded me about my classy lessons. She has asked me specific questions like, “Is that classy?” These always spark fun conversations. She is taking her new task seriously…

classily.

It is apropos that I write this theme on a day when we celebrate a man who was more than a symbol of class; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an icon of moving mountains classily. His lifelong philosophy of nonviolent protest was grounded in self-pride and showed the hard work of refusing to work. There are many reasons to honor Dr. King. In my book, he was the KING OF CLASS.

 

Can Controversy be Classy?

classEveryday, right after recess and just before math, I have been conducting a sit-down with my students. We have been discussing what it means to be classy. In the past, I just threw ideas at my pupils in off-handed remarks. This year I decided to take a more proactive, purposeful approach.

2bookI found a book at The Learning Express store, called “Being Polite: A few manners every kid should know”. This presents plenty of generic behaviors that adults take for granted, but kids need to be told. For instance, when you go out to eat at a restaurant or over a friend’s house, place your napkin on your lap and keep your eating area neat throughout the meal. This seems arbitrary and obvious. It is neither. Unless a kid saw someone do it, he would never put his napkin on his lap. This isn’t even necessarily the best practice. Do you know what it does, however? This tiny, simple action sets a child apart from others, as a classy individual. Keeping the eating area neat keeps you from looking like an ogre, not classy. It is like combing your hair.

When sharing the ideas from this book, I don’t stay stapled to the book’s parameters. It doesn’t have everything that I want to cover, and I disagree or embellish a few manners. Often, I will share stories as examples. This prompts my students to connect with their own experiences. Additionally, we discuss hypothetical situations.

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Are you getting this?

Now, I come to the controversial part. A big part of being classy is word choice. The more robust the vocabulary, the more classy the individual. A couple of days ago, the Polite Pirates (my students and I) were discussing some public eating mannerisms. We got into chewing with your mouth closed, not talking while there was food in your mouth, and don’t take too large of bites. After discussing these and other classy behaviors mentioned in the Polite book, I summed it all up with, “In general, don’t be disgusting. It isn’t classy.”

This opened a whole new genre of behaviors. “What about burping by accident? What do you do if that happens?”

“Don’t.”

“What if you really don’t like something?”

“Take tiny bites of foods that you are not sure of. Always try new things. You never know. It could end up being your favorite food!”

“Yes, but what if you take a bite, and there is a bone in it?”

“Okay, okay. Use your napkin to produce a magic trick of wiping your mouth, when really you are spitting the food into it. Get a new napkin.”

Then, back to burping: “Can you burp and not make noise?”

“Sure, that is natural. Don’t be disgusting.”

And then, I saw that this hurricane had turned into a category four and wasn’t about to make landfall: “What do you do when you fart out loud?”

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As an aside; There is a fantastic book with a wonderful message called “Walter the Farting Dog” that is marketed to young kids. Most third graders are familiar with it, and this has paved the way for the word fart to be marginally acceptable in elementary talk. The idea and word are still rather taboo, though.

As an additional aside; I grew up similarly to many of my suburban students, in a household of proper talk that frowned on potty language. For example, there was NO acceptable word for feces. My mother pretended the bathroom was used for bathing, only; Everything else was unmentionable. Since my youth, I have been liberated of these vernacular shackles. But, I want to respect the attitudes and expectations of the households of the students that I teach.

Back to my tale; With the cat out of the bag and every eye and ear focused on the question and my reaction, I tried to remain as rigid as land being assaulted by hurricane winds. Perhaps addressing this issue head on will cause the storm to break. It did, but we lost some shutters and broke some windows in the process!

“Alright, alright; If you accidentally fart out loud…” pause, breath, “Well…” think… “Just don’t.” Their eyes weren’t having it. I decided to come out from behind the podium a little: I became humanly honest with my students (and now, you). “When I was in school–your age–I was deathly afraid of embarrassing myself by farting out loud, so I trained my body to fart without making a sound.” This is true. I almost CAN’T make a sound, even now.

Knowing that my students will have to work on this for a while, and having witnessed most of them make obscene natural noises when adjusting their seat on the carpet throughout the year, I knew that I wasn’t really helping their immediate dilemma by telling them to “Practice, and someday it will be fine.” Their dilated pupils told me that this advice was not completely acceptable. They needed real-life, everyday ideas for dealing with this demon of digestive noise.  

“Okay.” Lets try again. “When you feel like you are about to fart…” I actually said these exact words. “Prepare to make an even louder noise than the sound that is about to come from your body. Accidentally (wink, wink) drop a book or knock over your chair. Perhaps you notice (more winking) that it is snowing outside.” The whole class began to crane to see the snow that was surely not falling from the cloudless sky. “See, what just happened? (rhetorical statement) You didn’t even hear me fart, did you?”

Gasps!! If looks could scream, the surrounding classrooms would have heard my students.

To bring them all back to me, I suggested that I had another, slightly less distracting idea. “Just blame your neighbor.” A girl sitting on the periphery of the group blurted out that this was exactly what her father had told her! Some students told stories of giving this one a try. Hurricane relief efforts began with discussing whether it would be classy to blame someone else. Students made connections to the kid who was wrongly blamed for things. Little did I know that this calming conversation was but a respite from the fartstorm that had devastated my mannerly sit-down.

“What about SILENT BUT DEADLY farts?”

And we were off… Was this a hurricane or tornado?

Me: “If you feel like one of those are coming on, you ask to be excused. Go to the bathroom. Leave it there. Probably, you want to walk around a little. Shake it out of your pants. YOU stay until IT is gone.”

Ss: “But, what if you have a few? Do you go to the bathroom, over and over?”

Me: “No, go to the nurse. There is something wrong.” I am hoping that there isn’t something wrong with this conversation, at this point. How can I bring them back from this smelly tsunami? “Try to remember what you ate. Don’t eat that again… Blame your neighbor… I don’t know! Don’t fart. Don’t…” Okay, breath. These are just kids. They have their whole farty life ahead of them.

“You know what?” Relax. “Farting is natural. It happens. The most harmful thing that you could do is get all stressed out about it. Although blaming your neighbor would not be classy, and everyone knows the person who smelt it dealt it… Laughing it off and moving on is definitely the healthiest reaction to this unfortunately inescapable bodily phenomenon. And, healthy is classy. Basically, even when something happens that does not seem classy… like farting… the way you handle yourself demonstrates your class.”

Okay. I think I have them grounded, now. In conclusion…

“But, if you can, I recommend training your body to fart in stealth mode: no sound or smell.”

I just had to put that out there;)

Now, after teaching a slightly abbreviated math lesson, and finishing up the otherwise uneventful day, I waited to read the emails from parents about my “Fart Talk.” Would it be a trickle or stream? None.

The next day, I asked the kids if they had told their parents about out polite discussion from the day before. All but a couple raised their hands. The girl who had mentioned her father’s advice paralleling my idea of blaming a neighbor said that her father retracted ever telling her that! We laughed.

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This story is extra relevant to me because I have been reading a barrage of comments condoning and also condemning a controversial blog about profane language being used in a college setting. (Warning: This blog is literature meant for adults to read. It is well-written, albeit with some swear words illustrating its point. The comments are less guarded.) The message of the text is that the college students seem to feel more engaged, respected, and therefore comfortable with this potty-mouth professor. His story suggests that the students who attend his higher-education literature classes don’t feel talked down to. “This is a guy who is on my side; who gets me,” might be some student sentiments that foster a more comfortable communicative relationship between prof and pupil.

The blog was a fascinating read, and the comments have kept me coming back for more thought-provoking perspectives concerning what I might consider the most appropriate persona a professor ought to project. It made me appraise my own breach of polite protocol when I talked to my students about farting out loud.

That discussion made me feel a little uneasy for a few reasons. One was that the word fart may not be kosher vocabulary for some of my students’ families. Was I using language that would be frowned upon? Through my acceptance of this word, did I bring it into mainstream speak. Sidenote: I did tell the students at the outset that the classy term for this topic was “flatulence”… But, then I proceeded to use “fart” just like them. Secondly, through talking about farts in a casual way, was I aligning myself to closely with the minds and attitudes of my students? Will they view me as a silly person, not to be taken as seriously as before the Fart Talk? I am passionate about my politeness lessons, teaching students how to be classy citizens of the world. What if they begin thinking that this mannerly talk is a bunch of hot (smelly) air? And finally, how will parents perceive my polite parameter podium after finding out that their children’s teacher is talking about farts? Perhaps their opinion of me will diminish.

2weimann talkingI honestly, don’t know, yet.

If you are a parent, and would like to weigh in on this, please leave a comment.

Also,

What DOES a classy person do when he or she farts out loud??????????? We want answers!

 

Thanks for reading.

If you deny it, you probably supplied it.

Sources:

Mountain Buddha. (2018, October 6). Potty-mouthed Professors: Why They’re the Best. Retrieved January 12, 2019, from https://journeyofathousandmiles.blog/2018/10/08/potty-mouthed-professors-why-theyre-the-best/

What’s a Fart? (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2019, from https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/fart.html

Visual Thinking is Classy

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 8.06.15 amThe exciting and informative live chat #MasteryChat that takes place on Twitter between 8 and 9PM on Thursdays discussed the topic of “Visual Thinking” on January 10th, 2019. I’ve always held the belief that the more connections students make to a lesson, the more they will remember. Also, the more emotionally attached they become to their learning, the more they will get out of it.

Teaching nonfiction text can seem like a boring topic. Here is a way I get kids creative about their learning: They make mini booklets about the text features that help them navigate through nonfiction texts.screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.15.24 am

This is great because it gives them a reason for listening: They need to know what to include in their books. Each page models and defines a different text feature or part of a nonfiction book.

The learning tool becomes a toy. Students love looking through their creations all year long. They are proud of what they produce, and show them to their peers and parents.

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.15.48 amHere’s how it works. First, I spark the class’s excitement by showing telling them they are going to make books. Then I show them a mini book. Everyone loves that! They begin screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.16.04 amantsing to make one. That is when I share a unique style of nonfiction text; The “instructional text” that tells how to make a mini book. I point out the sequence words, and we picture in our minds what is happening to the paper.

After students display good listening skills, it is time to hand out paper. I walk around and model as well as help make the folds. The cutting from fold to the center of the paper is tricky. There is always, without fail, a couple of kids who mess it up and have to start over.


Once they have their booklets made, students number the pages. This year, to get everyone back on track, listening carefully, I made this process hilarious by acting like the students couldn’t possibly guess what the next number was going to be. For some of them, I made up riddles and algorithms. Even though the kids obviously knew that the numbers were simply chronological order, they loved it. They were recreating my jokes days afterward in new contexts.screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.16.17 am

The next thing that we do is put the vital information on the cover of the book. The project usually takes several days to complete, and I don’t want any books to get lost. The “Locating Info Mini Booklet” by (name of student) is placed in “Unfinished Work” folders, to be continued later.

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.16.43 amWhen we work on the mini booklets again, I have students label each page. They look at the list that I post on the board for them. Then we make a “Table of Contents”. Finally, students write explanations for each text feature on its page. Some of them, like the “Title Page”, are virtually self-explanatory. Others, like “Graphic Organizers”, require many examples. Students are only permitted to decorate, which they are all iching to do, AFTER all of the information is completed.

This project is more than just visual. The crafty nature of creating your own learning tool is sure to coat axons with much myelin.

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Image from Wikipedia

To Evaluate is Classy

Kira – Kira” by Cynthia Kadohata

The title of this Newbery Award winner intrigued me. I read it in October of 2018. I havescreen shot 2019-01-10 at 7.50.39 pm struggled to blog about it. What angle do I want to use? How can I talk about this novel’s impact on me without giving too much of its plot away? I loved it, and I hated it; like something so bad that it’s good. And, I don’t mean poor quality–It won a Newbery Award!

Right after the new year, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I came across a tweet from the American Library Association that got me thinking. I replied to the idea, but haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I haven’t stopped thinking about it because I disagreed with it. The tweet suggested getting rid of books that don’t bring you joy. My reply communicated my dissent. I have loads of books that are only sad and some that are downright scary, quite the opposite of “joyous”.

It didn’t take long for someone to rebut my reply. Don’t think of joy as “happiness” the person suggested. After a few more back and forths, I began to understand it to mean “emotion”. As in, if a book does not “do something for you emotionally” (bring joy), toss it. This was still difficult for me to swallow, for I adore books. I love them the way I love students. Would I “toss” a student?! Of course not!! You can learn something from every single book and, in one way or another, help every single student.

I continued to wrestle with this concept for a while. I was trying to decide whether I agreed with this definition of joy, and whether it was a good enough reason to get rid of any books. One idea I had was that some books can actually be dangerous. I own books that I not only disagree with philosophically, but that have been shown to contain falsehoods. These books are actually hurting the public who read and believe them. Why would I own or keep them? (My wife is constantly trying to purge our library of them.) They serve as reminders and warnings. As the saying goes, keep friends close, but enemies closer.

Another thought I had concerned the books that I have read that didn’t do anything for me. They ended up being time-vacuums. I did not gain a thing by reading them. Could I get rid of those? Well, I did actually learn something through reading them: That they were pointless and a waste. This is a very important lesson. They could be kept to simply remind me of that danger.

I am aware that this could come off as a defense for keeping every single book, but what I am aiming to show is the process of “evaluation”. In this case, it looks more like “justification”, but simply thinking about each text from my library with the question, “Can I part with this one?” instigated a process that caught my attention. Evaluating is a higher-level metacognitive skill that is very valuable; And therefore extremely classy.

Each one of my books was evaluated on several different criteria. Did it evoke emotion? Did I learn a lesson from it? Was my life or world-view changed as a result of reading it? Would I recommend this text to a friend, and why?blooms-taxonomy-650x366

Eventually, I came to “Kira-Kira”, the book that I have wanted to blog about, but couldn’t quite bring myself to sharing why I liked it… or warn people of its harm. Of course, it elicited emotion! There were a few things in the book that could be potentially dangerous; concepts that immature minds may not be ready for. Obviously, I wasn’t going to part with it… But, wait a minute. What was I doing? I have mulled over this one book, that was probably my least favorite so far, in the way of bringing me the traditional definition of joy, more than any other! Through my “evaluation” of the text I am getting even more out of it.

The tweet that I originally disagreed with also caused me to evaluate. I had to look at the word joy from many perspectives. It drove me to look at a thesaurus, for crying out loud. I didn’t like the tweet. But, in the end, it was one of the most powerful, because it caused me to think the deepest. And, finally, I find myself doing the only metacognitive act higher and classier than evaluation: creation.

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Kira – Kira” by Cynthia Kadohata: Loved it/Hated it (healthy kind)

How are you using evaluation in everyday lessons? What do you have your students evaluate?

Sources:

American Library Association. (2019, January 4). Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://twitter.com/ALALibrary/status/1081299680535998464 %5BThis is a link to the original tweet that sparked the thought for this blog.]

Armstrong, P. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

The Message is Classier than the Mechanics

We kicked off our “Reading Super Bowl” the other day. The students were pumped to be competing against one another. The line to go to the busses at the end of the day was buzzing with how many footballs each was going to be bringing in the next day.screen shot 2019-01-03 at 11.07.14 pm

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This student may never have tackled this text had it not been for the competition.

Today was only day two of our contest, and students came to school baring both footballs and questions. I find it helpful to sit everyone down on the carpet and go over some extra ground rules: 1. It is okay to bring footballs in a day or two late. You won’t lose your minutes if you forget, or mom/dad was too busy. 2. Only take as many footballs as you truly imagine completing that evening. (Kids will take five sheets of paper=30 footballs=600 minutes or ten hours; probably not realistic in one night;) 3. Even though you are not inside the school building at recess, you can’t bring a book outside to read. Run around; that is what recess is for. While I appreciate the enthusiasm, the lunch/recess aids have enough to do without initialing a million footballs… 

While covering these and more rules and regulations, I began to back away from the parameters of the competition and focus my message on what the contest is actually meant to do: foster a love for reading and develop reading

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Students began bringing books with them everywhere they went.

habits. In the past the class was privy to the mantra “Everyone who reads wins”, but I hadn’t spelled out the underlying agenda of the “Reading Super Bowl”. This year I just flat out told students, “I would rather you only read 20 minutes a day, but wish that you had more time to read and love the time that you did spend reading, than bring four footballs (80 minutes of reading) in to class each day.”

I worded this concept a few different ways with multiple examples, and the students seemed to understand. After each student shared an exciting tale of how much he or she read the night before, I asked what was read and how much the student enjoyed it. It only took a few of these exchanges before students began discussing book series and future books that they wanted to read. Now we were getting somewhere! Rather than championing the paper footballs and minutes read, my students were looking forward to the actual reading.

In previous years, I have asked parents to send in pictures of their kids reading at home so I can include them in movies that summarize the whole competition. I might have parents contribute these earlier in the game, this year. In this way, we will focus on the plays rather than only the score.