Monday, December 8, 2014

Squirrel Chasers Unite.

I know I brought this on myself.  I saw the Unicorn Countdown Calendar, and couldn't resist its metaphorical connection to the population of students with whom I interact at the junior high.  (Okay, and the high school....).  I didn't really think through the competitive nature of the gifted kids, and how they would nearly wrestle each other to the ground for the opportunity to add to the emerging tableau.

One could assume -- okay, hope, that such an enthusiastic entrance into my classroom would result in some wonderful bonding time, followed by an intensive work session on independent study projects.  They've been working on these for months, and have a fairly good idea of direction and necessary research to move the projects along in the time necessary for the competitions, in some cases, or personal timelines established in collaboration with me or my co-partner in crime, Mrs. Lawrence.  

So today, a grey Monday, with Christmas break looming majestically on the horizon, I entered with great hope.

And found myself surrounded by Squirrel Chasers.

Squirrel Chasers Unite.


For anyone who has taught both high school and junior high school, it is fairly easy to get people to nod in agreement, along with generating a loud and bellowing "NO KIDDING!" or similarly intended, although probably more colorful expletive, when talking about the explicit differences between the two educational levels when it comes to focus, distraction, and on-task behavior.  Junior high level kids are finally free of the clutches of the structured land of elementary school, and encouraged to join student leadership teams, choruses and bands that meet during school time, as well as participate as library volunteers, or a myriad of other clubs and activities.  Gifted kids, in particular, aren't quite sure what to do with this new-found freedom, and usually have lists of activities longer than their arms.  All of which makes for a very difficult time when it comes to prioritizing their time.

For some kids, this prioritization is self-inflicted, for others it's probably genetic.  One of the joys of giftedness is the perpetual nature of teachers of the gifted trying to get those on their caseloads to find others with whom they share quirks, passions, and interests.  This is great if the topic is a particular, identifiable, thing.  It's not so good if the commonality is the ability to chase squirrels.

You know what I mean.  One kid is looking for a lost research binder, searching every shelf and cupboard in the classroom to no avail, and comes upon a business card.  She reads, aloud, the words "DERRY AREA", resulting in something that can only be described as royal fits of laughter from the other tables, previously focused and working well on the aforementioned projects.  Where this card came from, I don't know.  It clearly can go in the trash, for all I care.   But no.  Now it's a trophy.  Lord knows how long we'll be laughing about this poor district with the unfortunate posterior.  Err, name.

"Oh look!  A squirrel!"
" Oh wait!  The buses are arriving?  Why are they not in numerical order?  This bothers me tremendously!"

 Perhaps there is some OCD in the alphabet soup here?

Somehow, they make it through the period, and I feel as if I've been wrestling mythical creatures (unicorns, no doubt) away from their brains to keep them focused.  They congratulate each other on their abilities, sometimes celebrating with the creation of crowns proclaiming their abilities to remain focused.

And yes, I recognize that making crowns seems a bit off task.
But if wearing the crown during the next class keeps everyone travelling down the path towards project completion, then I will make one for every single one of them.

After all, they're royalty in my heart.