Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Twin Peaks

In the early 90's, my husband and I were drawn into the investigation of the death of Laura Palmer, homecoming queen, discovered wrapped tightly in plastic near the river in Twin Peaks, Washington.  Unlike the Netflix fascination with the death of Teresa Halbach by Steven Avery, we watched the brilliantly-written/bizarrely-woven tale of Twin Peaks for two seasons, as Agent Cooper from the FBI delved into the clues, chatting with the Log Lady, the vertically challenged dancer, and allegedly-hallucinated giants, all while obsessing about the "damned fine cup of coffee" served at the local diner.

It was weird.  So weird, that even when we couldn't quite figure out what the heck was going on, we couldn't turn away.  Although Twin Peaks aired for only two seasons, prior to its short-lived revival a couple of years ago, there are many 40 and 50somethings who nod in understanding when phrases from the cult favorite come up in conversation.  In hindsight, I wonder why we spent so many hours watching something that remains in my mind as being nothing more than a bad head trip, rather than a brilliantly-woven tale of intrigue.

Flash Forward

Given that yesterday was the last day of Mardi Gras, it seemed appropriate to reference flashing in a blog about education, right?  There were more than a few people flashing their twin peaks for beads in the French Quarter last night, I am sure. Honestly, I've given little thought to the people of Twin Peaks, Washington, since the turn of the century, aside from attempting to revisit my youth when the series was revived a few years ago.  Yet my mind has been fixated on Twin Peaks -- rather --- twin peaks -- since 3rd period yesterday.

My class was divided into two circles of students, assigned with a task to illustrate and differentiate between qualitative and quantitative observation.  As often happens, one group finished the task far more quickly than the other, and were waiting for the alternate group to complete their task before the "next step" in the lesson.   It was during that brief five minutes that I overheard the words 'shrooms, high, duct tape, and toothpaste, while witnessing an intense "E.F. Hutton Talking" kind of listening happening among the finished group members.

"Yes, Mrs. Heydt.  All you need to do is rub toothpaste on your nipples and cover them with duct tape."  

Seriously?  Who says this to a 54 year old teacher?  More importantly, who even discovers or considers such behavior?  

Instantly, there was a flurry of searching Urban Dictionary and Google.  And yes, it's true.  Kids are actually attempting to create hallucinogenic experiences by rubbing toothpaste on their twin peaks, (check the Urban Dictionary!), and adding duct tape patches to seal the deal, protect their clothing, and allegedly extend the duration of the high.  It's referred to as "Pasting."

Most of the online discussion about this phenomenon appears on sites frequented by kids like Reddit, KnowyourMeme, and yahooquestions, and that only causes me to become more concerned.  Heck, when I was a kid, I used to put toothpaste on zits on my face before I went to bed, hoping for blemish-free  skin by morning, so I could have been accused of using the dentifrice for "medicinal purposes" myself.  I spoke to our School Resources Officer (SRO), who is usually In the Know about the popular trends in drugs and hallucinogenics, and he was equally clueless.

There is some potentially credible science available indicating that the makeup of the human nipple allows for greater absorption of chemicals into the bloodstream, and that there is the possibility that "Pasting" actually may alter reality.  Urban Dictionary has definitions for Pasting dating back nearly four years.  Youtube contains more than a few videos of insanity regarding this topic.

The reality is that kids will continue to "be kids" while demanding to be treated like adults.  There are hundreds of documented cases of kids who accepted the "Cinnamon Challenge"  or "Chubby Bunny" and wound up in the emergency room.   As educators, it is our responsibility to monitor, vigilantly, the conversation and trends in our classrooms and cafeterias, and attempt to deter the desire to alter reality as a means of escape or acceptance by their peers.

It's tough, though.  Especially when the story overheard is so seemingly stupid that your first thought is the mental image of the associated pain of ripping duct tape off of your sensitive skin.

My comment to my students?  "Why would you try it?   It may kill you, and you'll be forever-known as the kid who died with duct taped nipples.  Not much of a legacy, right?"

Is that enough to deter the behavior?  I certainly hope so.  Because beyond that, I'm fairly speechless.

#reflectiveteacher #drugabuse #urbandictionary

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Moo-Reese and the Indestructable Phone.

Virtually Indestructable

It was the end of the period, and the majority of the class was gathered at the computer cart near the door, pretending to put their computers away.  In reality, they were stalling, jockeying for position, as more than half of them were headed to the cafeteria next for lunch.  Amid the gaggle of feet shuffling, I saw a cellphone drop, out of the corner of my eye.  It was quickly retrieved, and then the unimaginable happened.

It was SPIKED into the floor by its owner, who picked it up and proudly proclaimed, "the guy at the Verizon Store was WRONG!  This phone is NOT indestructible!"

I stared, in stunned disbelief, as this freshman in high school was doing something akin to an end zone victory dance because he had proven the Verizon dude wrong.  My amazement was short-lived, as he then cut his fingers on the shattered screen, claiming that the phone still worked.  In short order, it started to smoke and heat up, and then shocked him as he attempted to reboot it.

Honestly, I was still pretty confused.  Not nearly as confused as the administrator who got the phone call when I sent the young lad to surrender his phone to the secure confines of an envelope in the office, to be picked up at the end of the day.  And, I bet, not nearly as confused as the mother who received the phone call (initiated by the principal) from her son explaining what had happened.    I was told by the para-educator, who escorted the proud young man to the office, that he made it about halfway to the office before the sense of accomplishment turned to the sobering reality of the situation.

It's days like these that I come home claiming, "I just can't make this stuff up!"

Laurence Steinberg, the esteemed expert on child psychology, and professor at Temple University, compares the teenage brain to a car with a great accelerator, and a really weak brake.  Examples like the smashed phone certainly abound, with varying motivational forces behind the escalating behavior.  Often it's peer pressure, either internal - "wait until they see THIS" -- or external, "CHUG, CHUG, CHUG"...  you get the idea.  As I reflected on this, though, I couldn't help but see a potential correlation between the teen brain - okay, THIS teen's brain, and the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset studies of Carol Dweck.

It's a new semester, and I am still struggling to learn all the names of the kids in my five classes, so I can't really speak to the motivation and willingness to learn of this particular individual.  I'm still in that Making Meaningful Connections mode, trying to prove that I am an adult, I sympathize with their hatred of research and writing, but we're in this together, and I believe in them.  I've studied CDT data, read IEPs, highlighted SDI's (Specially Designed Instruction), and have noted dozens of accommodations in the Differentiation Section of my lesson plans.  I've pulled out all the stops -- the basket of "fiddlers" is back, including the bulgy-eyed cow and an assortment of stress balls.

It probably won't surprise you to know that the bulgy-eyed cow has been named MOO-Reese, and now owns an origami hat, with a promise of a top hat, and maybe a baseball hat, to be fashioned and added to his collection of chapeaus.   We're connecting, we're uniting in common, and not so common, interests, and learning to trust each other.  

And this teacher is choosing her words very carefully this semester -- because I certainly know that at least one young man refuses to be told that he "can't" do something, without rising to the challenge.

Will there be a new phone on Monday?  Only time will tell.  Will there be a new hat for Moo-Reese?  We can dream, can't we?  It's a new semester, with limitless possibilities in my mind.  But I'm going to listen to Laurence Steinberg and rein in some of the choices, for the sanity of all of us.