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.