Life-long learning…

Teachers are constantly astounded at how much there is to learn.  We are so surprised that, some days, it’s what draws us to the classroom.  Other days, it makes us want to hide under our warm comfy covers until summer.

What lack of knowledge will we face today?

This past week, the teachers at my school were encouraged to work out a professional growth plan.  What courses, conferences, seminars, videos, books, and what-not do we need to maintain certification and/or grow professionally?  This is, of course, in addition to mastering the interactive whiteboards, the new computer operating system, and the many features of Edline, while simultaneously test-driving a new grading software package as we await the imminent arrival of Ipads so that we can teach ourselves how to teach electronically with one-to-one student/teacher interactivity.

imagesCAC2OJ3BMeanwhile, we also teach actual content lessons.  To teenagers.  With attention spans the length of a tweet.  The big excitement in French class recently was finding out that the Academie Française had banned the word “hashtag”  (that’s the symbol #, known to us old people as the pound sign or to even older people as the number sign).  The students came running to me with the news:  “Madame!!!  The Academie Française has banned the word ‘hashtag’!!!!!  It’s now called a mot-dièse!” 

Every once in a while we have discovery learning moments like this.  The rest of the time, we discover amazing things that the students don’t know.  Like how to operate the digital recorders.

I have a classroom set of digital recorders for recording student oral work.  I got them over ten years ago, thanks to a computer-teacher colleague who found them cheap on eBay.  Although a few of the recorders have died, I still have enough for them to be a pretty great classroom tool.  Except, the students can’t figure out how to use them.  If the device had an intuitive circle in the center or a screen to pinch and slide, the students would be ok.  As it is, there are buttons labeled with words: ON, OFF, RECORD, PLAY, STOP.

All through French I,  the same questions come at me: “Mrs. Harp, how do you turn it on?” (Press ON.)  “Madame, how do you record?” (Press RECORD.)  “What do we do when we’re finished?”  (Press STOP.) Then in French II: “Madame, I can’t remember how to use these.”  (Sigh.)

Alas, my antique technology does not compare with what the drama teacher learned at school this week.  While rehearsing with costumes for the school play, she discovered that the male actors did not know how to put on an overcoat.

Man in overcoat

Man in overcoat

Later, we shared this incident with the incredibly brilliant older brother of the lead actor.  His response: “What’s an overcoat?”

“You don’t know what an overcoat is?”

“I know trench coats.  They are light and khaki-colored.  And I know pea-coats.  I don’t know overcoats.”

Well, why would a young man know overcoats?  They never wear coats.  They exit the climate controlled comfort of a car to dash a few yards into a climate controlled building–in polo shirts in twenty degree weather with a windchill of minus three.

“It is scientifically proven,”said one shorts and flip-flops in winter student to his Spanish teacher mom, “that going outside without a coat will not make you sick.”

The teachers’ reply (in chorus): “But if the car breaks down and you are  stuck by the side of the road, you will die.”

The overcoat-challenged actors were baffled by the difficulties of putting the coat on over a suit jacket.  Clueless as to the technique of gripping the jacket cuff while sliding the arm into the coat, the boys found their jacket sleeves bunched up around their elbows.

” I can’t move my arms!”

"I can't put my arms down!" from A Christmas Story.

“I can’t put my arms down!” from A Christmas Story.

After teaching the boys how to put on an overcoat, the drama teacher had to  teach them how to take one off.  No, it does not fall into a puddle of fabric on the floor.  For the scene in question, the coat is to be folded gently shoulder to shoulder and draped over the back of the chair.

I can’t wait to see the school play next weekend, just to watch the boys put on overcoats. And someone should give the drama teacher an award for teaching life-skills.  With all that these students still need to learn, they are going to have to live a very long life.

As for all the things I’m going to learn this week, hiding under the covers sounds really inviting.