Onomatopoeia and Claes Oldenburg

It's Friday night 19:38 and I'm contemplating going to sleep.  I just had a lovely dinner of mango-chili fish over millet with rice millet pudding as an impromptu dessert.  Music is playing and a week of teaching is behind me . . . and I'm happy.

I'm happy to be a teacher.  I'm happy to hear the irregular chops of knife on cutting board from my roomie in the kitchen.  I'm happy to be in this country.  I'm happy to be tired.  And, perhaps most of all at this moment, I'm happy to be a teacher, teaching the students and classes I do at the school where I work.  If I didn't have reservations about posting students' photos and work on here, you'd be seeing their smiling faces and photos fo their work in a heartbeat.  I suppose you'll have to settle for my descriptions.

When doing my teacher preparation in university, I always thought I'd be a high school teacher.  Then I decided that I'd be happy with high school or elementary.  I ignored those awkward years in between. Now, I'm in this country teaching high school, elementary school, and in between.  That's right, I'm a middle school literature and English teacher, and I love it.  There's such an energy and a transparency among them.  They're quick to compliment, critique, or complain, and there's such a delicious honesty in it all.  Moreover, they're not yet at the stage of having to hide the fact that they think something is cool, which leads to all sorts of delightful classroom moments.

* * *

I've divided out my youngest literature class (year 6), giving the more advanced students independent study and working more in depth with the less advanced readers.  At the end of one lesson, my tiniest little student looked up at me and said, "I like Tom Sawyer, Miss Straszheim; it's exciting."

* * *

One day, with the same group, I brought in some spiral bound copies of some classroom materials.  The students asked, "Miss Straszheim, can we get them today!?"

I told them it would have to wait to the next lesson.  "But when we do, can I have one with blue, uh, blue--"

"Binding?" Silence and a perplexed look.  I ran a finger along the blue binding.  "This part is the binding.  I'll be happy to give you one with blue binding next lesson if you can remember the word 'binding.'"

The next lesson I had with these 11-year-olds, I walked into the classroom, and suddenly students burst out one-by-one: "Can I have one with blue binding?"

"Yeah, I want blue binding too!"

* * *

Thursday, I told my year 8 students two stories and asked them to tell me which they preferred.  Both were renditions of the time-I-walked-up-to-my-car-with-a-man-stealing-my-stereo-inside story.  The first telling wasn't much more detailed than that preceding hyphenated nonsense.  The second had all the dynamism that a crime-in-action story should have.  They dropped their jaws at the right moments, and after I finished; everyone declared that they preferred the second.  As we returned to Paulsen's The Hatchet, we dug into descriptive language, and some students laughed--actually laughed--as paragraphs of Paulsen's imagery were contrasted  with some brief sentence like, "It was difficult, but Brian got out of the plane."

We talked about imagery and students cringed as they read descriptions of fingernails being torn loose as a hand "clawed" at a seatbelt or "clouds of mosquitos"  that "clogged" the main character's nostrils.

Then there were the confused and charmed looks as my students heard the word "onomatopoeia" for the first time, and their giggles as I explained the word 'roar' by emphasizing its onomatopoeia.

* * *

The stories could go on and on, a student's outburst of "I very like art class!" or "Miss Straszheim, I drew this pop art sandwich at home!" or the many hands that shoot up when I say the words "I need a helper."

I am so grateful for each student I have in my lessons.  I've seen "lazy" students complete work and turn in beautiful projects.  I've seen rambunctious students suddenly calm down and focus on developing an idea in such surprising, ingenious ways.   Granted, there are also those moments with preparations, sequences, standards, and grading rather than students, but then I get to walk into a classroom again and witness students lift the veils in front of literary and artistic craft that they've never encountered before.


Popular Posts