Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to School Night

Here I am, wondering if anyone is going to come up to see my amazing computer lab here at Einstein. I figured since it looks like such an occurrance is unlikely, I'd at least try to get something of some value done. But then I just decided to update my blog.

So I started taking students in the lab this week, and for the most part it's been pretty good. I'm still getting adjusted to the little ones (K - 2) but I think I'm doing okay. At the staff retreat a few weeks ago some of the 1st grade teachers were emphasizing to me how specific I'd need to be with the students. "You've got to tell them EVERYTHING," they'd tell me, eyes widening with each syllable. "How to walk, how to talk, where the bathrooms are...." "Oh, YES! The BATHROOMS, make sure you tell them where the BATHROOMS are," they'd say, lighting into stories of students past who were unable to control their bladder, bowels or both at some point of the school day.

These nightmares got me thinking though. How could I teach the students how to walk? Don't they already know how to walk? Eventually I got the idea to have the students walk "like robots" on the way to and from the lab. They would have to walk with stiff arms and legs and look straight ahead. Of course, the first images that popped into my head when I thought of this were the lines of militant North Korean soldiers high-stepping past Kim Jong Il. That would never do. "Besides," I thought, "what kind of school would this look like to some random bystander who just happened to witness me marching little six year olds through the halls?" I'm sure it isn't the kind of impression that the school is interested in projecting in any case.

Of course, all of this doubting was out the window with my first class of the week. A first grade troop of students quickly taught me exactly how crazy it can get on a simple walk back to the classroom. Not to mislead you, nothing extraordinary happened at all, it was just six year olds being six year olds. Walking without paying attention to where they were going, talking to their friends next to them, chasing after a bug or two enroute....

So with the next class I tried the "robot walk" bit. "There are three things you need to know about robots," I began. "The first is that robots don't talk. 'But Mr. Hartman, Mr. Hartman' you'll say. 'I saw a movie with robots in it and they talked!'" I whined using my best five year old voice. "Those aren't robots, those are CYBORGS! Robots don't talk."

"The second thing you need to know about robots is that they always walk in a straight line. Humans? Humans walk all over the place. They walk left, they walk right, they might even walk in a circle. But robots always walk in a straight line."

"The last thing you need to know about robots is... they have NO elbows! If a robot wants to scratch his head, he has to use his shoulder," I said, my ear rubbing against the sleeve of my shirt.

The kids ate it up, and I had no problems for the rest of the week making all of the students walk like robots to and from the lab. Now, I still kind of worry what it might look like to a random bystander, but I decided that most people, for better or worse, have simply forgotten what it is like to not only have a six year old child around, but to be a six year old child. They simply have the attention span of a gnat, and it is quickly the most infuriating thing in your life to try and get 20 of them to walk in a somewhat organized and timely fashion anywhere without screaming like banshees. I don't think there's a mother in the world that would convict me, but part of me still misses the simplicity of simply asking my 6th graders to just go somewhere and having them do it. -joe

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