Archive for December 6, 2007

Another Thing I Like About Teaching Seventh Graders

December 6, 2007

They haven’t yet heard all the standard jokes and tricks, so it’s really easy to mess with their heads. Consider today, when they came to class to find the following on the board:

A plane crashes on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Each state claims the right to bury the survivors.

1) What branch of the government should settle the dispute?

2) Who will win? That is, who will get to bury the survivors?

The first question was a quick and easy way to review, among other things, the roles of the judiciary, the failings of the Articles of Confederation, the thinking behind the creation of the Constitution.

The latter was partly a lesson in the need to carefully read questions, but mostly a way for me to screw with them. Invariably, the initial reaction was something like: “Huh? How are we supposed to know that? Is there a right answer?” That was followed by frantic flipping of pages in the text book as I assured them that, yes there was a correct answer and that they certainly should know it. Then someone would just say “Texas” and when I asked why, they’d respond “Uhhh, it’s bigger?” We’d discuss whether that was relevant, and conclude that it probably is not. Next up, someone would suggest that the individual families might be the best decision makers. Excellent idea, I would say, but still wrong. Finally, a hand would shoot into the air. Actually, the arm and most of its side of the body would stretch skyward as its owner all but burst with that familiar ooh-ooh-Mr. Teacher-I know-I know-ooh-ooh-pick me look. I’d let him strain for a second before calling on him and finally hearing the right answer: You don’t bury survivors.

Then they all reacted just like most of us did the first time we heard that one. Groans, “d’ohs” and, in this case, moans about the teacher’s dumb jokes.