Working with teenagers makes me so happy I'm no longer one. It's a great feeling to walk into a high school and really not give a rip that I don't have the latest clothes, haircut, boyfriend, highest grades, or whatever form of comparison and ranking they are choosing to use. It's good, because for some reason (I like to think it's that I'm very approachable) many of my students apparently feel pretty free to tell me exactly what they think of me. (There was a conversation before they knew I was pregnant about why I should go clothes shopping, get a new haircut, and spend more time with girls. Forever 21 was suggested. I didn't want to break their little fantasy bubbles quite yet, but I have no desire whatsoever to be stuck at 21 forever. None at all. I sealed the deal on my total "nerdiness" in that talk with how I met my husband in a grammar class in college. You should see their faces when I tell that one to those romantic 17-year-old girls.)
When the new semester started some of my classes changed a bit. Mostly I was down students and one of those students was what I like to call an "excessive participator." Seriously, a word in edge-wise was hard sometimes and that can steer the class in a way that is hard to get a handle on if you're not on top of your game all the time because you're, I don't know pregnant, nursing, and exhausted... Excuses aside, I really liked the student, but it is a bit of a relief to not be constantly trying to out-energy the same person all the time.
But, the lack had not gone unnoticed. For the first two class days all I heard from a couple of the remaining students was that the class was "boring" now.
I usually don't listen too much if it's on just one day that is admittedly not exactly action-packed or if it's only one person saying it. And that's what it was in this case. One (and then two, because it's high school and peer pressure is crazy to watch) student said it was boring, but then with some prodding I found out that the real issue was that it was pretty quiet. We were working on a short essay and while people worked through their prewriting and drafting it was really, really quiet in the room. (It's an odd sensation, but with writing, kind of the way it should be.) Quiet apparently equals boring.
This revelation added to the fact that we've already established that while I think writing can be a rip-roaring good time, they think it's like plucking leg hairs means that I'm okay if they're not weeping with laughter all the time, as long as they're learning and engaged in it. (The "silence" was full of pencil scritching and I had a 100% turn in rate on that assignment.) I put it out of my mind, especially after the same student said, "cool" to me showing them how to take 2-column character notes.
Then, we had a day off from school and on Tuesday I was talking before class with students about what they had done with that whole day of freedom. The number one answer was a variation on the theme, "Nothing. It was boring."
"Well, I guess I should have given you more homework if you had nothing to do!" I said that, but I thought this: free time is totally wasted on the young. And, I started to feel better. If a day to do whatever they want is also "boring" then I'm not doing too bad. Add to that one girl being asked what she thought of "Avatar." Her reply? You guessed it: "Boring." So, if my class is at least as exciting as a blockbuster movie, I'm feeling pretty okay with being boring sometimes.
Today, I had a slightly different experience, but it reminded me of all that had transpired in the previous two weeks. Before first hour started two girls came in to drop off their stuff. One of them had a bag with yarn and a garter stitch scarf going. The conversation went something like this:
"Oh, are you knitting that?" I asked as casually as possible.
"Yes, it's a scarf. Do you know how to knit?"
At this point I was trying to not gush and talk too fast (English isn't their first language after all). "Yes, I can knit! It's great!"
"Oh! Do you know how to make the gloves? I tried a hat and this scarf, but I don't know how to do gloves."
"Yes, I can do gloves. You just follow the pattern. Do you have a pattern?"
"Oh well, they're easy. And you just read it, oh, do you know how to read a pattern?"
"No, I don't have a book." And that's when I of course took her to Ravelry. (While navigating there she asked if I know how to knit socks and I just about choked up saying yes and trying to communicate the awesomeness of Sock Summit. It may have weirded them out a bit, that one, you have to ease them in slowly, I think...) By the time I was done showing her how to set up an account and use the pattern browser other folks had shown up and they were pretty excited about this whole knitting thing too. They asked what I knew to knit and I was able to conveniently take them to my projects page and scroll down a bit to where there are actual pictures of projects. There was much ooh-ing and ah-ing. Then one of them asked if I would teach them. (I wonder if I could teach them to read patterns and call it literacy learning...) And as I said we could try to figure out a time she walked away saying, "You are so cool Ms. V."
That's right. I have it, officially, from a teenager: I am so cool. And, best part is, it's because I knit.