Chaos is the score upon which reality is written. — Henry Miller
Getting back into the normalized rhythm of the school year after 15 days of Winter Break is a more syncopated composition than it is picking up where we left off in December.
Entropy was what passed for order in my classroom today.
The kids have a project on plant and animal cell models. I have assigned this work over Winter Break, not so much for homework over break, but because I know some of my kids will wind up working on their project…well, most of them. Shortly after I arrive at school, L.’s mother is waiting for me in my classroom. L. has managed to lose the project packet, but L.’s mother is relieved that I will be extending the deadline by a few days, if only because I know I would be unlikely to grade cell projects over the weekend.
As L.’s mom is getting ready to leave, with a replacement assignment packet in hand. A. comes stumbling into class, trying to balance two cell projects, along with her backpack and band instrument. She’s misread the assignment; rather than doing either the plant or the animal cell, she’s done both. I can see L.’s expression change–he’s thinking.
“Gee, L., I’m sure A. will gladly sell you the extra project.”
I stop him before he can run over to A.’s side of the room, evidently convinced of the sheer beauty of my suggestion, given the lack of work he’s done on his project–given that he’s just had to have his mother ask for a new assignment packet.
Meanwhile, our school secretary wanders into my classroom, accompanied by a new student, and his mother. I was already aware of the plan to put the new student in my class. In the meantime, L.’s calculating how he can buy A.’s surplus project, I’ve got the other kids scurrying about, as I have moved seating arrangements around to find a good spot with which to put the new kid.
K. wanders into the classroom, just making it to her seat as the bell rings to start the day. She’s excited about all of the kids who are moving seats, until she realizes that she isn’t moving. Her sadness then immediately dissipates when she learns about the new student. She asks the new boy his name. An instant later, referring to a youngster who arrived in our class at the beginning of December, L., K. asks me:
“What’s the new girl’s name?”
L. sat directly behind her.
Later on, along the same lines, as we pick up the previous days’ work, I notice that V. has done her math homework on 2 index cards rather than on notebook paper because she didn’t want to break open a new ream of paper at home. A moment later, A. is getting out her permission slip from her backpack for our field trip this Thursday. She hands it to me, telling me that water spilled in her backpack. I open up the slip, and see a water stain on the paper that closely resembles the chalk Batman logo from The Dark Knight Rises. S., seeing the “logo” from his seat, doesn’t miss a beat when he breaks into appropriate movie dialogue:
“Do you think he’s coming back?”
My answer: “I don’t know…”
Finally, art begins to imitate life. Before break, we’d spent a day learning about the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. The morning before break began, the kids begin to work on 3-D map of both Roanoke and the Jamestown Colonies. A number of the students had already finished their project, but several hadn’t, and as we finish up a math test, I ask the kids to keep busy by finishing up these maps.
A.K. can’t find his map.
“When I left for break, I swear I left it on my desk. Now it’s gone!”
Knowing the story behind the colony’s real-life disappearance, I have to apologize to A.K. for laughing. He’s now experienced what John White might have felt. Sometimes art really does imitate life. And sometimes the best lessons aren’t planned.