Saturday, October 6, 2007


On Monday the seventh grade and I will begin a new block. At our school we study subjects in blocks. We devote the first two hours of every morning (called Main Lesson) to one subject for a number of weeks. We began the year with astronomy, and now we're moving on to Chemistry.

Last year the class and I studied Physics together. One of the demonstrations that I showed them was how heated air expands. To do this I put a balloon on a flask, put the flask on a stand and heated the bottom of it. Of course, after a short time the balloon inflated slightly. The students and I wanted to see if we could make the balloon inflate further and so they all cheered me on to hold the blow torch to the bottom longer to see what would happen. Before long the bottom of the flask and the stand that it was on began to smoke a little bit and the room started to smell bad. I quickly turned off the blow torch and oh-so-calmly suggested that we go outside for the last few minutes of main lesson. The students saw right through my composed exterior and we all had a big chuckle about the fact that I almost set off the smoke alarm in our Physics block.

Yesterday, when I told the class that we were going to begin our Chemistry block on Monday, SD raised his hand and politely asked if we were going to be working with combustibles in chemistry, and (gulp) if I was going to be the one conducting the demonstrations. We all remembered the 6th grade physics debacle and had a good laugh. I promised that despite the combustibles there would be no casualties.

As we enter this chemistry block I'm noticing the social chemistry in the classroom approaching combustible levels, as well. Though for the most part this group of students who have been together for so long have come to know and understand each other quite well, occasionally the group finds itself simply out of patience for one or two in its midst. Right now my most impulsive, least mature student (who is quite combustible himself) is wearing on everyone and though in the past everyone was quite careful about expressing their opinions in class, yesterday it all came to a head and while he was out of the room the class said some pretty difficult things about him and their frustrations with him. Though I often find his youthful enthusiasm and filter-free existence refreshing, it is often quite challenging in the classroom and sometimes it is simply impossible for him to be in the classroom at all. I'm wondering if he can hear his classmates' concerns and respond to them in a productive way or if he'll find them so overwhelming that he'll just give up. Whatever it is, something has to change.

Stay tuned for some explosive content in the next few days.

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