SoDak it Hurts

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 03 2010

Highly Combustible Classroom

I’m an English teacher,  not a science teacher. I wish I could create a really detailed and accurate metaphor to represent the relationship between unstable nuclear things and my classroom. But, I cannot. Please don’t judge my knowledge (or lack thereof) of nuclear physics – judge my expression of the idea.

It’s like everyday I have radioactive material that swirling about my classroom and I’m introducing new elements (or compounds or antimatter or whatever) with questionable levels of stability. The most careful task during the day is managing the climate of the classroom and driving energy toward inquisition and growth, not uncertainty or boredom – which will lead to a nuclear meltdown. Especially after lunch.

It my responsibility to somehow turn perverted questions into honest inquiries about the beauty of physical contact between two characters in a book we are reading, I must in some way turn a distraction into a discussion that we can steer back toward the growth we need inside my classroom.

On good days I’ve seen the beauty of a class that has the potential to climb out of my second story window, yet choose to allocate their energy to their writing or a lively debate. It is when we walk that line of classroom combustion, narrowly escaping total mayhem, that students are most engaged.

It’s like I’m wearing a lab coat, goggles and thick gloves and I’m reaching into a foggy chamber with those three foot science-tongs to pull out a dangerous liquid I have to mix with another dangerous liquid to make something great like Gak or Creepy Crawlers, but I don’t know if it will work.

I’ve been wearing a lot more deodorant lately.

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    About this Blog

    I taught 10th Grade English on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota between 2009 and 2011. Currently blogging at

    South Dakota
    High School

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