Master of Ceremonies

I think that we tend to be overcritical of ourselves when stories don’t work. We think we are the master of ceremonies in some kind of circus. But we’re not. In any social setting, the quality of the interaction, the conversation, the art of it, depends on who is in the entire group.

Our kids lack social skills in classrooms. It’s not their fault, it’s just the way it is. Most have had little training in the art of conversation at the dinner table – if that exists any more. Social media is here now, so that interacting with a real human being, let alone an adult, is not something kids are trained in anymore. Can you say Smart Board?

It’s amazing we get through our stories at all. Some classes have the chemistry for it, and that is usually due to a handful of kids whom we call sparklers who have been raised in a way that they know how to communicate and give to a group and laugh. Most kids can’t laugh, though, it seems.

Anyway, let’s give ourelves some slack as we gear up to go through the hardest part of the year again. I find myself giving myself more and more slack if the story doesn’t work. My expectations are lower. That is a good thing. My job is to deliver the CI, and that’s it. Anything else is gravy. We don’t have to be the big star. Let’s get over that one.

One good thing about boring stories is that they tend to follow the script much more to the letter which allows us to just cut and paste the entire story and just replace the variables from each class. When a story is more interesting, it meanders more* and is harder to just cut and paste for each class so it takes us a lot longer to prepare the readings. So boring can be good in terms of saving us time in preparing the readings.

*Of course, when stories meander too much, we go out of bounds and that is a big problem. There is such a balance to keep the story in bounds and yet make it interesting. Oh well, nobody said that this was going to be easy right?





16 thoughts on “Master of Ceremonies”

  1. I experienced this during the past week. In my distracted/distracting 7th grade class, I have abandoned asking stories in favor of rWT-style mad-lib fill in the blanks. This time around, most of the students didn’t even take that seriously (though they did the bare minimum), and so I had to cobble together a semi-entertaining story from their mostly-unusable answers. When I handed out the story, there were all kinds of grumblings about repeated themes from previous stories, and information that was left out (because I deemed it inappropriate and/or unusable). I responded to them saying that if they put more effort into the story, it would be more interesting. I then added “Magister non est scurra! (the teacher is not a clown). My job is to teach you Latin, not entertain you like a tv. This is our story, and you need to make sure you understand it, even if it is boring to you.”

    After that, things got better, and students began engaging the story, expecially when I threw the Stella Mortis (a plush Death Star) around to translator-volunteers.

    All this to say that I agree with Ben’s post. Don’t kill yourself to make the story spectacular. Put the burden on them to come up with entertaining and appropriate details, keep things simple, and remember that even your lamest attempt at a story is better than a textbook.

    1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

      Can I be Robert’s parrot?

      Kate it’s SOOOO great to see / hear from you again! Your sweet words of wisdom are always a ray of sunshine, especially in this yukky weather we’re having here!
      I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s all about connection, which has nothing to do with teaching.

      I had the best day of my life today. This morning right before the 1st bell rang one of my French 1 kid (Daniel)asked me in French: “qu’est-ce que nous allons faire aujourd’hui? (What are we going to do today?) I thought I was going to fall off my chair b/c the “nous” ( we) form is so hard to get for them b/c it’s not used so often (or so I thought). So I turned to him and I asked him if he had studied French before b/c he just made an incredible sentence that sounded just like a native would say. And he replied no. So I asked him how he knew to say that and he replied :
      you always say “nous allons faire this or that”. I started to melt (talk about non-forced emerging output). But that’s not all. Then another kids said something to him about me in english (I don’t remember what) and Daniel’s answer was (again in perfect french) : mais je l’aime ( but I like/love her). OMG, I had to hold my tears.

      I told my husband tonight that I’m so happy doing what I’m doing and that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I’m sure it’s all b/c of teaching comprehension classes!

        1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

          Skip, YOU ARE SO SWEET….If you help me find me a job in Maine where I can do nothing but CI , I WILL MOVE. I m serious. I’d love to be able to see you guys on a regular basis…
          And do some casual CI talk , we could become “les chevaliers de la table ronde”.

          My school is turning into a wall to wall IB school next year and it’s going to be a nightmare, thanks to Rahm Emmanuel. I need to get out of here.

          1. “Operation Sabrina” in motion! (better let your husband in on this play!! :o) )
            with love,

  2. I saw a quote that made me think of all of you, my friends and colleagues, so I figured I share it here. In honor of the blizzard that’s about to kick our butts today here on the East coast, it seemed appropriate:

    “Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things but look at what they can do when they stick together.”-Unknown

    Go easy on yourselves, folks! We’re all in this together, in any case!

    1. Jennifer, this quote reminded me of the May/June 2012 copy of Ode I recently stumbled upon. There is a featured article about “scenius”, a word that basically means genius coming from collaboration. It made me think of this site, and thanks to Ben for making it a place of utmost collaboration. It also made me think about our classrooms, and even though they are very top-down for reasons beyond our immediate control, we have taken a big step thanks to Blaine and many others in showing us how to co-create stories and opinions with our students in our classrooms.

  3. Thanks Jennifer, That was beautiful.
    Hope the storm doesn’t add any more devastation to you people on the East Coast. Mother nature’s wrath has not spared you much lately. Our thoughts are with you.

    1. Thanks, Sabrina. I think my area will get about a foot or so. I’m more concerned for the poor people down the Jersey shore that haven’t yet recovered from Sandy.

      A little later, I might go play in it! Turn lemons into lemonade;snow into snowmen!

  4. sounds like some interesting stories may develop about where you were when the lights went out, etc.

    I wish you all well. It was cold this morning and now is in the 70s. Not snow weather but I still have long underwear on from being outside at field day.

    I hope your families are all safe and snug.

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