August 17, 2007

I’m a teacher!

Posted in classroom stories, lesson plans, reflection at 11:31 pm by mrsmauck

First two days DOWN!  And I think they went really well! I started out having them fill out student information cards: they wrote down their name, preferred name, e-mail address, average amount of time spent on homework per week, and three things they like to do. I would have liked a better method for learning names, but oh well. After I went over my expectations and syllabus (which lasted a bit too long, I think), we launched into our first learning experience, and it was a good one! I stole this idea from graycie about a year ago, and am finally getting to use it! We read this poem called Mountain People by Jo Carson, from her book Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet.

Mountain people
can’t read,
can’t write,
don’t wear shoes,
don’t have teeth,
don’t use soap, and don’t talk plain.
They beat their kids,
beat their friends,
beat their neighbors,
and beat their dogs.
They live on cow peas,
fatback, and twenty acres
straight up and down.
They don’t have money.
They do have fleas,
tobacco patches,
liquor stills,
and at least six junk cars in the front yard,
Well, let me tell you:
I am from here,
I’m not like that
and I am damned tired of being told I am.
~ Jo Carson

We talked about the shift in viewpoint at “Right?”, the staccato rhythm, and finally, the stereotypes. Then I said, “You know, just about every group of people has some stereotypes associated with them: things other people believe about you just because you’re a member of that group. What kinds of stereotypes do you guys see, as teenagers?” They were uncertain at first, but then they found their groove. Then I passed out a new version of the poem called “Teenagers Can’t,” with blanks beside all the “can’t”s and “don’t”s. They completed their poems in small groups and then volunteers read theirs aloud. They seemed to get a kick out of it, and there were some moments of brilliance in each poem. Then last night I took the poems from each class and combined the best parts to get one phenomenal class poem. Today I got to experience the payoff. They loved seeing their efforts typed up and on the overhead, and they recognized parts of their own poem. I told each class I was really proud of them, that I thought their poems were just as good, if not better, than “Mountain People,” and I do. I think my sophomores’ poem was my favorite:

can’t be quiet,
can’t be polite,
don’t have respect,
don’t care,
don’t listen.
They stress over everything
And care about nothing.
They sleep too long and talk too much.
They know what they want and
Don’t like what they have.
They act stupid.
They do have long hair,
Dirty clothes everywhere,
Speeding tickets,
Dirty socks,
Dirty rooms,
High phone bills,
And nothing to do.
Well, let me tell you:I am a teenager,
I’m not like that
And I am tired of being told I am.

After we read their collective poem, I had them journal some things teenagers can do. We shared, and then I asked them how they can tell other people that they can do these things. “We can do it,” they said. And they can!



  1. Your blog is a treasure trove of great ideas! Guess what I’m going to be doing with my 6th-8th graders on the first day of school? Yup, first Mountain People and then Teenagers. Thanks!

  2. mrs t said,

    what an awesome lesson!

  3. Me, too! Me, too! I just found your blog – great job! Good luck on your school year. I’ll check in and chime in periodically.

    First days of school – I’m tired and students are tired of reviewing teacher expectations, rules, consequences, supplies, blah blah. I had planned on doing some journal writing, but this poetry is fabulous!!!

  4. Jennie said,

    Well, I will be stealing that idea from you to use next week. 🙂 Great job! Have fun!

  5. X said,

    Great activity!

    As for learning names — I whip out the camera often on the first days of school. I need pictures to help me work on matching names with faces outside of class time. Last year I printed out some of the best and posted them around the doorway. The kids (seventh graders) loved seeing themselves up there! This year I was lucky to get my class lasts ahead of time, so I’ve been going through them over and over, even though I know that they’ll change somewhat during the first week.

  6. JLG said,

    I use the camera on the first few days of school, too. The kids use them later in a few digital media projects, but I use them to learn names. i put them in a chart in Word with the picture & their name. I also leave this in my sub folder for days I out.

  7. graycie said,

    I am so glad that this lesson is spreading! I’m pretty sure that an amazing student teacher of mine designed it about 10 or 15 years ago. I read California Teacher Guy’s use of it and his post referred me back to you. My seniors did the same assignment last week and would be tickled to see how other kids from somewhere else have written about the same things. May I use your kids’ work to show them? Also — there is a third part to the lesson: ‘Teenagers Can.’ I’ve posted a bit about it as a response to the use you and CTG have made.

    This is soooo cool! Thank you for lifting my heart.

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