It's All in the Way You Say It

The horrid TAKS test is coming up, and since our school's budget and the teacher bonus depends on scores from this exam, we have all sorts of help for the kids. We hae the pull-outs in which certain students are taken out of their Math, LA, or elective class to practice TAKS strategies. We have what my mentor calls "The Giant Fairy" which is known schoolwide as KBL (Knowledge Baseball League). Homerooms go up against each other in Math and LA. We will eventually have a World Series, but we also have a door, locker and scavenger hunt competition. Finally, there are the extended days. Math stays after school three or four days a week. LA does three Saturdays before TAKS, 8-noon.

Last week, I had to hand out the letters to my students who I though needed the extra help. The day before I did this, I had an observation with my mentor. Before she read Ch. 3 of Face on the Milk Carton, she said, "I have given some of you a letter for Reading Extended Day. I need you to take it home and bring it back signed by your parent. It's going to be a lot of fun. We will be playing games and you will be getting candy every time you switch classes. And at the end of the day, we will have gym time and the teachers will be playing games with you."

"What kind of games?"

"Any kind of game you want. We'll have basketballs and pretty much all the gym equipment."

"What about wrestling," asked another student.

"Oh honey, don't even try because we'll beat you. Right Ms. Baeza?"

"That's right."

"I want a paper," one kid said.

"I'll have to put you on a waiting list."

"Put me on the waiting list too," said another kid.

The following day, when I handed out my Extended Day letters, I put to use my mentor's tactic. I had a similar response from my students. There were about five kids that wanted on the waiting list in each class.

During our ELA meeting, the racist said her students were complaining about getting a letter. My mentor quickly responded, "Not mine. Georgina saw, right?"

"Yep. I did the same thing with mine and they were asking to be put on 'the waiting list.'"

When academics are competing against entertainment industry, it's important how you say things. Of course, they're going to be learning, but it's going to be fun. If we have to take away a Saturday because these kids aren't drawn into studies to begin with, making it fun is our job.

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