A Fourth Grader's Optimism: Who Needs Some Inspiration? (Especially After the Tumultuous Events in Washington, D.C. this Week!)
Feeling the need to be inspired, I found this post-it note on a bulletin board at the school where I am a high school English teacher. I teach in a K-12 school in the New York City borough of Queens.
|Julian in Fourth Grade doles out a massive dose of encouragement.|
Needing Positivity this Week (For Sure!)I am usually the teacher who brings positivity to the classroom. But lately I have been feeling down-and-out. Maybe it's the global pandemic that has swept the world, or maybe it's the attack on our democratic institutions on Wednesday that threw the nation's Capitol building in lockdown when a large group of Trump-inspired far-right rioters breached security protocol and entered the federal building, breaking glass, vandalizing the Speaker of the House's office, and even infiltrating the Senate chambers — where just an hour before, legislators had convened to accept certified electoral college votes from the states — to follow through with the Constitutional process to de facto validate the election of the next President of the United States, Mr. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Inspiring Note from a Fourth Grader
And I saw this note from a Fourth grader. Kids at this age have an optimism and clarity for both big-spectacled dreams as well as practical sense. Who doesn't want the world changed for the better. But I love how he admits it is a challenge. And kudos for his marvelous grammatical construction — "Changing the world isn't easy, but anyone can."
|Christina Applegate in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead © 1991|
Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is a movie about transformations.
Her boss tells her to say, "I'm right on top of that, Rose!" whenever she is doing a task for her. She says cheerily, "Don't feel overwhelmed, just do one thing at a time." The movie captures the era of big shoulders and women in the workplace trying to make their mark. Sue Ellen works her way up the corporate ladder, getting that Q.E.D. Report done by some cool delegation — to the ire of one of her co-workers, played by Jayne Brook, who is catching on to Sue Ellen's ruse. But Rose thinks Sue Ellen is just the best. "You're a paragon!" she beams! But Sue Ellen, the newest hire at General Apparel West, is really just a kid. The big conceit of the movie is that Christina Applegate is not really a fashion mogul.
"I'm Right On Top Of That, Rose!"
If you don't know the plot, it's ostensibly a story about every teenager's dream — to have the house entirely to yourself, no rules, no boundaries. See. Mom (played by Concetta Tomei) has gone to Australia and left the kids, played by Christina Applegate, Keith Coogan, Robert Hy Gorman, Danielle Harris, and Christopher Pettiet, with an evil-eyed, petty authoritarian (played by Eda Reiss Merin) named Mrs. Sturak. Even the name connotes fear. But the thing is — the movie is not about navigating the conflicts brought on by a mean babysitter. Mrs. Sturak dies twenty minutes into the movie. And Christina Applegate's character suddenly finds herself having to take on the head of the household. In a wild stretch of the imagination, she manages to land a job for a fashion company by stitching together a fake résumé —which hilariously causes her to take on the daily grind, getting up before dawn, to get dressed, prepare breakfast, and beat the downtown Los Angeles traffic to get to work on time. The oldest brother is a deadbeat (Coogan's character) — and the three other kids are treacly sweet, just the way most pre-teen kids are in Hollywood movies from the late 1980s and 1990s. But Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is no John Hughes flick. Directed by Stephen Herek, the same guy who brought us Critters and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the movie takes on a plucky pull-yourself-up-from-the-bootstrap narrative.
Surprisingly Inspiring Movie That Could Otherwise Be Dreck!
The joy of the movie is watching the kids take on adult responsibilities. And the reality is that in the 1990s, many kids were latchkey kids — without parental supervision after school. Like the kids in the movie, learning to take care of yourself, prepping for a meal, setting the alarm on your clock, getting the laundry done, and all of that mundane task that can make life a drudgery were self-taught — this was before "Helicopter Parents." But like I said — the movie is about transformations. The sulky teen girl finds purpose (who isn't rooting for Sue Ellen!). The deadbeat older brother finds purpose in catering! The young kids figure out how to clean the house, take on responsibility, and just be cute in a Hollywood movie. It's been about thirty years since this movie came out — and a lot has changed about everything. The film has aged well, though. The movie is pumped with an optimistic premise — that left to their own devices, kids will take on identities and responsibility and win us over with their aplomb and finesse. Don't underestimate 'em.
What other movies have you seen that show dramatic transformations in teen characters? Let us know in the comments.
In this post, we talk about a local pick-up game of basketball at Rainey Park in Queens.
I don't play basketball. I don't play any sport, actually. However, I have recently taken to walking. I walked to Rainey Park this past weekend to attend my friend's birthday — it was completely outdoors in a park in Astoria, Queens that lies adjacent to the East River. You can see Roosevelt Island — and there is a small basketball court. The kids from the party started their own pick-up game and I took a few photographs. Can you spot the fake basketball?
|I took this photograph in Madame Dietrich's French class on the last day of high school.|
How Much Does Environment Play Into Future Success
Has Applying to College Changed A lot Since the 1990s?
A lot has changed since I applied to college. I went to a public high school in South Louisiana where most of my classmates graduated and went to the State University - or the military - or they stayed in my hometown. I applied to Saint Joseph Seminary College and Centenary College - both small schools in Louisiana - one Methodist and the other a Catholic seminary. My mother wanted me to go to the Methodist school — and we drove up there to speak to the head of the philosophy department. That's what I wanted to study. I ended up going to the seminary college.
I took the ACT (and I made a mediocre score). I also took the ASVAB. It’s the military job placement exam. Both my brothers joined the army after high school (I’m the only one who didn’t). Taking the ASVAB is how I learned the difference between a Phillips and a standard screwdriver. Our high school had college counselors - but no one ever visited their office — it was on the edge of campus next to the shop building. Their main job was to organize random statewide testing administered during the year. In Louisiana, one had to pass the LEAP test to graduate from high school. Rumors spread about the few who didn't pass and had to repeat the twelfth grade.
|Will you need to know this? Probably.|
I still have a papier-mâché vase I made in art class. I’ve never made a vase like that since — but my mom has the vase in her living room. Did making this vase help me get into college? No. But it was something I did that pulled me out of what I was used to. We don’t know what skills we’ll need to know in the future. Technology is rapidly changing, but we need people who can adapt and apply themselves in novel ways.
It’s a skill. To stave off boredom and do. Something. And I don’t like to wait. That feeling of inactivity. Of time ticking. “Are we back at school? Yet” asks Neil - who is sitting across from me. Yes. I say. Press the button to alert the driver to stop. “But I’m scared,” he says. I press the button. I get it. He’s afraid to stop the bus. To fling himself into the next thing and the next. I get it. I tell him. And we’re off.
Philosophy in the Classroom: Sample Student Work on Plato's Allegory of the Cave (With Thirteen and Fourteen-Year-Old Kids)
|Sample Work from Mr. Roselli's 8th Grade Ethics Class|
I taught the 8th Graders every Tuesday as part of my teaching load this past school year. I teach at a private, independent school in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. The kids are receptive to learning - albeit a rowdy bunch. The class was split into two. So basically I saw each group every other week. The class was PASS/FAIL and I put a lot of emphasis on student participation, talking, and group work. I uploaded content for them to read and view on Google Classroom so I did not have to spend a lot of time going over the material in class. Here is a short overview of one particular lesson I did (with some student work).
Reading Plato's Allegory of the Cave in a Middle School Ethics Class
We read Plato's cave in class - using a lesson I had created (and which you can access here). The kids were in eighth grade - so they would be thirteen or fourteen years old.
Kids' Understanding of Plato's Ideas
|Students jot down their summary ideas to get the gist.|
Getting Students to Jot Down Their Ideas
Using Visual Imagery to Make Connections with Students
Class: Eighth Grade Ethics / 90 Minute Lesson (you can break it down into two separate 45-minute lessons)
Materials: paper, pencils, pen, handouts of the Allegory of the Cave, Comprehension Questions, Discussion Questions, Entrance, and Exit Tickets
|My TpT store has resources for |
middle and high school English teachers
Here's another video of our school group visiting the island of Nantucket for Spring Break. We explored the beach surrounding the Brant Point Lighthouse. We woke up early and hiked to the lighthouse. The weather was fresh and chilly. It's Springtime in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Life is good. Seize the moment. Seize the day. Carpe diem.
Viewing Tip: do you notice the ferry leaving the island? That's the same ferry in the video I posted (see the previous post).
|Who can relate? I can!|
In Jackson Heights, every year on Halloween, the local "Beautification Society" hosts a parade on 37th Avenue. My school participates, so I have, for the last several years, marched in the parade. I love seeing the kids and adults who have lined the street, mostly dressed up and in a spirit of "being costumed." I feel like when kids, especially, wear costumes, it can be a moment to channel creative energy and to pretend to be someone you're not.
Third Grader Channels Pennywise the Clown
One kid I met on the route was dressed up as Pennywise the Clown — there were several permutations of this character, a malevolent force in Stephen King's novel-made-movie IT. I was struck by this Third-grader wild abandon into the role, like the video, posted below, demonstrates. Happy Halloween!
|Can you see Manhattan?|
There is the ship Amistad moored at Mystic. It's a slave ship that was the site of a slave rebellion. Today it sits gleaming and speaks of liberty and the promise of change. However, its rewarding story belies the tragedy of the Middle Passage that claimed millions. Mystic also has a reconstructed version of the Mayflower - it is called the Mayflower II, and it is being revamped and polished for a celebration in 2020 celebrating the original ship's voyage four hundred years ago. The kids on our trip know these stories, and they see in these stories a symbol of religious freedom. However, I am confident that the Europeans who came to the New World were not as pure in their pursuit of liberty and the right to equality as we would like to paint them as in the history books.
You can also see a whaling ship in Mystic - and if you are a good sailor, you might get to talk to a re-enactor. We met a jolly lady who was presenting herself as an immigrant to Mystic who arrived in the 1870s. She had left Alaska after it was sold by the Russians to the United States. She spoke of her voyage, a trip from the islands of Alaska, down to Panama, through the canal, past Jamaica, and then up the Atlantic coast to Long Island Sound. I liked hanging out with the kids. They're city kids — most of the lot — so they were into running around, kicking a soccer ball on the village green - and feeling the cold October air in their face. It is kinda crazy to be chaperoning twelve-year-old kids for forty-eight hours straight, but I loved their energy. Kids that age are full of energy but no focus. It's refreshing.
Hey. If you know all the answers, then you're a fool, right?
|An orange, beat-up pencil sharpener is affixed to a wall.|