This post was inspired by a recent assessment that I did in my sixth grade classes. I simply asked my sixth graders, who were finishing their nine week rotation in my class (a really cool thing that we have at my school where sixth graders get to try a nine weeks in PE, Dance, and Gymnastics and then choose which class they would like to take again for fourth nine weeks) to show me what they learned in dance. They could write, speak, or dance their learning. Most students chose to write a Thank You letter to me about what they learned. A few chose to create a dance that showed what they learned. A handful chose to verbalize their learning as a speech. A few students, as part of their written expression drew pictures.
One student wrote in beautiful block letters, “I love hippies.” I was immediately intrigued as to what this meant and the response was the most I ever heard this student speak in my class. He said, “You’re a hippie, right?” I didn’t know how to answer so I asked him why he thought that. He said, “You do things differently than all of my other teachers. You listen to weird music. You ask us to talk about stuff. You let us do a bunch of stuff that we like to do. You never tell us to be quiet.” Whoa! I’m pretty sure I have told every class to be quiet at some point! Not wanting to freak this quiet kid out, I thought for a second while he put his shoes on to leave. Finally, before he walked out, I said, “Did you learn anything about dance?” Without thinking much more, he said, “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I like this class.” I was totally freaking excited by this whole conversation!
It made me realize how much I have reverted to my middle school self over the last two years. In middle school I listened to music from the 1960’s, specifically songs from a treasured Woodstock CD I got on my 13th birthday and the Beatles. I was a self-proclaimed “Flower Child” who wore many outfits purchased from a downtown retro thrift shop as well as some clothes salvaged from a neighborhood house that my brother was helping to clean out (which had literally been untouched since the early 1970’s). I watched SNL, along with my BFF Jenn and we would re-perform the “Mary Catherine Gallagher” and “Spartan Cheerleader” skits at school on numerous occasions. In eighth grade we were “Spartan” cheerleaders for Halloween and when people came to the door we met them (or rather scared them) with, “Hey! Who’s that Spartan in my teepee? It’s me! It’s me!” I was a vegetarian. I did not care that I was probably one of the weirder kids in my school (in which I was in the 12-15% white minority). I was outspoken (I don’t know when I’ve ever not been…) I adopted a Siberian Tiger, named Raja. I thought for sure that I would change the world. I was, in a sense, the truest version of myself.
In teaching students at such an interesting, and sometimes confusing, age, I often wonder what, if anything, that they will take away from my class. I have expressed to many people that middle school is tricky because you don’t necessarily get to see how you influence students over the long-term because you don’t always know what they go on to do. With that being said, this one student made me feel like I was making a difference. He made me feel like I had expressed many things that I so long to express: peace, love, acceptance, and passion for art. So to answer his question, I guess I am a hippie! And just like this awesome student,