Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sheepish Betty


As I teacher, I strive to create a sense of community in my classroom. If I can get my students to like, care about, and help each other out, it makes my job a lot easier. I had an Intermediate Composition class that was coming together nicely. However, there was one girl who seemed painfully shy and kept to herself. Adriana was heavy-set, wore dark colors, and kept her head down most of the time. She would participate in group activities, but it was clear she was more comfortable working on her own, so many times I gave her that option.

One day she turned in her homework first, placing it on the desk even before I had come into the room. When I saw it, I said, "Look at that, Adriana is the bellwether for the class today." I thought I was pretty clever throwing out a new vocabulary word for them to gobble up.

They took the bait. "What does that mean?" one female student asked.

"Guess you'll have to look it up in that magical book called the dictionary," I said, directing one of them to the cabinet where I keep about six dictionaries--all purchased at the 99 Cent store.

I waited for the student to look it up, expecting Adriana to be quite pleased when she heard the definition of "one who leads, one who takes initiative for a project."

The student with the dictionary gasped, glared at me, and passed the book to another girl who also looked at me, appalled. "Oh, that's really mean."

"What?" I said. "It means she's a leader."

The girl shook her head. "According to the 'magical book' you just called her a male sheep."

I looked at Adriana who seemed to be sliding down farther in her chair.

I grabbed the book. Damn 99 Cent dictionary. I had forgotten the origin of the word came from the male sheep who led the other sheep. There is was: the one and ONLY definition read "a male sheep."

I quickly babbled on about how that may have been the origin, but now it was used to indicate a leader, not a male sheep. It was a good thing to be a bellwether. I said. Really, it was, I said. The group of girls around Adriana glared at me. I kept babbling on for awhile and then switched topics quickly.

Throughout the class girls continued to shake their heads and give me hard stares and --the kind these nineteen year-old girls normally reserve for those who shop at K-Mart for their wardrobe.

Finally, it was time for a class break. I planned to go to my office and get my moderately expensive, but thorough dictionary to show to Adriana the definition there. Then I heard it: some of the other girls were asking Adriana if she wanted to wanted to go to the cafeteria with them. Surprisingly, she agreed to go. They walked off together, whispering and looking back at me occasionally.

Well, I thought, I had indeed created that sense of community I had wanted in the classroom, just not quite in the way I had intended to.

9 comments:

Lazy Pineapple said...

Oh no...your good intentions got all screwed up...

I am sure if you took her aside and told her what you actually meant...the misunderstanding will get cleared up...

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Oh, my goodness, what a story! Well, at least your mission was accomplished, even if it WASN'T in the way you had planned!!

Stupid 99 cent store!!!

Low Expectations said...

Aaaah stupid 99 cent store ruining your plan! Sorry it went that way but it must have been neat to watch her walk away with those girls for lunch.

Alissa said...

Nothing like a common enemy to unite folks!

By the way there is a great novel by Connie Willis (okay, I am in love with her as an author so think everything she writes is great)that is called Bellweather, and while the sheep thing comes into play it tells the story of this person who is the ultimate trendsetter.

Erin said...

What a great story! And a class full of 19 year old girls? Glad I made it through that alive!

Brian said...

That's what happens when you use a five-dollar word at the 99-cent store.

MrsM said...

Awww-teenagers bonding over their mutual disliking of you. I certainly hope my children's revulsion for me will bring them together in THEIR times of awkwardness ;)

Eyegirl said...

Ouch. I can't imagine being a teacher of teenagers.

Shan said...

Um... the end justifies the means? LOL... anyway, congratulations on your unconventional success.