Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Plague Infects












Tears still well up in my eyes when I remember the moment. The science teacher on my team had been confident that we would be funded. The history teacher had been skeptical, and I was ready for disappointment. My fingers shook just a little when I saw that I had a new email message, and then, when I logged into my email account, I knew. The subject line showed just enough to make me gasp and cry. "Congrat" was all I could see, but it was enough. Our project was funded.

Word spread through the school like -- well, like the plague. By third period, my students vied for the chance to tell me how Mrs. Koonce had jumped up and down and yelled. I could only nod and smile, knowing I had put on the same show for my class. Coach Williams? Well, he was dancing on the inside.

The students had so many questions. Where were we going? The United Kingdom. When? This summer. Will we post selfies? Definitely; we will blow up your phone with selfies. Will we snap chat? Nope, but we will figure out a way to contact you. What are we going to do? Study diseases and how they affect us. Are we going to bring any diseases back? Uh, we promise that is not part of the plan! How were we going to get over there? An airplane. A real airplane? Yes. A real airplane. The questions kept coming.

The excitement was contagious. Every middle school teacher knows that, if you get a hair cut or wear a new pair of shoes, students get excited. When you announce you are crossing an ocean, school just about shuts down. Finally, we caved. The rest of the week's lesson plans were shoved to the side, and we seized the moment. 

We taught about passports. What are they? Why do we need one? How did we get one/or get one renewed (since one of us has to renew a passport)? Do people really have to get shots when they go to another country? Why shots for some countries and not others? The students even filled out mock passport applications.

We taught about slang and idioms. They learned about cookies versus chips versus fries. They learned about Southern slang and how it compares to British slang.

We taught about budgets and maps and foreign currency and exchange rates.

We celebrated Shakespeare's birthday and learned about his brushes with the plague.

Even a few weeks later, just when we think things are back to normal, there will be a new outbreak of questions -- a new opportunity for learning. I hope this plague continues. I hope it builds to the point that our students hunger to travel, to research, to try. If anything, these students now know that learning is not confined to the classroom, the school, or even our state. If just "Congrat" in an email can infect them with so much curiosity, what will happen when we actually share our experiences? I can't wait find out! Thank you, Fund for Teachers and Alabama Public Television!

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