Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Am I Smart Enough to Teach Fifth Grade?

Yesterday, I taught a class of fifth-graders. It was the only time in my teaching career that I felt even a little nervous. It was my son's Language Arts class. He's been dying for me to come in -- some of the other dads had. One was a cop; the other was a fireman. I think my son wanted to show the other kids that his dad was as cool as the other dads, which, clearly, he most certainly is not. How do you compete with firemen and policemen?

Still, I do have the being-in-a-rock-band thing going for me, so I slipped that in. They were impressed.

A fifth grade class of the past. 
Anyway, I did a mixed kind of career-day/creative writing lesson with them. I started by telling them I was going to read their minds. I asked them to think really hard about what they want to be when they grow up. They squinted; they rubbed their own temples; they held their breath. I acted like I was trying to read their minds. We all giggled a little.

After a while, I said: "Okay, here it is..." I pushed a button on a PowerPoint and a phrase emerged: "A Happy Person!"

They all laughed. They knew I was right, but I was still wrong. They had all thought of careers. We talked about a question: Why is it that when people ask us what we want to be when we grow up, we spit out a job?

We went on to talk about what their job choices said about them as people. What does it say about you that you want to be a policeman; a doctor; a ball player; an actor; a teacher?

They were surprisingly insightful for their age, and I think they might have gotten the message not to put the metaphorical eggs of happiness into one literal basket: a job. We're all more complex than that...

It went well. My son seemed pleased. On the ride home, he breathed a little sigh of relief. "Well, that went well. I was afraid they would think you are a dork because you move your hands around so much when you talk..."

Crisis averted. Mission accomplished.


  1. I presume, from your son's comment, that 'dork' is not a legitimate long term goal for a fifth grader

    1. You presume correctly. In fact, it is a fate to be avoided at all cost.