The Key to Teaching Middle School

In 1999, I traveled in Japan for two weeks with twenty plus other social studies educators, including Ken V, a crazy funny middle school teacher from Winnipeg, Canada. Before departing for Tokyo, we met in a San Fransisco airport hotel conference room to share our respective curriculum research projects. Afterwards, I went straight up to V and said something to the effect of, “That was excellent, super clear and succinct. Thank you.” From that moment on, we were boyz.

Fast forward a week. On a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, V fell asleep with his suit coat thrown over an adjacent seat. I pounced, stuffing a hundred cheap, thin, plastic umbrella rain bags inside all of his jacket pockets. Then I instructed everyone to sporadically ask him for one at our afternoon meeting with the mayor of Hiroshima.

We’ve stayed in touch ever since, even reuniting in Victoria about five years ago. Staying in touch means he sends me sports updates—baseball, football, curling, Nascar primarily, on almost a weekly basis. Canadians are funnier than everyone else, so no surprise his missives are basically one long strand of wickedly funny puns.

A year or two ago, he revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. His positive attitude was incredibly inspiring and proved integral in his recovery. He’s retired from the classroom, but not the Prairie baseball fields where he doubles up as player and umpire extraordinaire.

Recently, he wrote:

“Filipino Fastball…………….. Sept. 10, I did the Dish for both Medal Games. The Bronze game featured 2 nice teams, who hadn’t played nor practised since mid Aug. At the end of the 4th, the score was 15-6. At the end of the 5th, it was 15-13. It ended after 7, but took way too long. No issues, however it was a hot day, and the Fun was yet to come……..The Gold game featured 2 good teams, who don’t like each other. The eventual winning team began to whine immediately about EVERY call. I finally had a talk with the catcher, and told him to inform his teammates there would be dire consequences if it continued.”

I love the image of V laying down the law. It prompted me to ask “What’s harder to manage a Filipino fast pitch game or a middle school classroom?” He turned on that question and went deep:

“I would rather face a Filipino uprising led by North Korea, catered by ISIS, during a Mexican Earthquake, than manage a Middle Years classroom.”

The first rule of middle school teaching. Always be a little more crazy and funny than them.

 

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