“We’re done. No more. No more Smiles. No more Frowns. Today was our last. We’re done wasting time with things outside the curriculum. I have a job to do. I have content to teach. We have already wasted 300 minutes this year. Starting tomorrow, we will be done with Smiles and Frowns. The end of the semester is fast approaching and the state test is around the corner. We have more important things to do. Sorry.”
“We don’t get a say? pushed Isabella, her peers’ heads nodding in unison as they muttered their agreement.
I paused, measured their eyes. “Fine. I’ll give you a voice. Probably won’t matter, but I’ll give you a shot. Get out your Journey Journals and make an argument for why we should keep Smiles and Frowns.”
Purposeful pens make a certain sound. And as the kids set to work in their journals, music arose from their instruments as they emphatically–aggressively–etched their dissent, pressing their pens deeply into the paper.
“Okay, what ya got?” I sighed with bored indifference.
Shelby, stabbing her finger into her page, “On November 17th, turning back to the entry in her journal, I told you I was thankful for you because you listen to us, because you care. I almost cried when I read it out loud, and now you’re taking it away?”
Ainsley, pen raised above her head, “I will throw this Sharpie at you.”
Jacob, leaning into his desk, “This is my outlet. I get so worked up in my day, and it’s a great way for me to let off steam. I need this.”
Kaiden, looking around the room, “I don’t usually talk to these people, much less get to know them, but Smiles and Frowns has changed that.”
Isabella, eyes pierced, teeth clenched, “This is our time for a voice. Where else do we get to talk about things that matter to us? What about when we were all upset about our access time being taken away from us, and we shared our frustrations? You can’t do this. I am so pissed right now.”
Annika, calmly, “It’s such a refreshing way to start the period, especially here during 6th.”
Many students at once, “We are a community.”
Bethany, desperately bargaining, “What if we…,” going on to present a list of options for doing it differently, instead of taking it away.
Me, smiling, “What if we keep doing it just as we have?”
Isabella, head cocked mouth open, “Wait. What? You were joking? You lied to us? Now I am really pissed.”
Me, sitting up and leaning towards the kids, looking at each, “Okay, I’m sorry that I misled you. I just wanted to see if you cared about Smiles and Frowns as much as I do. Obviously, you do, and that pleases me greatly. Smiles and Frowns is here to stay. I will never take it away. Promise.”
Feeling a little mischievous yesterday, at the end of the period I told the kids during 5th and 6th that we were no longer going to do Smiles and Frowns. As you can see from our interactions above, it elicited strong responses from the kids. I did not relish misleading them, but I wanted to see if it mattered to them–really mattered. It does. And so now, it matters even more to me. Yes, it has cost me roughly 300 minutes of instructional time, but it is perhaps the most valuable time I have spent this year. I made a promise to myself and to my kids that we would start each day with them, using Smiles and Frowns. At the beginning of our journey, the kids, I believe, were indifferent about Smiles and Frowns because it was so out of the norm for them. But at this point in our shared journey, they have moved far beyond indifference. They have come to own it. It is theirs. It is mine. It is ours.
Note: Isabella and I are fine. Yes, she was pissed, but she forgave me. It was only a little lie.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns. (Forever and Always)
…take a short sentence performance.
…complete a SOAPSTone analysis of Elie Wiesel’s speech as a class (didn’t get to it last week).
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Wednesday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.