Man, if I could only say it all…

•May 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The Mad Farmer telling it all.

I started this blog to use as sort of a journal for myself. A way to record some of the things I experience on a day to day basis that move me in one way or another. Later it became a way to tells friends that I don’t have the chance to see too often what was happening in school. In reality though I can’t tell but a fraction of the stuff that happens every day. The questions, the comment, jokes, lessons, conversations. It’s not all mine so I feel like I can’t put it out there.

For instance, I hide in the office in the morning so I can get a bit of work done before the madness ensues. The other day a student finds me in there. She is the loud student that is always getting kicked out, has been suspended more times this year than anyone else, and who all the teachers talk about when the students aren’t in the room. For some reason I have really gotten along with this student this year. Now I am trying not to sound like some bullshit movie like Dangerous Minds or something, but it is what it is. I can deal with the “bad” kids all day long, it’s the whiny kids that drive me up a wall. Anyway, when she gets suspended she always comes in and talks with me. I say mean jokes to her and tell her her hair looks like Frederick Douglass, but she never gets mad. Instead she comes back with some witty comment or just laughs. She is an A student and always does her best in my class. But she’s the kind of kid that gets in fist fights with her mom weekly and can’t handle it when she even thinks someone looked at her the wrong way.

Last week she was suspended again and I didn’t see her for a few days. Then she sees me in the office yesterday morning and brings me in a blue gift bag adornd with ribbon and festive tissue paper. She hands it to me and says it is a present for Teacher Appreciation Week and that she ment to give it to me last week, but she got suspended. Inside were two ties (blue and orange my favorite colors) a mug with a note on it and a card with a long handwritten note inside. I didn’t know what to say. I never got a gift from a student before, let alone something so thoughtful. It was a little emabarrassing too, because I got it in the office infront of all the other teachers. They looked just as baffled as I did. I told her that I wasn’t sure what to say and that I cry too easily for her to do something like that to me in public. Then I whispered to her that she probably made my year.

I would love to tell how all of this came about, but it seems like one of those things that’s a bit too sensitive to put out there, but man what a great story.


Letter to yourself.

•April 27, 2010 • 3 Comments

Four years ago (my first full year of teaching) I had my students write letters to themselves. It was only the second day of school. I told them to talk about who their friends were, what they thought highschool would be like, who they liked, and maybe even somethings that were going on in their lives right then, good or bad,  that would be a distant memory or at least would have progressed by the next time they read their letters. They were encouraged to attach pitures or souveniers and then asked to put them in an envelope  that would be sealed and placed in my basement until they graduated.

Four years later most of these kids are getting ready to graduate. So the other night I pulled the letters out of my basement and started sorting throught them and putting them in envelopes of their own along with a brief note from me. While sorting I realized that about twenty of my former freshmen are no longer in my school. Some have moved out of state. Some to other schools. Some have dropped out. However, two students have been in my head for the last few days. 

One was a freshman in our school and was expelled for an offence that I can not remember. He was not one of my favorites, but we got along okay and I remember being sad when I found out he was leaving. When I asked a friend of his the other day where he was now he told me he was locked up. To my knowledge this is the first student I’ve ever had that has been incarcerated for any significant length of time. From what I hear he’s been in for two years already. No one will tell me why. More than anything I want this young man to get his letter. I don’t know what he wrote in it and I don’t know if it would help or hurt, but I  still would like to get it to him. I’m also thinking that I’d like to give it to him. Like I said I never had a really close relationship with him, but I think I’d like to visit him and deliver the letter myself. I’ve never been to a prison beofore and don’t really know anyone in a prison, but I can’t help thinking that any visit that doesn’t come from someone who is angry or crying has got to be a pleasant distraction.

I don’t know who reads this blog, but if you have any insight on this please let me know.

Bells going to ring. Peace.

The Rumor is Out

•March 29, 2010 • 1 Comment


Friday night was teh proudest teaching moment I’ve ever had. We put on our play, Gossip, and it was just the craziest whirlwind madness. Tickets had sold out by Friday morning. Kids and friends were asking all day how they could get in. It is only the second event to ever sell out in our school’s history. It was also the only event in our school’s history to give me diarhea. 

We were so behind in getting ready because of the school throwing all kinds of roadblocks our way, that when we took the stage at 7pm the paint was still wet on the set. But when the lights went down the kids went into business mode. Two hours later we concluded our show.

I couldn’t believe how well it had gone off. I didn’t even tell my family we were doing it until the day before because Ithought it was going to be horrible.

I  couldn’t wait to get to school Monday morning and see the kids. They were so proud of themselves. After the play they all went out to Hooters. “Reynolds, we’re all going out. Do you want to come with us?” “Where you going?” Hooters.” What would that sound like? “Wife, take the kids home. I’m going out with a bunch of students to Hooters.” Instead I went home and still couldn’t sleep. Too happy.

Plays and Fridays

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Next Friday, March 26, is our play. It is the first play written, directed, and choreographed entirly by students. When I tell you the kids have done everything for this I am not exagerating. Every bit of scheduling, organizing, finanance, buidling, decorating, advertising all came from the students.

Now I’m not sure if this thing is going to be a success or a train wreck yet, but the closer we get the less I care. I just keep thinking THE KIDS DID IT. Their days, nights, and weekends have been about this.  I couldn’t be prouder.

Tomorrow for Weird Friday we are going to be talking about Reverse Graffiti. My church, Circle of Hope, has been talking a lot resurrection during the lenten season. My cell too has been talking about the final line in Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.  “Practice resurrection.” Without talking about “church stuff” I love talking to my kids about resurrection. Especially when it is related to their or my neighborhoods. Most times it’s as if they had never thought of actually taking ownership of where they live or where they go to school or play ball and making it better. Then again who does. Walking around my neighborhood it’s usually all I can think about. The more we talk about this the more I see shifts in my students. They say youth is wasted on the young, but really I think most of the time we don’t listen to the young and they don’t know what to do with their energy and ideas so they put their energy into doing what is expected (video games, creating negative mischief…)

There’s the bell. I apologize if this is too stream of conscience. I’m in the office with too much noise and too little time. Peace.

Weird Friday

•November 6, 2009 • 2 Comments

Today my class took their end of term exam. It didn’t take the entire period as I suspected. So I decided to do our first Weird Friday activity after the test. Post test time is always difficult to deal with because the kids have a hard time being quiet and I hassen to give them more work as they just completed a test. So as a part of the Weird Friday idea I’ve been working with I had them do the following task.

“The goal here is to help you to try new things and learn how doing that can help you to think in new ways and fight against the general monotany that sometimes comes with a daily routine. The assignment is purely volunteer and will not effect your grade.

This man (I shoot this picture up on the wall) is a taxi driver in New York City. He is apparently (according to my sources) a poet (non-published), a writer, an authorized notary public agent, a defensive driving instructor, and a “holder of many other skills.” In an attempt to honor this man, that none of us know, we will draw a picture of this gentleman. How well oyu draw is not important. Do the best you can. Hand it on at the end of class. I will then send these pictures to a particular gallery in Iowa City, Iowa, where they will be put on display with a number of other pictures of this man from around the globe. When the gallery showing is finished your drawings will be auctioned off to raise money for the art gallery. I will write a letter acompaning your drawings asking if the gallery owners will send us a picture of our drawings.

As far as I know this man has no idea this is going on.”


•November 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s 4:14 in the afternoon and I could have been home a while ago. Instead I’m sitting in the schools weightroom and the dancers for the play I am co-directing are practicing their moves. I’m pretty sure I look like I have no business being here. I feel like the lame white guy sitting in the back of a room full of  hip teenagers that are trying out for America’s Next Best Dance Crew. 

I occasionally get in the way. Someone will bump into me or catch me or step on my foot. 

Three years ago my wife and I  took a small group of students to see a play at a local high school and one of them ended up writing his own play after being so inspired by what he saw. He and I have rewritten the play over the past few years and this year (his senior year) we are putting it on. The school has even given me a class to practice during. I feel like I may have told some of this before. Anyway, we’ve been practicing every day during the last period of the day. He (we’ll call him D) loves this stuff and has been running the class. I ‘m more like the guy that makes things happen. Yeah that’s the ticket. I’m like Oz. D knows the play backwards and forwards so I just help where I can and offer technical advice and motivation.

It’s really something. It’s a class for the kids by the kids. Kid written. Kid performed. Kid choreographed. Students working together and motivating each other because they want to to create something as a group for the school. Everyday eleventh period. Twice a week after school and on Sundays. Awesome!

Weird Friday

•October 15, 2009 • 1 Comment

There’s so much going on this year that I wish I had time to share, but life is too busy at the moment.

However, one thing we’ve been doing this year is Weird Friday. I’ve been trying to end each Friday class with someting strange and wonderful that the kids might not usually be exposed to. After witnessing the weirdness we might talk about it, but usually I time the class well enough so that the bell rings as soon as we are finished. I like the idea of just experiencing something without having to attach a lesson to it. The thought of just letting the kids take away what they want to take away without my thoughts and feelings justifying or explaining it. If kids want to talk about it later they may, but if they don’t I just leave it.

The last few Fridays we’ve watched some of the following. I’ve attached links incase you’ve never seen them before. Profanity was bleeped in class to ensure that my children will continue to eat.

Anis Mojgani: “Direct Order”

Guerilla Gardening

Sigur Ros: “Hoppipolla