Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Which Planet?

You'd have to live in a cave to not know that America's education system has been struggling over the past few years to compete internationally. Thousands of studies have been done to study why this is, who is at fault, how to fix it, and everything else related. I'm not sure we'll have a true "solution" any time soon, but I can definitely see some of the major contributing factors... For example, students coming to Kindergarten not being able to recognize ANY of the 26 letters. Students coming to school not knowing how to speak in complete sentences. Students coming to school without any discipline, respect, or motivation. Teachers who get tenure after 3 years and then sit around and don't teach because they can't be fired. A sixth-grade math curriculum in 4th grade before their little minds are ready for the abstract concepts. Students coming to school thousands of words deprived in their vocabularies... And the list goes on.

But, so as not to be a complete Debbie Downer (and since I already said I don't know the solution, but can only work with what I get), I'll give an example of how this last "excuse" has worked in my favor this week. Thankfully, one of the words my vocabulary-poor students haven't yet learned is "anus." For those of you who are still reading after that statement, thank you. :) Of course, I'm sure many of you are wondering how I know they don't know that word... well, to you, I ask, "What is the 7th planet from the sun?" (Hint: Mneumonic - My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Noodles.)

Maybe it was just my family's strange obsession with potty humor or spending a lot of time with my older brother and his friends and their potty humor, but somewhere along the way "Uranus" was no longer just a planet. (I really hope that I'm not ruining this planet for anyone and that other people are well aware that the name of this planet sounds like "Your Anus"....) So, yes, that's where we are. I'm in front of class trying to contain my laughter every time a student mentions this planet. It wouldn't be so hard if they didn't always use it in such opportune sentences:

"Ms. Wacek, I'm reading a book about Greek Mythology and I found Uranus."

"In the order of planets, where is Uranus?"
"Is Uranus bigger or smaller than Saturn?" (For anyone who's actually wondering, it's smaller... in both senses of the term!) :)

All that to say, it's clear that my students do not know the word "anus" because this Solar System unit would not have gone NEARLY as smoothly if that word were prohibited or we had uproars of laughter every time it was said.

To close, I'd like to share with you a Solar System version of Chinese Water Torture short video that I used to teach the order of the planets. Try listening to it 3 times in a row. I dare you....