a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Square Dancing and Crazy Socks

Did you know that kids these days do not have to square dance in P.E. anymore?

Tomorrow Linda Urban, author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, is visiting our school. This means that tomorrow is crazy sock day. To remind my students why we are wearing crazy socks tomorrow, I did a read aloud of the part in the book about the socks. It mentions that the first time Zoe met her former best friend, Emily, was in P.E. during the square dancing unit in third grade.

So, it occurred to me to ask my students if they are still required to square dance in P.E. They answered with a resounding, “That is sooo elementary school!” I huffed that back in the day, I was required to square dance in middle school. Perhaps because I had been reading in the voice of Zoe and she tends towards rambling in a classic adolescent girl kind of way, I couldn’t help but gush out the rest of the thought the book had triggered.

The book explains that Zoe and Emily became immediate friends when they chose each other as square dance partners and danced together in their socks. My memory confirms that the most important aspect of square dancing is finding a partner with minimal stress. You see, square dancing in P.E. was the sole reason I had to “go out” with Rob Struck. I agreed to “go out” with him (which we all know involved no actual going out of any sort) only for the duration of the square dance unit. When I blurted this out to my class of 8th graders, it led to further explanation that I really wanted to go out with Rob’s best friend, John, but John went to a different middle school than Rob and I. I knew John liked me ever since he ran away from my birthday party in 3rd grade because he got me a beach towel as a present and was embarrassed since it was a pool party and he discovered that I already had beach towels. That was when the adolescent girlish rambling really started to go full swing and I had to stop myself.

However, just when those 8th graders thought they had me off topic and rambling, I surprised them with a lesson on textual connections. In the book, Zoe gives Emily socks at her birthday party and they are not well received. Just like John thought the beach towel gift would not be well received.

That’s the best way to deal with 8th graders. Keep them on their crazy-socked toes.


  1. Oh, I remember the square dancing days. We did not get to choose our partners and being the rule-following-fourth-grader I was, ended up paired with the most obnoxious boy in my class. Needless to say, we did not "go out."

    The best kind of learning happens when they don't even realize it's happening, doesn't it.

  2. I so remember trying to get my teachers off topic when in middle school. I expect they were on to me and my friends, most of the time, and we thought they were so easy to fool.

  3. Oh man! We had dancing too and didn't get to pick our partners. I was always mortified to have to dance with a boy. Our school still does a square dancing unit in fourth grade...they use it as part of their history curriculum. They, too, always look mortified!

  4. WE have a great video of our son square dancing when he was in fifth grade, but really, after watching the latest version of Emma on PBS, don't those dances where they weave in and out and amongst themselves look great?

    I love how you brought your story full circle, astounding (and surprising?) your class. Full circling is the Name of the Game for us teachers.


  5. I remember the days of square dancing. I was paired by the teacher with the class clown (looking back as a teacher myself now I wonder if that was so I could try and inspire him to behave?). He "orbitted" me into the wall a lot. Orbitting required you to swing your partner round and round fast and then let go and watch them go failing.

    Those textual connections are so powerful in internalizing a story to strength comprehension! Way to grab that moment and use it to teach!

  6. That is a great book! Have you seen the "Little Miss Match" socks? They come in a set of three coordinating but not matching socks. CUTE! But I think I am too old for them.