I had my 8th graders, most of whom are second language learners, paraphrase "The Gettysburg Address." Actually, it was only the first two paragraphs of the Address. High School teachers say they must be able to read historical documents. So be it.
I kept finding the word "Greeted a new country" where the original said, "brought forth on this continent a new nation." It puzzled me. Then I found a couple that used the phrase "our Aunt Sisters." I couldn't figure out that one either. Finally, one paper started off the paraphrase like this, "Seven years ago our Aunt Sisters greeted a new country." And I remembered soliciting synonyms for "Forefathers" from other students in class and someone offered "ancestors." For "brought forth" a student suggested "created." So, "Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation" became, "7 years ago our Aunt Sisters greeted a new country." Not quite what I had in mind.
At lunch, I wrote that last phrase on the board to see if the other teachers on my team could figure it out as a paraphrase from the Gettysburg Address. Only the history teacher got it right away. Then I wrote a second-language misspelling of Langston Hughes' name "Juses." If you think of the Spanish "J" the similarities to the English "H" is fairly obvious. Then we went back to class and left those words on the chalkboard in the lunchroom. On the chalkboard was "7 years ago our Aunt Sisters greeted Juses"
A couple of hours later the principal comes into my room and asks if I wrote the "Aunt Sisters" phrase on the chalkboard. My students were writing in journals; I was at my desk.
"Yes," I confess. "Is there a problem?" I was a bit worried, wondering if I had done something wrong. (Teachers walk on eggshells these days!)
"Not a problem," he says. "Everyone just wants to know what it means."
Apparently all afternoon teachers would see the sentence and try to figure out what it mean. They then asked the detective (We do have a full-time police officer in our building) to see if he could decipher what was on the chalkboard. He, too, worried he was going to check out some threat and was relieved when he saw what they all believed was a language puzzle.
After a couple of minutes he says, "I haven't a clue what this means. But PJ is always writing some puzzle or another. Go ask her.
Hence the principal visit.
Now what does that say about teachers and our school? We just had to figure out what the strange message meant. And went to great lengths to solve it. And know one another well enough to figure out the likely culprit!!
I'm still laughing...my next post will be one of the puzzles I put on the chalkboard from time to time!!! And YOU haven't a bonefide detective to detect what it means!