I have a homeroom full of pterodactyls this year – which makes it the best home room group I’ve had so far.
At our school each teacher is assigned a group of 20 students for what is essentially a homeroom arrangement. I see these students at the start and end of every school day for the entire two years they are at the middle school.
I get to know them pretty well, and have the job of helping shepherd them successfully through their academic world. I may or may not ever have them in a graded class.
I sent my first group off to the high school last June. Individually, most of them were fine young people, Together, in one room, they were a bad combination.
My new group is entirely different. They’re not perfect students or any better with social skills than most 7th graders. But they are generally positive and together they have a much different chemistry. They seem to bring the best out in each other.
So when I had a little problem of trying to get their attention when they’re talking, I brought it to the group. One student suggested I try ringing a bell, but after one or two trials everyone decided that was too obnoxious. Others suggested different call-and-response phrases, along the lines of what I use in my regular science classes, but those didn’t seem very interesting.
Then a student mentioned that he had this odd teacher in 3rd or 4th grade who always shouted out “Pterodactyls” and the students responded with their best winged-dinosaur screeches. Once the screeches are over, everyone is silent and ready for instructions.
Permission to screech? Now that was a winner.
By the end of the day Friday, though, distracted and tired, I had forgotten our plan and was trying to talk over a few things before the weekend. When a student saw me struggling to get the attention of the class, he reminded me: “Mr. Manring — pterodactyl!”
My cry brought the expected reptilian roar — and a reminder of what makes this group of students so fun to be around.