As we return from lunch, I check my e-mail and notice a Lego figure of Stephen Hawking. If that’s not geeky enough, he writes out, “What are two black halves called: Black Wholes.” The pun makes me cringe, but the Steven Hawking figure is right up my ally.
Minutes later, a student calls me over. “This makes me sad,” he says as he points at a photograph from 1927.
“It just hit me that she’s probably dead, right? I mean, if she’s like twenty in this picture, then she’s probably about a hundred right now. So, she’s gone. Forever.”
I consider saying something, but then he continues, “I always imagine dead people as different, I don’t know. I just . . . I just don’t think of them as real and alive and smiling.”
“So, how do you typically think of them?”
“Unless they’re famous, I think of them as those plaques they put on the ground. Yeah, that’s it. Just graves.”
A few hours later, at the end of class, the same student asks if he can dance. So, with five minutes left in the class period, he turns on a techno version of “Barbie Girl” and break dances to it. Totally old-school break-dancing, too.
One of the reasons I love 8th grade is the almost extreme shifts from laughter to intellectual rigor. They are still kids, but they are also learning to think like adults. They’re learning humor, even if it is awkward. Someday they’ll realize that a Lego Stephen Hawking might be offensive.