"Open your textbooks and answer the review questions for the story we read yesterday."
Okay...maybe not so simple. So I add:
"Be sure to label and answer all parts of the question. Rephrase the question in your answer. Write complete sentences so I can actually understand what you are trying to communicate. You know, like we've done before."
Just a quick warm-up activity before we dig more deeply into some literary elements.
Halfway through the short allotted time a student calls me over:
"Is it okay if I just answer all the questions in one big paragraph." (Read: I didn't follow instructions--is that okay with you, teacher?)
"No, it is not. Label each question and its parts."
"Well, I'm taking a writing class after school, and my teacher says that how I should do it."
Another teacher told her how she should assignments in my class? What the hell? "That's a really great idea if you are writing to an essay prompt, say on a test or something, but that is not what we're doing here." End of conversation. I start to move on to another student.
Sorry to admit it, but my blood is starting to boil a little. I'm irritated when students compare me to other teachers they have had, suggest ways they'd rather do the assignment, or tell me how I should do my job. I am a trained professional kids! Have a little faith! Anyway, those incidents don't make me freak out or anything, but if the student is persistent enough on any of those points, it's not unheard of that I might blow. Or break out some Shakespearean insults or something. This incident stinks of all three situations all at once. She's damn lucky I didn't blow immediately.
So, this should have been the end, right? I did end the exhange, but then she had the audacity--after I kindly tried to reframe for her what the other teacher could have possibly meant--to look at me like I was a Class A Fool and say, "But--"
"But" nothing, little girl!
I take a deep breath because it's too early in the morning to strangle a self-absorbed-smarty-pants 8th grader over such an inane exchange.
"What has this teacher," I point to myself, "told you to do with these questions?"
And she starts to tell me again what the other teacher has told her. Who IS this teacher, anyway? The other students in the class start to become uneasy because they can see the dragon might come out of the cave. Most of them don't even know what's going on because they are busily working, but they can sense a change in atmosphere.
"Listen, why don't you do this? Why don't you go to Mr. MathTeacher's class and write all the answers to the problems he gives in one big paragraph? I'm sure he'll be just fine with it, won't he? He can easily sort out your work! No! Do this! Save it until you get to Ms. SocialStudies because you know how she would just ADORE the questions to quiz questions all mixed together in one BIG PARAGRAPH!" Yea, good luck with THAT!
Finally she gets it and drops her point. The other students go back to work, shaking their heads over the bizarre exchange. Some are disappointed that they didn't get a full on Teacher Freak Out while others are relieved. It's a quiet class, and they are amused neither by my planned nor my impromptu performances.
And wouldn't you know it? A few minutes later, some poor confused child, who had obviously been duped by the smarty-pants-girl, calls me over and asks, "So, uh, are we AREN'T suppose to write all the answers in one paragraph? Because, uh, well, I thought that's how we were, uh, suppose to do it."