Slice of Life: The Riptide Argument

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

So, we are in the beginning period of our Quidditch season and I expect to write more about it as the weeks move onward here. (Essentially, we have a non-magical version of the game at our school and the four sixth grade classes square off in a full-day, all-school tournament in April before the entire school population — it’s crazy fun). There are many connections to our curriculum (honest) and the art element is huge.

Each team comes up with an original name and symbol. Most year, because my class color is “blue,” our name is something icy: arctic this, frozen that, etc. This year, my kids chose the best name: Riptide, and the story of its genesis comes from a book we read this year — The Lightning Thief — in which the hero is given a magical sword that is harmless to mortals but lethal to magical creatures.

The sword in the book is called Riptide. So, they chose that name to connect our class to a book. It was a name they apparently had agreed upon about three months ago, but never let me know. The naming process is often contentious. Not this year. They all had already agreed.

And for the symbol, of course, they all wanted a sword.

And thus began their encounter with adversity, as our school frowns on weapons and symbols of violence. They appealed in person to our vice principal, who has been open to their arguments and has gone out of her way to listen to them. The class collectively wrote a persuasive letter, arguing that the Riptide sword does not harm people, that the sword is a symbol of their connection to the book, that they would never encourage anyone to harm anyone else. I did not help them with the letter. I only delivered the letter. (I really wanted it to be their own mission)

The vice principal admitted she was not convinced, so a group of boys huddled around the Lightning Thief book one morning this week, marked out passages that showed the sword could not hurt people and read it to her. Still: no go.

So a group of girls went home and did research on swords and came in bearing printed-out evidence that swords have been used for peaceful means in history (for military weddings, etc) and included our the official state Seal of Massachusetts, which features a sword.

But, still, no go, although our vice principal remained very reasoned and open.

I had hoped to use the last part of the day yesterday to help my class deal with the failure to sway our administration, let them know (again) how proud I was of their resourcefulness and get working on an alternative symbol (such as a water-themed picture with a strong current). But my son got sick, I had to leave early from school and now I know they are all going to stew on the matter for the weekend. Oh well.

I’m still proud of them and feel sad that I could not help them process it before the weekend.

Peace (in student initiative),

  1. Kevin,
    Writing for authentic purposes is important. The fact that your students felt strongly enough about the issue to pursue it through persuasive letters and research information, demonstrated their connection to their cause. Such engagement is to be admired.

  2. Wow now that’s a issue! I love the way you support your students in their problem solving and their dealings with the school power. I’m wondering what their parents will do with this hot potato over the weekend. They are after all the power to be reckoned with.

  3. I know, from reading about last year’s Quidditch tournament, that you find ways to connect all the crazy fun to school (and I remain totally impressed by the idea of the tournament and the connections to work!). But even if there was not a single connection to school work after this moment, I’m floored by the work your students have already done! The fact that they wrote the letter, went back to the text for support, did research to show context … your students totally rock! As vice principal, I probably would have said no to the letter … maybe would have said no to the readings from the book … but I would definitely have been convinced by the research!

    I hope your son is fine and I hope you have a good session with your students Monday. Maybe the vice principal needs this weekend to change her mind?

  4. Impressive tale, but dang! I’m less worried about the issue of swords on their logo, and more concerned that they’ve backed up against a lack of critical thinking on the part of your admins. I know WHY the admin is all freaked out by this, but I suspect it’s more school-boardish and law suitish reasons, than for logical, well-thought out reasoning. . . a skill which your students are demonstrating. Kudos to them!

    Great post.

  5. I gotta say, I think your VP missed the boat on this one! I’m very impressed by your students, and even more, by you as a teacher… it takes a certain kind of teacher to inspire and encourage that kind of independent thinking and initiative. (Hope the kiddo is feeling better… does he have the dreaded virus? Maybe it spread to Western Mass too!)

    • I think our VP was wonderful — she really is trying to balance the educational experience of the students with the rules of our school. I feel for her and I am grateful for the way she is involving the input of the students as much as possible.

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