Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Wackadoodle Club

My brightest student two years ago was a freshman in the "Career Options" track. Everyone knows what Honors and College Preparatory means, and the remainder end up in the bargain bin. (This year the Career Options track has been renamed the Pre-college Prep, or the PCP track--bet it doesn't take a month before students start calling it the Dust track.)

Cristian had a track record--bright students in the PCP track had to work to get there. Cristian was the King of Whatif. "What if we try this...What if we try that?" Cristian, however, was also the King of Contraptions, and would quickly follow his questions with workable set-ups.

So we tried them.

Of course, other students seeking fame or attention or a way to blow off a lesson would also interrupt, but without the flair of Cristian.

Over time I discovered more Cristians in my low level classes. Brilliant, impulsive, and (well) unstructured young adults with curious minds. Because it's public education, because it's the world of jocks and nerds and dirtbombs and goths and geeks, and because I had no way to classify my bright but behaviorally challenged Cristian types, I gave them a name.

To be a Wackadoodle, you need to take a hands-on approach to science, not a problem for many of my students, who somehow made it through their first 14 years without maiming, blinding, or deafening themselves with a variety of home-made "experiments" gleaned from YouTube.

You also had to practice Safe Science. Otherwise, you're in the less-publicized Knucklehead Club. (I never put any individual students in the Knucklehead Club, though I would occasionally admonish someone that their behavior might get them into the club.)

And, finally, your idea had to be in the same universe as the unit lesson.

My own two kids, now adults, were both charter members of the club. My daughter, now on this Earth for over a quarter century, proudly called me one day to report she had done some silly, dangerous stunt (which I won't describe here, for obvious reasons). After she told me all the cool things about it, she paused as I inhaled deeply for the Father Knows Best speech.

Before I could induct her into the Knucklehead Club, she said "And I was wearing safety goggles!"

Spoken like a true Wackadoodle.

Are you a jock, punk, nerd, geek, prep, goth, or wackadoodle?
wackadoodle you experiment with all kinds of crazy stuff and you come to your own conclusions and refuse to let the dominant culture make you what you're not

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