The concept of clubs is something which has always intrigued me, yet with which I have never been able to really grasp. When I was younger (like, 6 or 7) my friend and I decided we wanted to have a club because that was what cool people did. Having a club appeared to mean we had a reason to keep secrets, develop special handshakes and passwords, and conduct clandestine dealings around the basement about which involved individuals would have no notion. We dubbed our club “Cuba”.
Neither of us had any idea what Cuba was. I have no clue where we even got the name. Probably it was selected simply because it sounded neat enough and we could both spell it; but for all I know, we may have settled on “Cuba” because it shared three letters with “club”.
I’m not sure what the intended purpose of the club was supposed to be. I can tell you it lasted just long enough for us to invite two or three other people to join it. Before we’d even established any secret codes or a coat of arms, the club fell into memory.
I do know that clubs lend a sense of camaraderie and support to a group. Clubs unite people who share a specific goal or ideal. They connect people.
Connection is exactly what I am desperate for with my 1st and 2nd grade class. Thus, I am reacquainting myself with the club concept.
My class has been through several significant changes since I took it over last autumn; the most recent of these was a change in schedules which has made us the only class occupying our assigned room (except for the occasions where the Wednesday night kids’ group decides to use our room for a party and doesn’t clean up). Because the best way to get an 8-year-old’s attention is with something shiny and new, I treated this schedule change as a big deal.
“Guys,” I said in a conspiratorial tone, “this room is ours. We can do whatever we want with it. Within reason.”
So far, all we’ve done is remove some old posters and hang a cork board on which to display the week’s artwork. Slowly, as my haphazard budget allows, I’m investing in other tools to add to the decor and my supplies. All of these supplies must be carefully stored when the room is not in use so no one steals them.
My announcement was met with wide eyes but little else, and pretty quickly no one cared; they already spent a lot of time in that room, so it wasn’t new. The next piece of news, offered last week, was.
“I think our class should have a cool name,” I said at the end of the lesson, when everyone’s attention had wandered. They’re still hardwired for the old schedule, so I expected this.
The suggestion to create a class name – a club name – was enough to get most of their eyes back on me. I opened the floor for ideas. The most popular choice, repeated over and over, was “The Storm Troopers”, because nearly everyone in the room except me is a Star Wars fan. Other ideas tended to run along the lines of “Church Kids Who Love Jesus” and “Miss Phoebe is the Greatest.” Then one of the boys, looking all innocent, said, “I have a great one! We could call us ‘Timothy’.”
“No,” I replied, “we are not naming our team after you.”
The previous teacher, Deb, had dubbed her class “Miss Deb’s Time Travelers”, with a Bible verse about studying the things which were written in time past in order to understand our lives and purpose. I liked the idea; I’ve always been in love with how the Bible is not just a book of doctrine, but a history book as well. I love being able to tie everything together and see how it worked together, and often my lessons include historical trivia.
“How about this?” I said, interrupting a barrage of club name suggestions all including the students’ names. “One time I read a book about a group of kids – they were Christians! – who built a time machine. They were called Time Troopers.”*
As expected, it sounded enough like “Storm Troopers” to be taken seriously. Ever enthusiastic, most of the kids were immediately on board. We’ll see if it sticks.
With this current group, I have a couple boys who struggle to fit in. Both are the wildly energetic, know-no-boundaries types that the rest of the class tries to avoid. Lately, older students have been more bold in speaking their minds about these boys. My hope is that the concept of a club, which is limited to the members of our class, might help to at the least stop the complaints and at best help the boys to fit in.
I only have a couple of months before my 2nd graders leave at the start of the new school year and I get a batch of newbies to break in. Both of the boys who have been struggling this year will still be with me next year. I would like to have a rhythm established before then, so we’re starting off on the right foot (for once). What the kids think is simply a cool nickname to sling around and tell their families about is actually one in a growing list of Miss Phoebe’s cleverly disguised teaching tools. I learn quickly.
*This was not exactly accurate. The book, one of the Timebender series, was titled “Invasion of the Time Troopers”, and the title group were actually the antagonists. They were hunting the time-traveling heroes all through history. I’ve learned when to take liberties in my teaching position for the sake of the class.
As a side note, the series – one of those obscure works my dad was always getting his hands on and passing to us – played a big role in my pre-teen life. I would recommend it (and I have) to kids in its intended age group. Finding it is another issue.