A memorable moment from last year was when I was prepping my 7th period class of 8th graders for our in-class mock trial. I explained how I usually do lawyer teams of four people, and those are usually based on students who have shown the best persuasive writing and speaking skills. Anyone who wants to be a lawyer is also free to "audition" by coming to talk to me and use their persuasive skills one-on-one. In this particular class, we were using "The Tell-Tale Heart" as the basis for the mock trial. Is the narrator guilty of premeditated, cold-blooded murder, or is it an insanity case? (Both, but that's why I like to use it. It's a fun way to have kids do close reading by looking for details that support their side.)
These two came up to me right after class. Two highly motivated and intelligent kids, and they wanted to be a team of two defense lawyers, going up against a full team of four on the prosecution. I'd never divided it like that before- purposely creating uneven teams. But it was a small class, and it worked out numbers-wise. I took it to the large group the next day: "Bryce and Maya think they can beat any team of four that I come up with. They want to be a two-person lawyer Dream Team." The class loved it. The other four lawyers readily agreed (because they really wanted to defeat these two) and the rest of us were excited to watch it go down. During the weeks of preparation, they asked to prepare in the conference room alone with their witness. When I'd go in to check on them, they'd be practicing the exact steps on how they wanted to pace as they interrogated witnesses. It was amazing, and it was nothing that I required. They put in hours of hard work and paid meticulous attention to detail on every part of the source story because they wanted to.
The day of mock trial is always fun, and reminds me of what I love about my job. I get to play judge while a class full of kids enters into a story on a whole new level. I wear my robe and the jury takes their job seriously. The lawyers put on a show and the witnesses act their butts off. These two really were a dream team last year, and they asked to take this picture on the last day of school with the judge. I heard recently from some of my students that this photo made it on Instagram for #tbt and they posted something about mock trial being the best school activity; something they missed. Things like that remind me why I love my job. I gave them a memory of something fun from school. So fun they didn't realize how much learning was taking place.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.