Thursday, February 17, 2011

Popcorn and Hot Chocolate

     Written by Ms. Berman
      I wish everyday in the classroom could feel like today.  I have my daughters to thank for this one.  They are both going through reflective periods at the moment, which typically triggers "comfort" strategies, whether it be eating a frozen yogurt or reading a family favorite such as Ender's Shadow.  Somehow this catalyzed my decision to make this "popcorn and hot chocolate" day.  The rain certainly added to the ambiance.  When I first made the announcement, K. was incredulous.  Initially I couldn't read her response and then I realized that she wasn't sure if I was joking or not.  "I never tease when it comes to teenagers and food," I later told her.  "Teachers just don't do this,"  she replied.  (She hasn't taken AVID with Mrs. James yet.) 

      There is this thing called California State Standards that kicks off my moral compass every time I come up with one of my atypical ideas.  But life has a way of working out, especially when teaching intelligent students.   CST Standard 6c: Students know temperature, pressure, and surface area affect the dissolving process.  Okay, I can disseminate just about anything and my students will grasp, process, and memorize it.  But near the end of our review session for the upcoming exam, everything came together when L. said, "Hey, so solubility relates to the hot chocolate... we heat it up so it will dissolve faster!"  This lead to the fact that the hot chocolate comes in powered form in order to increase the surface area to volume ratio, also increasing solubility.  "I'm going to make a free response question about hot chocolate," I told the class.  "You just wrote part of the exam."  I don't think they knew I was serious.  So CST 6c, you're not so bad after all.  Real life application.  Works every time.

      Even more important, however, was the change in the mood of the students as they stood around drinking their hot chocolate, thrilled with the fact that I bought the type with mini marshmallows. What was it about having popcorn and hot chocolate that made the day feel so special?  Was it the ten minute break in the routine of high school?  Was it the element of surprise?  Was it eating those delicious comfort foods?  Or was it just knowing that someone cared enough to say with their actions, "Hey, you got out of bed today, came to school in the rain, faced the rigor of Honors Chemistry, and that makes you amazing?"   Yes, I wish everyday in the classroom could feel like today.


  1. I think that the thing that made this so special & what made us so thrilled was the fact that i showed us that someone actually cares.
    Because of the stress of school, and people in our everyday lives are constantly letting us down, its nice to know that someone will be there to listen and even just to give us a simple treat like popcorn & hot chocolate.
    Its nice to feel appreciated, respected but most of all loved by someone that doesnt even have to love you. But by someone who is just loving ALL of her students out of the goodness of her own heart (:

  2. this is amazing. i can't express how how great it makes students feel when you validate the simple act of coming to school.

    because whether they're a slacker or a straight a student, whether they have a troubled home life or a privileged one, it really is a hefty task sometimes. we get used to it, because it's just something we all have to do: get up in the morning and sit in class all day and absorb.

    i know for me, i wouldn't realize it until you would say something supportive that had nothing to do with our performance in the class, but just congratulating us for being there. it wouldn't even have to be a reward like hot chocolate, it could be just a confirmation that you understand what we're feeling, even if we didn't until then.

    and to answer the questions in the last paragraph of the blog, i think it really has less to do with the actual hot chocolate, and more to do with length of the break from schoolwork the volume of the cup guarantees.

  3. i dont know if youre familiar with greek mythology, but for some reason, your post reminded me of one story…

    So, one of Hercule's trials required him to recover some magic apple(s) from the end of the world. however, this task was impossible even for the mighty demigod champion because only full Gods could go beyond the end of the world. Because Hercules was only half God, he cleverly approached Atlas with a proposition. Atlas is the God who holds earth on his shoulders for all eternity, and so Hercules offered to bare his load for a little while if the God would fetch the unattainable apple for him. Atlas agreed and passed the earth over to Hercules who at once was overwhelmed with its weight, but still managed to hold it up.

    I kinda see us students as Atlas, baring the weight of the world, the "FUTURE" as everyone tells us is "ours". our load also includes the pressures of teen hood, growing up in this generation, and all sorts of other struggles. you, of course, are hercules… haha. you take the load off of us just by acknowledging its weight. just because it's our responsibility and duty, doesn't mean it isn't difficult to carry it every day. i really see you as bending down to our level and lifting it up. this frees us up to go venture to the end of the world and back. and this is why i think you're amazing and i work everyday to build my character and try to move towards a successful future everyday: in hopes of one day bringing an apple back for you. :)

  4. I love this kind of thing. It's great for the students to feel appreciated at school. Too often we forget the magnitude of the IB Diploma or even a few IB classes and we see taking six IB classes as "normal." In fact, it is the opposite of normal and many, many students at IS goes over and above the norm to achieve. It is wonderful to have our work recognized as special with something like this hot chocolate and popcorn day.

  5. As a student, I feel that many teachers may recognize our stress, but they fail to do anything about it. This is the difference between teachers that truly care and those who simply offer support. Nowadays, it is hard to distinguish between busy work, homework, and work that will actually benefit us. The only real way to look at it these days is as more stress for us. And that is why hot chocolate and popcorn days are so important. They relieve stress and provide that nice little surprise that students are always looking for. But most of all, they lift the spirits and bring people together, which is what we need the most.

  6. Very nice and very true. I am now following. Nice to see what real teaching is. Thank you.

  7. I just want to say, first of all, that Ender's Shadow is an amazing book. I reread that so many times when I was younger.

    Yeah, I remember this day. There's something about being able to eat in class that is freeing. Perhaps it's because it's one of those rights denied to us by school. But when you get to eat, you know it's a special moment. Also, popcorn and hot chocolate are comfort foods. You ate them when you were younger, curled up in front of the latest children's movie or a crackling fireplace. Something in them is a trigger. (The fact that they teach chemistry doesn't hurt - why food isn't a bigger part of other chemistry classes I don't understand.)

    Just knowing that a teacher like you is out there...someone who knows and respects what we're going through, and is ready with hot chocolate and popcorn...that's just wonderful.