What Would Grendel Do?

We were reading Beowulf and the kids were slumping in their seats. I bellowed and spat the epic poetry with all of the Viking force I could muster, but the lines formed a lot of saliva due to the strong alliteration and the kids scooted their desks to the back of the class and covered their faces with hands and notebooks. I took this as a sign that we needed a break and said: “Instead of reading Beowulf, lets PLAY Beowulf!”

“Beowulf” the game is wildly popular in my class. It’s a version of reverse tag where a single “Grendel” gets a 20-second head-start out the door before the rest of us–“Beowulf’s Army”–hunt him down. Sometimes the hunt for Grendel takes us through several classrooms and restroom stalls and administrative offices (and often on-campus security has become inadvertently caught up in the game), but it is a great way to invigorate a boring lesson. I try not to have other rules, but last week our Grendel ran home, made herself lunch and took a nap for the rest of the day. So now we have a rule about that.

The kids elected me to be “Grendel” so I took off, scaled a gutter pipe and laid down on top of the roof off my own classroom. Then I waited for ten minutes, but weirdly, nobody left the classroom to come search for me. I crawled to the edge of the roof and peered through my own windows. All of my students were just chilling and playing on their phones–they had forgotten about the game!

I whispered to myself: “I am a pointless, ridiculous monster, crouched in the shadows, stinking of men, murdered children, martyred cows….” That is what Grendel would have said.

Then I asked myself: “What would Grendel do if Beowulf’s Army never left the great meeting hall?” Answer: He would wait for darkness and then attack! But since I had no darkness I settled for the element of surprise. The passing bell rang and just as the kids were exiting the classroom I leapt from the rooftop to land in front of them, intending to yell: “I will destroy you Hrothgar!” But sadly I landed awkwardly, rolled an ankle and couldn’t yell–just a whimper: “Pity the miserable wretch, Grendel!” I said, as the kids stepped over me.

Re-springing Your Step


Education is Timeless!

Yesterday went to Alcatraz with the family. It reminded me a lot of the modern high school with Principals (Warden), Teachers (Guards) and, of course, Students (Prisoners). You had PE Class (Recreation Yard), the Cafeteria (Dining Hall) and Detention (The Hole). You had Honor Roll (The Brid Man of Alcatraz, Mickey Cohen, Machine Gun Kelly).

And look at Alcatraz now! A decomposing ruin, an ode to humankind’s basest instincts,a reminder to each of us that the most enduring prison is nothing but Time’s little bitch. The modern high school will suffer the same fate as long as it tries to contain the human heart. Education is Freedom and Freedom is Timeless!

Reading Essays: Time Saving Trick

It’s Christmas vacation and I have over 150 essays to grade. If I give each essay 5 minutes of my time that is more than 10 hours of work that I do not get paid to do. Of course I am a professional and I take my job very seriously so I have developed a formula for grading papers in less than 20 seconds. First I read the name, then I scan to see how long it is and that they have paragraphs. Done. I don’t need to read a word. That’s how good I am. You see, the trick is that the name tells you everything. If it is an A student, chances are they wrote an A paper. F students sometimes rally at the end so that is when I take the length and paragaphing into account. Now give me another glass of wine and turn on the football game!