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I had one of the Exasperating Middle-Schooler Classes today. These are exasperating because the middle-schoolers are very sullen, and thus frequently mumble or refuse to talk. (I have four middle-school-age classes, and all but one of them go like this. The one is Little Miss Conan’s big sister, who asks me all sorts of inappropriate questions and disputes the historical accuracy of my “ninja pose.” If she would just attempt to do more of this IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE she’d be my favoritest ever.)

But in between today’s bouts of sulky silence, this bunch, too, started doing the alternating, “Yes, we can!” and “No, we can’t!” chants.

I said, “Why are you mean to Obama?” (I had just taught them “mean.”)

One of them said in Japanese, “Because we love him.”

Sulker #2 made a disgusted noise.

I said in English, “You do? Okay. Say “I love Obama.””

“I love Obama,” said Sulker #1 obediently, possibly only obeying to annoy Sulker #2.

“Now you,” I instructed Sulker #2. “”I love Obama! I love Obama!””


“Yeah, you be that way.”

And then I made them play my home-made pencil-and-paper version of “Operation,” which #1 called “somehow vaguely okay” (Sulker #1, Ironic Tone: “Nanka tanoshii…”) and #2 scribbled all over, cementing today’s irritation with #2. I made that thing specifically for use by sullen eleven-year-olds, and you did not respect it!