davidd (davidd) wrote,

Little Wars: Another Day In the Trenches

'Twas a good day, mostly, after all.

Most of the 8th-grade students at school were attending the 8th-grade end-of-year banquet. Those of us low on the totem pole were assigned study hall duty, to mind those rapscallions who, for various reasons, were not attending the banquet. The most common reason, by the way, was that the banquet cost MONEY and some couldn't afford it, some didn't want to pay it, and some had parents who didn't want to pay it.

Some teachers (not me) had been "strongly suggesting" to students that if they were not attending the banquet, they wouldn't be missing anything if they didn't attend school today. Net result, I had five kids in my study hall. Then one of them, who serves at a teacher's assistant one period out of the day, asked if she could spend the day in her T.A. classroom, which was a grand idea. She's such a sweet girl, I don't know why she didn't attend the banquet, but she said she just didn't want to go. I suspect she's another of the "parental disapproval" victims. Anyway, she was gone, and I had only four.

I had been absolutely dreading today all week, but fortune smiled on me: the one kid whom I was not looking forward to "babysitting" for six hours today didn't come to school!

Serious Yay-ness!

So... the kids I had played Monopoly for a while, they played chess for a while, they played Jenga (with the little sticks) for a while. Some of them surfed the internet for a while (no MySpace).

Then one boy, a quiet, studious type who reads lots of graphic novels, began using dominos and the Jenga blocks to build a little fortress and manning it with chess pieces. So, being the model of maturity that is the hallmark of a great teacher, I began building a similar fortress of my own, guarded by an army of the opposite color chess pieces. There are several chess sets in the room, in various stages of completeness, so in total each of our fortresses held over fifty "soldiers."

Then, with rubber bands as our weapons, the battle commenced! The other students joined in; so, yes, today in school my "study hall" class spent over three hours engaged in a running "rubber band war".

It was quite interesting to observe, while participating, how the "rules" gradually evolved; and how certain of the chess pieces gradually took on "personalities;" each color, although there were several Kings and Queens, eventually settled on one King and one Queen -- the other "nobles" were, depnding on their size, either children -- princes and princesses -- or siblings or cousins, with a hierarchy of succession as varous members perished in battle. The bishop pieces in the early battles hung near the back, piously, in their chapels; later, they became "Battle Bishops," leading the charge on the front lines. "Battle Bishops" sounds so cool that, should I ever become a manga-ka, "Battle Bishops" may be one of my first efforts! During one battle, when I had slain the entire nobility of my foe, his knights stepped to the fore as the natural leaders.

The rules evolved to the point where the battles would temporarily halt, during the "winter season," and fortresses could be repaired before fighting recommenced. Then, after serious carnage had been inflicted by several well-aimed shots, troops began to advance into the territory of the adversary, seizing outbuildings. As the tide of battle turned, forces might have to withdraw and regroup. The simple "knock down the pieces with rubber bands" game became, by the end, a rather eloquent battle simulation nearly worthy of H. G. Wells.

So, for a day I was dreading, it turned out okay. Now it's Friday afternoon, hooray!, with a three day weekend ahead!

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