It started innocently enough. "Mr. Turner, want to host our club?"
They asked politely. So far they'd proven to be good kids. I gave them a chance. "What kind of club is it?"
"The Lumberjack Club!" Both of them proclaimed in unison.
"And what exactly will the Lumberjack Club do?" I asked.
"Wear flannel, eat pancakes, and learn about lumberjacks," he said, then paused before adding, "but mostly eat pancakes. It's really about the pancakes."
How could you say no to that? So I agreed.
They kept me informed of the progress. "We've got people to bring in griddles, we'll get plates, forks, pancake mix, and syrup." They made a Facebook event and told me it was going to be a crowd. The created an excellent video promo for the club.
Today was the day. Griddles and pancake mix and supplies were dropped of in waves over the course of the morning. A-block, done, B-block, done. The lunch bell rings and it's time for The LumberJack Club!
Five or six of the founders arrived and rearranged the furniture and set up a work space.
"I think we better just use two of the griddles," I said, "we have issues down here in the basement with breakers some time." So we plugged in two of the larger griddles and started mixing pancakes while they heated up.
Pop! (not a crazy loud dramatic pop mind you, just a little)
"Yep, that was the breaker. Give me a minute to get a master key and I'll reset it. But we better scale back to one griddle."
A trip upstairs for the key and a visit to the utility closet later and we were cookin'. Six cakes on the grill, two pitchers of batter, and a line of hungry, lumberjack-dressed teenagers waiting in a line.
Then I got the word from the teacher next door. "Did you have anything to do with the wireless being down? Because my entire lesson plan next period depends on it."
"Ooooooh. Maybe. I'll check."
Realizing I was over my head, I turned to my fellow Underground Teacher for help. Before we could search for a solution, I heard unwelcomed words. "There it goes again."
Twelve pancakes in and we'd blown breaker number two.
I reset the switch and headed off with Mr. Lindsay to the menacing "internet closet."
If networked buildings had real bowels, they'd look like this. Wires and boxes and blinking lights everywhere. We were lost. The only thing we knew for sure was that the blinking red light on the router meant nothing good.
I began to panic and just went back to try and hide in the middle of the fifty or so flannel-clad teens aimlessly waiting for pancakes in my classroom. Pancakes thirteen through eighteen had just been poured on the grill when I heard the custodian at the door.
"What is going on in here?" He looked genuinely surprised. I wished that I could offer him a pancake.
Innocently, I replied, "We're cooking pancakes?"
He seemed confused. What could be confusing about fifty kids in flannel, huddled around an electric griddle waiting on some pancakes?
"We've got fire alarms going off upstairs. You're setting off the heat sensors. We've been running around trying to figure out what's going on."
"Oh. Yeah, it's us. Just trying to make some pancakes."
"Are y'all done yet?" He was very polite, considering the circumstance.
"Do you need us to be?" I offered.
"Yeah, I think so. Let me use your phone to call upstairs to let them know what's happened."
Trifecta! We killed power, we killed internet, and yes, you guessed it, the phone was dead.
What's the moral of this story? The twenty-first century isn't ready for twenty-first century learning.
I created an open space for learning and allowed the students to engage in an activity of choice. I respected their comfort (what's more comfortable than flannel) and turned my room into a maker space (making pancakes is every bit as vital to society as making bridges) for them to collaboratively create. Their work had an authentic and immediate audience. And what was the result?
Absolute chaos! And mild disappointment. But no worries. The teenage lumberjacks, undaunted by setback, spent the remainder of lunch figuring out how to engineer LumberJack Club 2.0.
Good luck Lumberjacks! (and Lumberjackies)