Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ARTIFICIAL (08/11/16)
- TITLE: Sixth-grade Know-it-alls
By Francy Judge
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"Good morning. I'm Ms. Thompson.”
“Good morning, Ms. Thompson.” The kids responded in unison without a glimpse of expression.
“After I take attendance, I have some activities planned, so I can get to know you.” Before explaining, the principal, Mr. Kelly entered her classroom, grinning.
“Ms. Thompson, I see you’ve met your new students.”
I turned my back to the class and whispered. “What’s wrong with this class?”
“Class, Ms. Thompson and I are going to step outside the room for a minute. You may read the book in your desk.”
The class remained quiet while we stood in the hall. “So Carla, did you have a nice summer?”
“Huh? Something is very odd with this class. They’re like cardboard cutouts.”
“Yes. Just like robots.”
“They are.” Mr. Kelly chuckled.”
“What do you mean—they are?”
“You should be flattered. Because of your excellent teaching record, you’ve been assigned the experimental creative intelligence class.”
“The experimental what?”
“Your students are the latest design in robots. They have unlimited knowledge and the ability to learn emotions and reason. That’s your job—to teach emotions.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me over the summer, so I could have prepared lessons geared to robots?” Not sure what that would be, but still.
“Originally Jane was going to teach the class, but she backed out yesterday.”
My skin tingled. A stroke? A heart attack? Premature hot flash? How would I teach emotions?
A girl in the first row raised her hand. “Ms. Thompson, your skin is sweating, and your cheeks are flushed. Is this because of an emotion, or should I call an ambulance?”
“I’ll be fine, just feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed.”
The entire class mirrored my expression. They wrinkled their foreheads and arched their eyebrows. I wanted a mirror. “Do I look like that?”
They nodded, their faces locked in one expression, with cheeks flushed and sweat dripping.
“Do you feel this? Do you understand about feelings?”
They nodded again. “Yes, we are feeling anxious and overwhelmed.”
Well, of all the emotions to teach them, I started with anxiety? Lovely. Now what? “Names. Please tell me your name, going down each row.”
“01; 02; 03; 04; 05…”
“So you’re named numbers, sitting in numerical order. This is boring. I have an idea. Class, follow me. We’re going outside to feel the weather and the joy of a sunny day.”
As my face softened, so did their faces. “Ahh. Smell the honeysuckles? Nothing like fresh air.”
The children inhaled. “We’ll file this under Pleasant smells.”
I emptied the recess bag on the grass. “Do you know what these things are?”
“Yes. Jump ropes, balls, rackets…”
“Have you ever played with these things?”
“We know what playing is, but we have never tried it.”
We spent the rest of the day jumping rope and playing kickball. The children laughed. Then they laughed at themselves for laughing. I asked them how they felt while playing.
“This feels most like happiness. We like this one. Can we practice this feeling again tomorrow?”
05 picked a dandelion. “Ms. Thompson, we know the company that made us, but who made the things that grow? Who made you?”
“I believe God did. That’s a matter of faith and your homework tonight. Gather information and form an opinion.”
“We don’t have opinions, only facts.”
“That’s why this will be a challenge.”
The next day, 05-020 had a stack of paper on their desk. “Is this your homework?”
“Yes. 1407 pages of information about creation theories.”
I refused to grade this assignment. “05, did you arrive at an opinion?”
“It would not be considered an opinion, but a reasonable conclusion.”
“The God who created life has to be the one who showed he cares the most about his creation. This would be the God who became like his creation and gave his life to save them.”
“You just learned what love is.” Tears welled in my eyes. This would be an interesting year.
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