Training Time Update

I cruised through the bulk of my summer professional development courses including training as an Unlicensed Diabetic Care Assistant (UDCA) with stellar marks on the quizzes required.  Imagine my shock and dismay when I had to wade through the legal jargon that encased the assessment for the Section 504 refresher. This quiz was bothersome in that once I submitted my answers, they simply graded the quiz and did not indicate which ones were wrong. One had to make an 80 percent to be proficient. I was glad to benefit from multiple attempts to achieve this mark because it was late in the evening, and I was tired, frustrated, and determined. So far, my time now numbers around sixteen hours spent as of this writing. Twelve more await me, at a minimum.

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Time for Me

Usually the summer months find me dreaming, plotting, and planning about what will happen in the fall.  Will I get my room organized finally? Will the students respond to me and my no-nonsense brand of love? Will I be fit when I return to the classroom? How am I going to integrate the new policies, procedures, and/or curriculum directives? Have I completed my annual compliance trainings? Have I completed my annual requirement of staff development hours? On it goes to the point I work on my blog for my students, write up lesson ideas, and fret.  Even a veteran teacher entering her twentieth year frets like a new hire.  There is something to do all year ’round.

This year is different.  I have completed the bulk of my summer staff development and have already updated my student/parent blog’s information page. I am keeping track of every single second I spend on school just to keep myself accountable and to determine exactly how much time is spent on work when I am given the gift of vacation time.  I will announce the final totals in another post, but so far I’ve logged in over twelve hours of personal time. Too many times I have lamented the loss of summer vacation. This year, I really wanted some time for me. More anon.

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Accountability

I have a couple of students who could fail my class for the year.  One is capable but behaves more like a black hole.  The papers go in and disappear into the abyss. Some assignments that I give her never see the light of day again.  When I have spoken to her about it, her eyes glaze over and she gives me the “you’re wasting your breath” look. She passed our state’s reading assessment with no problems, so it’s not a matter of intellect. It is a matter of accountability. The other student I fear will fail my class has scraped by each marking period, but in this last one, he has not put in the effort to complete his work for the maximum credit. He is mere hundredths of a point from passing for year. I have contacted both parents about this before and now at the end of the year, so no surprises happen when report card grades are posted. We are now required to keep up with our failure rates  for each six weeks grading period.  If the rate is too high, then we will have to let our PDAS (Professional Development and Appraisal System) appraiser know. If my students don’t put in the effort to get their work done, then how is it my fault? If they don’t come in for help, or if their parents don’t force them to complete the work, then how is it that I am accountable? I am.

My the times are changing. . .

My the times are changing. . .

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Some Young Men Who Made My Day

I was rather sluggish yesterday but managed to get to work on time before the rains hit. One of my co-workers gave me a Mother’s Day card; I nearly started crying because it was so sweet. I hugged him thank you. Yes, he is young enough to be my son, but he isn’t. I jokingly tell the students that he’s my younger brother. Some of them don’t believe me, but I think others do.  He has visited my classroom just to say hello; the kids adore him because he invests love, time, and energy into them by eating lunch with them on a daily basis. I’ve never done that except on special occasions.

Around the middle of the day I have my conference period and teaming period. We had nothing scheduled today due to progress reports coming up today. One of my team members saw some students working on their science assignment in the hall during a “gallery walk.” She teased them about being their favorite teacher. One of our shared students didn’t realize it was her talking and said, “Mrs. Johnson’s my favorite.” My friend stood arms akimbo and said, “Really?” He slid back around the corner where he was working. She told me, so I went out into the hallway just to smile at him and give the kids a hard time about not being everyone’s favorite. All I could see were sparkling eyes and a smile on his face. I didn’t need to hear it out loud myself because I already knew it even before he’d said it. His dad had emailed me a nice compliment that I am saving in my forever folder.

Later in the day after dealing with a student who has given up on himself and would rather be in the in-school-suspension room than in my classroom following my directives, my good mood had dropped down to so-so. At the beginning of my last class, one of my students in my afternoon class handed me a small envelope with my name on it. “It’s for Teacher Appreciation Day.”
“Thank you. Do I open it now or later?”
“Later,” he replied. After school ended, I opened the envelope and found a gift card inside; even better were his words that he wished all of his classes were like mine and that he always leaves school in a good mood. I am touched and will really miss him when the school year ends. He is bright and funny; despite my best efforts not to smile sometimes when he’s especially wiggly, I still do. We connected when for some reason during the first semester I told him he was hopeless.  As he left class, he stopped at the door, turned around and looked me in the eyes, and said, “I have hope.” He smiled  and walked away.  We have been engaged in daily “battles” ever since.

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When My Students are Ill

I don’t like it when one of my students gets sick and misses multiple days of school.  I cannot control the ravages of flu and other infectious, highly contagious diseases; I merely observe the ramifications of their rampage.  The students who make life fun are especially missed.  I miss my daily banter with them. A little bit of sparkle is missing from my everyday routine.  My eyes stray to the assigned seat; I sigh to myself and enjoy the bright-eyes faces of the ones who are there with me.  We sometimes deepen our rapport on those days.

On the other hand,  I notice that the students who make life challenging sometimes leave me holding my breath and wondering about how the chemistry of the class will shift again to “normal.” I perceive that I am more relaxed and open in my affect; my intuitive students pick up on it as well.  When my challenging-to-me personality returns, I once again clamp down on procedures.  My expectations never relax. I simply feel at ease to joke with my class again like I did before I unearthed the one or two persons who are too thick to understand my humor or take it in an improper vein. Some years I have multiple students who force me to earn another grey hair or two.  Understand this: I never want any of them to be sick and to miss school.  I just want the hearts of some of them to change for the better.  I want them to make good decisions and to behave properly. I want them to concentrate on school and its priorities and not any other circumstances.

More anon.

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Done for This Year!

We had two days of state testing aka STAAR with our students.  I let them listen to our novel we’ve been reading after the testing concluded today and yesterday. I had already made them finish reading on their own and thought that listening might benefit them.  My colleagues took their classes outdoors.  I wasn’t dressed for the occasion with four-inch strappy sandals on my feet, so we relaxed indoors.  I even began to redecorate my classroom during my conference period.  We are required to remove any instructional writing or posters from our walls.  Motivational posters may be all right, but I took no chances and only had the pledge of allegiance to the American and Texas flags visible along with the safety information that we’re required to post for quick reference. I know the students are relieved to be done; we teachers who are proctors share their relief.  I am also glad to have my classroom back to “normal” setting with its colorful, eclectic display of motivation and instructional works.  Tomorrow will find me posting their haiku poems we created for National Haiku Day last week on April 17.  Last year, I wore my yukata kimono with obi for Haiku Day; this year I’d already worn it for the day we reviewed foreign language vocabulary since that’s one of the words on the school district’s list. I’ve included a picture of me in my kimono below.  My young charges like the fact that I don unique clothing/costumes to tie in to what we’re studying that day. I come by it honestly since Mama matches her clothes and dresses thematically at times.  She is  a Red Hatter, so she’s the proud owner of a few red hats and purple dresses to accompany them.  It’s part of the costume.  I relish the day I get to join her group.  I’m still not old enough yet.  ¡Ciao!

Taken Christmas 2008

Taken Christmas 2008

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He Did What?!

Today, and I kid you not, I saw a student leaning his head forward his mouth (and perhaps tongue!) on the door and door frame of my classroom. He was the first in line to enter my classroom for the class period. I walked up to him and said,”You’re being disgusting. Get out.” This translated to him going to the office (short-term removal) for inappropriate behavior.  My other students waiting for me saw me disinfect my door way where Mr. Lips had been.  I’ve even seen him chewing on his hoodie string with gusto.  I really didn’t know what to say since I’ve never seen that before in my nineteen years of teaching. Students aren’t allowed to touch cleaning products that could be potentially harmful, so he wasn’t going to clean that mess off for me today.

I have a former colleague who didn’t like to see kids sliding along the lockers.  It was as though they were trying to blend in with the scenery; however, they were the only ones in the hallway.  It makes sense to compact yourself in a huge group.  When you are by yourself, wall-sliding isn’t safe.  I fear sneeze and/or cough residue.  There could also be restroom residue because not everyone washes her hands after leaving the restroom.  Gross!

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Don’t You Quit

This is a good poem to keep handy for the dark days and hours.  I found it on the site www.psalm40.org.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit-

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a fellow turns about

When he might have won had he stuck it out.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man;

Often the struggler has given up

When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out-

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It might be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit -

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Author Not Known

If this poem was helpful to you, please copy and share it with my blessing.  I wish I’d written it, but I remember a wise friend gave me a copy years ago, and I only recently recalled its existence.  The written word is a powerful tool and a balm for a hurting soul. Psalm 8:4 says “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” I have to put my thoughts, worries, and prayers into His hands and know that He will hold on them for me through the night.  I have to believe that He gives me enough rest for each day I face with my young charges. ¡Ciao!

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Poem for Teachers

My mother gave this poem to me when I first started teaching.  I look at it at least once a year.

Before the Class Comes Marching In (Author unknown)

Well, Father, what do You think?

The room looks nice, doesn’t it?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Relax.

Today is the first day of school.

And—depending on the class I get—

today could seem

like the first day of the rest of my life.

That’s the funny thing about classes,

isn’t it, Lord?

I mean, the Class

seems to have a personality all its own,

in addition to all the personalities in it.

The whole being greater

than the sum of its parts, and all that.

What do you think—

the room looks nice, doesn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, Lord,

and there are two messages

I want to get across right from the start:

“Welcome, child!

I believe in you!

Together we can have

a delightful year

of learning and growth!”

And:

“Nobody messes with me, kid!”

I think that just about covers it, Lord!

Breate in. Br—

Oh! There’s the bell.

Just one more thing, Lord.

You’re not going anyplace are You?

More anon, dear ones.  ¡Ciao!

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I OWE You? You’ve Got to be Kidding Me. . .[Warning-Heavy on Sarcasm]

Let me get this straight.

1.  I owe you, my student, a good grade even when you don’t turn in your work on time.  Or even turn it in at all.  I owe you the right to gossip on your electronic device in class whenever you feel it is appropriate.  Oh, yeah, it’s also okay to talk during class because what I am saying or teaching isn’t important in the real world and certainly doesn’t apply to you.

2.  I owe you perfect attendance when you arrive tardy to class or don’t bother to show up the day before a school holiday.  How could I possibly have scheduled a test or quiz on that day?  What was I thinking? Isn’t it party time?

3.  I owe you my undivided attention on weekends and after hours on electronic communications because your parents practice bullying via email.  I owe you sleepless nights before hostile parent conferences in which your parents believe I will lie to them about you and your actions or inaction.  I also owe you the migraine episodes that are stress-related because you won’t accept any responsibility for your actions.  I think I’ll even take the state-mandated tests for you and save you the trouble.

4.  I owe you my kidney stones because I cannot trust you to simply behave yourselves in the hallways as the classes change; I cannot go to the bathroom in peace because my eyes must constantly be focused on you.  I owe you copies of my notes, preferential seating (all fourteen of you in one class!), and extra time on assignments.

5.  I owe you my out-of-this-world copy quota because you can’t be bothered to keep up with the first three copies I gave you.  If I don’t give you that copy with three words filled in on the notes, then I hear about it. LOUDLY.

6.  I owe you my bad back and dwindling supplies because you can’t pick up after yourself or bring your own pencils, or notebook paper, or reading material, or homework, or good manners.  I have had to pick up used tissues, scrape gum, and toss trash because it was an imposition on your precious time.

7.  I owe you all of these things?  Hmm. . . I also owe you my bad reputation as “the mean teacher” because I ask you to behave like ladies and gentlemen, and you despise correction of any sort.  I guess I will owe some of you three squares and an orange jumpsuit because listening to me tell you right from wrong is nonsense.  Why should telling a member of the law enforcement the truth be any different? It’s just too much effort to do the right thing the first time and to be honest when you’ve erred.

I don’t owe you these things.  I do what I love and usually love what I do.  It is individuals who make poor choices and wreak havoc on the populace who cause the greatest problems.  Their narcissistic focus on the short-term eventually catches up with them.  I, however, don’t want to see the rotten fruits of their labors.  Ciao.

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