The Mean Season

We have been rapidly thrust into the “mean season” before state testing in May. This is when the students get on each other’s nerves.  Some personalities grate my nerves as well. This particular class has a larger than normal pocket of negativity that continually gravitates together in the cafeteria or hallway.  The adage of “birds of a feather” could not be truer than my class this year.

The badly behaved birdies make the better behaved students suffer through their actions. It’s a pain to feel like a gloved fist all day long and not uncurl and laugh a bit more with the ones who actually get my humor. Some days I am an iron fist in a velvet glove. Other times find me being an iron fist in an iron glove. My colleagues and I racked our brains but had no new solutions. Other teachers in our building who are the brain trust for school-wide incentives have formulated some plans.

We use incentive money (we are our own mint, and it’s not legal tender!) to reward kids doing the right thing without being prompted. Next week we will allow students who passed their classes to be outside for a “big kid recess” during our Advisory period. We have a store for kids to buy goodies like ring pops, pizza party passes, the privilege of listening to music on a device, or being able to take shoes off. I just need to remember to hand out my cash to kids I see doing the right thing the first time without reminders. I’ll just have to visit the bank and get some more moolah.

RLT

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Hooky!

I played hooky from school work today and cleaned my closet in my bedroom. It is tidy, and I can clearly see my clothes for work and casual times. It tired me out so much I needed a nap. I read about one-third of a novel by Cathy Kelly, and had a nice lunch out with my husband. No lesson plans or grading happened today. I did listen to one of EddieBComedy’s videos and laughed. He truly understands teachers. ¡Ciao! 😂

RLT

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Too Much

At this time of year when semester grades are posted, some parents receive the bad news that their students have not passed muster. It gets to be too much when some of them snap back and question their child’s lack of progress. Have you read with your son who despises reading books? Have you tried working math problems or hired a tutor? Have you asked questions that require more than monosyllabic responses, or did you just hand them an electronic device to “shut them up?” I have a little more than forty minutes per class period to engage students. Some of their attention spans require medication. Others remain focused. On their friends or crushes. On their social media or gaming accounts. It would seem that I am destined to forever compete for the consolation prize. The number of students with attention disorders increases each year that I teach. The number of students monitored under Special Education or Section 504 does the same thing.

When such maudlin thoughts touch my mind, and I question my calling in life, I must remember there is a silver lining somewhere. I need encouragement on the black days like anyone else. One of the best sources of nourishment for the soul is laughter. Another source is friendship. Being able to laugh out loud at least once or twice a day lightens the soul. A quick comment or insight from that clever friend whose perspective on life borders on madness can bring a smile to the face. A shared look during a life-draining, “It’s only been forty-seven minutes out of six hours!” presentation can bolster one’s strength. One of my goals each year is to bond more deeply with my team members. We need to laugh until we weep, we need to vent our common frustrations, we need to listen to insight from that quiet team member whose wisdom is gold, we need to discuss and implement plans for recalcitrant students, we need to celebrate our super stars, and we need to move forward each day.

RLT

Keep Calm and Remember - Teacher Encouragement

Joy and Rest

I still have over seven days of rest coming to me over the Christmas break. I have relished the time not monitoring accommodations, behavior issues, or deadlines. My joy is magnified by the fact that I will have some time with my college aged son while both of us aren’t working for a few days. I will be coming home from school on time while he’s here. My rest comes in the form of long afternoon naps that produce zero guilt as I don my comfortable sweats, goofy Christmas socks, and warm sweaters. I am thankful for time to recharge my batteries. Truly.

RLT

I Simply Forgot

Yesterday I forgot to tell my language arts classes that their brainstorming page was homework. I had said, “Finish it before you write your draft. We will work on the writing in class tomorrow.” I had planned on an easy-for-them daily grade for doing the work and showing me in class. I received an email about this assignment because it wasn’t on my school’s website. I had emailed it as an attachment to the parents. It was not written in the agenda as homework. I was not trying to be confusing or difficult. I felt even more micro-managed than I already have been.

“Have them write ‘HW’ on homework or ‘classwork’ on in-class work.

Have him take a picture of the agenda with his phone at the beginning of class.

Receive an email at 9:12 A.M. during a class. Receive another at 9:30 A.M. chiding your slow response to the first email. Receive another email at 9:43 asking if you’ve seen the previous emails. Class ends at 9:53 A. M. Another one begins. Still no response to email. Call the assistant principal about the teacher not responding to emails in a timely manner. When I click the mailbox icon to check my email, I see several from one parent in my inbox, an all-staff email about a school-wide directive, an invitation to an ARD or Section 504 committee meeting, a notice about some paperwork for a student who’s taking meds, fourteen hundred pieces of junk email, a reminder about that meeting that starts in three minutes, and a reminder about a staff meeting after school this week. This is a slow day.

Take data for Special Education students accommodations. Each six weeks. Record how they are progressing in your class. Reading goals. Writing goals. Behavioral goals.

Keep up with Section 504 students’ accommodations. All of them on a daily basis. This means reminders to be on task. Preferential seating. Learning lab privileges. Copies of teacher notes. The copier is jammed, or the person who copies entire dictionaries is just starting her print job, and the notes need to go home with Janey Sue before her dental appointment this afternoon. Mom will email you if you don’t get them to Janey Sue before she leaves for the day. You had her first period, and she is not in your hallway again until fifth period. It is now fourth period. You’re late for the meeting trying to find an open and working copier.

During lunch, sit and email parents to notify them if their student’s grades are slipping. At least once or twice before the six weeks grading period ends. This could help when they say, “I didn’t know Jim Bob was failing.”

Manage aberrant behavior in classrooms with strong-willed personalities determined to break your resolve. Calmly. All of the time.

Come up with an enrichment or remediation lesson for students who need it. For both subjects. And decide which one deserves priority this week. Oops. You chose incorrectly again.

Monitor students in the classroom and hallway at the same time.

While standing in the hallway/doorway, field questions asked over the music in the hallways about what is needed for class while holding a sign that lists the needed items. I have held up a sign that read, “Bring colored pencils.” To me it is obvious that if a student does not have them, then they would not bring them. I will have several stop goggle-eyed and say, “Do we need colored pencils?” Others will state, “I don’t have any” and stand almost dumbstruck. I make them go inside the room by saying that I have colored pencils. By the way, I have had colored pencils in my room since day one. They don’t remember that. They haven’t any problems telling me what they don’t have or if something is “unfair.” Oh, and make sure you unstick the locker of those students whose backpacks, jackets, etc. clog the mechanism. The veins in my arms and forehead bulge out as I strain to pop them open. Oops, those recalcitrant kids are off-task again in my room.

So, I love what I do, and I do it well. However, this time, I simply forgot to say the assignment was homework. Oh, I had better check my email. ✉️

RLT

My Special Day

I will celebrate my birthday tomorrow. Yes, I will be at school. I did not take the day away to be on my own schedule. That respite will come another day once I get my sub plans together. One needs restoration after trying days, classes, and moments. Phone calls with exasperated parents trying to understand why their child is doing or not doing. Emails detailing how a parent can assist with homework and keep up with assignments. Some say, “It’s the child’s responsibility to keep up with their work, not Mom and Dad.” I agree; however, that is not the case. Tomorrow, I plan to keep my youngsters busy enough to stay out of mischief. My youngest sister has threatened a scary clown delivery of Hurts Donuts. We shall see. I’ll let you know how it goes. HBDTM (Happy birthday to me)

RLT

Serving Notice

I had to contact parents of students whose grades were not up to the passing standard. No one wrote back to question the grade. I was surprised. Several of the parents heard from me twice since I teach both social studies and language arts this year. Now they know, and now we move forward. I gave them my tutorial schedule and several reasons why the grade was low. I placed the responsibility on the student. We shall see how my serving notice goes over in the future days.

Yesterday, one of my angry young men spoke out disrespectfully in front of his classmates after redirection to work. He still made no effort. I sent him to the in-school suspension room. As he left the classroom, I spoke up, too, “That was disrespectful and unacceptable.” The other students watched silently, and class resumed its easy demeanor.

RLT

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A Little Respite

I saw a couple of former students this past week. One was at the volleyball game last night. He is now a senior in high school. I marveled at his height and how grown up he looked. He was one of my Footies, a group of boys and one girl who were mad about football (their word for soccer). I kept up with Manchester United, Barcelona, and Real Madrid’s stats that year just to connect with them. I am no soccer expert, but catching their enthusiasm was fun.

I asked Papi to come see me after he finished up some work for math after school. I will be monitoring him as much as possible from my little corner of the world. I miss our daily battles, but now I can treat him with the frank affection reserved for a son (being embarrassing by showing up in his hallway without warning) and no one will be jealously saying, “He’s your favorite!” He was my favorite sixth grader last year; this year he is my favorite seventh grader. Period. Papi had that funny little smile when he saw that I had written my birthday in his planner. A son should always remember his mom’s birthday even if she’s his school mom and just there for a season.

RLT

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What is Sleep?

Sleep is Overrated

I tend to nap for at least two hours daily on the weekends. I’ve turned on my NCAA football games to watch one game only to awaken and find another set of teams battling on the gridiron. During the week, I have reached the conclusion that sleep is overrated. I may get six hours a night when I am fortunate. My mind snaps me awake with a brilliant idea that cannot wait to live. I rise and type when the muse inspires me. I grab a blanket, turn on the ceiling fan in the den, and curl up in the recliner. Other “nights” find me staring dully at my iPhone while playing Merged or Two Dots. At 3:13 A.M. no less. Ugh.

My students’ needs consume my waking hours and snatch me from my dreams at night. This explains my summer nap coma mode when I take serious naps daily and feel no shame about a need to close my eyes for a wee bit of rest. If I don’t find the time to bank my sleep over the weekend, I pay for it with a dearth of energy and a plethora of driven energy.

RLT

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You’re Out!

Yes, I asked two different students to leave my room today. One was being cruel to another student. The cruel one has a history of mumbling and stirring the pot. He had to get stepping. The second one has decided he doesn’t want zeroes, but he doesn’t want to work. After multiple warnings over several days to get to work, stop making noise, and to follow directions, he too had to step. He was coloring himself a canary yellow with his highlighter. Really? Hit the bricks. The other students are now coming to grips with the fact that I actually want a learning environment for the ones who want to learn. Enough tyranny of the minority who suck up energy monitoring them like little babies who cannot be trusted to stay away from trouble. My eighty to ninety percent of do-gooders deserve their education. I plan to make it known that it is unacceptable to disrupt learning to follow your own agenda. That is it. Get in line, or hit the bricks. Third strike and you’re out. I start each day anew when they let me, but bad behavior deserves its own reward: relief on the faces of my students who wanted to learn in peace. Wish granted.

RLT

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