Busy Little Bees on Overdrive

My students will be working on reading passages, writing prompts, and listening skills in the last nine days of school. I tried to find high-interest articles that would fire their imaginations as they learned something new. I also plan to play a review game about sentence structure and function using Kahoot! on the penultimate day of school.

The majority of my students may be vacation-minded, yet they are compliant with my directives. A small percentage would love to pull their cronies off-task and openly rebel; however, I actively monitor their activities to keep order. One of my younger colleagues passed on a suggestion that I am conditionally allowing—reading books on electronic devices. She utilizes the Overdrive app on her device. Some of her recalcitrant clientele received instruction on how to download and use it, too; now, they are engaged with books of their own choosing. Our librarian had previously mentioned this to our classes; it was on my phone at one time; somehow, I forgot about it. Now, I am allowing my students to download the app and a book with the condition that if I ask to see their phone, I’m going to see a book and nothing else. We shall see how it progresses.


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“Old” Dog and New Tricks

I just spent about sixty or so minutes of my life updating the page for our student learning hub which uses the Moodle platform. The new theme they are making us use isn’t entirely user-friendly when one has an older model of computer and/or mouse. It may also work better with a more rested teacher sitting at the keyboard. There is always tomorrow to continue, so I shall. I just need to figure out how to change the background color to something other than white. First of all, I need a cup of tea and time with my novel before I turn in for the night.  Make it a great day!


Learning a new trick!

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How to Appreciate Your Teacher

The first Tuesday of May has been designated as Teacher Appreciation Day. I thought I’d take a moment or two to make note of some of the best ways to appreciate your teacher. These are also steps parents can encourage in their children.

Follow directions the first time.  This shows that you have honed your listening skills. No lines furrow my brow. My face remains smooth and placid. You have a good class period with me, and we both leave happier. If you see me snap off the heels and start lacing up the running shoes, then it’s time for you to run. You have entered the danger zone, and I am about to get you. I hope you ate your Wheaties, kid.

Respond in an appropriate manner.  If your teacher wants you to say, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am,” then do it.  If she wants you to simply respond “Yes” or “No” in a civilized tone, just do it.  When you score well on a test or project, be happy but not disruptive about your celebration.  If you don’t score as well as you like, don’t broadcast to the entire class about your failing mark.  Your classmates become embarrassed for you.  If you are in trouble, please don’t smirk or grin at me. Smirking shows a lack of respect for what I’m trying to tell you, and it’ s frustrating to feel that you aren’t listening.  If you are so mad that you want to punch someone or something, take a breath, and ask your teacher if you can visit the counselor to talk it out. Maybe you can talk to your teacher about it later on after things have calmed down.

Write her a heartfelt note. Just knowing that my class brings a smile to the faces of some of my students makes me happy and puts a spring in my step.  I keep those notes forever and look back at them when I have a rough go of things. I even keep kind parent emails, too.

Take an interest in her life.  Remember that she is a person, too. If your teacher displays pictures of her family and friends, it means she has relationships outside of school.  Those people in the pictures are her lifeline.  They make her laugh at inside jokes. They make her stomp in with a black cloud over her head. They make her cry happy tears with surprise balloon or flower bouquets.  If she has pets, ask about them. This shows that you have an interest in her beyond the grades she records.

Respect her privacy. On the same token of taking an interest in her life, don’t intrude on her family time.  Some teachers maintain an online social media presence that is private. Others don’t bother with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Sometimes that angry email doesn’t need to be sent at 10:30 P.M. She has to respond to the request in a timely manner (the next morning!), and the little ding of the email signal just woke her up from a dead sleep. Now she’s thinking about how to get back to sleep. If she has a published phone number, never call her at home. Save your phone calls for school office hours. If she’s working in her yard, allow her to do that in peace. Making a U-turn in the cul-de-sac to stop by and “have a chat” is out of line. My home phone number is unpublished because a student called me at home during my first year of teaching. Saying hello at a restaurant, grocery store, etc. is fine, but don’t overstay your welcome.

Don’t sting. Some parents love to get in the “last word” at the end of the day or right before a vacation or weekend and fire off a harshly-toned email. Email correspondence is forever. Those words once sent cannot be taken back. Take a few deep breaths, take the dog for a walk, or take a few moments to yank recalcitrant weeds out of the ground.  Count to one hundred before you hit the send button.  The recipient will have to respond to you, and it may take a great deal of restraint to contact you with a civilized tone of voice.  If you won’t say it in person, don’t say it in print. Think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of written vitriol. It hurts.

Maintain reasonable expectations. Your student is your baby, and you have nurtured him or her from a young age; however, even our own babies surprise us with their actions, words, and thought-patterns.  This comes about as they grow up a little bit each day.  When or if your student’s teacher calls, and it’s not good news, give her a chance to tell you everything she can before you take her head off.  If she’s made an error, show grace. If you’ve made an error, allow her to show you grace. Regardless, take the high road. Even the best students who would NEVER do — will make a mistake or not turn in an assignment on its due date. They are human, their teachers are human, and their parents are human.

Preserve the good name. Bad-mouthing a child’s teacher in front of the child is a sure-fire way to sabotage the relationship between your child and her teacher.  “That Mrs. X is just too demanding!” Little pitchers have big ears, and they mimic our actions, speech, etc.  There have been cases when I’ve had a decent relationship with a student only to somehow upset his mama and/or daddy, and then I pay the price with a child who is disrespectful to me because it’s an acceptable practice at home.  This bleeds over into social media with sites that allow criticism without rebuttal.  Hiding behind a vitriolic post is cowardice–plain and simple.

Painted by Norman Rockwell.  Appeared on cover of Saturday Evening Post, 1956.

Happy Birthday Miss Jones painted by Norman Rockwell. The Saturday Evening Post, March 17, 1956.

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Don’t Blame Me

Blame the teacher?

Why would you blame your child’s teacher?

I can think of a couple of students whose parents fit the bill. It saddens me, but I cannot be anyone other than who I am and who I was created to be. I tell my students, “You will never have another teacher on this Earth exactly like me, and that is truly a shame.” It’s not meant to be narcissistic, but it is true. Other educators will be similar to me or remind the students/parents of me, but there will never be one who is my exact duplicate.
I’ve even told my tougher classes that I would lay down my life for them. Whether they believe me or not is not my problem, but it is my heartfelt responsibility to give the younger generation a chance to live their lives. The sensitive souls’ eyes tear up when I’ve said this statement. Their hugs are the longest at the end of the year because they know I meant what I said.
The key thing to remember is that in life, we encounter people who don’t always agree with us or get along with us. This is okay. It is not acceptable to bash teachers who work their tails off, lose hours with their families, and compete with all of the new technology and information overload available. Please walk at least one week in my shoes when they are excited about summer vacation for the last six weeks of the school year, and some of them mentally check out. “We’re finished with our STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) tests. That means no homework, right?” Wrong! Please grow eyes in the back of your head to watch simultaneously in the hallway and the classroom. Please attempt to motivate students who lack the intrinsic drive to accomplish a task that needs to be completed. Make them read books they despise in May. Give them writing assessments, and insist that they use good grammar at all possible times. Hold your tongue when an adolescent makes a sarcastic comment that flays open your skin. Substitute in a classroom on a Friday in the spring semester, and toss out the lesson plan because “it seems silly.” Go ahead, I dare you. The majority of my students are model citizens. The vocal minority consume my time, efforts, and energy because some parents did not invest the time to read to their children, to listen to their children, and to discipline (correct lovingly) their children. I cannot undo the damage of eleven or twelve years in ten or so months, yet I (and thousands of other quality educators) make the valiant attempt every single year. Please don’t blame teachers; help them.
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An “Adult” Post

When I ask a student to do something, I expect him or her to do it. When I direct them, I expect them to comply. Because I am an adult, I expect obedience.  I do not expect to hear an excuse, a reason, or an explanation unless I specifically request it. I will not ask them to do anything that is detrimental.

My parents taught me that I was to do what they asked when they asked and how they asked. I didn’t get to stomp off in a huff, roll my eyes, slam the door, mumble under my breath, and huff and puff loudly in anger. I had to maintain self-control. As a result, I marvel at some young people who find it acceptable to regard me as an equal. I am not their equal except on a human being level. I am the boss. I give directives for their protection, edification, and education. I do not speak words just to hear the sound of my voice. I expect a “Yes, ma’am” and to see feet in action, period. One day, when my students are adults, they will enjoy this same privilege.  I too had to wait to become an adult. It took years, but I made it, and they will too, one day at a time.


Why Are You Here?

My students who see me in classroom every day know that I love them. I tell them so. This is not about them.

There are some students who make me wonder why do I teach. Others make me scratch my head in dismay after I’ve tried yet again to figure out their puzzle box. Still others’ smiles light up my world simply because they love me.  I see it in their eyes. I don’t teach them. I don’t work with them on a regular basis. I am simply in the hallway and talk to them, and they love me. Some girls compliment my clothing or accessories. Others smile shyly at me as I stand sentinel to prevent misbehavior in the hallway. Some of the boys give me a high five (or we bump elbows in ‘flu season) and a “Hey, Mrs. Johnson” as a greeting. I simply don’t always understand why some of them seem to really love me. On those days when I don’t feel I deserve such admiration, I get a greeting or unexpected reminder that they are also part of the reason I am here. One young lady recently stopped by to see if I needed help straightening my room up.  I normally don’t let these little darlings work in my room, but something about Sweet Girl made me say yes. She tidied up my literature books and organized my book shelf. Sweet Girl always has a smile for me in the hallway. I am always glad to see her face as she walks by in between classes. I introduced her to my student intern, Mini-Me, and they smiled the smile of “We’ve got to get her together, or else chaos will once again reign.” You can just tell when they do the silent head nod. I am happily doomed.

Mini-Me was in my classroom six years ago. She asked to be in my classroom; I could not believe that she asked ME. Once again, I wondered why she’d be interested in working with me on a daily basis.  Hadn’t she managed to escape my clutches? She has only blossomed into a beautiful young woman as she has gotten older. Her inward beauty and old soul never changed. She keeps me organized, and I am keeping her in Reese’s candy and whatever goodies I happen to bake in my kitchen. Mini-Me is a true gift to me in part for keeping me organized but also for keeping me accountable with some of my more challenging clientele who require long walks of prayers each morning. I pray for wisdom so that I can minister to them according to their needs. When I feel the need for Mrs. Johnson’s Sermon Number —, she stops what she’s doing, listens, and affirms me with a nod. I know she understands what I am trying to do: give my babies some much-needed insight before turning them loose into the next grade.

One of my all-time favorite students is in his last year of middle school.  He and I connected two years ago in the hallway because he had a bum right knee and was on crutches.  This is Birthday Buddy.  I went to the school district’s track meet to watch my former students run.  His team won their race and are district champs. I yelled my head off as he took the baton, ran faster than I’ve seen him run, and successfully pass off the baton to the last man of the team. It was a thrill.  As I drove home, I reflected on the life lesson he has taught me: it’s okay to be loved and accepted by someone other than your family or friends or students of record.  Sometimes they love you in spite of yourself.

The LORD chose my husband, and the LORD blessed us with our son. My close girlfriends and I are sisters of the heart. This young man, my intern, and Sweet Girl are beautiful reminders of the unconditional love God set down on Earth two thousand years ago. With them I see hope for the future and know in my heart that teaching young people is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  They may never, ever know the impact they have on my life, but I assure you, I sure do. I love these three and will make it a point to tell them face-to-face when next we meet. A thousand pardons because this rather pesky wind keeps blowing dust into my eyes in my office.  It makes my eyes water, you know.

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More Schtick!

In connection with a novel we read in my Pre-AP language arts class, we danced in class.  Yes, after we finished Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, we did the dance “The Bunny Hop” using the 90-second Disney version. My morning class jumped up and joined me; my afternoon class didn’t. I was surprised to hop by myself but kept on doing it. I relate more to that heroine on some days than I do to others, and I am a Jane Austen devotee.

One of my darlings this year is a student who I don’t teach. I see him in the clinic when I pick up my lunch, and he lets me know if I have something good to eat or not.  We saw one another in the hallway before class two days ago, and I said hello. He stopped and said, “Hey, Mrs. J!” and waved his hand to say “C’mon!” We did a “jump bump” like they do in the professional games, but ours connected the sides and arms.  It looked like the 1970s dance craze “the bump,” but it was in the air. I know, I know.  I was laughing so hard because not just anyone can get me to jump around like that. I haven’t picked a nickname for him yet, but I will let you know. And wouldn’t you know it, he plays baseball?

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I have a few students who lose their books and expect me to make them a copy or issue them a new one. After a day of this, I begin keeping tally in the discipline log.  I believe they are to bring their own supplies. Despite the community atmosphere of some elementary classrooms—kids all bring one box of facial tissues, package of crayons, etc. that are dumped into large containers and kept for all of them to use. I don’t believe in it. I participated as a parent when my son was in elementary school, but I expected him to keep up with his homework, supplies, musical instrument, and locker combinations when he hit middle school. He didn’t have a choice since I have taught middle school for years. Bring your own pencil, bring your own pen, and bring your own notebook paper. Before you send me to the wet-noodle flogging post, remember that I am referencing students with socio-economic needs that supersede pencils and folders. I am talking about the students whose parents have the means, but the kids don’t give a rip. When they enter the real world, they will be responsible for themselves and their monthly bills. I am simply training them for a life-lesson. To just allow them to show up with nothing teaches them that the world owes them a living. I beg to differ.


Answering Questions

Student:  Why did you give me an “F?”

Teacher:  I couldn’t give you a “G.” I saw this written as a joke years ago and never found it, but I just had to share.


One day a student decided that making a wisecrack was the appropriate means of responding to me. I answered, “A smart mouth does not make a smart man.”


Last week I gave specific directions about an assignment.  The student looked into my face, smiled and asked me, “What were the directions again?” I silently stared at him for a few seconds.

“What did I say to do?” He repeated them word for word. “Then do what I said.” He left the room.

Desk Rage Flip - Teacher and Student


“What’s the homework assignment?” a student asks.  Never mind the fact that I request that they write their assignments in their daily planners.  It’s too much work.

I point to my whiteboard. “What’s written on the board?” I respond.  She leaves.


Sometimes the best response is a silent look. It’s not “the look” that impales the recalcitrant with fear, but we’ll call it “the look’s” little sister, just for kicks.


What I Make

On Tuesday, I was talking about a version of the myth “Persephone” my students read with me in class.  For some reason, one of them had a mental misfiring and compared me to LA Lakers player Kobe Bryant.  I have no personal opinion of Mr. Bryant and am sorry he has to endure rotator cufff surgery.  Meanwhile, I whipped around and snapped, “Kobe Bryant? I may have a beautiful natural tan like Kobe Bryant, but I am not making $24 million and enduring surgery. Do you want to know what I make? I’ll tell you what I make.

“I make students sit down, and I make them stand up.  I make them read books they don’t want to read. I make them write. I make them say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ and ‘No, ma’am.’ I make them think. I make doctors, lawyers, bankers, dancers, and future teachers.  I teach.” It was dead silent in that room. Their eyes were saucers because they saw the gleam in my eye.  When I told my husband and son later that evening, they replied that when I get that look, the best response for survival is “Yes, ma’am.” They were right. Thank you, Taylor Mali, for giving me some apt words to use as a gentle reminder that my chosen profession helps, guides, nurtures, and generates other professions in some way, shape, or fashion.


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