Hashtag Time

I had a great first day with my new students. When I left school, my tiredness was the kind that let me know I was on the road to a good year. Here are a couple of photos for my first day before and after school.

# Year24Teacher

RLT

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Focus Time

Here is a photograph of my classroom. I find myself thinking about the finer details to make everything look perfect. You can see some items on the table. I’m going to cut out the laminated items and use those colorful pennants somewhere this year. The walls needed some color and pop, so I used butcher paper to liven up the walls a bit. That is a red quadrilateral shape behind the clock. I have my power standards posted so that the students can see them as they check the clock to see when it’s time to leave. It’s something that happens each year. C’est la guerre. I placed pictures of my family and friends. They are there for my edification and for my students to see my human side.

This is a year of focus for me. I am strictly a social studies teacher. I am an academic team leader and member of my church’s sanctuary choir. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, niece, friend, and cousin. I am a girl who picks up crayons, markers, or map pencils and colors when I want to be creative. I think that’s enough for now.

RLT

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School Supplies

I enjoyed the month of June after school ended so much that I did not want to plan out a real schedule other than my workshops and a trip to see my husband’s family. We made our trip during the first week of July. It seems like yesterday. As soon as we returned, I began the back-to-school brain that besets every teacher. In July the stores begin their marketing campaigns designed to bring joy to every parent who now appreciates what I do for 9-10 months. Sales of clothing, backpacks, pencils, and notebook paper are broadcast on the television or in magazines. Going to Walmart, Target, or Kroger means the displays whomp a shopper on the head as soon as she dares enter the building. Joyous youngsters’ faces shine like the sun as they anticipate meeting their new teacher and being in classes with their friends. I on the other hand have glazed eyes, and a tic begins by my left eye. I fasten my gaze to the ground or shelf to avoid the happy schoolchildren’s Kodak smiles beckoning me to buy a new pair of jeans or blouse. “No, I am not buying cardstock, pencils, or manila paper today. I am here for groceries. Groceries. Groceries.”I mutter under my breath. I must have said it a bit too loudly because now a startled young mom with her school age children urges her young brood away from the crazy lady mumbling to herself. I shake my head to right my brain and resume shopping. Crisis averted.

Target had a discount for teachers from July 15-21. Our state’s tax free weekend is August 10-12. Bad timing! I refused to darken the door of the Big Red Bullseye Menace once. You’ll never take me alive. Alas, my last workshop was yesterday, Wednesday, July 25. I found myself in Dollar Tree to buy some cards and popcorn. Well, the front wall was covered with back to school stuff. Argh! They have a little teacher corner. Like a zombie, I went to the teacher corner and found some items to update my décor a little bit. Sucker! As I made my way to the cashier, I saw them. Stress balls decorated like globes. Did I buy one? No. I bought three. One for me. One for my teaching partner. And one for my college aged son who is living at home doing an internship. They got me.

RLT

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That Sums It Up

This ridiculously exhaustive list sums up the perception of what my teacher brothers and sisters must accomplish on a daily basis. Meeting all of their needs is impossible. Mamas and daddies have an important role as the first teachers. I’m just there to impart some knowledge along the journey. I am a realist.

RLT

Be: A to Z

I wrote this as I was finishing out a tough school year for me. I wanted to say something positive and give them food for thought. This will be an annual tradition on the last day of school.

#BE

Amazing and artistic

Buoyant

Courteous, caring, and content

Dreamy, daring, and dressed for success

Engaged and exploring

Friendly, festive, and forgiving

Goal-oriented and generous

Hopeful and honorable

Interested

Joyful

Kind

Listening and learning

Marvelous and musical

Neat

On time and of good reputation

Pleasant

Quiet when writing

Respectful and reverent

Still and surprised by what life offers

Truthful and trustworthy

Understanding

Versatile

Well-mannered and willing to try or help out

Xtra careful with others’ feelings, property, and reputation.

Yourself

Zest-filled

-Mrs. Johnson

May 20, 2018

RLT

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The End Is In Sight

I realized that our class periods are shortened this week. This will mean a little less time with some of my troubled youngsters. That is not a bad thing. Less exposure to negativity is usually a good thing. I have learned that I am still a perfectionist, and I have learned that I am not elementary material. More than two class periods with some personalities drains my energy, wit, and good humor. Dealing with reluctant readers, artful dodgers, petulant toddlers in preteen bodies, and two-faced liars has taken its toll. Some of my students are really, truly damaged but perfect souls. Oh, LORD, heal them. Fill in the cracks of their little hearts, and make them whole. Some of their parents have not done this, so they seek attention and love (structure and boundaries) in any way possible.

By acting out.

By pouting and sitting with an attitude that dares me to engage them in battle. “Just try to make me do my work, lady!”

By not completing assignments so that someone will say, “Do this work, or else there will be a consequence.”

By running and hitting or kicking each other in the halls.

By being disrespectful because they see it on the TV and in the movies with parents and teachers being regarded as idiots.

By the games they play, pitting their parents against the teachers and not telling the full story. LORD, heal them, I pray, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train.

RLT

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Really? (Or I Regain My Joy)

One of my colleagues organized a thank you note writing campaign through our ILA (integrated language arts) department. Students wrote to two teachers. I received notes from some unexpected sources: current students who I am hard on about turning in work on a regular basis, former students who appreciated my humor, former students who recalled my words, and current students who brighten my day. I received my stack of notes during second period and put them into my bag later on. I took them out, sat in my recliner, and cried like a baby after reading some of their words. It was God telling me that my living, my striving to push the students I have, and my speaking the truth about life truly is not in vain. I was in sore need of those good words and sentiments after another long week. My troubled students’ ongoing behavioral and/or academic struggles, the normal toil of grading papers, attending meetings, and preparing for two subjects, and my concern about having my room “perfect” for state testing on Monday and Tuesday drained my energy.

Reading those notes about how I, a little middle school social studies and ILA teacher, affected some young people just blew me away. I had forgotten my prior actions and words. I just did not remember everything. But these children, these lovely, perfect souls, have restored the joy I felt I had lost. I had finally admitted it to myself two days ago and went about with a dark cloud trailing me. I had lost my smile and just felt adrift. Now, my joy is renewed, and my heart is light. I may actually shed a tear on the last day this year. I wasn’t sure that I’d feel like that, but now the bittersweetness of the end of the school year is settling in. Thank you for restoring my joy and reawakening the upbeat vibe I had let go to sleep.

RLT

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No Rest For the Wicked

I have only taken a couple of days off this year, and they were for good reasons. One was due to a family emergency, and the other was for some training and/or planning session I had to attend. I don’t feel as though I can take a day off for mental health this year. I have too many needy individuals who require the presence of the Ironclad Woman to behave properly. There is at least one needy person in each hour of the school day. Neediness ranges from those who don’t care about school or themselves, those who won’t do the work, those who have emotional problems, those who want to be handheld over every little step, those who need to stop having fits like a toddler, those who need my eyes on them as a reminder to do their work, and those whose parents are negligent. There are more, but this is enough.

I say no rest for the Wicked because at the end of the day, I feel like the Wicked Witch. “You can’t use a dictionary during a vocabulary quiz.”

“You can’t wait two minutes to go to the restroom? I’ve been waiting two hours.”

“Stop touching each other in the hallway.”

“Give her back her pencil.”

“Sit down. Turn around. Do your own work. Mind your own business.”

“Be quiet.”

“Walk down the hallways.”

“Are you telling me the truth?”

“What do you think you are doing? What possessed you to do —? When have I ever allowed you to —-? The fifth of Never is when.”

“Read your book.”

“Pick up your trash.”

“Too much chatter that does not matter.”

“I have an ARD this week?”

“What do you need?”

“Whose phone went off? Bring it to me.”

“Spit your gum out.”

“Are you mumbling under your breath?”

“Are you speaking to me like that?”

“Wish granted. Go to ISS. And take your things with you.”

“I want to hear a ‘Yes, ma’am’ and see your feet moving.” After doing this all day long, it can be exhausting.

I encourage young teachers to take a day for themselves after creating enough work to keep the Looney Tunes Road Runner busy all class period. I have a “packet of death” to complete. No one wants it, but it may be used during the last week of school. I am keeping the lions at bay by keeping them busy, busy, busy. We have sixteen full instructional days and two days of STAAR testing for our sixth graders. And I cannot relent, let go, or quit. I have taught while sick. I have taught with migraines. I have taught with little sleep. I have taught in good weather, bad weather, and in a blackout. So when the weekend comes, I actually need to stop thinking about what’s next. I need to stop feeling guilty that I didn’t get everything finished by 4:00 on Friday afternoon. Telling me that it will wait until Monday means my pile grows exponentially. At the end of the school year, June 1, I plan to walk out of the building with my head held high because I finished. I may sleep like a dead woman after our teacher work day on Saturday, June 2, but I will know that finally I can rest. Without another list of “to-do’s” coming tomorrow. Even the Ironclad Woman needs to take off her armor and rest.

RLT

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Your Stuff Doesn’t Matter

The following event occurred last week on a Thursday afternoon between 5:40 and 6:00 P.M.

As I left school by the gym after hours, I observed a young girl rubbing her hand across the front decal of my vehicle. I did a double take and planned to say something to her. The family’s car was parked next to mine. Her father took baseball equipment out of his car for his son. The boy rented his hands and peered into my car’s backseat touching the side rear door as he did so. I was close enough to be within earshot, so I said, “Could you please tell them not to touch my car?” I repeated my request to the father once I had his attention. He said, “He’s only nine years old. He’s not going to steal something.”

“I understand, but could you please ask him not to touch my car?” Whatever remark he made after that was lost because I got into my vehicle, snapped a photograph of his license plate, and drove off. As I drove home, I became emotional because I only wanted respect for my property. I just did not want them to touch or possibly damage it with a buckle, button, or other innocent looking item.

I wanted to say, “Sir, I am just now leaving work two hours after students were dismissed because I was preparing for young people like your son and daughter. I had a student who I mentor stay with me until 4:30. Only after I make sure he gets into his mom or grandma’s car, do I walk back in to finish my other tasks such as responding to emails, making copies, grading papers, tidying my room, and setting up for the next day. You don’t know who you are talking to. Please be respectful to a teacher who is working her butt off. Please show your children how to respond appropriately to a tired little woman alone at the end of the day. Please choose your response with care. I don’t know you from Adam, but please be respectful.”

I will drive my other vehicle and park on the other side of the school for the next few weeks.

RLT

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Robbed Again

I want to report a robbery, but the thief cannot be described to any law enforcement agency. My restful night of sleep has been stolen again. I awakened the other night and completed a review for my language arts students to play before their test on Thursday. Last night I was up writing in my prayer journal, and tonight (right now at 2:17 A.M.), I have finished documentation for some of my students’ learning goals. Always having one more urgent item on my “to do” list robs me of my rest. I don’t help my case by falling asleep on my couch in front of the telly. I awaken and realize that I have to now wash my face, brush my teeth, and dress for sleep. All of these tasks wake me up. The past few nights have nearly brought me to tears with the cruelty of certainty. “It’s 3:15. You are awake!” my triumphant brain shouts. “Now let’s get to work. You still have these tasks to do. You have not written that email. Oh, did you update the website for the week? Parents will be expecting it done first thing Monday morning. Slacker! Why don’t you get things done more efficiently?” As a result, I must carefully keep my tiredness hidden from my students who would exploit any weakness they detect. The LORD has been gracious and given me far more patience than five or so hours of broken rest warrant. I am thankful for that blessing. Now I am tucking the comforter around my frozen little toes since it’s cold outside, signing off, and setting my alarm to awaken me when the coffee maker begins brewing.

RLT

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