Papi Papi Papi

“What is your son’s name.” I stared at him. “How long have you lived here?” Crickets. Mind you, he was supposed to be completing some work for my class that he said was all in his head after school. During class, I told him I wanted to get the words out. It would hurt to get them. I’ll call mom. “No, Mrs. Johnson. Don’t do that.” Okay, how about tomorrow? “Sure thing. Tomorrow.” Nah. I called his mom ten minutes before school let out just to show him that I could. And I would. Call his mom. Even with less than ten days of school left.

My punishment was to endure grilling by a thirteen year old. He observed that my mood could quickly change and wanted to give me his descriptive word. Something in my eyes gave him pause. “The word you want is ‘mercurial,'” I smiled in a rather sharklike manner–all teeth. He worked as slowly as molasses in a blue northern blizzard. I kept my eyeballs from rolling as he feigned helplessness to get his work completed. This kid is smart as a whip, and he frustrates my good intentions to make him behave properly. I think he accidentally saw the journal of motherly advice I have been writing to him. I won’t let him read it (if he does) until after the school year is over. It was left in my reading lab class after his schedule changed for a few weeks. I began writing in it periodocially just to advise him about things like self-esteem, his potential, taking care of himself by sleeping proper hours, etc. I know I am not cool in his mind; yet, I know in my heart that he does like me. Nah, he loves me. I sound like his mom when I get on his case, yet he is too stubborn to tell me he cares. I might get too much satisfaction out of it and embarrass him by crying (or gloating that I told you so! about the silly stunts you’ve pulled) all at the same time. He may be right that I softened towards him six months ago. He may move away one day, he may forget his battle of the wills with a crazy teacher who loved him like a son, but he will always be my one and only Papi.

RLT

P. S. That dust in this room  is really making my eyes water.

No Spinning!

Those horn-blasted spinners are the current bane of teachers’ existence. We have signs up around our campus as reminders to not bring toys to school. Here is one I took up on Monday and did not give back until the end of the school day. 

This meme sums up my opinion. I have trolls who will not bring their pencils to class. I am letting them suffer natural consequences: more homework, wasted work time, and some much-needed time to reflect on personal decisions about preparation for their one job. Going. To. School.


RLT

Freak Out!

No, do not cue up C’est Chic’s “Le Freak” that was parodied in that adult beverage commercial featuring a captain’s face as a mask for all of the partiers on board singing karaoke in what I believe was Cantonese. Ahem. We started the last six weeks today, and I think this snippet of cartoon captures how teachers feel. Why?

1. Students who don’t care about keeping up their grades, bringing their supplies, and minding their manners.

2. Students who have torn their pants (crossed behavioral lines by acting like twerps) with multiple teachers with varying personalities. When the mildest teacher on my hallway sighs after certain names are mentioned, that is bad.

3. The number of students this school year who are failing multiple classes is more than the three or four previous years combined.

4. Parents who claim, “There is not enough communication.” We post information on our Learning Hub (website), send out a weekly newsletter, write our agendas on the board, and email regularly. I also personally send out classroom news  Tweets and texts via Remind. Really?! If the students don’t bother to write down information or recall simple facts when questioned, that is home training failure.

Example conversation with the Mumbler.

Me during an afternoon class: “Where is your pencil?” (Blank stare)

Mumbler: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Have you been to math?”

Mumbler: (Unintelligible response)

Me: “How did you get through math without a pencil?”

Mumbler: (Silence)

At this point of the school year , I may walk away shaking my head.

Pardon me while I also do the Bugs Bunny freak out.

RLT

It’s Okay to Say “No” to Sharing!

I just read an article about a mother who received dirty looks when her son did not share his toys with some perfect strangers at a playground. They ran back to their mommies and told how the Toy Man wouldn’t share. Toy Man brought his toys to share with his friend, not a pack of other kids. Tsk! That struck a chord with me. I have demanded that other students share with those who chose not to come to class prepared. No longer. I will have to learn to let it go and not seethe with rage when I see an apathetic middle school student sit there and do nothing. For forty-two to forty-five minutes. If they don’t have a pencil in their lockers, then that is what they will do. If they have supplies and don’t bring them, it will be a disciplinary issue. Three strikes means you serve a consequence.

Personally speaking, I paid money for my son’s supplies. I did not buy them to be shared. Other parents pay money for their own children, not some punk who won’t bother to bring his supplies. I am not speaking out against those who have an economic need. I take care of them with school supplies I buy with my dwindling budget. I try to plan ahead for the next year each spring. It is an expectation to have pencils, paper, colored pencils, rulers, etc. because “not every child has them.” When we use technology, I have to reserve enough devices or I am not allowing everyone equal access. That is a rant for another day. I am not advocating selfishness to one’s fellow man. Each student should be able to say “No” at the appropriate time. They should not be expected to give their prized pencils and/or erasers to someone who does not care and/or would not reciprocate. Mama bought me personalized pencils. That meant they were mine. All mine to use. Mine. The change begins the next time my class starts on Tuesday morning. Believe it.

RLT

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Discipline Hacks That Work!

I will bet you did not know that hair spray is an effective tool for maintaining order in the classroom. I have kept this secret under my hat. When a well-coiffured student acts out, I grab the travel size hair spray I keep in my classroom on my desk. I approach the student and ask if he would like me to comb his hair in the opposite direction. All of them refuse my offer. I am hurt.

Students love to move about whenever possible. I allow students to become camels while working quietly. They stand up behind their chairs and bend over like camels. I call them my little dromedaries.

One student loved to perform physical activities. I let him bear crawl down the hall one day after school once the other students had left. He was as happy as a lark. His mother was a coach, so I know what little I asked of him was insufficient to cause him pain or distress. He made me laugh while bear crawling.

Knowing all three names of a student can be extremely effective. Some despise their middle names, so they cringe in fear when I get that look in my eye akin to Momma and fix my lips to speak all three names. Little stinkers.

Lavender scented Air Wicks dispense calm, soothing lavender to some agitated young minds and bodies. It also helps to fight against any ODF students you may encounter (on-demand flatulence). I had one of those little cherubs last year. He sat right next to it and had probably realized that I was hep to the jive and kept that Air Wick fully stocked.

If you want to discourage the talkative, sneaky students, then demand that they share a personal journal on a volunteer basis. Cue the crickets. When I collected the journals, they began talking. I told them, “If you cannot share your journal writing, then you cannot talk now.” One of them had the unmitigated gall to give me a go-to-blazes look. I ignored her insolence and walked away.

Mr. Whistle works to curb my young runners who feel that lunch will escape without physical exertion. I reminded them that their food was already dead, so it would not run from them. Two loud blasts stops the sprints.

Allowing students to work in “vampire mode” is fun. I will turn off half of the lights to make it “half-vampire mode,” but these darlings prefer full vampire mode. I have five lamps placed around my room so that we are not in utter darkness. When they get too off-task in vampire mode, then we go back to “human mode” with all lights on.

Four Corners – students who have demonstrated weakness of character, bad manners, or need less socialization time earn the right to sit in the four corners of my classroom. This separates the conspirators who attempt to wreck my good humor, and the others learn that I did mean business despite warnings that went unheeded.

Utilize the “shark smile.” It actually is me baring my teeth with my lips shaped into a smile so that I resemble a shark. I call it my “shark smile.” They realize I am not smiling with joy but will soon mete out a consequence or invite them to a private one-on-one conversation in my office (hallway).

RLT

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Letting Go

I have had students who would not perform up to my expectations. They consistently sold themselves short and wasted time. I had a conversation with one of my current  charges who falls into this category. I told him I was not going to work harder than him. I was not accepting responsibility for his grades and performance in my classes if he would not try. I told him I thought he wanted to learn and get better at reading. I am letting him go. I will correct his misbehavior when I see it. I will let his parents take care of the home portion – doing homework assignments, basic care of needs, spiritual nourishment, etc. I can only “control” the forty-two to forty-five minutes I see him. Beyond that, I pray he has an appropriate catalyst to move forward, or I fear he will regress. I am releasing him to his own choices.

RLT

March Madness

This was Friday afternoon during lunch. Some of my kids knew I would be watching the NCAA Tournament online during breaks and at lunch. I had invited some of my young basketball fans to watch with me. On Thursday, I had lunch with seven eighth graders and five sixth graders. This is Friday’s group of sixth graders. Word of mouth spreads information quickly. We all had fun. 🏀🏀🏀

RLT

Email to a Mom

Our team has a goal to make positive contact with about ninety percent of our parents. We are doing this with phone calls and emails. I took a risk and wrote an email to Papi’s mom today. This is the text of the email.
Hi, I know we have spoken on the phone and communicated via email about me keeping him for extra time after school on a couple of occasions. I am writing because I wanted you to know that I enjoy having Papi this year. I don’t know if he has said anything about me to you, but my family knows about him. He is a unique young man, and I have threatened to adopt him. My husband has vetoed me on that score. Papi was in my arboretum field trip group this past November and acted as a junior chaperone. It was actually quite sweet although you may not want to tell him that. He helped me keep track of the kids in our group and kept me laughing even when I did not let him see me laughing.
 
I love that young man and look forward to seeing him every day. I wanted to let you know. Have a good evening.
RLT

Me and My Feet

I am absolutely notorious about being a workaholic. I constantly think about my students, my lessons, my organization skills, and my list of things to do. 

I have recently discovered I have plantar fasciitis. It hurts. I get up and keep on moving forward. However, taking moments to sit and relax are more important now. When your feet hurt so badly that you want to hobble around, it’s time to listen to them and rest a bit more. My spirit, mind, and energy are undiminished; yet, if I want to remain happily active, I have to chill. I gave my kids a test on Thursday. Usually, they would know their grades that evening. I am taking my time since this test has short answer responses that require reading. I told them they would know before the weekend ended and definitely before the Super Bowl. I will get them graded and post scores later today. It has become important to me to let go of that drivenness just this once. I may discover there is more to enjoy in life by making myself take the time to recharge.

RLT

Lazy Daisy

Today is a self-proclaimed lazy day. I have no plans but to wear comfortable clothes, read my novel, drink my coffee, and cover my legs with a homemade quilt this morning. Energizer Bunnies like me need the time to deprogram from the normal hustle, bustle, tussle that is my work day. Enjoy your own day away soon.

RLT

P.S. Yes, those are my toes peeking out underneath the quilt and an oversized Christmas mug of peppermint mocha coffee.