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.

Different Routine

I took a walk this morning and felt the icy slash of north wind numb my fingers. Inexpensive gloves only work so well. I listened to the Bible on my headphones to fulfill my 2016 resolution of reading the Bible through. Listening helps me concentrate on the words and not gloss over them, and the benefit of being outdoors seeing the creation as I hear the words of my Creator elevates the soul and heart like no other.

I may actually miss interacting with my students over the holidays; however, do not breathe a word to those little stinkers. They need a break from a fire-eater like me every once in a while. Between you and me, I hope Papi has a good holiday, and I wonder if he will tell me anything about it or try to test the boundaries again.

He wanted to know if I maintained a Snapchat account. No, I do not, but I told him that if I were on a social media site, I would only accept friend requests and connections from students once they graduate high school. Friends’ children do not count, and they are few and far in between. If I have a professional teacher-student relationship, I really do not think I should be looking at their Instagram, Kik, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. accounts. My postings are safe for the whole family; however, they are not always public—by my choice. Lambasting one’s employer, publishing embarrassing photographs (like a horrible haircut!), and missteps of that ilk have no place in the forever realm of the Internet. I found this telling single panel cartoon that explains the world before advent of the Internet. I miss the days of a handwritten letter type of correspondence that bespoke a personal interest in the words written or doodles in the margins that make the reader laugh a bit too loudly.

vintage-social-networking

RLT

Holiday Break 2016

I am glad to be home with my family seeing my son from college. One of my students gave me some sore throat bug that had me craving a frozen fruit drink at 3:00 A.M. I had wanted to learn “Silent Night” in Bulgarian, but this drainage made me too miserable. My Bulgarian-speaking student understood. I will have to learn “Amazing Grace” phoenetically and surprise him in the spring.

 I threatened to breathe on Papi to make him sick if he did not complete his online practice work for math class. I sat by him and ignored him trying to talk to me. He enjoys what he considers to be positive attention. He surprised me by turning in his project on time. I could not say something good because that is taken as a means to stoppage. Reverse psychology as we know it. I hope all of my students have a great holiday. I know I plan to do so.

RLT

Working the Charm

Papi is at it again. He is not doing his work, and now my class is included. He loves to talk about anything not school related and make comments under his breath. He deliberately speaks softly so that his intended audience gets closer to listen. If I acknowledge that he has spoken, I look at him and say, “Do you think I am listening?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Wrong.” Yesterday and today I made him stay with me after class to get some of his work completed. There are times that I wish I could truly treat him like my own son. Other times, I am glad he goes home to some other mama.

Today he was bouncy in my reading lab class. Almost jovial. Spooky. Monday in social studies, he was dark and broody. “Can I call you ‘Mrs. J’?”

“Yes.” He looked pleased and surprised not knowing or realizing I’ve had this nickname for years. I chuckled to myself later on. The LORD put this young man into my life for a reason, and I am in his life for a reason. One day it will come to me. In the meanwhile, I am after him to get his work completed and not to let himself (or me!) down. Sigh!

RLT

Papi the Enigma (Or the Junior Chaperone)

I teach a young man who I will call Papi the Enigma. He is repeating the sixth grade, so I saw him in the hallways last year but did not really interact with him. His former teachers let me know that I would probably have him in my class this year. We see each other every day in my social studies class and every other day for reading lab.

When told he was in my group for the field trip, he said, “Mrs. Johnson, I don’t know about that. I’ll have to talk to my mom. I’m not planning on going.”

“Why? Are you afraid of pumpkins and flowers?”

“No, I just wasn’t interested in going.” This was Thursday, and I figured I would not see him on Friday morning. Imagine my surprise when he shows up, lunch in hand, and ready to go on the field trip.

“Oh,  you changed your mind I see.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He is polite but aloof. There are times when he wants to ask me questions about my personal life, and there are times when he is brooding about the concerns in his young life. Papi the Enigma was in my group for our field trip to the Dallas Arboretum yesterday. As the bus filled, I had him sit in the front seat next to my items. He is larger than my other six graders, so sitting three to a seat would have been a tight fit, and I was reluctant for him to sit in the back.

On the way to the Arboretum, I had to switch seats because one of my other students felt carsick. I distracted her by playing the alphabet game. We looked for words that started with the letters of the alphabet in sequence. Qs and Xs are some of the hardest ones to find. Papi went to sleep, and when I glanced at his face, I saw traces of the baby he once was. He had told me he had shaved his moustache so that he would look younger. Earlier this week, I had told him he needed to shave or else I would do it for him. With tweezers.

He kept track of the kids in our group like a faithful young helper. I laughingly called him Papi but watched as he genuinely tried to help me keep track of my group. When I asked him about what he was doing, he said he was chaperoning the chaperone. I whirled and looked at him like he had lost his mind. I have to admit he did act as if he were the flanker in a group of cowboys herding some cattle.

I kept verbally sparring with him because I know he could take it. We have that type of rapport. I would also ask him questions about his Thanksgiving plans or hobbies like skating or riding bikes in an offhand manner like I wasn’t really interested and was just being polite. My other students probably wondered why Mrs. Johnson talked to him like that? They could see me shoot him a look when he made some smart aleck comment or tried to get me to do some dance move. “C’mon, Mrs. Johnson, just put your hand up like this.” I did not comply. I did; however, jump on the net in the Walk in the Clouds bounce house tree house exhibit with the other kids. They were delighted. I put my stuff down and jumped for a minute, laughing with glee and got out before I hurt myself.

I saw Papi had his back to the jumping crew and was looking towards the Dallas skyline. He was not going to get into that net thing and jump. I did not think he saw me in there because I was stealthy and did not call attention to myself. After I got out of the net, I asked, “Did you see me jumping?”

“Yeah, I saw you in there.” Still too cool for school.

He has known from the first week of this school year that I was angry he was in the sixth grade again. Papi is intelligent but lazy at times. When I looked on my computer screen last week and saw his grades for the second marking period were not all passing marks, I gave him a nasty look, and he said, “I know.”

“You can come into my room any morning and work. I don’t care if it’s my class or someone else’s class, but this (waving my hand at the computer screen) is not acceptable.”

On the way back to school, I was shocked to find him sitting in the same seat on the bus. When another kid tried to sit next to him, he said, “This is Mrs. Johnson’s seat.” Hiding my shock, I thanked him for saving my seat and put my lunch bag, clipboard, and purse down. Before he went to sleep, he showed me some pictures on his phone including a picture of the sunset he had taken. The composition was beautiful. The photograph should be framed and hung up in a living room to be enjoyed for years to come along with the memories. I saw pictures of his family and their vacations. He let me in to his world just a little bit. I told him he had an eye for photography and should consider it as a hobby or career. He did not laugh it off like I expected.

Papi even had the gall to tell me I have softened towards him. I vehemently denied it. “I am just as strict as I was last year.” He could not provide me with concrete evidence of my alleged softening towards him, but I actually do like the young man, and I want him to do well in life. Maybe he is right after all.

I already know I will embarrass him by crying the last day of school when I say goodbye and good luck in seventh grade. And if you ever pull this failing stunt again, I will put my foot into your behind. I mean it. I simply have to dust this office. Something is making my eyes water.

RLT

 

Tongue in Check

Today I managed (purely by the grace of God!) to hold my tongue when I wanted nothing more than to verbally filet a pair of sassy young ladies who tested me. They are in different grade levels and classes I teach, but the disrespectful attitude was in full force. 

I did not hold my tongue when a talebearing student tried to talk about what I had done in his class. I barked, “Close your mouth, and go to your next class!” Gossip infuriates me. Absolutely without a doubt. And then do not act like it’s no big deal to be a jerk and smear my name wherever and whenever you want. I am not paranoid. I know vitriolic parents have posted about me but refuse to check for myself. Even my alligator hide might crack and tears would pour down my cheeks. Words do hurt. I just don’t want to see, so I do try to keep my tongue in check and not boil over unless I feel the need. Abba, Father God, I am in Your hands. Amen.

RLT

Apologize

I know I have said words that wounded a young soul. When I err with my speech, it always makes me question myself. “Should I continue in this career pathway?” I ask for forgiveness, and I ask that the student allow himself to heal. Hurt feelings are not erased overnight or simply with heartfelt words. They take time. I am a work in progress who still needs refinement from the LORD my God. My students and I are humans who make mistakes and need forgiveness and mercy.

RLT