A Few Classroom Tips

I use laminated calendar pages as cover sheets for quizzes and tests. The kids love seeing a scenic location from the United States or just Texas. They never know which one they will receive.

I bake brownies, cookies, or a cake as therapy after a stressful day with my students.

I play my rock ‘n roll music at generally unacceptably loud levels when the kids have left the building, and only my beloved custodian knows my tunes and mood because of what I’ve chosen to blast through the hallways.

I tell my students that desks, chairs, and all belong to me. They are to treat my belongings with respect.

I take notes when I talk to parents, especially when the conversation will probably be touchy.

Golf PencilsGolf pencils because the students HATE them. No erasers. This is one of the best teaching hacks I have encountered. Fewer pencils are missing as a result.

Just once, record yourself reading a test or quiz for your students who need the tests or quizzes read to them. Use the normal cadence of speech because that is what they are accustomed to hearing. Smile as you read it. They can hear the warmth in your voice.

Wait until you are calm before dashing off the ultimate scathing email that “that parent” needs to read to gain a truer picture of the truth: the “perfect” child who would never do ____ is not so perfect after all.

Fabric is great to cover bulletin boards. I change my boards several times a year to keep it updated and fresh.

Introduce yourself first to some of the veteran teachers who work in your hallway. You may need one of them sooner than you think. Just sticking to your department does not make you look friendly.

Keep your conversations at lunch clean and your comments about students factual. No emotions should be involved because the campus gossip has the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory and will repeat what you say word for word with hand gestures included.

I keep my “pantry” stockpiled with snack foods just in case I get too hungry.Classic Look

Invest in some well-made clothing for work. Classic looks work well any day of the week. It sets you apart in a favorable way.

Keep an emergency substitute plan ready. Taking a mental health day keeps you employed.

Students will visit tutorials and stay longer than expected when you need to visit the bathroom. They will ask questions that only you can answer, so you stay put with that fake smile of pain plastered to your face. It never fails.

Do not make excuses for a student’s bad behavior or a poorly-managed class. Keep them in line, or someone else will.

Expect your students to meet your high expectations. Do not lower your expectations. Many a struggling student has overcome the hardships in life to become a success.

Be a good neighbor. While you are accustomed to a noisy, unruly-sounding atmosphere, your neighbor is not cut from the same cloth. She prefers silence or soft instrumental music during individual work time. Shared walls transmit more sound than imagined. Respect each other’s differences.

I make anchor charts with color because I still love to color.

Compound Sentence Anchor Chart

Have a good cry at home in your bubble bath while drinking your ginger ale after a horrible day at school that left you wondering why you became a teacher in the first place. Open your eyes the next morning, and say, “Thank You, LORD, for giving me rest last night. Please guide me through this day. Give me the strength I need just for today.” Brew the best pot of coffee possible or grab one from a local coffeehouse, put on a killer outfit, walk with firmness and determination in your step, and get back in there, and teach. Teach, teach, teach.

RLT

P. S. The picture of the darling classic outfit is from one of my boards on Pinterest, the golf pencils came from Staples website, and the anchor chart is my own creation. RLT

One of the Looks Teachers Give

I created this meme using a screen shot of Bugs Bunny. He is my favorite philosopher who said, “Don’t take life so seriously; you’ll never make it out alive.” Good food for thought.

Bugs Bunny Meme.jpg

RLT

Sweetie Runs Away

A student I have recently christened Sweetie brought his homework to the library during check out time. I found his work and picked it up. I was seated with a different student I’ll call my back-up and waited for Sweetie to discover the “theft.” Soon enough, he glanced my direction just as I slid the papers to the side of the table. I invited him to come and sit with me and my little enforcer.

“Why would your assignment need to come to the library?” No response was forthcoming but a charming smile. Bingo!

“I brought it to work on it.” My enforcer began to chuckle silently covering the smile with his hand as he attempted to read his book.

“Look around you. What do you see?” By this time, the tables held students engaged in the joyful pastime of reading silently.

“People reading.”

“Right! Now, why on earth would you need to bring this?” I waved the papers in my right hand and moved the pencil out of his range with my left. I turned to my enforcer and commented, “We’re both curious. Why would you bring your vocabulary if you knew we would be in the library checking out books? By the way, Enforcer (name withheld), don’t way the magic word that keeps me in check.” Sweetie looked at me but had no response other than the return of that engaging grin.

Sweetie’s science teacher happened by the library as we prepared to depart and saw some of our interaction and mentioned it to him. As we left the library, I felt the need to have a one-inch conversation with Sweetie. I draped my arm around his shoulders and whispered in his left ear. He scooted back to class in record time, so it must have been something I said. Hmm.

RLT

Shug!

I have a new focus this week. I found him yesterday, and I call him “Shug.” Be sure to draw out that long vowel sound for maximum effect. “Shug” has a mobile phone, and it dinged in class during first period as I was distributing quizzes to my class. He turned it over to me per school policy. Later during our teaming, I asked for him to come to my class for our homeroom time so that I could get him caught up on his missing work. I acted overjoyed to see him arrive in my classroom yesterday in the afternoon and promptly seated him close to my work station for proximity control.

Shug will be a heartbreaker once he reaches manhood. It is a fact. It is also a fact that I am immune to these miniature ladykillers who attempt to get past me with their boyish good looks. I tell them, “I am immune, immovable, and immortal. Try it on a twelve year old girl” in such a sweet manner that they realize the jig is up.

I monitored my students and expect them to work without me reminding them. They don’t get to sit idle when homework needs completing. Some crazy, earsplitting noise broke the silence, and my eyes met the sparkling brown eyes of my young charge. I sat next to him and watched him up close and personal.

During his work time, Shug made the mistake of exclaiming, “Oh, man!”

“I am a beautiful woman. Don’t ever forget it.” He lowered his head, smiled, and resumed work in a decidedly subdued manner (for him anyway). “Saying, ‘Oh, woman’ is not appropriate either. I am the beautiful woman who is staring at you while you work, Shug.

“Yes, you ought to turn red over that one.” He did not because he is already used to females watching him. I do like this young man who pays attention to everything else going on around him, moves with a constant frenetic energy, and is blessed with a bass voice that can not whisper. “I will come to your wedding and call you ‘Shug’ in front of your little wife,” I smiled. For some reason, he departed my room rapidly. I guess he did not want my undivided attention after all.

Today, Shug came back to visit me during homeroom. He worked diligently on his math homework but let out some other screeching noise that attracted my notice. I invited him to remain after school making as much noise as he wanted. One of my little artistic girls who I will call “Wolf Girl” witnessed the noise production and left shaking her head as Shug darted out the door. Boo hoo, abandoned again.

Wolf Girl loves drawing. It is so ingrained in her blood that she cannot help doodling in her workbook while still paying attention. Wolf Girl does not comprehend the word simple in regards to sketches or art work. I should give up trying to teach her the meaning, but I remind her every time we have a creative twist on an assignment.

RLT

 

His Name is Puhn-KIN

I found a new inroad to Manchild this week. He doesn’t like to leave my classroom. Just when he reaches the limit of off-task behavior that will get him kicked out, and I give him the option of staying in my room or going to the in-school suspension room, he always chooses to stay with me. I have no explanation except I’ve figured out that he cares about me and my opinion despite his bravado. He does not lose his mind and cause a scene. He may be angry, but he hasn’t shown me the explosive side of his personality since September.

Because I maintain a tight ship, I can’t just flip the switch and be cuddly, fuzzy with him, so I adopted a sugary sweet high-pitched tone and called him “Puhn-KIN” when he came to my homeroom to complete an unfinished assignment. When he attempted to leave my room to go to another teacher (and probably roam the hallways), I gave him the option of studying for his retake for me.  He again suggested leaving my room. “No, I don’t want my Punkin to leave me.” Manchild had that little smile on his face, and I knew that I had him. I made him stay and review his flashcards. For the first go ’round through the cards, he was seated at the table where assigned. Manchild again expressed  a desire to leave my presence. I gave him the option of reviewing the flash cards either in his seat or in the plank position on the carpet.  I sat on the floor right in front of him flipping the cards at a rapid pace. No, he didn’t hold position longer than 10-15 seconds at any given time. When he finished reviewing and asked to sit in his chair again, I cooed, “Hims* so happy to stay with me!”

Now when he gets out of line, I may drag out the moniker “Punkin” just to break the vicious cycle of defiance and compliance that is my relationship with my Manchild.

RLT

*Yes, I realize that I used the wrong pronoun with Punkin; however, it was done with love in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

pumpkin

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Still on Break

10277695_1095312643814676_2361166358841545185_n.jpg

This was the scene on my morning walk. The eleven year old tomboy wanted to slide across the ice and yell, “Whee!” at the top of her lungs. The rational, twenty-year teaching veteran said, “Yep, imagine telling that story to my young daredevils about how I managed to crack some bones.” No thanks.

The tomboy says, “Chicken.” My reply is “Ba-kawk!”

There are still days left to measure the remainder of my Christmas and New Year’s holiday break. I have no intention of rushing through these precious, restorative hours, minutes, and seconds and wish away my life. No, I am quite content to maintain my own schedule for chores, meals, and fun. On Thursday, I plan to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my husband and son for a New Year’s Eve treat. I anticipate it just like we did when Revenge of the Sith debuted ten years ago. Don’t spoil it for me.

RLT

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It’s Time

I am of the opinion that it is time for a two week long break. My students need two weeks at home with their parents who have long since gained an appreciation for the herding cats portion of my job. I have graded papers including research essays, presentations, quizzes, homework assignments, weekly warm-ups and tests and will post the grades on the electronic grade book before I ride off into the early winter sunset.

Some of my students are so restless that they have temporarily suspended logical reasoning a la Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason. To bring them back to Earth, when they enter my room, they encounter an atmosphere that is quiet. I don’t practice chaos, and a small minority thrive on boundary testing; these  daredevils who balance precariously on the precipice of danger hope to “cheat death” once more.

To assist my students’ focus, I will include the following image on tomorrow’s agenda.

I Fake Text 12-18-2015

A sense of humor alleviates the often stressful mission countless of other educators and I have undertaken.

RLT

I Can’t Do That

When a child comes to me with his parents’ imprinting or the lack thereof, there is little I can do to change behavior and mindset. I can’t do their job and be Mom. I have to be Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson can’t ground them from their electronic devices by making them rake the leaves in the yard to expend excess energy. Mrs. Johnson can’t make them go to bed on time each night to get enough rest. Mrs. Johnson can’t cook nutritious meals that nourish their growing bodies. I can’t do that.

I can try to work with my students where they are and encourage them to do the right thing the first time. I can try to start each day as a fresh slate. I can encourage them to be kind to one another and accept each other’s foibles and quirks. I can demand an apology when they are out of line. I can demand extra time at school with detentions to ponder their choices. I can try to make a lasting impression on their minds about the standards I hold and expect them to meet. I can’t lower my expectations or give up and give in. I can’t do that.

RLT

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I Can Eat a Cookie Anytime I Want

Manchild was working on his project with his partner the other day. I mentioned to the entire class that the teachers were given a big platter of cookies to eat and how tasty they were. He lost his mind and told me that I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t go and eat a cookie if I wanted one. “Oh, you really want to go there?” I quipped. He nodded, smiling.

My right hand circled his left wrist, and he got up and accompanied me to the front office. We walked past my principal and to the coffee table where the cookies were located. I let him go, grabbed a cookie, and stuffed it in my mouth. He gave me a look that said, “No fair.”

“I told you I can eat a cookie anytime I want,” I mumbled around the cookie. I let him “talk to the hand” to block any type of faux rebuttal he might have offered. We returned to the classroom. The other students’ eyes were glued to Manchild’s face.

“Did she really eat a cookie?” they asked, expecting that he was given a cookie instead or some other crazed notion. I don’t share food with students as a rule. If you feed them, they come back for more food. Remember the story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? I rest my case.

“Yeah,” he replied resignedly. I won. The fact that he allowed me to tease him about something so innocuous made it a great afternoon and start to my weekend.

RLT

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Thank You for Your Support

I maintain a Facebook account and read posts that my friends allow on their timelines or links that appeal to me. I read a post that a parent wrote about her child getting into trouble at school. When the teacher called home, the teacher received full parental support and an encouraging email the next day.

When I have to make that unpleasant phone call about a student’s behavior choice, it is sad to say that I expect to be blasted, called a liar or worse, and ridiculed. Too often, a student goes home and tells the half of the story that makes him look good. When the teacher calls to tell the full story, she isn’t always believed.

This spoke to my heart because of a situation that happened before my recent holiday. A student was corrected for being disrespectful. When I turned my back to walk away and return the discipline log to its place, he threw a pencil at me. It hit the wall. He was asked to leave my classroom for the rest of the period. I called his parents and expected a response. He came in the next day with the same surly attitude. No email or voice mail came from either of his parents. I was at a loss for words. He has never apologized to me, and I suspect that he probably won’t unless his parents encourage repentance in actions and words. My trust has been broken because I have never encountered what felt like a physical attack on my person before in my career. Some cowards have probably shredded my reputation on those teacher rating websites I won’t deign to visit. I can’t win them all over. I can be respectful and professional. I can correct abhorrent behavior appropriately.

As a parent, I know my son, and I know that he is not a perfect person. He will make mistakes. I want to hear what he has to say for himself and see that he repents. I want the teacher to give him another chance to redeem himself. I appreciate it when that happens. He has to earn back the good graces and favor one step at a time.

RLT

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