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!


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.



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.



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.


Be Careful, My Dears

We will be completing partner work next week in the library. I chose the partners for my students. One of my more talkative students was persistent with the noise level during work time. I announced partnerships. As the Future Ladykiller prepared to leave, he asked if he could not be partnered with Watchful Wally. “We talk a lot, Mrs. Johnson.” Feigning surprise and barely restraining a smile, or was it just a baring of teeth with my eyes crinkling in the corners?

“Future Ladykiller, this will be an oppportunity for you two to focus.” He left.

Watchful Wally was so pleased to be paired with his buddy. Why such a moniker? He watches me during work time if I happen to sit at my desk or walk about. I told him today, “If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, then you never have to worry about where I am or who I am watching.” He responded, “Yes, ma’am.”


Be Vulnerable 

As you know, I have struggled with my reading lab class. It has been to the point that I prepared/fretted about it nearly as much as my other new prep of social studies. My new principal and I talked, and I shared my struggles with her. It felt good to be open and release my stress so that she knew what was going on. She now knew that I paddle like mad underneath but show no ripples on the surface. She was caring, and I felt heard. That more than anything lifted my spirits. Staying a little late or spending thirty to forty minutes per weekend day to get ready is not nearly as daunting as it once seemed. The LORD blessed me with this woman as my leader. I am glad to be working with her and for her.


Adjusting My Vision

I have a part to play this year as a reading lab teacher. I have been more rebellious than my young charges who desperately need me to help them. I had my big vent cry today and am ready to forge ahead. It’s time I acted like the professional adult I am and move forward. The gauntlet no longer taunts me from the ground. I have it in hand as I accept the challenge before me.


Empty Nester Teacher

For the first time since 1997, I will not have my son here to discuss my day at school. He was born in 1998, but he heard me when I was pregnant with him. When I went back to the classroom in 2004, he was in first grade. Gack!! Now he is out west in Lubbock at Texas Tech. My husband and I took him to school today, and I have been crying off and on all day long. I will not walk into his room right now. I already know I will collapse in grief. I was blessed to have him as my son and student. I am anxious to see what the LORD has in store for my beautiful boy. I could not help quoting John Lennon there.


Inservice Begins

We began inservice today. These bulletin boards are the end result of my work preparing for Cougar Camp. We had our orientation for new sixth graders. One of my former students LOVED seeing one of the languages he speaks displayed on my welcome board. I am content but tired at this point in the year. To celebrate, I bought myself a Quik Trip freezoni. Delicious!


Nearing the End

I did a little bit of detail work in my classroom with my name on the door and cutting out letters for my bulletin board. It was time consuming, but I felt accomplished. I have one more final touch to add to the bulletin board before it is finally finished. Here is a picture of the door sign. More to come next week.