Restoration Time

I view my vacation time as sacred and necessary to keep moving forward through the school year. We have this entire week off to give thanks with our family. I have been napping, eating, and spending time talking with family members. It has been perfect and just what the doctor ordered.



Looking to the Side

Years ago a wise pastor counseled his congregation about marriage. He said to take note of those who were running along side in the same direction. Perhaps a connection would blossom in that fashion.

As another month shows its face on the calendar, I am looking to the side as I am running along through the school year. I should say I think I am moving forward. I feel I am reacting far too often. If a student fails, I react with test corrections, retakes, and introspection. I feel responsible because a child hasn’t passed my course for the marking period. Some have legitimate learning problems. Some have learned to just get by on minimal power required. Fighting against students’ inertia drains my energy. When fatigue settles in around 7:00 P.M. each evening, I sigh, wash my face, and collapse into bed. Some nights I fall asleep in exhaustion only to joltingly awaken around midnight. Is it November already? How many days until Thanksgiving break? Too many! My colleagues faces still show the joy of being teachers; however, we could all use a little respite from the persistent problems and dramas. Twelve school days remain, but who’s counting?


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Ten Weeks Completed

Due to a couple of four-day weeks, we haven’t hit the fifty day mark for our students despite being together for ten business weeks. Some of my students practically wiggle in their seats to gain my notice. Others lounge back seemingly without regard or care for my opinion. I despise the hypothetical questions that some students pose in an attempt to be funny.

I assigned the students a short story to read and annotate for figurative language with a partner. After finishing the annotation together, they were to wok on their own to create a conclusion to the story. I gave them no limit on the length of their conclusions. From my desk in the back of my room, I heard Blurt Boy tell his partner that he would just write a sentence or two since it wasn’t important. Before I realize it, I snap out,”If you don’t care for the assignment, it’s better not to show your contempt in front of the one who assigns it, don’t you think?” No response. He and his partner resume working with focus after being busted. The on-task hum of students working with partners resumes, and some time passes.

Since it’s a scary story, I issue a challenge to my students, “In my ten years here, no one has scared me with his or her conclusion. You’re welcome to try.” Their faces lit up and minds whirled to find just the right about of macabre to terrify me. I don’t scare easily when I am reading their writing, so I have no concerns. “I can’t tell you how long your conclusion needs to be. Each one of you is different and has something different to say. Some students will use one page; other will use more. Just write a conclusion that you think will knock my socks off,” I conclude.

A hand shoots up, and one of my sweet young ladies who loves to read and write asked, “Even if it’s five pages, you’ll read it?”

“Yes, baby, I’ll read it.” I am encouraging them to write freely and express their creative storytelling. In our next unit, they’ll write a short story. This is an excellent lead-in activity. I smile at her warmly.

Blurt Boy decided to join in on the question without once again raising his hand, “What if it’s 194 pages long?”

My smile evaporated, and I looked at him in silence. The expressionless face I utilize appeared. “Is that an appropriate question when my students are trying to write their conclusions? Apparently you want my undivided attention.” I sat in my chair, folded my hands, and stared at him. He now had my full attention in class. B. Boy returned my look for a beat then began working. “Oh, no,” I interrupted and gestured excitedly with my hands, “don’t stop now. I want to see the show. You have my undivided attention.” He looked up once more and saw I meant business. He had the grace to lower his eyes. The other students watched wondering what I might have done next. After a sufficient dose of my unwavering attention for something other than a simple explanation, he resumed work on his assignment. We spoke after class about his abortive attempt to be funny and using one’s sense of humor at the right time. I bid him farewell and released him to his next class.



A Day Away

I often counsel young teachers to take a day for themselves and never follow my own advice. Today I am listening to myself. Although the underlying reason is the imminent delivery of a new refrigerator/freezer unit, the time without a regulated schedule is necessary. Sitting in comfortable, shabby clothes with my hair in the “icky bun” style is just perfect. I ate a leisurely breakfast, drank my coffee, and enjoyed time talking to my high school senior son before he drove off to school. When he returns this afternoon, I hope to show him the new appliance’s bells and whistles. I left enough work for my students to stay occupied, so I have no concerns about them today. They will be in good hands. It’s time for me.


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Warning! The questions and answers presented represent a slightly snarky mood. It doesn’t present itself too often, but nonetheless, the snappy comments must have an appropriate home. It’s better here than spoken.

Q: Is this for a grade?

A:  Does it matter?

Q: Do you offer extra credit?

A: No, finish and turn in your work the first time, and you won’t have to worry about extra credit.

Q:  Do you work on the warm-up exercises during class time?

A: No, it’s homework.  Ask your student.  He should know what’s going on in class.

Q:  How old are you?

A: As old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth. Shall I translate? It’s none of your business.

Q: What happens if I (insert ridiculous hypothetical statement)?

A:  I don’t deal in hypothetical situations.  I deal in the real world.

Q: Can I call you by your first name?

A: Have you lost your mind?

Q: When is this due?

A: What do the directions say?

Q: I don’t get it.

A:  When you have a question, I will answer it.  Saying “I don’t get it” is a statement, not a question.

Q:  Are you part-(insert ethnic group)?

A: (Silent death stare)

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One – 1, RLT – 0

After making a violent outburst because I wouldn’t let him have his way, I escorted Manchild to the alternative placement classroom on my campus. I saw him walking by my room later in a mocking manner talking to a like-minded companion. I cannot fix him and his past, and I am trying to work with him in the present. I want to separate one day’s actions from the rest so that I can focus on the here and now and not try to predict the future. I’ll touch base with his previous teachers for insight.



There’s Always One

The majority of my students have a sweet spirit. I have one who I will call Manchild, and he is different. He longs to escape from my classroom for any and every reason he can. I truly believe he wants me to throw him out and give up on him as he feels that everyone else has. In his mind, if I don’t act correctly, she’ll kick me out. She’ll kick me out because she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t like me just like everyone else doesn’t like me. Well, if everyone else doesn’t like me, who cares?

“I’ve been dresscoded. Can I go change?” “Not right now.” I emailed anyone who might know about this, and he had lied to me about being asked to change because he was out of dress code.

“Can I use my inhaler?”  “No, but you can walk with me to the clinic.” We proceed, and it’s not on file for him to use an inhaler at school. I am horrified.

“Can I go to my locker to get my shoes?” “No.” He puts his head down, refuses to acknowledge my existence or queries, and won’t work on his assignment for twenty minutes. I emailed his mother and talked to my assistant principal. I will try to talk to one of his former teachers privately to get some insight. I hadn’t done this before to prevent my judgment from being predetermined. He is my so far unsolvable riddle this year.


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A Different Spirit

This year marks my twenty-first on the other side of the desk. This year has a different spirit about it. The students are still learning to heed directions the first time as they settle in to the routine. My stress level is not elevated. My schedule usually allows me to break my instruction into manageable chunks. There are times when I find myself running out of time or having too few tasks to complete. I allow them time to read their books and enjoy the written word. Today, I had three students stay after school in tutorials to work on their assignments. All three had forgotten to check in with their parents in sufficient time to prevent a little maternal worry. Sigh. They will know next time. Their determination impressed me.



What Can I Say?

At times, a person encounters crazy circumstances in the lives of students and/or colleagues. What does one say? One listens intently and attentively without offering too much advice or cliché statements. Heart-rending stuff happens more than is publicly known. At these times, there are neither words sufficient nor sage enough to plumb the depths.



I Am a Teacher


I bought this t-shirt today at Mardel’s. I had made a pact with myself to stay out of teacher mode until next week when I attend workshops three days in a row. My son’s “I Am Second” band had broken; being a good Mamá, I purchased a new one but saw some fuschia-colored tiger pattern border for my bulletin board in the bargain rack. Score!

The last week of July heralds the end of summer when a band student resides in the household. Marching camp commences in earnest. This marks my son’s fourth and final year of high school band camp. Bittersweet is the recurrent theme for this school year before it even draws the breath of life. More anon.


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