Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Letters 2012

I read my students’ letters to me with my mug of hot cocoa after lunch.  I was supposed to do that on Christmas Eve but waited this year.  It’s like opening more presents after Christmas Day and having Christmas all over again.  I tell them that their letters are their present to me.  I have a bag labeled coal on my Christmas tree in my classroom.  More anon!


A Little Work

My teammates and I wrote out our lesson plans for the week we return to school, January 7-11, 2013.  It was my responsibility to type in the Pre-AP prep, so I did it this morning before my coffee or exercise time.  I did it so that during the rest of my holiday, I am not looking at my workbook and notebook with guilty feelings and thinking, “I should really get those done.” I have done my part, and now I get to relax, read, and refresh myself for the next ten days (today included).  I plan to do just that.  ¡Ciao!

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Christmas Letter Tradition

I ask my students to write me a letter about their plans for the Christmas-New Year break.  Their plans can be as fanciful as celebrating Christmas on Mars with Superman to as heartfelt as wishing divorced parents would get along or deceased grandparents were here again.  I make a mug of hot cocoa and sit in my living room next to the pretty tree adorned with silver and gold and read their letters.  I’ve done this for several years now.  In the past I told the kids that it would help me to not miss them so much.  I don’t think I said that this time which is odd.  I write a letter that I copy after I sign it and give them an idea of my plans, too.  I hand it to them on the last day before the break.  I see them reading it and laughing about it.  Here is the text of my letter to my students this year.

Dear Ones,

We have gone through an entire semester together for sixth grade, and we have more to learn, read, and write before the school year ends.  Please know that I am proud of your hard work, and I want your success in life always.  I plan to spend time with my family in town this year.   I also plan to cook quite a bit of food and will be busily baking cookies over the weekend.  No, you can’t come over and have tea and cookies with me. Nice try!  I will be walking and/or running for my exercise, as is my routine.  If you see me at the grocery store or shopping mall, it’s okay to say hello to me unless you can tell that I’ve not had my morning cup of coffee.  In that case, avoid eye contact and run for your life.  If I am entering Starbucks, wait until I come out with my venti caffé mocha before approaching.

Seriously, I plan to read several good books and take some naps.  I like to drive around neighborhoods with lighting displays and feel like a little girl again.  I do the “oohs” and “ahs” just like you when you see a really exquisite display of electrical lighting artistry as you go along the road.  I’ll be sipping hot cocoa with a hint of cinnamon in it to make it perfect.  I would love to visit Disney World for Christmas, but that’s not going to happen this year.  It’s been a dream of mine for several years now.

Take care of yourselves, and enjoy the winter break whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or neither one of the winter holidays.  Relax with your families, and be kind to your pets and siblings.  Don’t visit the notorious dentist, Dr. Numbfang under any circumstances.  Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Seasons’ greetings to you and your families.



Mrs. Johnson

December 2012

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I just learned about NearPod, a tool that allows me to use iPads for interactive learning with my kids.  I will have to play with it and create some lessons.  I also visited a blog site written by a technology guru teacher.  It’s cool to hear about new tools.  It is even better when you have the time, energy, and brain power to do so.  Awakening at 3;30 A.M. the past two nights has not been helpful.  At that time, I use the technology of well-designed furniture and get into my recliner.  I then use old world technology of reading a book.  It helps me drift back to sleep so that my new-world smartphone can awaken me with an alarm that would wake the dead.  I know there are tons of apps, blogs, wikis, etc.  I just have to find a couple that work for me and go from there.  C’est la vie!


Last Monday of the First Semester

We received devastating news today for one of my former students.  No, no involvement in the recent madness in Newtown, CT.  When I heard, I broke down sobbing in front of my kids and had to step into the hallway to get control.  It took some time because of the grief and pain weighing on me.  Earlier in class, I had gathered my kids in a circle and prayed for them.  They didn’t have to pray with me, but I prayed for them thanking the LORD for them.  It just needed to be done.  I managed to get it together and make some copies during my conference period and the rest of the day.  I had a rare parent-teacher-student conference outside of school hours this afternoon.  It went well.

Now, I have the privilege of working on gifts for my team for Christmas.  I basically did nothing yesterday after lunch but sleep and hang out in my room.  I look forward to the time spent in my kitchen.  It pays to have some comfortable sleep jammies and warm socks to wear to keep my feet toasty.  It’s all good.  I also get to be Mama the tutor for my son studying his Spanish I for a quiz on Wednesday.  I figure the more exposure to the vocabulary, the better it will be.  I am ready to be at home on my own schedule with no particular place to go.  It will be lovely.  ¡Ciao!


My Inspiration and Hugs

My mother is a hugger and has always been that way.  While my personality resembles hers with the tender side of me, my outward persona is from my father.  Daddy and I hug every time we see each other, don’t get me wrong.  He takes no nonsense from anyone, especially his students.  Daddy is a professor.  Mama has been a stay-at-home (Ha!) mom for all of their marriage except for her stint as a preschool teacher a few years back.  She’s really good with kids and makes them mind her.  She gives them “the look,” and they get it together.  Even kids who are running amok in a grocery store will stare at her with that “I know you caught me doing wrong, so I’m going to watch you” look.  I get it too when I go out in a public place and see kids acting up.  I am somewhere in the middle with a strictness for order, decorum, and compliance balanced with a dry sense of humor, a passion for cooking and baking, and a dramatic flair for costumes.  I love my parents dearly, and I hug them every time I see them and tell them that I love them.  They are the two individuals who shaped me into the teacher I am today.

My babies work their way into my heart and make me sad when the last day of school comes. I don’t start out hugging* them all of the time, but after what happened in Connecticut yesterday, I will hug them sooner than the last day of school this year. I have hugged kids for the gifts they’ve made or given, for them having a bad, terrible day after praying with them, and I have hugged them with pride over an accomplishment.  I’d started out the year shaking hands at my door with everyone but abandoned that with the early flu season.  I think I’ll devour some vitamin C over the weekend and ask if they want a handshake or hug to come in on Monday morning.

*When I hug my students, it’s the one-armed, side-by-side variety that can never be misconstrued in today’s twisted culture.  When it’s my Mama and Daddy, I grab them and hug them all the way round and squeeze tight. I was raised right!

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Schtick II (Or More of the Offbeat Things I Have Done)

I  recently told a student that today was not “Joe Smith Does What He Wants Day” and that tomorrow was looking like it wouldn’t be “Joe Smith Does What He Wants Day” either. I told him every day is “Do What Mrs. Johnson Wants Day” while he is in my class.

If I see a student running down my hallway, I say, “What are you doing running down my hallway?” Their faces drop with shame.  I tell them that we walk like ladies and gentlemen down the hallways.  I even go so far as to tell them the whole school is mine.  Some of them actually believe me.  As a girl, Daddy would say, “You, house, and all belong to me!” Who was I to question him?  He’d learned that from my beloved Grandmama, and so the idea of personal accountability lasts for another generation.  I even have said this statement to my son as a gentle reminder.

When I taught Texas history in Abilene, I re-enacted the Battle of the Alamo with water guns. My students were divided up proportionally to represent the small number of Texan troops facing a large force of Mexican regulars under the leadership of General Santa Anna. I would get soaked to the skin, and I think a few of my fellow “Texan defenders” ambushed me, but we had a great deal of fun. When I mention this to my young charges, they grow wistful and ask if we could do such a thing. I tell them no. I have worn a glitzy sparkly outfit with dangling sparkling earrings to match to represent oil wealth when I taught Texas history. I donned my cowboy hat, boots, jeans, etc. to get the cattle drive project explained. I consider myself a walking visual aid and get my love of costumes from my first teacher, Mama.

When I teach sentence diagramming, an old school method to help them see the components of a sentence, I wear scrubs since we’re performing surgery and cutting sentences into chunks. I make sure to hunch over like a mad doctor and rub my hands together manically laughing my “evil” laugh.  They like the idea.

Years ago, someone gave me an article detailing things teachers wish they could say.  One of my favorites goes like this.  Student asks, “Why did you give me an “F?” Teacher replies, “Because I could not give you a “G.”  I don’t give grades; my students earn their grades. My employer doesn’t give me my paycheck; I earn it in the day-to-day quest to instruct my students.  I’ve hinted that they will learn more than English language arts in my class.  We recently read an article about dining etiquette which served a two-fold purpose.  We were identifying prepositional phrases on the academic side; on the life lesson side, I was helping them remember to eat properly.  Eating properly in a social setting opens doors and could even help you land a job.  One student piped up that his mom takes people to dinner as part of her work and watches their eating habits.  If they show themselves poorly, they aren’t recommended for a job.  Ouch!  I’m including a place setting I set up in my classroom as a visual reminder about eating with style.  Just remember BMW – bread (left), meal (center), water (right).  This idea isn’t my own, but it’s a great one to help them remember!

Place setting as a visual for my students.

Place setting as a visual for my students.


Document, document, document!

I maintain a blog for my students, and I email their parents about upcoming assignments and projects as soon as I can.  I may not always give a specific due date, but I try to give plenty of time for the work to be completed.  I even set up a system on to send a text message blast to the kids and any parents who sign up.  It’s helpful.

Whenever I email a parent, or a parent emails me about his or her child, I add it to a folder in my mail inbox.  I have a folder for each class period, and I save items for future reference when I hear the refrain “You didn’t tell us about this.” It saves me a great deal of grief, and it keeps me and my students honest.

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