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.