Monthly Archives: May 2013

Enjoy Your Students

I have watched several students play baseball and/or softball during the spring season.  I keep a clipboard on my bulletin board with a sheet for them to tell me about their games including field, team, and time so that if I can make it, I will attend.  The students know I will make every effort to attend at least one of their games if at all possible.  I recently had the bright idea to play a softball game against some of these players and have them all in one spot on one team.  They jumped at the chance to play against their teachers.  I never played organized sports in college and have one year of basketball in high school to my athletic credit.

I began by talking informally to a couple of kids.  They immediately wanted to know where and when.  I asked staff members if they would be interested, and we had enough for a team.  I printed invites for the kids and handed them out whenever I saw them in the hallway.  Yesterday, we had our game after school on the football field with bases and boundaries set up by our generous athletic director.  He brought softballs, too.  I had to borrow a glove from Daddy; my husband and I played catch yesterday with an old baseball to help me warm up my hands.  That was fun!

A couple of students dropped their gear in my room for safe keeping.  I picked up a case of bottled water and some ice then iced the water bottles once I arrived at school.  One colleague showed up in full softball regalia.  I wore my son’s old NJHS shirt and a pair of jeans topped by a baseball cap.  The teachers batted first.  The student players filled the field of play.  They had at least fourteen or so players out in the field.  It was fun to see them organize their batting order and incorporate the young ladies who were great hitters.  They took turns being catcher, first base, pitcher, etc.  I wound up in right field knowing that there were only two lefties batting to my knowledge.  One hit a ball that went over my head, and I managed to get my glove on a grounder in the game.  During the course of the game, I noticed a number of moms lining the track watching the game.  One mom even brought two more cases of bottled water for the kids. Hurray!

Despite tough play on our part and a couple of homeruns hit by some of the male staffers, we ran out of time in the game.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.   I wasn’t an “easy out” in the game.  I was walked twice and thrown out at first base after making a hit.  I think they feared me enough not to pitch to me.  Again, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  I offered the students and staffers a bottle of water after the game if needed.  The sun and humidity took their toll on all of us, and several moms snapped pictures of the entire group of staff and students alike.  I thoroughly enjoyed the activity and want to do more like this in the future. Next year, the kids are going down!!  That’s me on the very far right on the back row in the bright yellow shirt.  Play ball!

Staff vs. Students 2013

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The “Negative Nancy” Post

I am warning you up front that this post has a negative tone.

1.  Just when I get them broken in, I have to release my students.  They finally understand how my mind works and my moods.  They know when silence is golden and when it’s fine to make a response or comment.

2.  I will miss their shining faces and the sparkle in their eyes as they grasp an idea. They also look like this when they think they have a witty zinger for me.  The usual punishment is enforced:  one thousand lashes with a wet noodle.  The severity of the crime determines the width of the noodle.  Some kids earn angel hair, some kids earn fettuccine, and some real stinkers deserve the lasagna noodle.  Before you write me, remember that wet noodles break when they get swinging, so they never connect with the students’ persons; therefore, no one is injured. Besides, I don’t have the proper place to boil the water to make the wet noodles, and I keep forgetting to bring the black cauldron of doom to school.  My husband forbids me using it again.  Spoilsport!

3.  I will miss teasing some of them about their favorite college or pro team if we differ in opinion.  The Patriots fans are the worst, by far.  One boy will wear his shirt, walk by my classroom pointing at it with glee, and expect me to cheer his wardrobe decision.  I look at his shirt and reply, “Fail!”  He trots off happily, knowing that he has ruined my day.  Stinker!

4.  I will miss growling at the ones who need it.  They walk by and say, “Hello, Mrs. Johnson.”  I growl back in response, and we’re both happy.  They know who they are.  For these special ones, it doesn’t matter if I’ve had my coffee or not.  Growling is all they receive from me.  Even if I see these individuals multiple times in one day, the response is still “Grrrrr.”  If I smile and say, “Hello,” then they know I am ill and need to see the nurse in the clinic.

5.  I will miss labeling the guilty and accusing kids with mischievous expressions of being guilty, even when I haven’t seen what they’ve allegedly done.  It keeps them on their toes.  They hold out their hands with a “Who me?” expression that no judge in America would buy.

6.  I will miss bantering with my nemesis Dr. Destructo who has an evil plan to take over the world and minions to boot; however, he reports that he is good only on Sundays, so that lessens his evil impact somewhat.  He has been a worthy opponent.

7.  I will write in anyone’s yearbook who lets me do so and cringe if something ugly or inappropriate is written in it by another student.

8.  I will miss the kids who are too cool to acknowledge that they love me.  They may get the obligatory fist-bump, but no hugging will be done on the last day of school.  I have a reputation as the toughest, roughest sixth-grade teacher to uphold.  That is my story, and I’m sticking to it!

9.  I tend to cry on the last day of school.  That pesky wind always blows dust in my eyes, and I’m trying to wipe it out.  It can’t be because of those kids.  It just can’t be.  I’ll miss my babies.

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Planning Ahead

We are scheduled to work on the day after the last day of school.  We’ve been permitted to wear shorts since a number of us haul out trash, deep clean, and move items or rooms. I’ve started my list of items to complete.  They mostly involve preparation for the coming school year.

1.  Word Wall words for novels we study in the fall. I plan to have them all typed, matted, and laminated.

2.  Miniature refrigerator taken home for the summer.  My son LOVES the mini-fridge in the den at home.  He will keep bottled water handy so that he and his father don’t have to leave the gaming area for hydration.

3.  Repair or replacement of border on the collapsable wall I share with my team mate.  Some of the pieces are torn and patched.  I want to spend time getting them fixed.

4.  Preparation of desk signage for the fall semester.  We use Kagan, and I need to remove the current signage, clean the desk tops, and type, matte, and laminate the newly minted signs.

5.  Pantry tidying.  I keep one of my cabinets as a pantry stocked with paper plates, plastic ware, drinking cups, and napkins for our team.  I need to root through the cabinet (while on a chair to see better) when I have time and the inclination to get dirty.

6.  Locker bag preparation.  We put in a sandwich-sized baggie that contains a pencil, a piece of candy, and some information about being new to sixth grade. These are placed in the lockers of our new sixth graders in the fall semester before our orientation we call “Cougar Camp.” I want those finished before the break because I did the lion’s share last year.  Assembly lines work best for large projects.


In Loco Parentis

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here where I live, and I feel as though I’ve been mothering some of my students all year long.  It is not my intention to act in loco parentis, a Latin phrase meaning “in place of the parents.” There are some parents who hold teachers responsible for their child’s reading level, mathematical ability, critical thinking aptitude, ad nauseaum.  I have them for a limited time each day.  I am not there to entertain them.  I have to get my objectives covered.  I need you to be their mom or dad and help them establish proper boundaries.  I need mom and dad’s support when I have to correct a student’s bad choice.  I need mom and dad to make them do their homework and mind a curfew.  I need mom and dad to make them memorize their multiplication facts, count money, and tell time.   I need mom and dad to listen to them as they read aloud.  I need mom and dad to take them to the public library.  It used to be such a big milestone of childhood to be able to write your name to get your own library card.  I take them to the library at school, but it’s not the same as spending time exploring subjects of interest that excite their imaginations.   Most parents of my students support my blood, sweat, and tears.  A few of them don’t, and they make my life more difficult and my nights fraught with misery and nightmares.  Please don’t rush to the assumption that I am “mean” to your student when I ask him to sit down in his seat, do his homework, be respectful in class, arrive punctually to my classroom, and obey my instructions the first time.  I am at times being asked to do your job without the privilege of molding them for the first ten or eleven years of their lives.  I am at a disadvantage and need your help.  I need mom and dad to be Mom and Dad.


Changing Things A Bit – Pictures Added!

I am telling the kids who we are when we are in our classroom.

I am telling the kids who we are when we are in our classroom.

Don't use these words!

Don’t use these words!

Words for our current novel of study

Words for our current novel of study

Updated with words from our recent studies.

Updated with words from our recent studies.


Changing Things A Bit

I’ve finally been allowed to join Pinterest* and found myriad ideas for teaching, organizing, and living.  The amount of information and suggestions can boggle the mind, but I limit my time for my own sanity.  I found a great idea that a colleague used about letting the kids know their role upon entering the classroom.  I will be decorating the outside of my door with some of the following phrases.

In this classroom, we are:

  • readers
  • grammarians
  • writers
  • thinkers
  • creative
  • team members
  • editors
  • resivers
  • spellers
  • dreamers
  • storytellers
  • poets
  • family [this word will be the last because it is the most important one to me]

I will post a picture once it is done.  I even created a dead word wall complete with the necessary tombstone clip art and used Microsoft Word’s chiller font to drive home the point.  They will receive the accompanying handouts either tomorrow or early next week.  I want to prepare them for seventh grade as much as possible.

*For over a year, my mother forbade me from joining Pinterest due to my slightly obsessive nature.  I’ve been a good girl, so she is happy.


On Tiptoes

I find myself wondering about what will happen in the new school year, so I am on tiptoes trying to peek.  I’ve created some new signage for my classroom door that I will put together soon.  I’ve been tidying up my cabinets because they are a mess.  This is my eighth year in the same room, so I reside in my little nest.  It needs to be thoroughly dusted. It is no wonder that some of my babies are sneezing and wheezing.  They SHOULD be after what I saw on top of my cabinets yesterday.  Ugh!

Right now, I have a feeling of unease that I cannot completely describe. I call it a malaise, but I do not feel sick physically.  I feel as though I have been weighed in the scales and been found wanting.  I don’t always fit in to any particular group or niche, and every now and then even an independent introvert can suffer a bout of loneliness.  I am there now and have been over the past few weeks.  I feel out of the loop, so I withdraw.  The more I withdraw, the more out of the loop I become.  It’s a vicious cycle I must break, but I haven’t done it yet.  The first step begins with transparency and openness.  I am not secretive; I just don’t waste words unless they are required. I keep my counsel until it is needed. Now I am on eggshells.  The malaise increases its girth and breadth so that it grows progressively harder not to crack the fragile surface of the path I travel.  LORD, I beg for Your help.  Please show me the way I should go.