Category Archives: Classroom

Hashtag Time

I had a great first day with my new students. When I left school, my tiredness was the kind that let me know I was on the road to a good year. Here are a couple of photos for my first day before and after school.

# Year24Teacher

RLT

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Focus Time

Here is a photograph of my classroom. I find myself thinking about the finer details to make everything look perfect. You can see some items on the table. I’m going to cut out the laminated items and use those colorful pennants somewhere this year. The walls needed some color and pop, so I used butcher paper to liven up the walls a bit. That is a red quadrilateral shape behind the clock. I have my power standards posted so that the students can see them as they check the clock to see when it’s time to leave. It’s something that happens each year. C’est la guerre. I placed pictures of my family and friends. They are there for my edification and for my students to see my human side.

This is a year of focus for me. I am strictly a social studies teacher. I am an academic team leader and member of my church’s sanctuary choir. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, niece, friend, and cousin. I am a girl who picks up crayons, markers, or map pencils and colors when I want to be creative. I think that’s enough for now.

RLT

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School Supplies

I enjoyed the month of June after school ended so much that I did not want to plan out a real schedule other than my workshops and a trip to see my husband’s family. We made our trip during the first week of July. It seems like yesterday. As soon as we returned, I began the back-to-school brain that besets every teacher. In July the stores begin their marketing campaigns designed to bring joy to every parent who now appreciates what I do for 9-10 months. Sales of clothing, backpacks, pencils, and notebook paper are broadcast on the television or in magazines. Going to Walmart, Target, or Kroger means the displays whomp a shopper on the head as soon as she dares enter the building. Joyous youngsters’ faces shine like the sun as they anticipate meeting their new teacher and being in classes with their friends. I on the other hand have glazed eyes, and a tic begins by my left eye. I fasten my gaze to the ground or shelf to avoid the happy schoolchildren’s Kodak smiles beckoning me to buy a new pair of jeans or blouse. “No, I am not buying cardstock, pencils, or manila paper today. I am here for groceries. Groceries. Groceries.”I mutter under my breath. I must have said it a bit too loudly because now a startled young mom with her school age children urges her young brood away from the crazy lady mumbling to herself. I shake my head to right my brain and resume shopping. Crisis averted.

Target had a discount for teachers from July 15-21. Our state’s tax free weekend is August 10-12. Bad timing! I refused to darken the door of the Big Red Bullseye Menace once. You’ll never take me alive. Alas, my last workshop was yesterday, Wednesday, July 25. I found myself in Dollar Tree to buy some cards and popcorn. Well, the front wall was covered with back to school stuff. Argh! They have a little teacher corner. Like a zombie, I went to the teacher corner and found some items to update my décor a little bit. Sucker! As I made my way to the cashier, I saw them. Stress balls decorated like globes. Did I buy one? No. I bought three. One for me. One for my teaching partner. And one for my college aged son who is living at home doing an internship. They got me.

RLT

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That Sums It Up

This ridiculously exhaustive list sums up the perception of what my teacher brothers and sisters must accomplish on a daily basis. Meeting all of their needs is impossible. Mamas and daddies have an important role as the first teachers. I’m just there to impart some knowledge along the journey. I am a realist.

RLT

The End Is In Sight

I realized that our class periods are shortened this week. This will mean a little less time with some of my troubled youngsters. That is not a bad thing. Less exposure to negativity is usually a good thing. I have learned that I am still a perfectionist, and I have learned that I am not elementary material. More than two class periods with some personalities drains my energy, wit, and good humor. Dealing with reluctant readers, artful dodgers, petulant toddlers in preteen bodies, and two-faced liars has taken its toll. Some of my students are really, truly damaged but perfect souls. Oh, LORD, heal them. Fill in the cracks of their little hearts, and make them whole. Some of their parents have not done this, so they seek attention and love (structure and boundaries) in any way possible.

By acting out.

By pouting and sitting with an attitude that dares me to engage them in battle. “Just try to make me do my work, lady!”

By not completing assignments so that someone will say, “Do this work, or else there will be a consequence.”

By running and hitting or kicking each other in the halls.

By being disrespectful because they see it on the TV and in the movies with parents and teachers being regarded as idiots.

By the games they play, pitting their parents against the teachers and not telling the full story. LORD, heal them, I pray, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train.

RLT

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Spent.

I spent last weekend in bed with a raging migraine that would not relent until early Sunday morning. This week has been fraught with details about an upcoming field trip to the Arboretum. Students did not returned permission forms or payments in a timely fashion. Now it’s scramble time. How to get the lead out? And this is part of why my failure rates are higher than I want: they don’t care about deadlines or due dates. “Someone will give me an extension. It can wait for now.” No. Sometimes there is no extension. None. You can hit the end, and there is no more. I hit the end yesterday.

I checked in with my teaching partner about our plans for next week. We are both grade level team leaders, and we also discuss which kids need to go where for the outside incentive day coming up next week. If a student failed for the marking period, then he or she would be assigned to a core teacher for extra remediation. We sorted it out, and she departed for the day.

There I was at work late with a persistent scratchy threat due to drainage from one of the little upper respiratory bugs that is floating around my campus. Not again! It is nearing 4:40, and I see a student in the hallway. “What are you doing here?” “I was playing basketball.” He was participating in the worthy American Heart Association fundraiser, but he is never in my room for tutorials. I must demand his presence during our advisory period if I want extra time to work with him. He has never passed my class for a marking period, but he’s playing basketball. After he leaves with his backpack, my shoulders sag, and my heart pounds with rage. He can play basketball, but when I reached out to his parents about his failing grades, I had no response. When I wrote about missing work due to his absences a couple of weeks back, Mom said that he had been so sick, but she would make sure he got there. He was sick again the next day. And when he returned, I had to scramble to get him to finish his makeup assignments. I knew I would not get help from his parents at that point.

It is after 5:00 as I tiredly prepared my room for next week since I have morning duty every day next week. I sanitized my desks. I stacked the chairs. I typed emails and text reminders about upcoming events. I picked up copies from the printer after wearily scanning my badge to verify my identity. I blew my nose repeatedly. I longed for a Quik Trip Freezoni drink to soothe the red wool scratchy feeling burning my throat. My stomach rumbled with hunger; I ate five taquitos for lunch around 1:00. It is nearly 6:00. I put my calendar and pen/pencil bag into my work bag, turn off the lamps, and grab my purse from the corner wardrobe. Oh, I was supposed to take that rubbish out to the bin. Monday. I’ll do it Monday. I am spent. The constant battle against inertia and apathy drained my normally robust immunity this school year. I planned to spend the weekend resting, reading, and recuperating. I’ve taken a two hour nap and worked on my novel this afternoon.

I found this picture and shared it with my team members. It is a reminder when I feel the “it’s all your fault” blues creeping up on me. I am fighting my good fight. I am pouring my energy and creative juices into a worthy enterprise. Even when I don’t get the recognition I deserve, I have still done my work and given my best. It is all I can do.

RLT

Are You Even Listening to Me?

Inattentiveness is rampant. “Turn to page 300.” Students look around the room. One leans over to pick up the book. Two sets of hands go up, “What page?” My gaze hardens. Three stare into space. The eight that followed directions exhibit the impatience I feel at this point in the year. I see eye rolls from them and do my best not to say, “Yep!”

The rites of spring are soon upon me in the classroom. Longing gazes out of windows scream, “Can’t we go outside?” Resolving myself to maintain order amidst chaos, I reply, “No.” I hear groans and see lips puff out in pouts. “Other classes get to go outside.” “Yes, but I am talking to you. I am not talking to other classes. Crack that book to page 300, and let’s get moving.” Reluctant learners finally acquiesce to my directive, prop their heads on their hands, stare a hole through my heart, and outwardly comply. The irony in all of this is that they would be on their electronics playing a game or engaging in Snapchat instead of soaking up vitamin D while sitting still as a gentle breeze caresses their youthful complexions and reading their books in peace. No, they are not listening to me. I am a voice of reason and too overage to be “cool” or “in.”

RLT

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I Simply Forgot

Yesterday I forgot to tell my language arts classes that their brainstorming page was homework. I had said, “Finish it before you write your draft. We will work on the writing in class tomorrow.” I had planned on an easy-for-them daily grade for doing the work and showing me in class. I received an email about this assignment because it wasn’t on my school’s website. I had emailed it as an attachment to the parents. It was not written in the agenda as homework. I was not trying to be confusing or difficult. I felt even more micro-managed than I already have been.

“Have them write ‘HW’ on homework or ‘classwork’ on in-class work.

Have him take a picture of the agenda with his phone at the beginning of class.

Receive an email at 9:12 A.M. during a class. Receive another at 9:30 A.M. chiding your slow response to the first email. Receive another email at 9:43 asking if you’ve seen the previous emails. Class ends at 9:53 A. M. Another one begins. Still no response to email. Call the assistant principal about the teacher not responding to emails in a timely manner. When I click the mailbox icon to check my email, I see several from one parent in my inbox, an all-staff email about a school-wide directive, an invitation to an ARD or Section 504 committee meeting, a notice about some paperwork for a student who’s taking meds, fourteen hundred pieces of junk email, a reminder about that meeting that starts in three minutes, and a reminder about a staff meeting after school this week. This is a slow day.

Take data for Special Education students accommodations. Each six weeks. Record how they are progressing in your class. Reading goals. Writing goals. Behavioral goals.

Keep up with Section 504 students’ accommodations. All of them on a daily basis. This means reminders to be on task. Preferential seating. Learning lab privileges. Copies of teacher notes. The copier is jammed, or the person who copies entire dictionaries is just starting her print job, and the notes need to go home with Janey Sue before her dental appointment this afternoon. Mom will email you if you don’t get them to Janey Sue before she leaves for the day. You had her first period, and she is not in your hallway again until fifth period. It is now fourth period. You’re late for the meeting trying to find an open and working copier.

During lunch, sit and email parents to notify them if their student’s grades are slipping. At least once or twice before the six weeks grading period ends. This could help when they say, “I didn’t know Jim Bob was failing.”

Manage aberrant behavior in classrooms with strong-willed personalities determined to break your resolve. Calmly. All of the time.

Come up with an enrichment or remediation lesson for students who need it. For both subjects. And decide which one deserves priority this week. Oops. You chose incorrectly again.

Monitor students in the classroom and hallway at the same time.

While standing in the hallway/doorway, field questions asked over the music in the hallways about what is needed for class while holding a sign that lists the needed items. I have held up a sign that read, “Bring colored pencils.” To me it is obvious that if a student does not have them, then they would not bring them. I will have several stop goggle-eyed and say, “Do we need colored pencils?” Others will state, “I don’t have any” and stand almost dumbstruck. I make them go inside the room by saying that I have colored pencils. By the way, I have had colored pencils in my room since day one. They don’t remember that. They haven’t any problems telling me what they don’t have or if something is “unfair.” Oh, and make sure you unstick the locker of those students whose backpacks, jackets, etc. clog the mechanism. The veins in my arms and forehead bulge out as I strain to pop them open. Oops, those recalcitrant kids are off-task again in my room.

So, I love what I do, and I do it well. However, this time, I simply forgot to say the assignment was homework. Oh, I had better check my email. ✉️

RLT

What is Sleep?

Sleep is Overrated

I tend to nap for at least two hours daily on the weekends. I’ve turned on my NCAA football games to watch one game only to awaken and find another set of teams battling on the gridiron. During the week, I have reached the conclusion that sleep is overrated. I may get six hours a night when I am fortunate. My mind snaps me awake with a brilliant idea that cannot wait to live. I rise and type when the muse inspires me. I grab a blanket, turn on the ceiling fan in the den, and curl up in the recliner. Other “nights” find me staring dully at my iPhone while playing Merged or Two Dots. At 3:13 A.M. no less. Ugh.

My students’ needs consume my waking hours and snatch me from my dreams at night. This explains my summer nap coma mode when I take serious naps daily and feel no shame about a need to close my eyes for a wee bit of rest. If I don’t find the time to bank my sleep over the weekend, I pay for it with a dearth of energy and a plethora of driven energy.

RLT

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You’re Out!

Yes, I asked two different students to leave my room today. One was being cruel to another student. The cruel one has a history of mumbling and stirring the pot. He had to get stepping. The second one has decided he doesn’t want zeroes, but he doesn’t want to work. After multiple warnings over several days to get to work, stop making noise, and to follow directions, he too had to step. He was coloring himself a canary yellow with his highlighter. Really? Hit the bricks. The other students are now coming to grips with the fact that I actually want a learning environment for the ones who want to learn. Enough tyranny of the minority who suck up energy monitoring them like little babies who cannot be trusted to stay away from trouble. My eighty to ninety percent of do-gooders deserve their education. I plan to make it known that it is unacceptable to disrupt learning to follow your own agenda. That is it. Get in line, or hit the bricks. Third strike and you’re out. I start each day anew when they let me, but bad behavior deserves its own reward: relief on the faces of my students who wanted to learn in peace. Wish granted.

RLT