Category Archives: Colleagues

The Mean Season

We have been rapidly thrust into the “mean season” before state testing in May. This is when the students get on each other’s nerves.  Some personalities grate my nerves as well. This particular class has a larger than normal pocket of negativity that continually gravitates together in the cafeteria or hallway.  The adage of “birds of a feather” could not be truer than my class this year.

The badly behaved birdies make the better behaved students suffer through their actions. It’s a pain to feel like a gloved fist all day long and not uncurl and laugh a bit more with the ones who actually get my humor. Some days I am an iron fist in a velvet glove. Other times find me being an iron fist in an iron glove. My colleagues and I racked our brains but had no new solutions. Other teachers in our building who are the brain trust for school-wide incentives have formulated some plans.

We use incentive money (we are our own mint, and it’s not legal tender!) to reward kids doing the right thing without being prompted. Next week we will allow students who passed their classes to be outside for a “big kid recess” during our Advisory period. We have a store for kids to buy goodies like ring pops, pizza party passes, the privilege of listening to music on a device, or being able to take shoes off. I just need to remember to hand out my cash to kids I see doing the right thing the first time without reminders. I’ll just have to visit the bank and get some more moolah.


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Too Much

At this time of year when semester grades are posted, some parents receive the bad news that their students have not passed muster. It gets to be too much when some of them snap back and question their child’s lack of progress. Have you read with your son who despises reading books? Have you tried working math problems or hired a tutor? Have you asked questions that require more than monosyllabic responses, or did you just hand them an electronic device to “shut them up?” I have a little more than forty minutes per class period to engage students. Some of their attention spans require medication. Others remain focused. On their friends or crushes. On their social media or gaming accounts. It would seem that I am destined to forever compete for the consolation prize. The number of students with attention disorders increases each year that I teach. The number of students monitored under Special Education or Section 504 does the same thing.

When such maudlin thoughts touch my mind, and I question my calling in life, I must remember there is a silver lining somewhere. I need encouragement on the black days like anyone else. One of the best sources of nourishment for the soul is laughter. Another source is friendship. Being able to laugh out loud at least once or twice a day lightens the soul. A quick comment or insight from that clever friend whose perspective on life borders on madness can bring a smile to the face. A shared look during a life-draining, “It’s only been forty-seven minutes out of six hours!” presentation can bolster one’s strength. One of my goals each year is to bond more deeply with my team members. We need to laugh until we weep, we need to vent our common frustrations, we need to listen to insight from that quiet team member whose wisdom is gold, we need to discuss and implement plans for recalcitrant students, we need to celebrate our super stars, and we need to move forward each day.


Keep Calm and Remember - Teacher Encouragement

A Little Bit Lonely

I am normally upbeat and positive, but even a twenty-one year veteran can have the blues. I am not naturally a social butterfly. I am an introvert who gains her energy and drive to carry on being solitary at times. As you will learn from reading my blog posts and updates, my solitary time is not always my choice.


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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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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.



Busy Little Bees on Overdrive

My students will be working on reading passages, writing prompts, and listening skills in the last nine days of school. I tried to find high-interest articles that would fire their imaginations as they learned something new. I also plan to play a review game about sentence structure and function using Kahoot! on the penultimate day of school.

The majority of my students may be vacation-minded, yet they are compliant with my directives. A small percentage would love to pull their cronies off-task and openly rebel; however, I actively monitor their activities to keep order. One of my younger colleagues passed on a suggestion that I am conditionally allowing—reading books on electronic devices. She utilizes the Overdrive app on her device. Some of her recalcitrant clientele received instruction on how to download and use it, too; now, they are engaged with books of their own choosing. Our librarian had previously mentioned this to our classes; it was on my phone at one time; somehow, I forgot about it. Now, I am allowing my students to download the app and a book with the condition that if I ask to see their phone, I’m going to see a book and nothing else. We shall see how it progresses.


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Some Young Men Who Made My Day

I was rather sluggish yesterday but managed to get to work on time before the rains hit. One of my co-workers gave me a Mother’s Day card; I nearly started crying because it was so sweet. I hugged him thank you. Yes, he is young enough to be my son, but he isn’t. I jokingly tell the students that he’s my younger brother. Some of them don’t believe me, but I think others do.  He has visited my classroom just to say hello; the kids adore him because he invests love, time, and energy into them by eating lunch with them on a daily basis. I’ve never done that except on special occasions.

Around the middle of the day I have my conference period and teaming period. We had nothing scheduled today due to progress reports coming up today. One of my team members saw some students working on their science assignment in the hall during a “gallery walk.” She teased them about being their favorite teacher. One of our shared students didn’t realize it was her talking and said, “Mrs. Johnson’s my favorite.” My friend stood arms akimbo and said, “Really?” He slid back around the corner where he was working. She told me, so I went out into the hallway just to smile at him and give the kids a hard time about not being everyone’s favorite. All I could see were sparkling eyes and a smile on his face. I didn’t need to hear it out loud myself because I already knew it even before he’d said it. His dad had emailed me a nice compliment that I am saving in my forever folder.

Later in the day after dealing with a student who has given up on himself and would rather be in the in-school-suspension room than in my classroom following my directives, my good mood had dropped down to so-so. At the beginning of my last class, one of my students in my afternoon class handed me a small envelope with my name on it. “It’s for Teacher Appreciation Day.”
“Thank you. Do I open it now or later?”
“Later,” he replied. After school ended, I opened the envelope and found a gift card inside; even better were his words that he wished all of his classes were like mine and that he always leaves school in a good mood. I am touched and will really miss him when the school year ends. He is bright and funny; despite my best efforts not to smile sometimes when he’s especially wiggly, I still do. We connected when for some reason during the first semester in mock frustration I told him he was hopeless.  As he left class, he stopped at the door, turned around and looked me in the eyes, and said, “I have hope.” He smiled  and walked away.  We have been engaged in daily “battles” ever since.

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Poem for Teachers

My mother gave this poem to me when I first started teaching.  I look at it at least once a year.

Before the Class Comes Marching In (Author unknown)

Well, Father, what do You think?

The room looks nice, doesn’t it?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Relax.

Today is the first day of school.

And—depending on the class I get—

today could seem

like the first day of the rest of my life.

That’s the funny thing about classes,

isn’t it, Lord?

I mean, the Class

seems to have a personality all its own,

in addition to all the personalities in it.

The whole being greater

than the sum of its parts, and all that.

What do you think—

the room looks nice, doesn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, Lord,

and there are two messages

I want to get across right from the start:

“Welcome, child!

I believe in you!

Together we can have

a delightful year

of learning and growth!”


“Nobody messes with me, kid!”

I think that just about covers it, Lord!

Breate in. Br—

Oh! There’s the bell.

Just one more thing, Lord.

You’re not going anyplace are You?

More anon, dear ones.  ¡Ciao!

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Professional Development – Day Three

We had time working with our technology facilitator and learning about new apps to use with our students.  The expectation is to try something new, not overwhelm yourself trying to do everything.  I maintain a blog for my students and parents, a Twitter account, and use Remind 101 to send one-way text messages about what’s happening in my class.  It’s helpful to know about the tools available.  We spent time planning out the first two weeks of school as a grade-level team; it was a productive, meaningful time.  I am looking forward to seeing my students on Monday morning.  The adventure begins anew then.  More anon.

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Professional Development – Day One

Today was spent reviewing district and state-level mandated training during our staff development time. Tomorrow will be district-level meetings with the various disciplines scattered abroad. Our district continues to mushroom in growth, so it is a necessity. It was nice to see my colleagues again after our summer vacation time. I have my classroom tidied up, but I just need to set up my desks for the Kagan initiative we implemented last year. They are matched in height but lack numerical labeling for the students to find their seats. I was fortunate enough to win a t-shirt during one of our fun competitions today. We did a contest called “Hanky Panky.” The object was to empty a full box of tissues with only one hand during 60 seconds. I was second place but a fierce competitor nonetheless. I am still pleased with my performance since this is not a skill I practice on a daily basis. Ha ha ha!

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