Category Archives: Personal

Max Made me Look Cool

As you may have figured out, I am not known for blowing my own horn. I don’t play a woodwind or brass instrument for one. (Hear rimshot) It is not how I was wired. Imagine my surprise when my submitted photo was included in our school district’s newsletter. I am pictured with Max Glauben, a survivor of the Holocaust as a result of attending the Candy Brown Holocaust and Human Rights Educator Conference two weeks ago. Meeting him was a humbling experience.


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Spewing Beats Stewing

The title sounds gross, but it’s better to get things out of the system instead of allowing them to fester and make things worse. I had several students absent on the last two days of the previous school year. Some of them had been disruptive to the learning environment. Others would not have caused a bit of trouble or planned anything “cute” as revenge of some sort. I read another teacher’s blog about some parents’ habits with their kids.

  1. Enabling bad behavior. “I can’t discipline him or take away his XBOX. He won’t give me the controls.” A well-wielded claw hammer will deal with the XBOX controls nicely when Junior is asleep.
  2. Being a child’s friend. Nope, you’re mom or dad. It’s your job to make and enforce rules, even when they are unpopular.
  3. Badmouthing the teacher in front of the student. This never has a happy ending.
  4. Not being connected or seemingly concerned (no response to emails and phone calls about academic and/or behavioral issues).
  5. Expecting life to be “fair” or easy for their students. Some students have legitimate educational issues that may or may not require meds. That’s fine. Expecting me to bump a grade on a project because Mom disagrees with the rubric is not going to work.
  6. Expecting a student to pass a course’s marking period with zero effort. I cannot grade air. If I could grade good intentions successfully, my failure rate would be close to zero. There is always one bad apple who doesn’t care what I think. Nor does the bad apple care what Grandma, Aunt Bunny, or Santa Claus things. Bad Apple has it all figured out. “You can’t make me.” Correct. I can make your life miserable with lunch detentions and TNRs (Thursday Night Reflections – three hour long detentions for academic and behavioral concerns). Bring. It. On.
  7. Writing emails on Friday after school hours expecting an immediate response about a daily or minor grade. Not a test grade. A daily or minor grade that will not affect the student’s grade point average for the marking period.
  8. Wanting to meet multiple times about the same issue we discussed in the first meeting last semester: he’s avoiding work, being stubborn and insubordinate, and doing things to aggravate the other kids to the point one of them nearly took a swing at him the other day until they heard me walk up behind them. Fix it at home.
  9. Demanding special treatment. Period. You’re on the school board. You’re the PTA president. You’re related to the mayor. You’ve been to the World Series the last twenty years. Nice try, but no cigar. It’s bad for your health.
  10. Taking kids on vacations during the school year does not place an emphasis on their educations. It would be fine during the days off; however, trips are planned for Disney World, Universal Studios, or overseas when we have grades due in the next week or two. Could you give me the assignments he will have for the next week since he’s going on a cruise with our family? Sure. Junior’s going to concentrate on my assignments while he cavorts at a water park, theme park, beach party, etc. And that online component will be easy with the Internet so readily available. Here’s the ship’s Wifi code. Good luck, kid.


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Crush Time

Get those recommendations completed. Yesterday. Schedule that parent conference. Grade the papers. Update the gradebook. Answer the phone. Don’t sit down in the interesting class. Circulate. Circulate. Circulate. Grab a drink of ice cold coffee. Wince a bit, but keep moving forward. Write that email. Or two. Or more. Be in your duty spot. On time today, thank you. Slip off shoes behind the desk. Remember the copies you needed. Slip shoes on again. Navigate the mass of humanity in the hallways. Make them walk. Make them turn around again and walk. From the corner to where I am standing. Shut the locker. Pick up a perfectly good pencil. Notice you have 60 seconds to visit the bathroom before your long stretch of your day comes. Break up a fight. Pick up the fight’s loser’s broken glasses. Snatch a wad of Kleenex from another teacher’s room. Stop his nosebleed. Take the combatants to the office. Walk into your class late. Remind them you are in charge. Don’t sneeze or laugh, or your body will embarrass you. Regret that third cup of coffee. Take a deep breath. Answer questions. Talk until hoarse feeling appears. Teach. Teach. Teach. Conduct after school tutorials. Visit the bathroom. Head to the copier in your house shoes. Round up miscreants who loiter in front of the school. Make them come to your room to work. Feed them a snack to keep their blood sugar up. Drink your hot tea. Grade papers. Contact parents about missing work. Text your spouse about another late night. Curse the copier’s recalcitrance to work at 6:16 P.M. Stub your toe on the way out. Recoil in fear as an angry driver cuts you off in traffic. Hold your tongue in the speedy checkout lane. Smile when the student who refused to work waves at you in Mama’s presence. Remind yourself to visit another grocery store. Remember you left your badge at work. Drive back. Wait for custodian friends to let you in. Grab stack of papers that need to be graded before progress reports. See those forms for feedback on students with learning disabilities (SpEd/Section 504) sitting on your desk. Take a breath. Grab them and put them into your bag. Go home. Collapse. Get up. Repeat the next day.


Really? (Or I Regain My Joy)

One of my colleagues organized a thank you note writing campaign through our ILA (integrated language arts) department. Students wrote to two teachers. I received notes from some unexpected sources: current students who I am hard on about turning in work on a regular basis, former students who appreciated my humor, former students who recalled my words, and current students who brighten my day. I received my stack of notes during second period and put them into my bag later on. I took them out, sat in my recliner, and cried like a baby after reading some of their words. It was God telling me that my living, my striving to push the students I have, and my speaking the truth about life truly is not in vain. I was in sore need of those good words and sentiments after another long week. My troubled students’ ongoing behavioral and/or academic struggles, the normal toil of grading papers, attending meetings, and preparing for two subjects, and my concern about having my room “perfect” for state testing on Monday and Tuesday drained my energy.

Reading those notes about how I, a little middle school social studies and ILA teacher, affected some young people just blew me away. I had forgotten my prior actions and words. I just did not remember everything. But these children, these lovely, perfect souls, have restored the joy I felt I had lost. I had finally admitted it to myself two days ago and went about with a dark cloud trailing me. I had lost my smile and just felt adrift. Now, my joy is renewed, and my heart is light. I may actually shed a tear on the last day this year. I wasn’t sure that I’d feel like that, but now the bittersweetness of the end of the school year is settling in. Thank you for restoring my joy and reawakening the upbeat vibe I had let go to sleep.


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No Rest For the Wicked

I have only taken a couple of days off this year, and they were for good reasons. One was due to a family emergency, and the other was for some training and/or planning session I had to attend. I don’t feel as though I can take a day off for mental health this year. I have too many needy individuals who require the presence of the Ironclad Woman to behave properly. There is at least one needy person in each hour of the school day. Neediness ranges from those who don’t care about school or themselves, those who won’t do the work, those who have emotional problems, those who want to be handheld over every little step, those who need to stop having fits like a toddler, those who need my eyes on them as a reminder to do their work, and those whose parents are negligent. There are more, but this is enough.

I say no rest for the Wicked because at the end of the day, I feel like the Wicked Witch. “You can’t use a dictionary during a vocabulary quiz.”

“You can’t wait two minutes to go to the restroom? I’ve been waiting two hours.”

“Stop touching each other in the hallway.”

“Give her back her pencil.”

“Sit down. Turn around. Do your own work. Mind your own business.”

“Be quiet.”

“Walk down the hallways.”

“Are you telling me the truth?”

“What do you think you are doing? What possessed you to do —? When have I ever allowed you to —-? The fifth of Never is when.”

“Read your book.”

“Pick up your trash.”

“Too much chatter that does not matter.”

“I have an ARD this week?”

“What do you need?”

“Whose phone went off? Bring it to me.”

“Spit your gum out.”

“Are you mumbling under your breath?”

“Are you speaking to me like that?”

“Wish granted. Go to ISS. And take your things with you.”

“I want to hear a ‘Yes, ma’am’ and see your feet moving.” After doing this all day long, it can be exhausting.

I encourage young teachers to take a day for themselves after creating enough work to keep the Looney Tunes Road Runner busy all class period. I have a “packet of death” to complete. No one wants it, but it may be used during the last week of school. I am keeping the lions at bay by keeping them busy, busy, busy. We have sixteen full instructional days and two days of STAAR testing for our sixth graders. And I cannot relent, let go, or quit. I have taught while sick. I have taught with migraines. I have taught with little sleep. I have taught in good weather, bad weather, and in a blackout. So when the weekend comes, I actually need to stop thinking about what’s next. I need to stop feeling guilty that I didn’t get everything finished by 4:00 on Friday afternoon. Telling me that it will wait until Monday means my pile grows exponentially. At the end of the school year, June 1, I plan to walk out of the building with my head held high because I finished. I may sleep like a dead woman after our teacher work day on Saturday, June 2, but I will know that finally I can rest. Without another list of “to-do’s” coming tomorrow. Even the Ironclad Woman needs to take off her armor and rest.


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Your Stuff Doesn’t Matter

The following event occurred last week on a Thursday afternoon between 5:40 and 6:00 P.M.

As I left school by the gym after hours, I observed a young girl rubbing her hand across the front decal of my vehicle. I did a double take and planned to say something to her. The family’s car was parked next to mine. Her father took baseball equipment out of his car for his son. The boy rented his hands and peered into my car’s backseat touching the side rear door as he did so. I was close enough to be within earshot, so I said, “Could you please tell them not to touch my car?” I repeated my request to the father once I had his attention. He said, “He’s only nine years old. He’s not going to steal something.”

“I understand, but could you please ask him not to touch my car?” Whatever remark he made after that was lost because I got into my vehicle, snapped a photograph of his license plate, and drove off. As I drove home, I became emotional because I only wanted respect for my property. I just did not want them to touch or possibly damage it with a buckle, button, or other innocent looking item.

I wanted to say, “Sir, I am just now leaving work two hours after students were dismissed because I was preparing for young people like your son and daughter. I had a student who I mentor stay with me until 4:30. Only after I make sure he gets into his mom or grandma’s car, do I walk back in to finish my other tasks such as responding to emails, making copies, grading papers, tidying my room, and setting up for the next day. You don’t know who you are talking to. Please be respectful to a teacher who is working her butt off. Please show your children how to respond appropriately to a tired little woman alone at the end of the day. Please choose your response with care. I don’t know you from Adam, but please be respectful.”

I will drive my other vehicle and park on the other side of the school for the next few weeks.



Robbed Again

I want to report a robbery, but the thief cannot be described to any law enforcement agency. My restful night of sleep has been stolen again. I awakened the other night and completed a review for my language arts students to play before their test on Thursday. Last night I was up writing in my prayer journal, and tonight (right now at 2:17 A.M.), I have finished documentation for some of my students’ learning goals. Always having one more urgent item on my “to do” list robs me of my rest. I don’t help my case by falling asleep on my couch in front of the telly. I awaken and realize that I have to now wash my face, brush my teeth, and dress for sleep. All of these tasks wake me up. The past few nights have nearly brought me to tears with the cruelty of certainty. “It’s 3:15. You are awake!” my triumphant brain shouts. “Now let’s get to work. You still have these tasks to do. You have not written that email. Oh, did you update the website for the week? Parents will be expecting it done first thing Monday morning. Slacker! Why don’t you get things done more efficiently?” As a result, I must carefully keep my tiredness hidden from my students who would exploit any weakness they detect. The LORD has been gracious and given me far more patience than five or so hours of broken rest warrant. I am thankful for that blessing. Now I am tucking the comforter around my frozen little toes since it’s cold outside, signing off, and setting my alarm to awaken me when the coffee maker begins brewing.


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The Face Behind the Mask

The impervious mask will be back on my face. I will not allow them to see me crying in frustration and despair because they cannot be gone from my life soon enough. The “they” are the children who are so miserable that they spread the misery around acting like ill-mannered brutes in this class. Blessedly, the bell rings to release one teacher from their presence, and then down the hallway with raucous comments and behavior before arriving at the next fortunate teacher. A group of students I have this year are determined that I should experience anguish, frustration, and little joy whenever I interact with them. I don’t know what it was in their past that warped their present reality and personality traits. It must have been traumatic, and I was not responsible for their unhappiness. I suffer behind my mask seething and longing to say a few choice words that would make me feel better in the short run but might prove damaging in the long run. They don’t care about their grades, and they don’t care that my name is next to theirs on the failure list. Their parents seemingly don’t care or know what to do about the grades either, or else my failure rates would be nonexistent. That is not the case, so I don the mask yet another day, take a deep cleansing breath, and steel myself for the day that is to be.


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Papi and the Witch

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He worked on an English language arts assignment using The Outsiders. Because I want to keep up with what’s happening, I plan to re-read the book. I hope I don’t cry again like I did the first time I read it in high school.

As we walked out to his dad’s car  today, the rain drops began to fall with a bit more speed. I said, “I’m not going to melt.”

“Are you a witch? I heard you dressed up as a witch for Halloween.”

“Do I celebrate Halloween?”


“Then I wouldn’t dress up as a witch for Halloween.” I sighed in disgust and ruffled his hair. That boy! Little does he know that I had formerly styled myself as the “Wicked Witch of the Compass Rose” years ago. I am not always good like Glenda the Good (from the North) nor do houses falling during cyclones scare me like the Wicked Witch of the East. And I don’t melt with water like the Wicked Witch of the West. Dousing me only earns my ire and some type of discussion in close quarters that usually reduces the miscreant child to tears. I was taken aback and did not respond accordingly. He has a small amount of latitude because I know Papi has a bad attitude about staying with me, but it’s too bad, so sad. We are in for the long haul, young man.


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What Lunch Time?

Two weeks ago, I became so overwrought about my work load that I went without eating my lunch. It is unheard of for me to skip my midday meal. Ever. It started in a grade level department meeting. I have to make some adjustments to the way I do business. I am ever changing something and learning something new. It’s a part of life. I picked up my little snack from the lovely PTA moms and dads and meant to eat it after my soup lunch. Nope. I have to prepare work for two students who have either lost or not done assignments and are in an academic detention. Tick tock goes the clock. Pick up the assignment from the printer down the hall. Oops, I didn’t print that kid’s assignment page. Back to the printer. Google Chrome takes a coffee break. Tick tock. Tick tock. There are five minutes of lunch. Wait, I have two kids in ISS, and I need extra work for them to complete. Brrring! There’s the bell, and now here comes my class.