Category Archives: Protocol

No Spinning!

Those horn-blasted spinners are the current bane of teachers’ existence. We have signs up around our campus as reminders to not bring toys to school. Here is one I took up on Monday and did not give back until the end of the school day. 

This meme sums up my opinion. I have trolls who will not bring their pencils to class. I am letting them suffer natural consequences: more homework, wasted work time, and some much-needed time to reflect on personal decisions about preparation for their one job. Going. To. School.



Different Routine

I took a walk this morning and felt the icy slash of north wind numb my fingers. Inexpensive gloves only work so well. I listened to the Bible on my headphones to fulfill my 2016 resolution of reading the Bible through. Listening helps me concentrate on the words and not gloss over them, and the benefit of being outdoors seeing the creation as I hear the words of my Creator elevates the soul and heart like no other.

I may actually miss interacting with my students over the holidays; however, do not breathe a word to those little stinkers. They need a break from a fire-eater like me every once in a while. Between you and me, I hope Papi has a good holiday, and I wonder if he will tell me anything about it or try to test the boundaries again.

He wanted to know if I maintained a Snapchat account. No, I do not, but I told him that if I were on a social media site, I would only accept friend requests and connections from students once they graduate high school. Friends’ children do not count, and they are few and far in between. If I have a professional teacher-student relationship, I really do not think I should be looking at their Instagram, Kik, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. accounts. My postings are safe for the whole family; however, they are not always public—by my choice. Lambasting one’s employer, publishing embarrassing photographs (like a horrible haircut!), and missteps of that ilk have no place in the forever realm of the Internet. I found this telling single panel cartoon that explains the world before advent of the Internet. I miss the days of a handwritten letter type of correspondence that bespoke a personal interest in the words written or doodles in the margins that make the reader laugh a bit too loudly.



Adjusting My Vision

I have a part to play this year as a reading lab teacher. I have been more rebellious than my young charges who desperately need me to help them. I had my big vent cry today and am ready to forge ahead. It’s time I acted like the professional adult I am and move forward. The gauntlet no longer taunts me from the ground. I have it in hand as I accept the challenge before me.


A Bit of Work to Do

Earlier this week, I received notification reminding me that I ha13083242_1170813406264599_1602000589678556257_nve to complete four hours of online compliance training before school starts. It means sitting at the computer and paying attention while reviewing information about blood-borne pathogens, regulations with Section 504, and the like. The class opened yesterday, but I have only glanced at the titles and not delved into the meat and potatoes of the work. I am thinking that the sooner I accomplish the task, the more I will savor my remaining weeks (woot!) of vacation.




How to Appreciate Your Teacher

The first Tuesday of May has been designated as Teacher Appreciation Day. I thought I’d take a moment or two to make note of some of the best ways to appreciate your teacher. These are also steps parents can encourage in their children.

Follow directions the first time.  This shows that you have honed your listening skills. No lines furrow my brow. My face remains smooth and placid. You have a good class period with me, and we both leave happier. If you see me snap off the heels and start lacing up the running shoes, then it’s time for you to run. You have entered the danger zone, and I am about to get you. I hope you ate your Wheaties, kid.

Respond in an appropriate manner.  If your teacher wants you to say, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am,” then do it.  If she wants you to simply respond “Yes” or “No” in a civilized tone, just do it.  When you score well on a test or project, be happy but not disruptive about your celebration.  If you don’t score as well as you like, don’t broadcast to the entire class about your failing mark.  Your classmates become embarrassed for you.  If you are in trouble, please don’t smirk or grin at me. Smirking shows a lack of respect for what I’m trying to tell you, and it’ s frustrating to feel that you aren’t listening.  If you are so mad that you want to punch someone or something, take a breath, and ask your teacher if you can visit the counselor to talk it out. Maybe you can talk to your teacher about it later on after things have calmed down.

Write her a heartfelt note. Just knowing that my class brings a smile to the faces of some of my students makes me happy and puts a spring in my step.  I keep those notes forever and look back at them when I have a rough go of things. I even keep kind parent emails, too.

Take an interest in her life.  Remember that she is a person, too. If your teacher displays pictures of her family and friends, it means she has relationships outside of school.  Those people in the pictures are her lifeline.  They make her laugh at inside jokes. They make her stomp in with a black cloud over her head. They make her cry happy tears with surprise balloon or flower bouquets.  If she has pets, ask about them. This shows that you have an interest in her beyond the grades she records.

Respect her privacy. On the same token of taking an interest in her life, don’t intrude on her family time.  Some teachers maintain an online social media presence that is private. Others don’t bother with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Sometimes that angry email doesn’t need to be sent at 10:30 P.M. She has to respond to the request in a timely manner (the next morning!), and the little ding of the email signal just woke her up from a dead sleep. Now she’s thinking about how to get back to sleep. If she has a published phone number, never call her at home. Save your phone calls for school office hours. If she’s working in her yard, allow her to do that in peace. Making a U-turn in the cul-de-sac to stop by and “have a chat” is out of line. My home phone number is unpublished because a student called me at home during my first year of teaching. Saying hello at a restaurant, grocery store, etc. is fine, but don’t overstay your welcome.

Don’t sting. Some parents love to get in the “last word” at the end of the day or right before a vacation or weekend and fire off a harshly-toned email. Email correspondence is forever. Those words once sent cannot be taken back. Take a few deep breaths, take the dog for a walk, or take a few moments to yank recalcitrant weeds out of the ground.  Count to one hundred before you hit the send button.  The recipient will have to respond to you, and it may take a great deal of restraint to contact you with a civilized tone of voice.  If you won’t say it in person, don’t say it in print. Think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of written vitriol. It hurts.

Maintain reasonable expectations. Your student is your baby, and you have nurtured him or her from a young age; however, even our own babies surprise us with their actions, words, and thought-patterns.  This comes about as they grow up a little bit each day.  When or if your student’s teacher calls, and it’s not good news, give her a chance to tell you everything she can before you take her head off.  If she’s made an error, show grace. If you’ve made an error, allow her to show you grace. Regardless, take the high road. Even the best students who would NEVER do — will make a mistake or not turn in an assignment on its due date. They are human, their teachers are human, and their parents are human.

Preserve the good name. Bad-mouthing a child’s teacher in front of the child is a sure-fire way to sabotage the relationship between your child and her teacher.  “That Mrs. X is just too demanding!” Little pitchers have big ears, and they mimic our actions, speech, etc.  There have been cases when I’ve had a decent relationship with a student only to somehow upset his mama and/or daddy, and then I pay the price with a child who is disrespectful to me because it’s an acceptable practice at home.  This bleeds over into social media with sites that allow criticism without rebuttal.  Hiding behind a vitriolic post is cowardice–plain and simple.

Painted by Norman Rockwell.  Appeared on cover of Saturday Evening Post, 1956.

Happy Birthday Miss Jones painted by Norman Rockwell. The Saturday Evening Post, March 17, 1956.

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An “Adult” Post

When I ask a student to do something, I expect him or her to do it. When I direct them, I expect them to comply. Because I am an adult, I expect obedience.  I do not expect to hear an excuse, a reason, or an explanation unless I specifically request it. I will not ask them to do anything that is detrimental.

My parents taught me that I was to do what they asked when they asked and how they asked. I didn’t get to stomp off in a huff, roll my eyes, slam the door, mumble under my breath, and huff and puff loudly in anger. I had to maintain self-control. As a result, I marvel at some young people who find it acceptable to regard me as an equal. I am not their equal except on a human being level. I am the boss. I give directives for their protection, edification, and education. I do not speak words just to hear the sound of my voice. I expect a “Yes, ma’am” and to see feet in action, period. One day, when my students are adults, they will enjoy this same privilege.  I too had to wait to become an adult. It took years, but I made it, and they will too, one day at a time.


Mid-Year Madness

“Look at my hands.  The gloves are off.” – This is the exact statement I made yesterday letting my young ones know that I was treating them more like seventh graders than sixth graders.  No more Mrs. Nice Guy, if you will.

“If you want your students to be better listeners, don’t repeat yourself.” This means that their parents email me with questions that their students can answer at this point in the school year.

“Why is Junior failing your class?” Did you ask Junior first before you decided to ask me?  The Swiss-cheese nature of my gradebook tells the tale of woe.  I send text messages, update my website, and send out mass emails about various due dates and supplies. I still hear, “We didn’t know about —.”

“We didn’t know about —.” Perhaps I should become a tattoo artist after all and start making my mark on the more forgetful of my young charges. Oy vey!

“Why isn’t this novel on your website?” It is copyrighted materials.  I make enough money to pay the bills.  I cannot afford a lawsuit from an angry author and publishing company.

“Why do I have to buy this novel if JimBob will only read it once?” I buy novels for my son every year; he reads them for his English class.  If he wants to, he can annotate in them for his studying.  When he’s finished with the novel in question, I add them to my personal library at school.  I’ll miss out on that once he heads off to college.



I’ve gotten inches from doing a word study on the word “mean” to snap open some minds that need to grasp multiple-meaning words.  Mean is average.  I am not average.  Mean implies a sociopathic viciousness that plans and seeks ways to do harm. I struggle to sleep more than five hours each night as it is.  I don’t need more sleep robbed from me because your student has decided that I am “mean.” My love language is discipline and structure. I maintain order and demand a quiet atmosphere for writing because too much stimulus can stunt the thought process.  I find intriguing journal prompts that foster thinking and creativity. I ask for a minimum of fifteen to twenty minutes of absolute quiet in my class each week. I don’t let you bark at me rudely, and this is “mean.” I insist that you look me in the eye and answer my questions clearly.  I require that you tell me the truth every time. I expect you to do your best and to listen when given directions. I object when a student makes a bad decision to bother someone else’s person or property.  I correct disrespectful behavior and suggest a better choice for your actions while speaking in my one-inch voice. I discourage running down the hall with a sign that reads “walk” in order to preserve my voice. I make you wait until I finish speaking with an adult to show you how to take turns. I remind you that I am an adult and not a child. I am one of the bosses in your life right now. I encourage you to read aloud to help your fluency rate. I defend anyone who I see being hurt. I snatch you out of the classroom when you are about to become ill. I line you up to enter my classroom in an orderly manner. I straighten my desks at the end of the day to provide a tidy classroom for learning. I remain at work hours after school ends to grade papers, respond to emails, make copies, and pray that I have done my absolute best for the day. I pick up trash when my feet are tired and my back aches. I hoard pencils for a rainy day when they are needed.  I rise energized nearly every morning of the school year except when I am sick. I arrive in a punctual manner each morning and meet my obligations.   I live in hope each day for a light bulb to flash and for the look of “I”ve got it!” to cross your face. I read faces and body language to decide how to approach an angry, agitated student. I embrace hurting students with bear hugs.  I escort you to the clinic when you don’t look as if you’ll make it there under your own power. I crack open lockers like a female Heracles, and I make jokes with former students who understand my humor and miss me. I nag you about wearing protective clothing during the winter months to preserve your health.  I tell you to be kind and do good.  I quote Shakespeare at the end of each class period and Lewis Carroll on test days.  I startle you with singing when my tongue and brain get out of sync.  I laugh when you catch me with a great turn of phrase. I dare you to do your best in life. I challenge you to live and not merely exist.  I allow you to nurse your own opinions about who I really am, but I will give you one piece of advice. I will not permit you to talk back to me. And I will not be categorized as “mean.”


Done for This Year!

We had two days of state testing aka STAAR with our students.  I let them listen to our novel we’ve been reading after the testing concluded today and yesterday. I had already made them finish reading on their own and thought that listening might benefit them.  My colleagues took their classes outdoors.  I wasn’t dressed for the occasion with four-inch strappy sandals on my feet, so we relaxed indoors.  I even began to redecorate my classroom during my conference period.  We are required to remove any instructional writing or posters from our walls.  Motivational posters may be all right, but I took no chances and only had the pledge of allegiance to the American and Texas flags visible along with the safety information that we’re required to post for quick reference. I know the students are relieved to be done; we teachers who are proctors share their relief.  I am also glad to have my classroom back to “normal” setting with its colorful, eclectic display of motivation and instructional works.  Tomorrow will find me posting their haiku poems we created for National Haiku Day last week on April 17.  Last year, I wore my yukata kimono with obi for Haiku Day; this year I’d already worn it for the day we reviewed foreign language vocabulary since that’s one of the words on the school district’s list. I’ve included a picture of me in my kimono below.  My young charges like the fact that I don unique clothing/costumes to tie in to what we’re studying that day. I come by it honestly since Mama matches her clothes and dresses thematically at times.  She is  a Red Hatter, so she’s the proud owner of a few red hats and purple dresses to accompany them.  It’s part of the costume.  I relish the day I get to join her group.  I’m still not old enough yet.  ¡Ciao!

Taken Christmas 2008

Taken Christmas 2008


I OWE You? You’ve Got to be Kidding Me. . .[Warning-Heavy on Sarcasm]

Let me get this straight.

1.  I owe you, my student, a good grade even when you don’t turn in your work on time.  Or even turn it in at all.  I owe you the right to gossip on your electronic device in class whenever you feel it is appropriate.  Oh, yeah, it’s also okay to talk during class because what I am saying or teaching isn’t important in the real world and certainly doesn’t apply to you.

2.  I owe you perfect attendance when you arrive tardy to class or don’t bother to show up the day before a school holiday.  How could I possibly have scheduled a test or quiz on that day?  What was I thinking? Isn’t it party time?

3.  I owe you my undivided attention on weekends and after hours on electronic communications because your parents practice bullying via email.  I owe you sleepless nights before hostile parent conferences in which your parents believe I will lie to them about you and your actions or inaction.  I also owe you the migraine episodes that are stress-related because you won’t accept any responsibility for your actions.  I think I’ll even take the state-mandated tests for you and save you the trouble.

4.  I owe you my kidney stones because I cannot trust you to simply behave yourselves in the hallways as the classes change; I cannot go to the bathroom in peace because my eyes must constantly be focused on you.  I owe you copies of my notes, preferential seating (all fourteen of you in one class!), and extra time on assignments.

5.  I owe you my out-of-this-world copy quota because you can’t be bothered to keep up with the first three copies I gave you.  If I don’t give you that copy with three words filled in on the notes, then I hear about it. LOUDLY.

6.  I owe you my bad back and dwindling supplies because you can’t pick up after yourself or bring your own pencils, or notebook paper, or reading material, or homework, or good manners.  I have had to pick up used tissues, scrape gum, and toss trash because it was an imposition on your precious time.

7.  I owe you all of these things?  Hmm. . . I also owe you my bad reputation as “the mean teacher” because I ask you to behave like ladies and gentlemen, and you despise correction of any sort.  I guess I will owe some of you three squares and an orange jumpsuit because listening to me tell you right from wrong is nonsense.  Why should telling a member of the law enforcement the truth be any different? It’s just too much effort to do the right thing the first time and to be honest when you’ve erred.

I don’t owe you these things.  I do what I love and usually love what I do.  It is individuals who make poor choices and wreak havoc on the populace who cause the greatest problems.  Their narcissistic focus on the short-term eventually catches up with them.  I, however, don’t want to see the rotten fruits of their labors.  Ciao.

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