Category Archives: Something Positive!

A Little Respite

I saw a couple of former students this past week. One was at the volleyball game last night. He is now a senior in high school. I marveled at his height and how grown up he looked. He was one of my Footies, a group of boys and one girl who were mad about football (their word for soccer). I kept up with Manchester United, Barcelona, and Real Madrid’s stats that year just to connect with them. I am no soccer expert, but catching their enthusiasm was fun.

I asked Papi to come see me after he finished up some work for math after school. I will be monitoring him as much as possible from my little corner of the world. I miss our daily battles, but now I can treat him with the frank affection reserved for a son (being embarrassing by showing up in his hallway without warning) and no one will be jealously saying, “He’s your favorite!” He was my favorite sixth grader last year; this year he is my favorite seventh grader. Period. Papi had that funny little smile when he saw that I had written my birthday in his planner. A son should always remember his mom’s birthday even if she’s his school mom and just there for a season.

RLT

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A Chance Sighting

I was headed home after my hair appointment and happened to spot a group of six teen-aged boys walking along the street. I recognized four of them as former students from my campus and pulled in to the parking lot they were about to enter and said hello. They enthusiastically came over and greeted me. I was invited to their football and fall baseball games and put the times into my phone’s calendar. I would have loaded all six of them into the little Civic I was driving if I had room. How I wished I had driven my larger vehicle today. They would have been taken home safely and in air conditioning. I would have listened to their bantering and laughed until I cried. These young men reminded me of my purpose for what I do day after day.

I have two subjects this year–social studies and language arts. I was asked to take this on, and I did. My assignment gives me the best of both worlds. I had struggled with the late hours I have stayed at work these past two weeks and just had an epiphany. Because of my attention to detail, I prepare for both of them with a fervor akin to a first year teacher determined to not overlook some small detail. We are implementing a new way to reach students’ needs for enrichment and review during our homeroom time three days a week. Our students are being encouraged to participate in a positive behavior system. My son left for university on Sunday morning, and I am missing his merry eyes snapping with laughter, the ceiling fan he leaves on in my den, and the sound of his voice. I have several students whose puzzle boxes I must learn and solve quickly to establish any type of decent relationship I would like to have with them. I must have some type of connection to attempt to win them over. One of my students deeply concerns me because he cannot remember his locker combination or his daily schedule. I wrote it out and put it into his lanyard so that he could see it without worrying about carrying a steadily fraying piece of paper around with his schedule and locker combination. His locker is in front of my room, and I see him struggle to pay attention, follow directions, and arrive to class on time daily. I am searching for a way get the light bulb to click on to help him remember this most basic information.

That is why seeing my baseball boys I used to watch play four years ago uplifted my soul. Even a veteran teacher needs some encouragement and reassurance from the most unlikely encounters. Those boys will never know how much it meant to me to see the joy in their eyes and hear it also in their voices.

RLT

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He Loves Me After All

Last week I started school. We will be out a week ahead of everyone else in the area when June 2018 arrives. I digress.

On the second day of school, I looked up before fourth period started. I see two former students headed down the hallway carrying their lunches smiling ear to ear. It was Papi and his friend Mijito. They hugged me hello and sent my heart over the moon. I was beaming!

Papi is on the football team. I was surprised since he had no interest from our conversations last year. I was on my morning duty last week before school started and saw him going to the counselor’s office with a posse. I sent the posse packing to find out what was going on. He needed a reminder of his new locker and combination in the 7th grade hallway. I have access to that information. While I was on the computer logging in, he said, “I just got the football schedule.”

“Oh.” Inside I am smirking and glowing.

“You want me to give it you?”

“No, that’s all right. I can get it. Would you be okay with me coming to see you play?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I found the information he needed and he was on his way. “Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.”

“You’re welcome, hon.” If it were cool for me to have done it, a tear would have rolled down my cheek. Papi still loves me. I have done my job as his “school mama.”

RLT

Completed.

The school year ended today. My being a teacher of record concluded as well. Next year will bring new faces to my classroom. 

My sick young lady was able to go to school and finish the school year with her classmates. I am glad.

Papi gave me another goodbye hug and consented to take a picture with me. I’ll include all three takes. 

I cried saying goodbye to my former students who were ending their eighth grade year and making a final walk through the school. I will probably cry a bit tomorrow at the last staff meeting because some will not return for one reason or another. My prayer is that their new endeavors bring them joy and a satisfying sense of a job well done.

RLT

March Madness

This was Friday afternoon during lunch. Some of my kids knew I would be watching the NCAA Tournament online during breaks and at lunch. I had invited some of my young basketball fans to watch with me. On Thursday, I had lunch with seven eighth graders and five sixth graders. This is Friday’s group of sixth graders. Word of mouth spreads information quickly. We all had fun. 🏀🏀🏀

RLT

Email to a Mom

Our team has a goal to make positive contact with about ninety percent of our parents. We are doing this with phone calls and emails. I took a risk and wrote an email to Papi’s mom today. This is the text of the email.
Hi, I know we have spoken on the phone and communicated via email about me keeping him for extra time after school on a couple of occasions. I am writing because I wanted you to know that I enjoy having Papi this year. I don’t know if he has said anything about me to you, but my family knows about him. He is a unique young man, and I have threatened to adopt him. My husband has vetoed me on that score. Papi was in my arboretum field trip group this past November and acted as a junior chaperone. It was actually quite sweet although you may not want to tell him that. He helped me keep track of the kids in our group and kept me laughing even when I did not let him see me laughing.
 
I love that young man and look forward to seeing him every day. I wanted to let you know. Have a good evening.
RLT

Lazy Daisy

Today is a self-proclaimed lazy day. I have no plans but to wear comfortable clothes, read my novel, drink my coffee, and cover my legs with a homemade quilt this morning. Energizer Bunnies like me need the time to deprogram from the normal hustle, bustle, tussle that is my work day. Enjoy your own day away soon.

RLT

P.S. Yes, those are my toes peeking out underneath the quilt and an oversized Christmas mug of peppermint mocha coffee.

Papi the Enigma (Or the Junior Chaperone)

I teach a young man who I will call Papi the Enigma. He is repeating the sixth grade, so I saw him in the hallways last year but did not really interact with him. His former teachers let me know that I would probably have him in my class this year. We see each other every day in my social studies class and every other day for reading lab.

When told he was in my group for the field trip, he said, “Mrs. Johnson, I don’t know about that. I’ll have to talk to my mom. I’m not planning on going.”

“Why? Are you afraid of pumpkins and flowers?”

“No, I just wasn’t interested in going.” This was Thursday, and I figured I would not see him on Friday morning. Imagine my surprise when he shows up, lunch in hand, and ready to go on the field trip.

“Oh,  you changed your mind I see.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He is polite but aloof. There are times when he wants to ask me questions about my personal life, and there are times when he is brooding about the concerns in his young life. Papi the Enigma was in my group for our field trip to the Dallas Arboretum yesterday. As the bus filled, I had him sit in the front seat next to my items. He is larger than my other six graders, so sitting three to a seat would have been a tight fit, and I was reluctant for him to sit in the back.

On the way to the Arboretum, I had to switch seats because one of my other students felt carsick. I distracted her by playing the alphabet game. We looked for words that started with the letters of the alphabet in sequence. Qs and Xs are some of the hardest ones to find. Papi went to sleep, and when I glanced at his face, I saw traces of the baby he once was. He had told me he had shaved his moustache so that he would look younger. Earlier this week, I had told him he needed to shave or else I would do it for him. With tweezers.

He kept track of the kids in our group like a faithful young helper. I laughingly called him Papi but watched as he genuinely tried to help me keep track of my group. When I asked him about what he was doing, he said he was chaperoning the chaperone. I whirled and looked at him like he had lost his mind. I have to admit he did act as if he were the flanker in a group of cowboys herding some cattle.

I kept verbally sparring with him because I know he could take it. We have that type of rapport. I would also ask him questions about his Thanksgiving plans or hobbies like skating or riding bikes in an offhand manner like I wasn’t really interested and was just being polite. My other students probably wondered why Mrs. Johnson talked to him like that? They could see me shoot him a look when he made some smart aleck comment or tried to get me to do some dance move. “C’mon, Mrs. Johnson, just put your hand up like this.” I did not comply. I did; however, jump on the net in the Walk in the Clouds bounce house tree house exhibit with the other kids. They were delighted. I put my stuff down and jumped for a minute, laughing with glee and got out before I hurt myself.

I saw Papi had his back to the jumping crew and was looking towards the Dallas skyline. He was not going to get into that net thing and jump. I did not think he saw me in there because I was stealthy and did not call attention to myself. After I got out of the net, I asked, “Did you see me jumping?”

“Yeah, I saw you in there.” Still too cool for school.

He has known from the first week of this school year that I was angry he was in the sixth grade again. Papi is intelligent but lazy at times. When I looked on my computer screen last week and saw his grades for the second marking period were not all passing marks, I gave him a nasty look, and he said, “I know.”

“You can come into my room any morning and work. I don’t care if it’s my class or someone else’s class, but this (waving my hand at the computer screen) is not acceptable.”

On the way back to school, I was shocked to find him sitting in the same seat on the bus. When another kid tried to sit next to him, he said, “This is Mrs. Johnson’s seat.” Hiding my shock, I thanked him for saving my seat and put my lunch bag, clipboard, and purse down. Before he went to sleep, he showed me some pictures on his phone including a picture of the sunset he had taken. The composition was beautiful. The photograph should be framed and hung up in a living room to be enjoyed for years to come along with the memories. I saw pictures of his family and their vacations. He let me in to his world just a little bit. I told him he had an eye for photography and should consider it as a hobby or career. He did not laugh it off like I expected.

Papi even had the gall to tell me I have softened towards him. I vehemently denied it. “I am just as strict as I was last year.” He could not provide me with concrete evidence of my alleged softening towards him, but I actually do like the young man, and I want him to do well in life. Maybe he is right after all.

I already know I will embarrass him by crying the last day of school when I say goodbye and good luck in seventh grade. And if you ever pull this failing stunt again, I will put my foot into your behind. I mean it. I simply have to dust this office. Something is making my eyes water.

RLT

 

Be Vulnerable 

As you know, I have struggled with my reading lab class. It has been to the point that I prepared/fretted about it nearly as much as my other new prep of social studies. My new principal and I talked, and I shared my struggles with her. It felt good to be open and release my stress so that she knew what was going on. She now knew that I paddle like mad underneath but show no ripples on the surface. She was caring, and I felt heard. That more than anything lifted my spirits. Staying a little late or spending thirty to forty minutes per weekend day to get ready is not nearly as daunting as it once seemed. The LORD blessed me with this woman as my leader. I am glad to be working with her and for her.

RLT

Inservice Begins


We began inservice today. These bulletin boards are the end result of my work preparing for Cougar Camp. We had our orientation for new sixth graders. One of my former students LOVED seeing one of the languages he speaks displayed on my welcome board. I am content but tired at this point in the year. To celebrate, I bought myself a Quik Trip freezoni. Delicious!

RLT