Category Archives: Students

Part of the Ship, Part of the Crew

This was taken on Monday after school for no good reason. I had their older siblings two years ago, and we have a connection. I can tell this duo has a great sense of humor already.

Somehow on the first day of school last Thursday, I spoke to one of them about sprouting wings. During our icebreaker we had a discussion about taking off (standing up), and I told them they could not flap their arms when they took off. That was it. They are in different classes for me, but I see them together after school like two peas in a pod. Meet the Wingmen!

RLT

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Be: A to Z

I wrote this as I was finishing out a tough school year for me. I wanted to say something positive and give them food for thought. This will be an annual tradition on the last day of school.

#BE

Amazing and artistic

Buoyant

Courteous, caring, and content

Dreamy, daring, and dressed for success

Engaged and exploring

Friendly, festive, and forgiving

Goal-oriented and generous

Hopeful and honorable

Interested

Joyful

Kind

Listening and learning

Marvelous and musical

Neat

On time and of good reputation

Pleasant

Quiet when writing

Respectful and reverent

Still and surprised by what life offers

Truthful and trustworthy

Understanding

Versatile

Well-mannered and willing to try or help out

Xtra careful with others’ feelings, property, and reputation.

Yourself

Zest-filled

-Mrs. Johnson

May 20, 2018

RLT

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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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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.

RLT

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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.

RLT

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Papi and the Witch

Papi -1

Mrs. J -0

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?”

“No.”

“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.

RLT

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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.

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

Serving Notice

I had to contact parents of students whose grades were not up to the passing standard. No one wrote back to question the grade. I was surprised. Several of the parents heard from me twice since I teach both social studies and language arts this year. Now they know, and now we move forward. I gave them my tutorial schedule and several reasons why the grade was low. I placed the responsibility on the student. We shall see how my serving notice goes over in the future days.

Yesterday, one of my angry young men spoke out disrespectfully in front of his classmates after redirection to work. He still made no effort. I sent him to the in-school suspension room. As he left the classroom, I spoke up, too, “That was disrespectful and unacceptable.” The other students watched silently, and class resumed its easy demeanor.

RLT

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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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