Category Archives: Students

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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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. ✉️


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.


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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.


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Parent Contact Day, Round 1

I contacted several parents via email or phone to alert them about their students’ behavior choices and how that was impacting others and the students’ grades. Some seemed receptive, especially the mom I called about her son’s off-task behavior in class and the dad I called because his son stood up for me against some ugly under the breath muttering from one of my students who has decided that I hate him. No, I don’t like that Mutter Man doesn’t do his work in class or at home. I don’t like that he has chosen to fail school rather than be bothered with work. The only grades I will receive from Mutter Man will be what is completed in class such as quizzes, tests, and classwork. He has decided his academic fate unless something happens and his parents step in and make him complete his homework at home.

When I called the Defender’s dad, he was surprised to hear from me during the fifth week of school. I told him what his son did, and he affirmed his character. I told him I was grateful for his son being in my class this year. The fact that he talks a little more than he should makes him human but quite lovable. Thanks, Mom and Dad!


Four Weeks. Done.

After four full weeks of school, I am tired and ready for a respite. The weekend arrived in time. I normally do not adopt a jaded tone in my posts, but this year will be a challenge to me as a professional educator. I have some students who are truly mean-spirited. They do not like each other. They mutter insults and cut-downs under their breath. I warn. I assign lunch detentions. Now they have to leave. They will go to the short-term removal classroom. They will serve detentions.

I have several who have anger management issues. They make a verbal outburst of words and/or noise when corrected. Mumbling under the breath is their means of fighting back. These are angry young people who are so miserable, they are spreading the misery to me as well. Sigh. I have two with parents who don’t care. I mean truly do not care. It saddens the heart and makes the mission more difficult. Feeling like this makes me question my mission. I was glad to hear the last bell today. My colleagues and I need strength for each day and bright hope for tomorrow. Keep us in your prayers, friends.


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.


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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.”


Bring Me a Stick

I’ve read most of The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand. These stories were the basis of the movies Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee Returns starring Emma Thompson. I wish I had a stick like Nurse Matilda. I would bang it and make some of my students behave properly. Oh well, it is fiction, and I do believe in giving students the choice to do good or evil. I encourage them to do good as they go along this life. Sigh. I still want that stick.



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.