Tag Archives: Relationships

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?”


“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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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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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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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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A Little Bit Lonely

I am normally upbeat and positive, but even a twenty-one year veteran can have the blues. I am not naturally a social butterfly. I am an introvert who gains her energy and drive to carry on being solitary at times. As you will learn from reading my blog posts and updates, my solitary time is not always my choice.


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At times, my voice carries more than I intend it to. Yesterday, I spoke to one of my young ladies about her assignment that she turned in. I was talking to her, and she thought I did this in front of the entire class. She apparently started crying in class, but I did not see her tear up. She went home and cried to her parents about feeling humiliated. After dad’s email sent at 8:00 P.M. last night, I knew I had to call and talk to a parent and did so during my conference time today. I did not mean to hurt her feelings and said as much. I know she is capable and smart as a whip. I had absolutely no problem apologizing for hurt feelings. That was not my intention. I think that we are okay for now.


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There’s Always One

The majority of my students have a sweet spirit. I have one who I will call Manchild, and he is different. He longs to escape from my classroom for any and every reason he can. I truly believe he wants me to throw him out and give up on him as he feels that everyone else has. In his mind, if I don’t act correctly, she’ll kick me out. She’ll kick me out because she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t like me just like everyone else doesn’t like me. Well, if everyone else doesn’t like me, who cares?

“I’ve been dresscoded. Can I go change?” “Not right now.” I emailed anyone who might know about this, and he had lied to me about being asked to change because he was out of dress code.

“Can I use my inhaler?”  “No, but you can walk with me to the clinic.” We proceed, and it’s not on file for him to use an inhaler at school. I am horrified.

“Can I go to my locker to get my shoes?” “No.” He puts his head down, refuses to acknowledge my existence or queries, and won’t work on his assignment for twenty minutes. I emailed his mother and talked to my assistant principal. I will try to talk to one of his former teachers privately to get some insight. I hadn’t done this before to prevent my judgment from being predetermined. He is my so far unsolvable riddle this year.


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What Can I Say?

At times, a person encounters crazy circumstances in the lives of students and/or colleagues. What does one say? One listens intently and attentively without offering too much advice or cliché statements. Heart-rending stuff happens more than is publicly known. At these times, there are neither words sufficient nor sage enough to plumb the depths.



Nearing the End of the Year

Teaching is a Work of Heart

Truly it is a work of heart to invest hours of time, effort, and energy into the lives of young people each and every school year. I will miss this year’s group that have managed to “get under my skin” and make me love them. Most of them make it super easy to love; some hold others at a distance by erecting barriers of bad behavior as a defense mechanism. My prayer for those students is that they find someone some day who will knock that wall down and love them in spite of themselves. Pictured below is one of my students from this year with me last Friday before the day began. She loves to hug me when I growl at her, and she boasts a wonderful quick mind. I will miss my little nemesis next year.


Mrs. J and Her Nemesis

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Why Are You Here?

My students who see me in classroom every day know that I love them. I tell them so. This is not about them.

There are some students who make me wonder why do I teach. Others make me scratch my head in dismay after I’ve tried yet again to figure out their puzzle box. Still others’ smiles light up my world simply because they love me.  I see it in their eyes. I don’t teach them. I don’t work with them on a regular basis. I am simply in the hallway and talk to them, and they love me. Some girls compliment my clothing or accessories. Others smile shyly at me as I stand sentinel to prevent misbehavior in the hallway. Some of the boys give me a high five (or we bump elbows in ‘flu season) and a “Hey, Mrs. Johnson” as a greeting. I simply don’t always understand why some of them seem to really love me. On those days when I don’t feel I deserve such admiration, I get a greeting or unexpected reminder that they are also part of the reason I am here. One young lady recently stopped by to see if I needed help straightening my room up.  I normally don’t let these little darlings work in my room, but something about Sweet Girl made me say yes. She tidied up my literature books and organized my book shelf. Sweet Girl always has a smile for me in the hallway. I am always glad to see her face as she walks by in between classes. I introduced her to my student intern, Mini-Me, and they smiled the smile of “We’ve got to get her together, or else chaos will once again reign.” You can just tell when they do the silent head nod. I am happily doomed.

Mini-Me was in my classroom six years ago. She asked to be in my classroom; I could not believe that she asked ME. Once again, I wondered why she’d be interested in working with me on a daily basis.  Hadn’t she managed to escape my clutches? She has only blossomed into a beautiful young woman as she has gotten older. Her inward beauty and old soul never changed. She keeps me organized, and I am keeping her in Reese’s candy and whatever goodies I happen to bake in my kitchen. Mini-Me is a true gift to me in part for keeping me organized but also for keeping me accountable with some of my more challenging clientele who require long walks of prayers each morning. I pray for wisdom so that I can minister to them according to their needs. When I feel the need for Mrs. Johnson’s Sermon Number —, she stops what she’s doing, listens, and affirms me with a nod. I know she understands what I am trying to do: give my babies some much-needed insight before turning them loose into the next grade.

One of my all-time favorite students is in his last year of middle school.  He and I connected two years ago in the hallway because he had a bum right knee and was on crutches.  This is Birthday Buddy.  I went to the school district’s track meet to watch my former students run.  His team won their race and are district champs. I yelled my head off as he took the baton, ran faster than I’ve seen him run, and successfully pass off the baton to the last man of the team. It was a thrill.  As I drove home, I reflected on the life lesson he has taught me: it’s okay to be loved and accepted by someone other than your family or friends or students of record.  Sometimes they love you in spite of yourself.

The LORD chose my husband, and the LORD blessed us with our son. My close girlfriends and I are sisters of the heart. This young man, my intern, and Sweet Girl are beautiful reminders of the unconditional love God set down on Earth two thousand years ago. With them I see hope for the future and know in my heart that teaching young people is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  They may never, ever know the impact they have on my life, but I assure you, I sure do. I love these three and will make it a point to tell them face-to-face when next we meet. A thousand pardons because this rather pesky wind keeps blowing dust into my eyes in my office.  It makes my eyes water, you know.

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