Tag Archives: Students

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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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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Are You Even Listening to Me?

Inattentiveness is rampant. “Turn to page 300.” Students look around the room. One leans over to pick up the book. Two sets of hands go up, “What page?” My gaze hardens. Three stare into space. The eight that followed directions exhibit the impatience I feel at this point in the year. I see eye rolls from them and do my best not to say, “Yep!”

The rites of spring are soon upon me in the classroom. Longing gazes out of windows scream, “Can’t we go outside?” Resolving myself to maintain order amidst chaos, I reply, “No.” I hear groans and see lips puff out in pouts. “Other classes get to go outside.” “Yes, but I am talking to you. I am not talking to other classes. Crack that book to page 300, and let’s get moving.” Reluctant learners finally acquiesce to my directive, prop their heads on their hands, stare a hole through my heart, and outwardly comply. The irony in all of this is that they would be on their electronics playing a game or engaging in Snapchat instead of soaking up vitamin D while sitting still as a gentle breeze caresses their youthful complexions and reading their books in peace. No, they are not listening to me. I am a voice of reason and too overage to be “cool” or “in.”

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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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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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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It’s Okay to Say “No” to Sharing!

I just read an article about a mother who received dirty looks when her son did not share his toys with some perfect strangers at a playground. They ran back to their mommies and told how the Toy Man wouldn’t share. Toy Man brought his toys to share with his friend, not a pack of other kids. Tsk! That struck a chord with me. I have demanded that other students share with those who chose not to come to class prepared. No longer. I will have to learn to let it go and not seethe with rage when I see an apathetic middle school student sit there and do nothing. For forty-two to forty-five minutes. If they don’t have a pencil in their lockers, then that is what they will do. If they have supplies and don’t bring them, it will be a disciplinary issue. Three strikes means you serve a consequence.

Personally speaking, I paid money for my son’s supplies. I did not buy them to be shared. Other parents pay money for their own children, not some punk who won’t bother to bring his supplies. I am not speaking out against those who have an economic need. I take care of them with school supplies I buy with my dwindling budget. I try to plan ahead for the next year each spring. It is an expectation to have pencils, paper, colored pencils, rulers, etc. because “not every child has them.” When we use technology, I have to reserve enough devices or I am not allowing everyone equal access. That is a rant for another day. I am not advocating selfishness to one’s fellow man. Each student should be able to say “No” at the appropriate time. They should not be expected to give their prized pencils and/or erasers to someone who does not care and/or would not reciprocate. Mama bought me personalized pencils. That meant they were mine. All mine to use. Mine. The change begins the next time my class starts on Tuesday morning. Believe it.

RLT

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I’m Too Fabulous for My Own Good

Maybe I should title this one “Everyone Wants My Autograph” instead. Nah. Living near my campus is a double-edged sword. I am nearby if I need to come home when ill or must make some type of unexpected wardrobe adjustment. Bonus! When I walk the neighborhoods of my subdivision, I keep an eagle eye for vehicles and the rare loose dog. Earbuds do not grace my ears on my normal morning walks. You would think I would maintain my standard.

I wish I was not so fabulous and well-known and such a celebrity. I went to the track near my home to walk this morning. A trio of high school aged young men were training with sprints and then began running the track. They were in their zone; I was in my zone. I had my praise and sacred songs playlist in my earbuds. Only once did I disturb their exercise time by singing out loud. As I realized they were running right by me, my mouth snapped shut. We were cool.

As I completed my sixth or seventh lap around the flat human hamster wheel, I sensed a presence. Unbeknownst to me, a former sixth grader had spotted me and came up to me while I was walking. Apparently my disguise of over-sized t-shirt, hair pulled up in a mess up-do, and shades failed to shield me from my public. Running Man was not one of my charges. He did not seem to understand me when I said, “Walk down the hallways” during the school year but regarded me in an open-mouthed and glassy-eyed manner.

This previous interaction had not endeared Running Man to me, but when he arrived in my classroom for standardized testing day, that was fine. When he tried to sleep on both days, I won the battle of wills and consciousness. At the end of testing, I shed no tears to see him depart. I bid him and the rest of my charges adieu and went on my way minding my own business.

Today, my earbuds kept me ignorant of my name being called. I did not know of his presence until Running Man nearly touched my arm. He had actually nearly breached my personal space. We made eye contact. I quipped, “I’m doing something right now.” I continued my walk down the last straightaway of the track and walked home with a circuitous route checking over my shoulder in the event that I was followed.

The moral of this story: don’t wear earbuds on the track.

RLT

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Feelings

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.

RLT

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