Tag Archives: Students

Why Did the Students Fail?

Each end of the marking period finds me playing defense. I have to be able to explain why certain students don’t make the grade in my class. I write a list and send it to the parents and guardians whose progeny is now on Santa’s Naughty List. Let’s run down a few, shall we?

  1. Low test grades – Junior didn’t study. Oh, he had baseball/soccer/hockey practice for three hours? Hmmm…. šŸ¤”
  1. Low quiz grade – Juniorette didn’t study. I sent both parents and students flash cards at least the night before the quiz, and she had dance/gymnastics/volleyball club practice for three hours? šŸ¤”
  2. Low project grade – Junior didn’t turn it in on time, completed, or at all. A conference to discuss your disgust with my grading policies or to decide if my parents “raised me right” is not appropriate at this time. šŸ¤¦šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø
  3. I can’t grade air. Good intentions to do the work or bad intentions of not doing the work ever merit the same result. When I receive zero work, I have to write zero for the grade. If I read minds and saw the “good intentions” of my students, then I should be using my allegedly psychic abilities for some other purposes. Like knowing the winning lottery numbers for the next three years.šŸ’²šŸ’²šŸ’²šŸ’²šŸ’²
  4. Angie Apathetic didn’t attend tutorials like you said she would. Two or three days per week was our agreement, and the little darling sits in the cafeteria/gym/foyer on her phone playing games instead of coming in to ask questions.šŸ¤·šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø
  5. But-But-But Bert turns it in. Late. After grades are submitted. Past the eleventh hour. No can do, kiddo.šŸ’ƒšŸ½ Did he listen to me when it was due one month prior? Nope. Bye-bye, Bert.
  6. Startled Stella cannot believe I won’t accept her assignment. “Is it on Google Classroom, like I asked?” “No.” “Did you flood my inbox with items that I have to wade through my Google Drive to retrieve?” Silence. “Well, Stella, I think you’d better do it the way I said because I am not in the mood to play a rousing game of ‘Hunt the Email’ today.” Note: this is said while I maintain the Shark smile on my face. Behind my black-rimmed spectacles, the corners of my eyes don’t crinkle but my lips rise at the corners. I look like I might actually bite if she does not start typing on that little Chromebook quick, fast, and in a hurry. Because Stella is a bright lass, she complies . Game. Over.


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Worn Out

By this time of year, I have written multiple office referrals, failure notices, detentions, and mandatory tutorial schedules. I have kept records of my interventions with the students who fail every test and quiz I give them. I took a two hour nap yesterday (Saturday) and another two hour nap today. I am worn out. Students want to be out of school. We still have 39 days left at this point in the school year. I want to be on my own schedule, too, but I know that I must wait for my reward. That is part of life. It’s “normal” to feel worn out in the early spring.

The misbehaving students, the hormonal students, and even the “on the fence about my behavior choices” students test our limits and patience. Kids have fights. They bring unacceptable items to school and get suspended. They sneak their mobile phones into the classroom and play silly games when you don’t happen to be right over the desk. They stare into space and dare you to make them learn. I would accomplish more if I truly had Mom and Dad insisting on better behavior at school. If some of my students who made poor choices were disciplined at home and contrite at school, I think I could accomplish quite a bit more. I cannot enrich my higher achievers because I am asked to do something about my failure rates. Those same kids perform poorly in multiple classes. My social studies class requires some reading acumen. Read the text with understanding. Answer questions that require thought. Make an effort to participate in discussions. Bring a pencil to class. Make sure you have the correct binder. Arrive to class on time. Please don’t make my time with you an ordeal of nerves making sure I am ever vigilant about managing your off task behavior choices. Please allow me to expend my energy expanding your world instead of controlling your impulses. Please. I am worn out. I go home and melt into a puddle. My family gets my leftover energy. I don’t have creativity for cooking innovative meals. I haul your work that I still have to grade home. If I have school aged children of my own, I have their homework to check over and their daily living to experience. I must manage bed time, adolescent angst, sports teams, and my marriage. Sometimes, if I ask you to sit for five minutes and read quietly, this gives me just a moment to breathe, regroup, and prepare for the next class. It is not laziness that makes me sit down with my shoes off after school. I have a life outside of school, and all too often at this time of year, I am too. One weary to do anything about it. Please show some mercy to your teachers. We are worn out. Worn. Out.


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Spewing Beats Stewing

The title sounds gross, but it’s better to get things out of the system instead of allowing them to fester and make things worse. I had several students absent on the last two days of the previous school year. Some of them had been disruptive to the learning environment. Others would not have caused a bit of trouble or planned anything “cute” as revenge of some sort. I read another teacher’s blog about some parents’ habits with their kids.

  1. Enabling bad behavior.Ā “I can’t discipline him or take away his XBOX. He won’t give me the controls.” A well-wielded claw hammer will deal with the XBOX controls nicely when Junior is asleep.
  2. Being a child’s friend. Nope, you’re mom or dad. It’sĀ your job to make and enforce rules, even when they are unpopular.
  3. Badmouthing the teacher in front of the student. This never has a happy ending.
  4. Not being connected or seemingly concerned (no response to emails and phone calls about academic and/or behavioral issues).
  5. Expecting life to be “fair” or easy for their students. Some students have legitimate educational issues that may or may not require meds. That’s fine. Expecting me to bump a grade on a project because Mom disagrees with the rubric is not going to work.
  6. Expecting a student to pass a course’s marking period with zero effort. I cannot grade air. If I could grade good intentions successfully, my failure rate would be close to zero. There is always one bad apple who doesn’t care what I think. Nor does the bad apple care what Grandma, Aunt Bunny, or Santa Claus things. Bad Apple has it all figured out. “You can’t make me.” Correct. IĀ can make your life miserable with lunch detentions and TNRs (Thursday Night Reflections – three hour long detentions for academic and behavioral concerns). Bring. It. On.
  7. Writing emails on Friday after school hours expecting an immediate response about a daily or minor grade. Not a test grade. A daily or minor grade that will not affect the student’s grade point average for the marking period.
  8. Wanting to meet multiple times about the same issue we discussed in the first meeting last semester: he’s avoiding work, being stubborn and insubordinate, and doing things to aggravate the other kids to the point one of them nearly took a swing at him the other day until they heard me walk up behind them. Fix it at home.
  9. Demanding special treatment. Period. You’re on the school board. You’re the PTA president. You’re related to the mayor. You’ve been to the World Series the last twenty years. Nice try, but no cigar. It’s bad for your health.
  10. Taking kids on vacations during the school year does not place an emphasis on their educations. It would be fine during the days off; however, trips are planned for Disney World, Universal Studios, or overseas when we have grades due in the next week or two. Could you give me the assignments he will have for the next week since he’s going on a cruise with our family? Sure. Junior’s going to concentrate on my assignments while he cavorts at a water park, theme park, beach party, etc. And that online component will be easy with the Internet so readily available. Here’s the ship’s Wifi code. Good luck, kid.


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Hopeful to be Adopted Kid-1, RLT -0

In class I was telling my kids that I was weary of finding backpacks, pencils, lunch bags, etc. I expressed myself vehemently. One student raised his hand as I finished my rant. I loudly proclaimed, “I’m not adopting you!” with mock rage. His head dropped in feigned sadness and his seat mate comforted him. “It’s okay.”

I relented and deigned to inquire, “Okay, hon, what was your question?”

“Have you found my water bottle?” I stared at him for a beat. My class burst into laughter as I covered my head and ears with my hands in a gesture of defeat. I didn’t answer him. He won. Today.


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Why You Make Me…

Take your hoodie because you keep putting the hood on after I said take it off? Now you’re cold, and I have no mercy. “Pick it up after school, and don’t be hard headed.”

Let you leave last because you try to dart like a deer out the door first? “You’ll be one of the last to leave class today.” Natural consequences.

Tell you to throw away your gum or lollipops that dangle from your mouth like a skinny cigarette? You saw the sign on my door. I overheard a student say, “You don’t chew gum this period.” Hmph. They know.

Assign a detention after school or before school? You know to sit down, keep your hands to yourself, and speak to me like you have sense.

Remind you that I don’t lend pencils when you announce you came to class unprepared? I don’t celebrate lack of preparation with a balloon or stick of gum. You earn a baleful eye and a question, “Where is your pencil?” Bonus winners get the phrase, “When the pencils I find and put in Grumpy Cat’s box run out, then what will happen?” I find at least one or two good pencils in the hallway carelessly left behind. I give them to my math teacher or save them for the Chucks-Outta-Luck who don’t bring squat to class.

Give you the stink eye? Do I ever let you come at me when I start class unless it’s blood, bones, or sickness? No, get over your hurt feelings, and move on.

Raise my voice to be heard when I get ready to dismiss class? Your conversation about the weekend or Snapchat is unimportant. Unimportant.

Close the door in your face when I tell you that the reteach session is more than halfway finished after you ignore the sign and locked door, and you show up late? It is too late. Come back another time. Make other plans. Deal. With. It.

Clean the desks because you draw on them? You will get to clean desks after school one day soon when I catch you.

Remind you that you aren’t grown up and get to talk to me like you’re an adult? I don’t have to explain myself. If I choose to do so, it is my prerogative. And you cannot cross your arms, ball up your fists, or roll your eyes at me when you have just barely been born. Step back, child. I am more than you bargained for.


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An Observation or Two

One ridiculous question begets another. They seem to be contagious like yawns or ever present like dandelions.

“What page is it on?” Wordlessly, I point to the reference on the board. Another hand goes up. “Where do we look?” Thank goodness I had not lowered my arm. Now I wiggle my index finger. The social butterfly lands, tosses her hair, and smiles. “What are we supposed to do next?” If I am cross, I respond, “I wasn’t paying attention either. I don’t even know what I said.” Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly) looks sheepish reads the directions. Slowly I lower my arm and survey the class. Where will the weed of ignorance sprout next?

Some students believe I will eat them up. I keep salt and pepper handy along with packets of ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, duck sauce, hot sauce, and taco sauce collected from my various jaunts to fast food establishments. I show the “pantry” to unbelievers who leave wide-eyed and wondrous, glad to escape with their lives. Yes, seeing IS believing in this case. I have smiled like a shark as I herded my “snacks” out of school. I win.



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!


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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.


Amazing and artistic


Courteous, caring, and content

Dreamy, daring, and dressed for success

Engaged and exploring

Friendly, festive, and forgiving

Goal-oriented and generous

Hopeful and honorable




Listening and learning

Marvelous and musical


On time and of good reputation


Quiet when writing

Respectful and reverent

Still and surprised by what life offers

Truthful and trustworthy



Well-mannered and willing to try or help out

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



-Mrs. Johnson

May 20, 2018


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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.


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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.


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