Tag Archives: Students

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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His Name is Puhn-KIN

I found a new inroad to Manchild this week. He doesn’t like to leave my classroom. Just when he reaches the limit of off-task behavior that will get him kicked out, and I give him the option of staying in my room or going to the in-school suspension room, he always chooses to stay with me. I have no explanation except I’ve figured out that he cares about me and my opinion despite his bravado. He does not lose his mind and cause a scene. He may be angry, but he hasn’t shown me the explosive side of his personality since September.

Because I maintain a tight ship, I can’t just flip the switch and be cuddly, fuzzy with him, so I adopted a sugary sweet high-pitched tone and called him “Puhn-KIN” when he came to my homeroom to complete an unfinished assignment. When he attempted to leave my room to go to another teacher (and probably roam the hallways), I gave him the option of studying for his retake for me.  He again suggested leaving my room. “No, I don’t want my Punkin to leave me.” Manchild had that little smile on his face, and I knew that I had him. I made him stay and review his flashcards. For the first go ’round through the cards, he was seated at the table where assigned. Manchild again expressed  a desire to leave my presence. I gave him the option of reviewing the flash cards either in his seat or in the plank position on the carpet.  I sat on the floor right in front of him flipping the cards at a rapid pace. No, he didn’t hold position longer than 10-15 seconds at any given time. When he finished reviewing and asked to sit in his chair again, I cooed, “Hims* so happy to stay with me!”

Now when he gets out of line, I may drag out the moniker “Punkin” just to break the vicious cycle of defiance and compliance that is my relationship with my Manchild.

RLT

*Yes, I realize that I used the wrong pronoun with Punkin; however, it was done with love in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

pumpkin

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I Can’t Do That

When a child comes to me with his parents’ imprinting or the lack thereof, there is little I can do to change behavior and mindset. I can’t do their job and be Mom. I have to be Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson can’t ground them from their electronic devices by making them rake the leaves in the yard to expend excess energy. Mrs. Johnson can’t make them go to bed on time each night to get enough rest. Mrs. Johnson can’t cook nutritious meals that nourish their growing bodies. I can’t do that.

I can try to work with my students where they are and encourage them to do the right thing the first time. I can try to start each day as a fresh slate. I can encourage them to be kind to one another and accept each other’s foibles and quirks. I can demand an apology when they are out of line. I can demand extra time at school with detentions to ponder their choices. I can try to make a lasting impression on their minds about the standards I hold and expect them to meet. I can’t lower my expectations or give up and give in. I can’t do that.

RLT

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I Can Eat a Cookie Anytime I Want

Manchild was working on his project with his partner the other day. I mentioned to the entire class that the teachers were given a big platter of cookies to eat and how tasty they were. He lost his mind and told me that I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t go and eat a cookie if I wanted one. “Oh, you really want to go there?” I quipped. He nodded, smiling.

My right hand circled his left wrist, and he got up and accompanied me to the front office. We walked past my principal and to the coffee table where the cookies were located. I let him go, grabbed a cookie, and stuffed it in my mouth. He gave me a look that said, “No fair.”

“I told you I can eat a cookie anytime I want,” I mumbled around the cookie. I let him “talk to the hand” to block any type of faux rebuttal he might have offered. We returned to the classroom. The other students’ eyes were glued to Manchild’s face.

“Did she really eat a cookie?” they asked, expecting that he was given a cookie instead or some other crazed notion. I don’t share food with students as a rule. If you feed them, they come back for more food. Remember the story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? I rest my case.

“Yeah,” he replied resignedly. I won. The fact that he allowed me to tease him about something so innocuous made it a great afternoon and start to my weekend.

RLT

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Thank You for Your Support

I maintain a Facebook account and read posts that my friends allow on their timelines or links that appeal to me. I read a post that a parent wrote about her child getting into trouble at school. When the teacher called home, the teacher received full parental support and an encouraging email the next day.

When I have to make that unpleasant phone call about a student’s behavior choice, it is sad to say that I expect to be blasted, called a liar or worse, and ridiculed. Too often, a student goes home and tells the half of the story that makes him look good. When the teacher calls to tell the full story, she isn’t always believed.

This spoke to my heart because of a situation that happened before my recent holiday. A student was corrected for being disrespectful. When I turned my back to walk away and return the discipline log to its place, he threw a pencil at me. It hit the wall. He was asked to leave my classroom for the rest of the period. I called his parents and expected a response. He came in the next day with the same surly attitude. No email or voice mail came from either of his parents. I was at a loss for words. He has never apologized to me, and I suspect that he probably won’t unless his parents encourage repentance in actions and words. My trust has been broken because I have never encountered what felt like a physical attack on my person before in my career. Some cowards have probably shredded my reputation on those teacher rating websites I won’t deign to visit. I can’t win them all over. I can be respectful and professional. I can correct abhorrent behavior appropriately.

As a parent, I know my son, and I know that he is not a perfect person. He will make mistakes. I want to hear what he has to say for himself and see that he repents. I want the teacher to give him another chance to redeem himself. I appreciate it when that happens. He has to earn back the good graces and favor one step at a time.

RLT

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