Tag Archives: Students

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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Ten Weeks Completed

Due to a couple of four-day weeks, we haven’t hit the fifty day mark for our students despite being together for ten business weeks. Some of my students practically wiggle in their seats to gain my notice. Others lounge back seemingly without regard or care for my opinion. I despise the hypothetical questions that some students pose in an attempt to be funny.

I assigned the students a short story to read and annotate for figurative language with a partner. After finishing the annotation together, they were to wok on their own to create a conclusion to the story. I gave them no limit on the length of their conclusions. From my desk in the back of my room, I heard Blurt Boy tell his partner that he would just write a sentence or two since it wasn’t important. Before I realize it, I snap out,”If you don’t care for the assignment, it’s better not to show your contempt in front of the one who assigns it, don’t you think?” No response. He and his partner resume working with focus after being busted. The on-task hum of students working with partners resumes, and some time passes.

Since it’s a scary story, I issue a challenge to my students, “In my ten years here, no one has scared me with his or her conclusion. You’re welcome to try.” Their faces lit up and minds whirled to find just the right about of macabre to terrify me. I don’t scare easily when I am reading their writing, so I have no concerns. “I can’t tell you how long your conclusion needs to be. Each one of you is different and has something different to say. Some students will use one page; other will use more. Just write a conclusion that you think will knock my socks off,” I conclude.

A hand shoots up, and one of my sweet young ladies who loves to read and write asked, “Even if it’s five pages, you’ll read it?”

“Yes, baby, I’ll read it.” I am encouraging them to write freely and express their creative storytelling. In our next unit, they’ll write a short story. This is an excellent lead-in activity. I smile at her warmly.

Blurt Boy decided to join in on the question without once again raising his hand, “What if it’s 194 pages long?”

My smile evaporated, and I looked at him in silence. The expressionless face I utilize appeared. “Is that an appropriate question when my students are trying to write their conclusions? Apparently you want my undivided attention.” I sat in my chair, folded my hands, and stared at him. He now had my full attention in class. B. Boy returned my look for a beat then began working. “Oh, no,” I interrupted and gestured excitedly with my hands, “don’t stop now. I want to see the show. You have my undivided attention.” He looked up once more and saw I meant business. He had the grace to lower his eyes. The other students watched wondering what I might have done next. After a sufficient dose of my unwavering attention for something other than a simple explanation, he resumed work on his assignment. We spoke after class about his abortive attempt to be funny and using one’s sense of humor at the right time. I bid him farewell and released him to his next class.

RLT

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One – 1, RLT – 0

After making a violent outburst because I wouldn’t let him have his way, I escorted Manchild to the alternative placement classroom on my campus. I saw him walking by my room later in a mocking manner talking to a like-minded companion. I cannot fix him and his past, and I am trying to work with him in the present. I want to separate one day’s actions from the rest so that I can focus on the here and now and not try to predict the future. I’ll touch base with his previous teachers for insight.

RLT

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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.

RLT

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