Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for October, 2011

“What’s Love Got to do with It?” Ask Your Students!

     Once upon a time there was a little 2nd grade boy. He was new to a school, and he brought with him, all his problems and issues.  Sent to live with dad after mom “couldn’t take it any more”, a pre-primer reading level, an evil stepmother, and siblings who did not like him, he didn’t stand a chance.

After a couple of weeks, it became apparent that this child was a “problem”. Inappropriate language, bullying, no work, etc…His teacher (not me) knew this, but she also realized that he came from a place of trouble. So, instead of scolding him constantly, she decided to love him. Instead of throwing up her hands in despair, she found ways to get him the help he needed. And most of all, she loved him, and he knew it. He was disciplined, and he had consequences, but, she loved him nonetheless.

While she struggled to help him, “they” began to plan how they would get him out of their school. They had his teacher attend meetings, and asked her about his aggressive nature. She refused to go along with their program, and forced them to help him, instead of making him “someone else’s problem.” And he changed. Little by little, he changed. By the end of the year, he wasn’t a brand new child, but he wasn’t the child that had entered that school. And as difficult as it was,  his teacher made a decision to retain him because he wasn’t ready.

Fast forward. His dad is in jail for a while, so he has no buffer between himself, stepmom, and siblings. But  saddest of all, he has no place to be loved. His new teacher sees him as a problem. She recounts stories of how she disciplines his every little transgression to his former teacher with relish. Where is her humanity? She resents the fact that every morning, yes, every morning, he visits his former teacher. Where else can he get love? Where else can he  have someone listen to his stories of a  life that would be difficult for most adults? Unfortunately, I have no idea how this story ends, maybe his former teacher is enough to buffer the negativity in his life, and allow him to change for the better, maybe not.

I think of those two words Angela Maiers promotes, “You Matter.”  I am blessed, I know I matter. I have many people in my lives who let me know that. Others are not so fortunate, especially our students.  We have to remember that we may be the only good thing that happens to them all day. We have to care. Sometimes we have to overlook their negatives and try to find a positive.  We have to let them know they matter.


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I walked into the copy room and this was sitting on a table with the words: “This is a must READ :)”.

I agree, and I think it is also a “Must SHARE!” I Googled it and realized it has been around for years, but I got a laugh out of most of them!:)

  1. You get a secret thrill out of laminating things.
  2. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line.
  3. You walk into a store and hear the words, “It’s Ms./Mr. ____________ and know you have been spotted.
  4. You have 25 people who  accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
  5. You can eat a multi-course meal in under 25 minutes.
  6. You’ve trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day, lunch and planning period.
  7. You start saving other people’s trash, because most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
  8. You believe the Teacher’s Lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
  9. You want to slap the next person who says, “Must be nice to work 7 to 3 and have summers off”.
  10. You believe chocolate is a food group.
  11. You can tell if it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.
  12. You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, “Boy, the kids are sure mellow today.”
  13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
  14. You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
  15. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
  16. You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your own children.
  17. You can’t pass the school supply aisle without getting at least 5 items!
  18. You ask your friends to use their words and explain if the left hand turn he made was a “good choice” or “bad choice.”
  19. You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils.
  20. You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer.
  21. You understand, instantaneously, why a child behaves in a certain way after meeting his/her parents.

“I Just Want to Teach!” A Teacher’s Plea

The other day I posted a status on FB, “They are sucking the joy out of teaching!”  You know who “they” are. I have taught for 27 years, and never have I felt this way.  It’s not the new principal. It’s all the next “new” things that have been lobbed at me from one day to the next. After I duck one, or get hit, depending on what innovative thing they have come up with, something new is thrown at me.

I sat at our last meeting, completely overwhelmed, when our principal told us that she wanted us to use data to develop carousel workshops, every week, for reading and math.  My first thought was, in order to gather this data to use every week, I would have to test the heck out of my kids. My second thought, when am I supposed to teach? Teach! Remember when we used to be able to do that?  My third thought was, this is utterly ridiculous, and I cannot do this anymore! My mind is flailing as I try to stay afloat in a sea of acronyms! EQ, CSR, KUD, LM, NCLB, DCAS,  some one throw me a life raft!

I have come to the belief that we have been pimped out for RTT (Race to the Top) money. The powers that be jumped at the chance to accept that money, and agreed to do anything  that was asked to keep it.  But in the end, who actually completes all the requirements?Teachers do! Who benefits from this money, the kids? I think not. The teachers? A resounding no! We have “coaches” running our schools. My principal has at least three different coaches telling her what to do and how to do it. And then, she tells us. An example, the coaches walk around with her, enter our classrooms for five minutes, and then leave us a feedback form with 5 questions we have to answer. (What happens if she doesn’t have 5 questions?) It’s called 5 X 5, isn’t that the cutest thing? How much are these coaches being paid and do any of them have a background in education?

I know some of the ideas have merit. As a matter of fact, I have used some of them. But when you are told how often you should use them, when you should use them, and penalized if you don’t, my gosh, doesn’t that defeat my purpose? Why bother to pay me if I can’t make any decisions, if my judgement cannot be trusted?

I begin every morning watching my administrator walk through the halls, making checks  on her clipboard.  She is checking to see which teachers are in the hallway, greeting the children. I receive a newsletter(emailed), every Monday, 4 pages long, (I am not exaggerating), with the percentage of teachers who were observed meeting the requirements along with the new requirements of the week. I am losing my drive, I don’t want to, but I am. 😦

I want to teach! After 27 years, I still love teaching! So, I am going to try to not let “them’ steal my joy! I will go in my room, and Skype, integrate technology, have meaningful discussions about anything and everything, watch the smile when one of my kids finally “gets” it, laugh, tell jokes, blog, create global learners, teach my students to problem solve, and most off all,I promise,  I… will… teach!

Having Principal Problems? Give Peace a Chance!

I think I might have mentioned this a couple of hundred times already, but, I’ll say it again. I have a new principal. I loved, (Is that too strong a word for a totally,  platonic, relationship?), my old principal.  I think it was because he left me alone to do my job. Not always. Sometimes he said or did things that upset or frustrated me.  Many times, he played favorites, but most of the time he let me do my job. And, the icing on the cake was that he was a tech nut and enjoyed sharing in my techy accomplishments!:)

But, now I have a new principal. Let’s just say, she is different.  First, she wanted to move the laptops out of my room. Yes, yes, I know they’re not mine, but in my defense, I did share. (Unlike that other teacher with the cart, I did not lambast others when they signed it out), but we worked that out. She has all these new rules, rules which quite frankly, have me in a tither. (Anyone still use that word?) But, and this is the kicker of this post, I still respect her, and I will do what is requested of me, if I must,  just like I did with my former principal.

And that’s why after a very stressful staff meeting, where another  “new” thing was introduced, I was extremely disappointed in some of my colleagues (Who will remain nameless), who chose not to do the same.  They spoke to my principal with such disrespect, I was embarrassed for her.

The day after the meeting she met with each team to try to remedy the situation. And again, she was disrespected. One of the teachers passed me in the hall after meeting with her, and said gleefully, “We got her. My team got her. They made me proud.” Wow! Really?  Is this  the type of relationship you want with your principal? My team met with her.  She apologized for the stress these new “initiatives” were causing, and we proceeded to work as a team and found a way to compromise.

It’s ironic, because if the same initiative were introduced by my former principal, they would not have said a word.  Actually, these same women would tilt their heads and giggle like schoolgirls. (“Oh, Mr.L, you want us to try this out, sure we will! Hee, hee”)

My husband says she needs to step up, and end this. I don’t know what advice to give her. What I do know is that we are better than that. I do know that sometimes principals just pass on what has been passed on to them, and we are at the bottom of the heap. I do know we should spend our days trying to do what’s best for our students, and not trying to “get” our principal. I think she deserves better than that.

“What the #@*%? Did You Just Hit Me?” When Students Hit Teachers!

And no, those four marks represent the word “H-E- Two sticks”, not the other word. Although I have to admit, I  don’t know what word that teacher was thinking at that moment it happened. She was slapped. Slapped hard.  By a first grader. Seriously?

I remember 7th grade, George Gershwin JHS in East New York, Brooklyn, Felicia hit our teacher. No, I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I remember hers.  We were shocked, but suffice to say, what followed next, shocked us even more. The teacher hit her back! It turned into an all-out, hair-pulling brawl! All the students were screaming, the librarian was yelling for help, it was total and complete chaos!

I had a student in another class elbow me, hard, when we were on a class trip. I allowed my class to get on the ferry first, and he didn’t appreciate that. (The teacher and I had decided to alternate) I couldn’t do what I wanted to do to him, so I told my principal when we returned. My principal at the time, arranged a meeting with the boy and his parent. He was made to apologize, and was suspended for two days.

What do you do when a student hits you? Even more importantly, what can you do? What are your options?  I know hitting a student back is not a viable solution. (Even though laymen I have shared this story with beg to differ). BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun) is such a scary option, you would think I made it up.

What message is being conveyed to the other students?  Does it affect the way the students view you in the classroom?  I guess it would depend on the how the teacher and administration handle the situation.

My friend’s husband told her if a student hits her again, she should go straight to the principal’s office and put in for medical leave.  But another friend pooh-poohed that solution. She said it would leave the other students, the ones that don’t hit, without a teacher, and I agree.

Thank goodness this was a first grader, but I know there are situations where older students hit their teachers. I’m sure the consequences are more serious, and the damage  done to the teacher is more serious than a red mark on the cheek. How many teachers return to work after being hit by a student?

In a society where violence is depicted on television and video games as fun and games, how hard is it to get our students to understand, life is not a video game. When you hit someone in “real life”, it hurts!

And the bigger question is, what can be done to protect teachers from being the recipient of this behavior?

“Write On!” Why I Love Kidblog!

A friend of mine was observed the other day.  Her students were creating mini-books about the selection they read in the anthology. Little stapled books, a square for the picture, and lines for the journal entry they were creating, based on the story they read. However, the principal left a note on her observation sheet,”When do you incorporate writing in your classroom?” Did I miss something?

I have a “writing block”, and sometimes my kids write during the block, and sometimes they don’t. But, my students write all day. A “writing block” is not required to teach writing, writing is required. I am one of those teachers who do not teach grammar separately, my son’s high school teacher is, to each his own. But, I am sure he and I would agree, our students have to write!

There are so many ways to incorporate writing into the curriculum, but my favorite tool is blogging. I use Kidblog because it is simple to set up, kid and teacher friendly, and safe. My students love the ability to have an audience on Kidblog. What better way to motivate students to write well, then to know other people, all over the world, will read what you have posted? (Quadblogging , Comments4Kids, and my TwitterPLN provide an excellent audience)

Of course, this doesn’t happen automatically.  But as time goes on, and they receive more comments, they begin to take ownership of what they post on their page. I sent the link to their parents, hopefully some will write comments. I have a student who edits over the weekend, the weekend! She edited 5 of her posts this weekend. (“Go outside and play!”)

Every day, during at least one subject, my students write. They write in their notebooks first, this gives me a chance to have a conference, if necessary. It gives them a chance to edit and proofread. They might write to explain how to solve a Math problem, tell a story using their Word Sort words, research a topic, give their opinion on an article from Tweentribune, there are numerous opportunities.

But what I love the most, is the question, “Can I post this on my blog?”  My blog. They can post wherever they have Internet access. Our Room82011-2012 Kidblog , is my writer’s motivator! Every student in my class has at least one post so far, but the school year has just begun. I’m looking forward to finding the author in all of them.

Write on,  kids, write on! 🙂

Coming Soon to Your Public School? “Home Visits”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I came across this topic in my Edubloggers LinkedIn group, added a comment, and then decided to look it up to gain full insight into what was being asked of Chicago’s teachers. You know, and I know, if it happens to teachers in one state, it can happen in ours!
When I taught Headstart in the 80’s, we used to make home visits. A child’s living conditions provide great insight into a child’s life.  I am sure it also makes the parent more comfortable because you are on their “turf.”  However, in this day and age, I feel home visits, no matter the socioeconomic status of the students, could turn into a dangerous situation for teachers. People tend to react violently to the smallest grievance, who will protect the teachers in these homes?
At the time  Jean-Claude Brizard and Rahm Emanuel  came up with this idea, they had not spoken to any educators.   I’m not surprised.
How do you feel about home visits?
Are home visits required where you work?
How does that work, is it a benefit?
Are home visits practiced in other countries?

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