I'm having one of those weeks.

No, not one of THOSE weeks.

I'm having one of those weeks in which....well, I'm just happy.

I don't want to jinx it. Probably am right now.'s just been a reallllllly good week.

Am I crazy busy? Yeah. But everything I'm doing feels worth it.

Are all my kids doing what they're supposed to? No. But a whole lot of them are, including a select few who haven't been up till now.

Am I appreciated? ....Yes. To, like, a weird level. A kid told me today, "You know, you're, like, one of my favorite teachers. Even though I've never had you. I just like talking to you." And on Monday, a kid I had two years ago told me she wished she still had me. I said what I always say to that - I know, and I would've loved to've had her again, but I couldn't choose my schedule. Plus that the teacher she has is nicer than me. (Which is true.) To which she said, yeah, but I'm one of those explain-y types of teachers, and that's really cool. For a moment, I was speechless.

Next week might be different. TOMORROW might be different. But I knew, deep down, in my soul, in my cells, why I love my job.

I hope you are all having (or have recently had, or will soon have) times like this.


OHHHHHH I love this week.

(Photo credit to

Getting It All Done...Eventually

Every year, I resolve to hang more student work in my classroom. Every year, I get overwhelmed by every other damn thing I have to do, and my student work resolution always seems the lowest priority.

I know it matters, I really do, but when I also have to grade papers, and plan for the next unit, and complete data requests for upcoming special education staffings, and make parent calls, and deal with G/T testing and learning plans, and attend school events, and and and and and...getting stuff on the walls just doesn't much happen.

So today I bribed four boys to stay after school and hang some things. A bag of chips each, a few Oreos, and they were mine as long as I needed. They pushed each other and made semi-crass comments which I either studiously ignored or quickly corrected. After half an hour, 85 pieces of work that had previously been sitting in a pile by my desk graced my wall. Were they crooked? Yep. And edges covered other edges, and some corners were already peeling off by the time I left for the day, but they were up.

I can't get it all done myself. I don't like it, but I need to be okay with it, because if I'm not, then I won't get it done at all. I'll use colleagues when convenient, kids when I can, and recognize that delegating is part of life and part of success.

(Photo credit to Daquella manera)

The Glee of Being a Teacher

I have to know.

Are you all watching "

Because if not, you need to start. Like, now.

Described by the LA Times blog Showtracker as "a kind of cross between 'High School Musical' and 'Freaks and Geeks,'" it is the most delightful show on television. It is funny, it is weird, it is ridiculous, it is charming, it is is a win.

But this week's episode had a moment that made me think, "Um. No."

The show revolves around Spanish teacher Will Schuester and his quest to bring back the glory days of his school's show choir. In this last episode, he'd assigned a solo to Tina, a student who didn't normally take the lead. She sang it beautifully until the last note, which she couldn't quite hit. Despondent, she told Mr. Schuester that he should just give the song to Rachel (the choir's star) because she'd sing it better.

Will gave her an impassioned speech about....well, I don't really know. Probably something about trying again and how she just has to believe in herself and she'll get better and blah blah blah. Not that that's not a valuable speech, because the writing on Glee is super clever and I'm sure this was no exception.

But I'd stopped listening, because the teacher delivered the speech while holding onto the girl's shoulders and looking deep into her eyes.

Really? Would ANY male teacher EVER do that to a female student?

Okay, I know it's just a TV show and a satire at that, but that moment wasn't meant to be satirical - it was all deep'n'intense'n'life-lessony. AND the show has a character who lost his job at the school because of student hanky panky. Tsk tsk, I say.

Generally, "Glee" is simply fabulous and you should all start watching it (seriously, please do - it will break my little heart if it gets canceled), but that moment just reiterated to me that I'm a teacher, through and through, and my perspective on life, events, culture, anything, will always be influenced by seeing it through that lens.

Luckily I like that lens.

Changing the class dynamic: who knew?

Our attendance is atrocious this year. It's always terrible, but it's especially bad right now - I assume it's the swine flu thing? Whether kids actually have it or are just taking advantage of the possibility and faking symptoms to stay home, I don't know, but it's ridiculous.

One class, though, benefited today from the absences. Period 8. For whatever reason, having three kids out today meant that the rest of the class....I don't know. Just their shit together. They got started on work - not as quickly as they should, but still. They didn't talk over each other and me. They paid attention and took notes and responded to my questions. It was rockin'.

Last week in there, we made a list of appropriate classroom behaviors, and every day, they're self-assessing on each to determine how well they're doing with them. Today, most kids gave themselves full points. And I agreed.

It was delightful.

(Photo credit to kevindooley. Dude, how CUTE is that kid? Ridiculous.)

So. Tired.

Do any of the rest of you find that Mondays are waaaaaaaay harder than they need to be because you didn't get enough sleep Sunday night?

Although I've adjusted my schedule on most nights to be in bed at (close to) my ideal bedtime of about 9:30, just doesn't happen. I sleep in Sunday mornings and then night rolls around and I am wide awake. And going to bed to just lie there and not sleep seems useless, not to mention frustrating.

I gotta start setting an alarm and getting up earlier Sunday mornings. Because this is ridiculous.

(Photo credit to jpockele)

Served me right.

"Don't cry TOO much tonight, Mr. Confident." That was the last thing I said to a student to finish gently mocking him for not being quite as badass as he'd like to believe that he is.

As I walked away, I slipped in some mud and almost fell. I caught myself, but not before Mr. Confident and his friends saw.

He actually fell on the ground, he was laughing so hard.

When he managed to get up again, I shrugged, laughing too. Because that's what I get for making fun of him. Total karmic payback.

A good lesson for us both.

(Photo credit to Freddy The Boy)

At least he doesn't have hairy palms (yet)

Today during my last period, I was conferring with a student when I heard a strange noise. Someone...grunting, was it? "Uh, oh, OOH, uhhhhh..."

When I glanced around to see what was going on, I saw a student with his hand under his desk. Said appendage was moving back and forth rapidly.

I froze, eyes wide and teeth gritted. Seriously? SERIOUSLY I have to deal with this? I've heard rumors, but....

He saw me looking. "My leg won't stop itching," he complained. "It's really annoying!"

I looked again. His hand was clearly on his leg, not....anywhere else.

I had to put my head down on the desk, I laughed so hard. The whole class joined in. I don't think they had any idea why. At least, I hope not.

Student Connections Outside of the Classroom

I ran into a friend at the neighborhood farmer's market this morning. She asked how my year was going.

I paused. "Overall, good," I said, "'s a little overwhelming at times."

She nodded. "I saw your Facebook post a few weeks ago about how tired you are."

A few weeks ago was the last time I updated there. I'm so busy I don't have time for Facebook anymore (which, really, isn't all that bad). I'm still reading blogs, because I love them and they rejuvenate me, but this year is just tough. New curriculum, new teaching format, new way of working with special education, new kids (though not all - it's fabulous to have a bunch of kids I already know), new school-wide schedule....ack. It's hard.

Last Wednesday, I was tired. TIIIIIIIIIRED. I wanted nothing more at the end of the day than to go home and not even think about school till the next morning. But two students had asked me to go to the football game, and so I dragged myself up to the school we were playing and cheered for our guys.

Y'all, it was so worth it.

The kids were SO excited to see me. The ones who had asked me to come were so proud that I'd shown up and the others were so delighted to have a teacher there cheering them on. They bragged about their plays, dissected the other team's weaknesses, gave credit to teammates who'd done something was awesome. Plus I got to meet three sets of parents I'd never met or spoken to before, including the family of a boy I had two years ago as well as this year. It was nice to see how much they love their kids and how proud they are when the kids do well, especially if it's a kid who doesn't always do that well in my content. The next day, I had kids I barely know coming up to me and commenting on me being there.

This is not sports-exclusive. Same thing happened last year at the band concerts I attended.

I know a lot of people attend events anyway, and I know all of us are freakin' exhausted at the end of the day, but I just wanted to encourage everyone to go to a game here, a concert there. It's totally, totally worth it for the connections to the kids and the families.

(Photo credit to Jimmy MacDonald)

Who can you talk to?

Yesterday I was feeling a little discouraged. I'd had a few seventh graders come into my room after school to chat, two of whom I'd had last year, and a friend of theirs.

Not totally sure how they got on this subject, but they decided to spend a while telling me about how much THEY like me, despite the fact that everyone ELSE didn't. They listed off a handful of kids who apparently think I'm super mean.

Of the kids they listed, I know for a fact that three of the five do like me, or at least do most of the time (and I'm fairly sure the other two do, though one is currently thoroughly annoyed with me because I won't let her feel up her boyfriend in the hallway - dude, I AM super mean), but it's still sort of a downer to be told otherwise. Plus I'd had a run in earlier with a kid over her attitude, and one of my favorites (Motormouth) just in class. He was the whiniest I've ever seen him. So I was a little blah.

Today I got two new students. One seems very nice, though she cried a lot (moved over a thousand miles, first move ever, happened because stepdad got fired, just generally freaked out), but the other....may be more challenging. I'm pretty sure he and I will be able to get along eventually, but I think we're going to have some conversations in the meantime.

We had five conversations just today - one at lunch and then four during class. He was not as amenable to redirection as one would hope on his first damn day (really? You're going to just put your head down on your desk during my class? While I'm standing right next to you? Really?) though he did seem to sort of reach out at one point.

I was having conversation #4 with him, about how it's really not okay to just tell the whole class how boring writing is. To which he replied that that's just how he is, he says everything's boring, even football. My (possibly charitable) interpretation is that means that he says even really fun stuff is boring so I shouldn't take it personally that writing is boring because he didn't intend to be rude.

After class, he was ambling down the hall. I glanced that direction and saw a large group of boys. Soon as I saw them, I knew. A fight was brewing. You know how you can just tell, from the way some are leaning in, some are inching back, the set of their shoulders, the tilt of their head?

So I yelled for the other kid involved to come talk to me. I know him, but not well - I worked with him after school a couple of times two years ago, and I've seen him play sports (he's a hell of a running back), but I've never had him in class.

RB came over, looking back the whole way, and I asked what was up. He said that my new boy, the Antagonizer, was claiming that he'd made RB cry in a football game the week before.

I pointed out (a) no one knows this kid or gives a crap what he says, (b) RB is pretty damn popular and the school's star athlete, so what are the odds anyone will listen to this jerk, and (c) RB is having a really good year so far and shouldn't mess it up over some punk.

I asked him if the Antagonizer was worth getting suspended over.

No, he wasn't.

Okay, good. So who was RB going to talk to if this kid upset him? Who could he go to so that he can get through this without getting in trouble?

He shrugged. Didn't know.

"Well, who do you trust? What teacher or administrator do you know well enough to talk to?"

"You, Ms. Teachin'."

Oh. Okay. "Then you come talk to me. Whatever the issue with this kid, you come talk to me instead of getting into it with him. Will you do that?"

He nodded, and I wrote him a pass to class. I'm not sure he'll do it every time, but I think he'll try.

They must not ALL think I'm super mean.

(Photo credit to vagawi)

Black eye.

Not literally (well, I hope not - I did actually somehow manage to smack myself hard in the right eye. A refrigerating closing incident that I still don't understand. I can see out of it again, now that half an hour has passed, and it's only moderately swollen, so hopefully tomorrow it'll be normal). But I'm not having my best day ever.

Perhaps yesterday's hubris (doing well, I said. Hah!) caused today's ruckus, but LORD my 8th period drove me crazy. I didn't yell, but I was pissed, and all lecture-y, and they knew it. Which isn't really any better, though I suppose it's at least easier on the eardrums.

The class changed dramatically today (seven new kids, pulled mostly from other periods but one new totally) to try to better provide services for some kids who need them. And the new dynamics are not ideal. I'll have a new seating chart tomorrow, and fingers crossed that will help, but right now bleah.

Plus I am totally losing with the Charmer. I wrote him a letter after the last incident and dropped it off at his house, but no one was home so I had no way to know if he'd gotten it. I have two of his best friends this year, though, and one, Motormouth, said he'd give the Charmer another copy.

This morning, Motormouth gave the letter back. "He said to tell you he doesn't want it."

I looked at him. "Did he read it?"

"Yeah, he read it, but then he said he doesn't want it."

Sweet. So I took the letter back, because what else was there to do?

The only upside is that I'd included a business card with my contact information, including my cell (he'd had that already, from last year, but I figured it couldn't hurt to throw it in again), and that he kept. I don't think he'll use it ever, he's just not that kind of kid, but at least he has the means with which to do so.

But clearly he just wants me to leave him alone and I don't see that I have any other choice.

So between my two failures of the day, I'm feeling a little down. I'm going to go take my dogs for a walk. Hopefully that will help.

(Photo credit to heyjoewhereyougoingwiththatguninyourhand)

Anger in the Classroom III

Back in July, I promised that every month on the first Monday, I'd post about how I was doing managing my anger. Yelling, screaming, getting mad in general.

So far....

It's going really well. I think.

I haven't yelled at a single kid. I've definitely had some conversations with a few (like my habitually tardy friend - who WAS on time on Friday!), but no yelling.

Wait, that's not quite true. I do yell in the hallways. Hallways were my department's teaching area for PBS this year, and when I went over expectations, I talked about voice levels. Hallway voice levels are supposed to be 0 to 2 - silent, whisper, or small group level. Which is valid. Except that my voice level is naturally about a 6, and in the hall especially I'm going to be loud to get the attention of the kids who are making inappropriate choices. So I yell out there, to try to get them to move along or stop whacking each other over the head.

Plus, let's be realistic. I'm loud all.the.time. I yell sometimes, just 'cause.

But in the classroom, in my teaching....I haven't yelled in anger. As far as I recall....

I think I'm going to have my kids do periodic evaluations of me and how I'm doing as a teacher. I've done the end-of-year thing, and even end-of-trimester, but if I did it a bit more often, then maybe I'd have an even better sense of things. So perhaps I'll have them do one this week, just to check in and see if I"m actually doing as well as I think I am.

Because I think I'm doing really well!

(Photo credit to StickBus)

Homework: The New Hotness or the New Level of Hell?

Homework. To assign or not to assign: that IS the question, isn't it.

It's a touchy subject; people have remarkable strong feelings on both sides of the divide. Personally, I'm torn.

My homework policy is pretty much, "If you don't do it at home, I reserve the right to have you do it at school on your own time." I am trying really hard this year to make homework stuff that they can't do at school, work that actually needs to be done outside of school hours, so that I'm not assigning homework for homework's sake but rather am assigning it to actually support our work in class. The letter of introduction certainly could have been done in class; that one was just to get the year started with the expectation of doing homework. So, totally antithetical to what I'm actually trying to do with homework. :/ And yet, GREAT return rate. Over 90%.

The next assignment? They had to go someplace they've been before, someplace they spend a lot of time but not inside their home, and write for fifteen minutes. The goal was to focus on using sensory details and creating a sense of setting. That assignment had around a 70% return rate on the day it was due. That's better than I normally get at the beginning of the year, but still pretty mediocre. And that one needed to be done outside of class; inside the classroom would have given far more limited results. But they didn't do it. (By the third day after it was due, all but three kids had completed it. Those three stayed after school that day. We trucked outside and found a place to sit; I chose a spot where a lot of students, parents and teachers would pass us as they left. The three sat there and did the assignment as I told any interested onlookers why they were there. Don't like the publicity? Next time, do your homework on your own time.)

Maybe it's because the letter was about them - their lives, their interests, their goals. Maybe it was because that was the second day of school and they were trying to impress me. (Totally worked, if so. How do we get back to that?) Maybe my sensory assignment wasn't clear enough for them to really understand. Maybe they felt uncomfortable having to go someplace to write - maybe the public nature of it made them feel weird.

I get not wanting to do homework. As a high school freshman, I almost failed math because I didn't do my homework. I got As or Bs on all the tests, so I didn't see the point in doing the practice. If I didn't really need the practice, why waste the time? And I still feel that way, to large extent. On the other hand, I had to figure it out eventually, because that's how the world works. In high school, in college, in the workplace, most people have to do work at home at some point or another. So the sooner kids learn how to manage their time and motivate themselves to do things just because they have to, even if they don't want to, the easier it is in the long run. But it's not fun, and I know that.

No matter what, though, I need them to do homework. Two reasons. First, because there are some things we just can't do in the school day, and they need those life writing experiences to support their school writing. That's how writing workshop works.

And second, because they're eighth graders. Next year they're going to high school. They need to be equipped to succeed in high school, and when we asked some high school teachers what they wanted out of honors students specifically, they said, "Kids who do their homework." I'm sure there's more to it than that, but that was the number one request. I want my kids to be ready for high school success. They NEED to be ready for high school success. Thus we need to do homework.

They might not like it; I won't always like it. But we'll do it.

What do you think about homework? How often do you assign it? How do you deal with kids who don't do it?

(Photo credit to Rennett Stowe)

Carnies are loved.

PS New EduCarnival up! I'm featured, but not many folks are as it's all new'n'stuff - get thee to the submission form and choose yer best for all to read!



Oh, dudes.

I am so tired. I cannot even tell you.

Yesterday, I worked for fourteen hours. FOUR. TEEN. HOU. RS. (OW ERS? That would emphasize the pain....) The other eighth grade Language Arts teacher and I spent four hours after school teasing apart our district preassessments and the new rubric on which they are scored. (Which I a little bit hate. No way to score for word choice. No way to score for sentence fragments or run ons. Dialogue is required. What?) And in those FOUR FREAKING HOURS we got class. One class of kids. Leaving five to go.


Alternately, alkfjdklfjdalfdi;ahi ai;ioe ehioadfsjk dafsj fjka;fksdi;eio 0 nsalkvdnjdskehklao.

That is how I feel.

Today, I was teaching or in meetings the entire day. First plan? PLC for Language Arts. Lunch? Lunch duty. Second plan? Talking to the reading teacher about our curriculums. After school? Meeting with district GT person about GT coordinating. After that? Meeting with my student teacher and the site professor about how I don't think my student teacher should randomly leave class in the middle of the period to TAKE CELL PHONE CALLS and GO BUY RED BULL. (Hyperbole? Oh no, no it is not.) ST seemed deeply annoyed with that perspective. Why did I agree to do this again?

I almost made one student cry, and totally unintentionally. He was late for my class today for the THIRD DAY IN A ROW and so I sent him out in the hall to discuss. He was upset. Deeply upset. Eyes-red-can't-look-at-me-jaw-vein-pulsing upset. And not with me, with himself for being late. He's a pretty damn cocky kid and I've heard people say before that making him cry in class would be good for him [funny to say - less funny to actually do], but I was horrified that we almost got there simply by me saying, "Are you late AGAIN? Seriously? Okay, let's talk in the hallway." We came up with a solution that he's going to try tomorrow, and I let this tardy slide, but I did threaten to destroy him if he kept showing up late. That he laughed at.

One of my most promising new students totally forgot to turn in an application for an enrichment program that would have been awesome for him. Like 50 kids applied and there are only 10 slots open, but still, I think he would have been great for it. And he just....spaced. He did agree to go into honors Language Arts though, so yay for that.

Attendance is already sucking hard. On any given day, I have anywhere from 10 to 15 students gone. And swine flu season isn't even in full swing. I'm thinking of just distributing face masks and telling them to power through.

Huh. This post is seeming really whiny. Um.....positives. One of my favorites from two years ago was in no honors classes at the beginning of the year. I told him I thought he should think about going into some; he refused point blank. A week later, he came and asked me if he could move to honors, and he's rocking it.

Annnnnnd....oh, I had a really good turnout for the first meeting of the school newspaper, so rock.

And although I did work for fourteen hours yesterday, it was really useful and I have a much clearer understanding of the rubric/requirements (and I'm being paid for that time which is sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet).

And I get to go to bed soon.

And this is my 100th post. :)

(Photo credit to My Buffo)
"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
Copyright 2009 I'm a Dreamer All rights reserved.
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