I know, I know.

It's been forever. And I'm probably not going to get any better at this for a while, because of a big personal thing - I'm pregnant! Due at the end of the school year (which is nice because then I get the summer with the baby).

So while I am still dealing with absurdities, hilarities, and heart-breaking truths on a daily basis, I'm spending more of my time outside of school thinking about baby stuff. Nursery decor (the plan is neutral walls with pops of color - but WHICH colors?), names (it's hard to find ones you actually like!), eating enough protein (dude, you have to eat a LOT of protein - I had no idea), getting enough exercise (something I'm terrible with during the school year so I have to really focus on it), and everything else that goes with growing another person.

On the school front, things are pretty good. I have great kids - the only one that I was struggling to like got expelled, which is unfortunate for him since he was way behind academically as it was, but better for the other kids since he was expelled for gang activity, including jumping a kid in in the bathroom during a class one day (no, for real. I was stunned when I heard about it. This is apparently our worst year for gang activity in at least 7 years). The kids are working hard and learning a lot (I think....), and have been generally positive about my class overall. Sure, some are slackers and some could have better attendance, but most of 'em are rockstars.

Lots of former students have come back to visit. Most are doing okay, though not as well as they should be - too many of them have at least one F. It kills me that Fs don't matter ONE IOTA all the way through elementary and middle school (at least not in my district - we assign kids summer school, but if they don't go, they still go on to the next grade), so when they get to high school, they've had no experience with consequences in this arena. Some of them are doing great, which is super nice to see. One has been expelled - he was caught with a knife and it was big enough to make it an immediately expellable offense. He hasn't actually come to visit but I heard about it from other kids. So that was depressing. But no matter what, they're at least coming to visit.

Due to budget cuts, we're down staff, so everyone is stressed about that. Class sizes are up, which means grading levels are higher and classroom management is more difficult. I'm doing okay with both for the most part, but part of that's because I've revamped what I grade - no more grading random crap that doesn't actually matter for anything. They still get lots of feedback on their work before the summative assessments (more, probably, honestly), it's just more in individual conferences, which I think is good anyway.

Overall, though, life is pretty good (knock on wood)! I will start posting again periodically but certainly not as much as I was doing in past years - other things have just taken priority for now.

Sometimes what we learn is totally unrelated to my planning.

Yesterday, as we were working on writing topics lists, I got a truly fabulous question from a kid. I'd been modeling, and I'd mentioned how my dislike of Insane Clown Posse is something I could potentially write about someday. A kid had inserted that he thought juggalos were weird.

After, when my kids were working on their own lists, another student raised his hand. I trotted over to help. He said, "Miss Teachin', I thought juggalos were fake."

What? "Um, I think they think they're real...."

"Oh. But....wasn't there a movie about one of them?"

I stared at him for a second, totally lost, till another kid piped up, "No, dude, that's gigolo - Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo."

"Oh, riiiiiight." And work resumed. Temporarily.

Then a third student joined in. "Okay, yeah, but what's the difference between a juggalo and a gigolo?"

I couldn't tell if he was kidding or not. Luckily, my movie buff scoffed at the foolish question. "Juggalos, like, wear makeup and do weird stuff. Gigolos are male prostitutes. Pfft. Duh."

"Ohhhhhh," responded the questioner, clearly embarrassed.

I don't know how much else this kid learned yesterday, but at least his vocabulary expanded a bit.

Today it happened.

Today it happened.

Today we gelled.

Today we were a community.

Today I started to love my new students a little bit.

I haven't been posting because...well, for a variety of reasons, including some things going on that I just don't post about (for example, an issue with a coworker that I don't want to get into), and being really, really busy, and just not feeling like writing....

But mainly because really I just wanted to say, "I miss my old students! Waaaahhhh! These new ones aren't as good! Waaaaaahhh!" And how fun is that to read? Not very.

But today it started to come together. I'm sick right now, and honestly probably should have stayed home today but I thought I'd feel better than I did and it was too late to call a sub without a true emergency, so off to school I trudged.

Anyway, the kids were great - everything we did, they did right away, without complaint, fully engaged. At least 10 kids finished books over the long weekend, and were super excited to get new ones and talk about what they'd finished. Several kids who'd been absent on Friday came in to get their makeup work (I know, it's a little thing, but OH it matters). They were kind to each other, asking questions when we shared work and bringing up things they'd heard from other people that they'd been interested in or excited by. A bunch of them told me they hoped I'd feel better as they left. It just....went really well. And I started to think, okay. I can do this. It's going to be a good year after all.

I may never love them quite as much as last year's kids, but that was my first class and they were just all-around remarkable (most of them, at least). These kids are great too, I know that, and as long as I'm starting to love them some, it'll be fine.

(Image credit to Shermeee)


And I clearly can't hide it. But I'm trying really, really hard to maintain control, despite what Olivia Newton John says.

It's not about getting physical.

It's about getting completely caught up in a book.

Mockingjay came out today.

I'm hoping to only read it when I am at the gym, but let's be honest here - I'm going to get into it and not be able to put it down. I figure I can read during independent reading time tomorrow as well; hey, gotta model reading engagement for my kids. But after that....

Possibly I will just go to the gym after work tomorrow and spend like four hours on the treadmill.

So excited.

So that was a while ago....

I don't have a particularly good reason for not posting for so dang long except that I was all caught up in summer fun. And then I was all caught up in back-to-school prep. And now I'm all caught up in teaching again. But at least now I have stuff to write about again that's not just about going to amusement parks and watching baseball games and having drinks on patios and all that other good summer stuff that I hope you partook in fully! Nothing too extensive yet, but I'm sure we'll get there. We always do.

So. New year, new kids (well, a bunch new - and then a bunch that I had two years ago when I taught 6th grade - what will I do after this year when I have to get to know ALL my students and don't have any past relationships with any of them?). Generally it's good - I miss my kids from last year a bunch, but a few have already come to visit and even to help out as I set up my classroom, including the Antagonizer, Drama King, Athleta, and a few others. That's been nice (and was actually really helpful). And I know that at least a few kids did the summer literacy challenge so I've been starting to put together prize packages; I've got to arrange a time to get up to the high school to give them out.

Of my new students, only one is flashing warning lights so far; I have a couple of challenging ones (or so say their histories/reps) but either they're trying to turn over new leaves, or they're still on their honeymoon best behavior. We'll see in a few weeks. :) I do have one boy who wants nothing to do with me or anyone, far as I can tell, so I've got his counselor doing some research (he's new to us this year).

Friday I started my positive parent calls - I made twelve, speaking to about half the parents and leaving messages for the others. Everyone I talked to was delighted, and one mother said I'd made her whole weekend. That kinda made mine too.

I do have push-in sped support in one of my classes this year for half of the block; I haven't totally figured out how that's supposed to work yet. As long as it's not as bad as Ricochet's situation with Funsucker, I'm sure I'll manage.

Overall, the year is off to a great start and I can't wait to see where it goes from here! :)

(Image credit to Sally M)

No hate.

I know I've mentioned before how it drives me crazy when kids use the words gay (or any variation thereof) as a pejorative; it's the only time that I use the royal we in my classroom, because for some reason, the first thing I always say is, "We don't use that word." And then we talk about it.

First I ask them if there's something wrong with being gay, and they always say no. (Though to be honest, there are a couple of kids that I might not ask that of, because I do have some blatant homophobes. And the first time I asked it, I was pretty dang nervous that the kid in question would say yes....but even if they maybe do think that, they're smart enough to know that that would just (a) enrage me more, and (b) get them in more trouble.)

Then they argue that they don't meeeeeeean it like's just what people saaaaaaay.

To which I nod, and say that I know they don't mean it like that, but they're still implying that there's something wrong with being gay by using it as a negative. I follow that up by equating it to the n-word, and how people used to use that without a second thought but that wouldn't be okay these days, would it?

They always say that no, it wouldn't, and I think it makes them think a little bit, and they never use the word around me again (or if they start to, they catch themselves and change it). I've been fairly happy with the results, but I've always thought I could do a better job.

Glee did it for me.

Some backstory, including spoilers, in case you don't watch Glee. (Um, if you don't, WHY NOT???? It is BRILLIANT. Though they seem to have completely given up on Mr. Schuster actually teaching; he's all Glee Club, all the time. Still. Very charming show.) This episode aired at the end of May; called Theatricality, in it, the Glee Clubbers had to find their inner Lady Gagas (though most of the boys went with KISS instead).

As part of the episode, Finn and his mom were moving in with Kurt and his dad (the two parents had been dating for some time), and for some reason that was never really explained, the two boys were going to have to share a room. Finn was angry and uncomfortable; Kurt decided to redecorate to make Finn feel more at home. Which was pretty nice of him, considering that Finn and Kurt's dad had started hanging out a lot in the episodes before and Kurt had been super jealous of that relationship.

Right before the following clip, Kurt unveiled the new digs, saying his inspiration was Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in Morocco. Finn, rather than being appreciative, kinda loses his shit and basically accuses Kurt (who used to have a crush on Finn) of still being into him and says that he's not like Kurt. And then, this brilliance (thanks, Perez Hilton!):

I think I might show this clip next year; maybe get the school to incorporate it as part of a PBS lesson. Because it says exactly what I want to say, exactly what I want them to know. I don't want them to have hate in their hearts. They're better than that, and the gay students in my school deserve more.

Oh, and in the end of the Glee episode? Finn dresses up in a red vinyl dress to stand up for Kurt to some thuggy football players. I guess he doesn't want hate in his heart either, and he's doing what he can to get rid of it. Don't you love television happy endings? :)

(Image credit to Rev Dan Catt)

This is an issue I haven't had to deal with before.

Hey, look. I'm asking for advice again. Because apparently that's what I do these days.

So my friend Space Cadet and I have been emailing back and forth this summer - it counts for points for the Summer Literacy Challenge, since it's writing. :) Here's what he wrote in a recent email:

i dont know if its true but i have been told that my dad isnt really my dad! i really hope its not true or my whole life would pretty much be a lie!

My response was pretty much....huh? So I replied:

What do you mean, your dad isn't really your dad? When and how did you hear this?

And he said:

my half brother told me about a week ago that when he was coming down from canada with dad that they were talking about how my brother and sister were his kids and that my mother had me with another man and he got custody. very wierd stuff so im like an orphen or somthing lol great

(Don't judge the spelling and grammar - he's very bright, I just don't think he's focused on conventions in this. Anyway.)

I don't really know what to say back. All of this was in conjunction with other stuff, things about what he's doing this summer and books he's reading and the like....but I think this is really important to him because he did bring it up. And honestly, I can't imagine how this could not be important to a fourteen year old who doesn't get along super well with his dad anyway and whose mom died several years ago.

I think he needs to talk to his dad about this and not just take his brother's word for it, because, let's be honest here, kids lie to siblings all the time to make them feel bad. Flip side, if it is true, I think he has a right to know that.

But. Right now, he has no support system around as the family just moved about 30 miles away from where Space Cadet grew up to a small town to move in with dad's girlfriend. He has no friends there, he has no extended family around (though he didn't here either), and he's not in school right now so he doesn't even have any school support like a counselor. And that's a pretty intense thing to learn at any age, let alone as an adolescent - I can't imagine getting through that without anyone to talk to.

So what do I say? Do I recommend he talk to his dad about it right now? Do I recommend he wait till school starts to talk to his dad so that he has a counselor he can access at that point? Do I do something else that I'm not even thinking of right now? Help!

(Image credit to Stefan Baudy)

Happy birthday indeed!

How cool is this?

You KNOW you've reached a kid when he does something like this for you.

And happy birthday, Tracey! :)

(Image credit to Jonathan & Jill)

Too damn young.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with one on my kids. She'd been pulled out of school VERY abruptly a month before the year ended (mom threw her out and she had to move in with dad who lives 20 miles away). She'd been pretty upset about it and we'd emailed semi-regularly. I had some of her work to give her and I wanted to make sure that she was okay, so I took her out to lunch.

We talked about this kid and that kid and her life and her future and various things....she's generally doing okay (though her life is far more chaotic than I'd ever before realized - but she's one of the most solid kids I know and I think she's going to be fine), so that was nice. Then with just a sentence, she made my head explode.

"Hey, you know Pretty Sweet Girl Who Always Has A Boyfriend? She was almost pregnant."

Aaaaah. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. THIS WAS NOT GOOD. "What do you mean, ALMOST pregnant?"

"Well, she was, but then....I guess she, like, lost it or something?"

"A miscarriage?"

"Yeah. So that was really scary - I was really upset when she told me."

Um, yeah. Because 8th graders should not be having sex. I know that's not a realistic thing to say, I know they are having sex, I know hormones make you stop thinking and do things you would never do if you were thinking clearly, I know kids have a tremendous need for acceptance and love and sometimes that's the only way they get it, and I know that abstinence-only education doesn't work for those reasons....but 8TH GRADERS SHOULD NOT BE HAVING SEX.

We'd made it all year with no pregnancies. Guess it couldn't last forever.

(Image credit to Paulina Sergeeva)

Hey there!

Dang. That was lame of me.

I post a big thing about how, like, torn I am and what am I going to doooooooo, and a whole bunch of you comment on it or email me....and nothing. I vanish. For nigh on two weeks. And for that I am sorry.

So let me say thank you to everyone who commented and/or emailed me - I thought long and hard about what you said and I read some more stuff and I thought some more and I decided that this is gonna be what it's gonna be. I'm going to stay anonymous, and I'm going to keep telling stories. Because that's what I do, that's why I do this, and I don't think I can tell the stories I tell if I come out, as it were. And while I could start over with a new blog, I don't really want to do that at this point - I like what I have going here. Maybe someday I will, but for now, that's just way too much work and I'd have to drop this one, and I don't want to do that.

Thus I am back. And no longer whiny (......probably).


I haven't posted in a week.

It's not because it's summer; I have plenty of stories saved up and thoughts ready to discuss.

It's because...well, it's because of my anonymity.

I know. That sounds weird. I guess it's not actually because of my anonymity; it's because I'm tired of it.

Here's the thing. I blog because I love to tell stories, but also because I care about education and its future and how that relates to my students. I care a lot. Like....a LOT. And I want to be part of the national dialogue on all of those things, and share my ideas, and talk to other people about theirs. And.....I don't feel like I can if I'm hiding behind a pseudonym. You know?

But I also don't know if I can write about the stuff that I write about if I'm more public. Or maybe it's not can, but should. Because even though all these things happened to me, they also happened to kids who were anywhere from 11 to 14 years old at the time....and I don't know that it's fair to have this stuff out there about them, even without their names attached.

I don't know if my district has guidelines about these things, but even if they don't, I still need to consider it. That's the responsible thing to do. The adult thing. And if I want to be part of the national dialogue, I damn well better be responsible and adult.

So I don't know where to go from here. Because I want to be more openly public, but I don't want to compromise anything for my students' future.

Do I go back through and delete a bunch of entries? Start over? Just keep blogging anonymously?

I just don't know.

Any thoughts?

(Image credit to Horia Varlan)

I know I'm using way too many exclamation marks, but that's how I feel!!!

Dudes! So exciting! I just heard from my first student who is officially participating in my Summer Literacy Challenge!

She wrote a memoir and will be emailing it to me - I can't wait to read it.

This thing just might happen!

Memorial Day.

I'm a day late for a Memorial Day post, I know. It's a hard holiday to get your head around, I think - or at least that's what some posts seemed to say. Maybe it's just hard for the under 10 crowd. And me.

Let me be clear - I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. To be willing to give your life for your country? That's a remarkable commitment, and one that should certainly be respected and honored. I just worry that so many of our young people who join the military do so because....well, because they don't have a lot of other options.

I have a bunch of kids who want to join the Army or the Marines because they think it's cool to be a soldier, or because they like the idea of firing guns, or because it's a family tradition, or because they want the money for their education. I'm not sure they think about what they'd actually be fighting for and if they want to potentially give their lives for something they might not actually believe in. I'm not sure we want them to think about what they might have to give their lives for; as Jose points out, we don't spend too much time on it these days.

I want my kids to question the inequities in our society, I want them to push for answers and justice, I want them to see both the wonderful things about America and all our dirty laundry and decide for themselves that this is still how they want to fight for their country, if it is. I don't want them to do it because they're pushed into it by someone else or because they need the money or because they think it'll be like a video game.

On Thursday, Sweet Child o' Mine came by to help me clean and organize my room. We were talking about his future; although he really wants to play for the NFL (of course), he said he'd been thinking about the military as an option. I asked why, and he said it seemed cool and the money for college was good; he said he didn't know much else but his friend's brother had liked it. I said that a lot of great things can come out of military careers and that I'd help him look into it further if he wanted. He said okay. A minute later, he spoke again, his voice softer. "But what if I, like....die?"

That's the rub of it. I'm glad we honor the sacrifices our soldiers have made. I just want to be sure that they're fully aware of what they're committing to when they make that commitment, and that they believe in the choice they make. They deserve that.

(Image by The US Army)

NOT goodbye. See you later.

On the last day of school, I wanted to say something to all the kids, give them a little goodbye speech. I decided to write it out in advance, to make sure that I included everything I wanted to include; you get in the moment and you forget stuff and then after it sucks that you left out something this is what I wrote:

Here’s the thing. I’m not good at goodbyes. I don’t like to lose people that I’m close to, people that I love, and so I don’t like to say goodbye.

So here’s what you need to know. First, this is not goodbye. This is….see you later. Because you’ll come back and visit next year, and you’ll contact me this summer about your summer literacy challenge or just to say hi, and you’ll keep in touch, and it’s not goodbye.

I have loved every minute of being your teacher. You are all so amazing – smart, kind, funny, creative, brave, silly, sweet – awesome. I am so glad I came to 8th grade this year so that I got to have this experience with you all. It has been my privilege to get to spend a few months, or a year, or two years with some of you, as your teacher.

I’m sure I have learned as much from you all as you have from me; maybe more in some cases. I wish I could be your teacher forever, that I could go with you to high school and just keep learning and growing together. But I can’t (which I’m sure some of you are really glad about), and that’s why you’re going to come visit.

As you go into your summers and you celebrate finishing 8th grade and starting high school, as you spend time with your friends and your families, as you have fun and sleep and play games and read and write and live….remember to be happy. Remember that you shine, that when I look into this room I see the glow that comes from deep within every one of you. Remember that you can change the world, and that you can be the people that I teach my future students about.

In Freedom Writers, when Miep Gies comes and talks to the students, one student gets up and says that she’s his hero. And she says that they are the real heroes and their faces are engraved on her heart. You are all heroes to me. You all do things that are heroic every day, whether big or small. You are heroes. And your faces are engraved on my heart.
I cried when I read it, each class. Each class, at least a few people cried too. (Over a third of my first period was openly weeping by the end. LOVE the power of language.) Each class, after I finished, the class had a brief moment of complete silence....and then each class, everyone started clapping. Each class, as they filed out, every single kid came and hugged me - even my homie who didn't like my class. Maybe the speech helped him realize that I'd meant all of it, everything I'd said to him this year, everything I'd tried to do to help him; maybe he was finally able to let go of whatever was going on with him enough to be in the moment more clearly....or maybe he just didn't want to be the one kid who didn't hug me when all his friends were. :)

Actually, one kid did not hug me, just waved, but that's of course totally fine; he and I got along okay but we certainly weren't close. And on that last day of school, we were hugging up a storm everywhere: during the awards assembly, in classes, in the post-class celebration....a lot of people got their 12 hugs a day for growth (and then some) that day.

Before I read the speech for the first time, I felt a little weird. Would they think it was lame? Would they be like, dude, don't be pathetic? And some of them probably did feel that way - but I don't care. I'm an emotional person and I wanted them to know how much I care about them and how much I have enjoyed being their teacher. I wanted to end the year with that. Some of these kids were there on my very first day of being a teacher ever; I wanted to close out their middle school career with....well, with joy.

They promised to come visit. They better keep that promise.

(Image credit to megarooo)

Beginning of the end.

The tears started for me on Friday, when I had kids do my end-of-year evaluation. This one was more extensive than my trimester ones:

In this class, I feel I learned: a lot some a little

I tried my best in this class: all of the time a lot of the time some of the time

The pace of the class was: just right too fast too slow

Ms. Teachin’ is patient: all of the time a lot of the time some of the time

Ms. Teachin’ is concerned about me and my life. Yes No

I liked this class. Yes No

The following were the three most important things that helped me as a reader this year (pick 3):


_Classroom library

_Conversations with classmates

_Independent reading time in class

_Personalized book recommendations

_Public library


_School librarian/library

_Teacher who reads

_Other _______________

Any comments?

The following were the three most important things that helped me as a writer this year (pick 3):

_Class magazines

_Creative choice

_Mentor texts




_Sharing work in class

_Teacher who writes

_Using technology

_Writing in a variety of genres

_Other ___________________

Any comments?

One thing I enjoyed was...because...

One thing I didn't enjoy was...because...

I wish we could have...

I did a good job with….

I could have done better with

Ms. Teachin’ did a good job with...

Ms. Teachin’ could have done better with...

I feel Ms. Teachin’ cares about me as a person and a student when...

I feel Ms. Teachin’ does NOT care about me as a person and a student


(Optional) Anything else to add?

Only one kid said that he had not liked my class, and that was okay; he struggled a lot personally the second half of the year, and he just did not like my touchy-feely style. He didn't like any class, though, so I don't take it TOO personally. And the evaluations were helpful - I need to work on my patience, as most kids said I was patient "a lot of the time," but I also got some "some of the time"s. Which is probably true, so that gives me a goal for next year. I still have to go through and really analyze all of it, especially what kids said was most helpful in their reading and writing growth, but that gives me something to do this summer :)

But why I cried.....two kids wrote things in the "Anything else to add?" section that just made me lose it. One was the Antagonizer (who I struggled with all year - we had our ups and downs every week, sometimes every day, but overall he did better for me than in most of his classes). He wrote that he was sorry if it ever seemed like he was mad at me, that when he was mad, it wasn't at me, it was that he was mad at himself for his behavior. Not only is that a crazy good insight to have about yourself, but it was so nice that he apologized for some of those difficulties.

And the other one....oh my. This was a student that I had in 6th grade too, and we always got along well, but I never thought that she particularly loved me - she's just not one of those effusive kids. But what she wrote....

She said, "I have loved my 8th grade year in Ms. Teachin's class. She is always here for us, her students, and we always know we can go to her with any problems. I wish I could have Ms. Teachin' as a teacher every year."

I wish I could have Ms. Teachin' as a teacher every year.

The tears just came when I read that, because.....I mean, seriously, how nice is that? You see why I love this group of kids? They say awesome stuff like that!

Between that and the kid who'd said that I'd made Language Arts her favorite subject when she'd never liked it before, I can't imagine better compliments.

(Photo credit to jenny downing)


My sister emailed me today to check in. She said, "is today your last day of students?? excited/sad?"

And it was my last day. So I replied, "Honestly.....heartbroken. Like, not really, but oh I am so so so sad. I have cried 7 times today - in the awards assembly, once in each class, after school as I watched two of my very favorite students walk away, on my way home, and after I got home. Some of these kids are kids that I've had since my very first day as a teacher EVER....I can't imagine my school without them. Like, really can't imagine it. And I'll be totally good by the end of my first week (well, mostly good - totally good by the end of the first month), but right now.....I'm so sad. They're SO awesome. The notes I got, the awards, the hugs, the everything.....they're amazing kids and I will never ever forget them. Okay, make that 8 times I've cried today."

I'm at 9 times now.

I'll post more about the last few days later, but now I need to go to bed - I still have to clean my classroom tomorrow.

God, I'm going to miss them so damn much.

(Image credit to anirbanbiswas_c8)

Summer Literacy Challenge

We're almost at the end, y'all. It's so close...and I'm so sad.

Sure, I'm tired. And I'll enjoy the time off, and I desperately need to get my house in shape (what's that, room that I have just been stuffing crap into for the last three months? You're creating your own universe in your depths? Soon it will burst out and destroy it all?), and I'll garden and read and watch movies and hang out with friends and exercise, and it will all be great....

But, oh, I'm going to miss these kids.

I'm going to miss these kids so much.

But on a brighter note, I gave out my summer literacy challenge today --- and they were excited about it. They thought it was such a cool idea, and they (almost) all said they were going to do it.

I decided to base it off a mix of the idea I got from
Stacey and this one that Rachel found. I made it points-based, like the secondary one, and gave kids a menu of options; to get the High School Survival Pack, they need to get to 30 points. And if they earn 60 points, they get an Extra Special Super Rockstar High School Survival Pack. As to what's in those survival packs, well, you got me....but I have three months to figure that out and hit up local businesses for donations and scour the sales fliers for cool stuff. :)

As to how I incorporated Stacey's adventure, I gave my kids some pretty specific ideas that were linked to summer or to things we'd done in class. I thought the grid that Rachel found was good but I wanted to have somewhat fewer options, and I made sure that everything on the list was something they'd been explicitly taught this year.

The kids....well, I can't say for sure how it'll work out, but they really did seem interested. Some were even jotting down notes on their packets as I talked about it all. So of the 55 or so packets I gave out today, I'm hoping that maybe 10 will actually get completed. Heck, I'd take 5. Or one, really.

I'll keep you all posted on how it goes. For some of the options, they have to get in touch with me, so if anyone does, that'll give me a sense that this is actually happening. Fingers crossed now!

Oh, and if any of you are interested in seeing what I created, shoot me an email and I'll send it to you. I did it pretty quickly, honestly, but I'm still pretty pleased with how it came out, at least for the first year.

Let's hope it pans out, and the kids agree that reading is, in fact, good.

(Image credit to San Jose Library)

Notes of love

I'm in the end-of-year-grading-and-planning-madness throes, so this will be super short (why did I assign a massive project due the week before school got out? Why have I not finished my summer literacy challenge already? AAAAAAAHHHHHH), but I just wanted to say one thing.

I've mentioned before that I write all my kids notes at the end of the year, focusing on something that they're good at. It's my way of giving every kid an award instead of just a handful of top students; I still do that (we have to), but this way everyone gets something positive to take with them as they leave.

What I hadn't thought about before was that not only is that good for my students, it's good for me. Spending time thinking about each and every kid and what their strengths's such a nice way to end the year, especially as some of them are starting to act out a little bit (that whole approaching instability thing). I'd rather keep my focus on the good things about each of my students; it's better for all of us.

So even though I'm swamped with grading and planning and cleaning my room, I'm still taking the time to do the notes. That little bit of positivity is what we all need right now.

(Image credit to Tim Morgan)

It's a process

I don't know, y'all, sometimes this blogging thing feels kinda spooky. Because this morning I'm all, "I asked the student involved for one more thing to demonstrate that new leaf, and that has not yet come. Which makes me sad, because I don't think I can back down on this one."

And then I get to school, and the first thing Drama King does is hand me that final thing I'd asked for. (Which, by the way, was an apology letter - again, words, but for him to actually write something out is kind of a big deal, especially since he'd told me he wasn't going to do it because he didn't see the point).

So that was a nice thing to start with. Then I started having kids sign this year's yearbook today; when he signed, he wrote in it, "Thanks for never giving up on me. :)"

Thanks for never giving up on me.

Makes me feel even more strongly that you can't quit on a kid. Of course, they need consequences and expectations, absolutely, you can't just let them get away with whatever they try, but.....I'm going to keep believing that kids can change, and (unless a kid refuses to let me help) I'm going to keep trying to help them do it, as exhausting and frustrating as it can be sometimes.

I know we're not done here. I know my friend Drama King will continue to stumble at times and we'll continue to clash over it. But it gives me enough hope to keep trying.

(Image credit to blumpy)

How long can you try?

Still struggling with the loss of trust over here. Some of the behaviors have changed (which is actually pretty awesome, since those have been problems for a loooooooong time) but it's still discouraging; I asked the student involved for one more thing to demonstrate that new leaf, and that has not yet come. Which makes me sad, because I don't think I can back down on this one.

And then I read a post by my friend TeachEnEspanol that was awfully similar to my situation (go read!), and the comment I left her applies equally well to me. She said:
I guess the truth is that they've made their bed. Why then, do I have such a hard time letting them lie in it?

And my response, which I need to remember for myself as I'm having that hard time:

It's hard because it takes a long time to break a habit that was formed over a long time....and you want them to break that bad habit. And you want them to get that feeling of success that elissa mentioned, and you want them to have the triumphant end to the year that everyone else has had.

Because you're a good teacher and you care and even when you know someone has made the wrong choice, you still want to believe that they CAN make the right one.

Because you see though the missing work or supplies or appropriate attitude to the kid underneath who can make you laugh or has great insights into the reading or is kind to the bullied kids or takes on too much responsibility at home.

I'm not saying you should keep giving chances because that's not the best thing for the kid either (I'm in the middle of that myself......sigh), but that's why it's hard. At least, that's why it's hard for me. :/

That's why it's hard. That's why I have such a difficult time letting go. That's why I can't give up, even when my husband and my colleagues think I'm being too soft.

The picture I chose today is kind of a cheesy metaphor, I know that, but still. I believe that light is there, and if we can just keep going, just a little further, we'll reach it. Because how sad would it be to quit when (I think) we're so close?

(Image credit to extranoise)

I know fool me once and twice, but what about fool me seventeen million times?

I had to figure out today what losing trust actually looks like. No eating lunch in my room, no more being my student assistant, and no more joking around. That's to start; we'll see if it goes anywhere else. It happened suddenly; no decree from me, threatening as to what the consequences would be if he didn't do x or y or z. Just a kid thumbing his nose at....well, at me.

Apologies can be so effective. But sometimes an apology is not enough. For an apology to matter, it has to not only sound good, it has to lead to a change. When apologies have been given over and over and over and OVER and nothing changes, they stop being real. They're just words. And as much as I usually believe in the power of words, sometimes words are empty and their only power is to suck the truth out of the ones that could have mattered.


(Image credit to Bitpicture - even though I'm really sad, looking at this picture kinda makes me smile, and I didn't want you all to have to deal solely with my you get a funny hydrant!)


A few days ago I mentioned our big upcoming reward field trip (which, by the way, the student in question decided she didn't want me to get involved, so I did not). It happened Thursday, and it was awesome.


98.6% awesome, to be precise.

Let me explain.

We went to our local amusement park. It's a tradition at my school to take the 8th graders, and they used to do it on the last day of school, but last year the district said no one could use buses during the last week at all. We still have two more weeks, but the park is only open sporadically till Memorial Day and wasn't open during the day any days next week, so Thursday it was.

Not all of our kids went; because it was a reward, you could only go if you'd had no referrals for the last 6 weeks, so that knocked out everyone who'd ditched or gotten in a fight or did something else generally stupid recently (though a number of those got their parents to excuse them and went anyway - which, whatever, I have some sympathy with because they're finishing 8th grade too and want that celebration).

And it costs money, around $20, and that took out some more kids (next year, I'm going to come up with some sort of fundraiser that kids can do if they want so that more can go, because it made me really sad that some of them stayed back because they couldn't afford it).

But 140 of our students came on the buses with us. We got there at 9:30, left at 4:30, and had a great time in the 7 hours in between. As a chaperone, I had to do lunch duty for 45 minutes, but other than that, I was free to go on the rides and stuff just like everyone else, so several of my teacher friends and I spent the day screaming our ways through the park roller coasters.

I went on a couple of rides with kids who asked me to. Neither are kids I'm particularly close with, just kids who happened to be in line at the same time as me, but it was fun to sit by them and chat and stuff.

(Side note: after, I got guilt-tripped by other kids who I AM really close with for not going on rides with THEM. "You didn't ask me," I said, reasonably, I thought. "You didn't ask US!" they cried. "I didn't want you to feel like you had to hang out with a teacher if you didn't want to," I said. " should've still asked us....." they whined. "....Okay. Next time," I said. Which, there won't BE a next time, but that still seemed to placate them. Ah, teenage inconsistencies.)

So a fabulous, fabulous day. Until the very end. When two of our 140 did not come back to the buses (they are the 1.4% not awesome). Both of the two had been directly told by teachers (one by me!), "Now is the time you need to head toward the bus." And....nothin'.

We waited for a while, tried to get in touch with them, but no luck, so we took our 138 responsible kids back to school and called ahead to let the building know that they'd skipped out. One finally went home at 7:30; the other, not till after 10, after all district administrators and higher ups had been notified that a kid was missing, after the police had been called. Not good.

I'm not sure what's going to happen to them. The AP was so mad that she wanted to take the weekend to think about what to do. We did do one thing, though; we pulled both girls into a room during their first elective and all the teachers went in to talk to them about it.

We took whatever perspective we wanted. One teacher talked about how they'd endangered all of our jobs by doing this; another talked about what the consequences are in the military (he's former Air Force) when people miss troop deployments (execution, turns out, or at least it can be); another talked about how her sister had done this when she was in high school and how scared her family was while she was missing.

I talked about a couple of things (because it's me, and I'm chatty!). I talked about how anything could have happened to them and how scary that is for people who care about them, how I'd just met one of them for the first time that day but now did not have a particularly good view of her and that view had been spread to the entire district since she stayed out so late, how this trip might not exist going forward and that there were 500 6th and 7th graders in the building who might not get to go now.

But mostly I talked about how they had to decide what kinds of people they wanted to be. I told them that in high school, nobody would hold their hand and walk them through things, that they had to choose if they wanted to be someone who did whatever they wanted with no regard for anyone else, or if they wanted to be the kinds of people that they could be.

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker come and talk to the kids about not making excuses, about having goals, about taking responsibility. He was amazing and the kids really responded to him. I asked these girls if they'd been there for that. They nodded, and I said they needed to remember his message and choose what direction they wanted to go in life.

I didn't figure it was too meaningful to them; I don't know either of these girls at all. But the next period, one of them (the 7:30 returnee) came and apologized to me.

She said she knew it didn't change anything, but she wanted me to know that it wasn't that she hadn't been thinking about anyone else, it was that things aren't very good at home and she just.....hadn't been ready to go home yet, and she was so sorry that she'd done it. She sat on my couch, slumped over, looking so defeated and sad.

I looked at her. "Actually, to me, it does change things. I think if you're apologizing on your own, then that shows something, and I respect that. So.....thank you."

She smiled a little at that, and we talked a little longer. I told her how sorry I was that things were that bad at home, and that I hoped she could find someone to talk to about it. And I shared the line about mistakes that I shared with Bump It a while back. I've shared that with several kids recently; they seem to respond to it pretty well. A few of them have even actually changed the behaviors that triggered those conversations.

When we finished, I walked her down to another teacher she wanted to apologize to so that she didn't have to go in on her own. The whole thing left me feeling much better about the situation, and much more prepared to fight for the future of this field trip.

Because 98.6% awesome is worth it.

(Image credit to
auggie tolosa)

Temporary reprieve

We've been working on major research projects for the last several weeks and have accordingly spent a lot of time in our school library. The library is conveniently located right across the hall from my room, so it's easy for me to run back and forth if needed.

As we were heading over today, I realized that I'd forgotten a list of topics that I needed so I turned around to go grab it. It took a couple of minutes of searching before I found it and went back to the library.

When I entered, one of my boys came running up, looking alarmed. He grabbed my arm and hissed, "Ms. Teachin', you almost got scared, but that lady in brown got it instead!"

Though I was not at my best today (new cold....bleah), this still seemed somewhat nonsensical. "What?"

"I was hiding behind the door and I was going to scare you and I heard you coming and I jumped out and went, 'Boo!' but then it was that lady instead!"

I looked around. Another teacher's class was in there too, with a sub, and the sub was wearing brown.

He continued, "Ohhhhhhh, it was so embarrassing! She was like, 'Ahhhhhh!' and she jumped back and went like this," and he threw his hands up to demonstrate.

I started laughing. "Guess it serves you right for trying to scare me!"

He nodded solemnly. "Oh, it does. Next time I'll make sure it's you first."

I guess I better be ready!

(Image credit to GVician0)


During one of my planning periods today, I was sitting on the couch in my room, grading. I'd taken off my shoes so I could sit crosslegged. At the end of the period, I got up to put stuff away and get myself back together.....and one of my shoes was gone.

At first I thought I'd just kicked it under the couch. But a quick peek revealed that nothing was under there except maybe some dust bunnies. I searched for a minute - then turned to the four boys who were in my room catching up on work. "Okay, where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"My shoe. Where is it?"

They looked at each other, a veritable tableau of wide-eyed innocence. Denials spilled out, one over the other, convincing, confused, constant.

I didn't care. I stood in the doorway. "None of you are leaving till I get my shoe back." The bell rang. They started to walk to the door. I didn't move. They stopped. High noon at the OK Corral and no one was giving an inch. A tumbleweed rolled past in the hall (okay, maybe a student ambled by - kind of the same thing), but I didn't even blink. In these situations, you can't even think about backing down or you've already lost.

Finally the standoff ended when Drama King grabbed a box. "Oh, maybe your shoe's in here." He flung the lid off. And there it was.

Two and a half more weeks. I can survive for two and a half more weeks, right? I don't even have to keep my eye on the prize - just my shoes on my feet.

(Image credit to gamillos)

Carnival time is here again!

New Carnival of Educators is up over at I Want to Teach Forever - go read the goodness!

My post about losing kids is included, as are many others. Though a lot are great and totally worth reading, two especially stood out for me.

Pat at Successful Teaching wrote about how That Kid could be the Great Kid. One line in particular made me well up a little (remember, I'm a crier): "I should focus on all of my kids as if they are all Great Kids." I know, it's not anything new, but at this time of year, it's a really good reminder.

And Molly is having a tough time. She lost her job, and she's really sad about it. It broke my heart to read this post from a dedicated teacher and to see how destroyed she is by this situation that is all based on money. Because I came really close this year to being in her situation, and I feel so fortunate that I'm not, and odds are fair that next year I will be, and it's just so scary and terrible.

Sticky situation

One of my girls is having.....issues (to put it v. mildly) with two other girls at the school. Long to short, Athleta was BFF with one of the other girls, they grew apart, both shared inappropriate secrets, a cafeteria fight was narrowly avoided, and the other two got suspended while mine only got a warning.

The conflicts have continued, and today it came to a head. At lunch, Athleta came into my room looking super upset. I asked if she'd come in to watch a movie (we'd discussed that earlier), and she shook her head. She grabbed her binder and started to head out. "Everything okay?" I queried. She gave me this look that was a mix of horror and deep irritation and stormed out.

For a second I thought about just letting her go - she's really mad at me right now (I wouldn't allow her to speak to me in an extremely disrespectful way on Thursday....yeah, I suck) and I didn't really want to have another conflict. But this seemed more than that.

So amid calls from some of the boys in my room ("Did she just roll her eyes at you?" "She's muggin' you, Miss!" "Dang, what's her deal, muggin' like that?"), I followed. "Athleta!" I called. She was already halfway down the hall but stopped reluctantly and waited. I caught up. "You okay?" But as I said it, I knew she wasn't - her eyes red and her eyeliner smudged halfway down her cheeks, she was anything but okay. I paused. "Honey, what's going on?"

And the story spilled out. The other girls had accused her of calling them names when she hadn't, and now she wasn't allowed to go on a reward field trip, which was unfair because she hadn't done what they'd said and the administrator in charge hadn't listened to her or even given her a chance to tell her side. Her mom was super mad, both at Athleta and the school, and she wasn't sure if she was going to be allowed to finish the year. Everyone hated her and she only had one friend left and she was so sad all the time and so mad too. The tears spilled over again as the words tumbled out, and all I could do was listen.

When she finished, I hugged her (sometimes you have to), and tried to find something to say. I offered to talk to admin with her, offered to talk to her mom with her, offered to take a witness to Athleta's side to the office. But she shook her head to everything; I don't think she could understand, not right then. So I told her we'd talk tomorrow, and I let her go.

I don't know what to do. It's not my fight, I know that, and I don't really want to get involved - administration's a little....touchy right now and I don't need to be on anyone's bad side. But I like this kid a lot, and she's miserable right now. I remember what that feels like, to be a teenager and have all of your friends turn against you and to feel like no one cares, like you don't matter to anyone at all, and I just don't want her to feel like that.

Should I still offer to go to admin with her? Should I talk to her mom (not to tell her what to do, just to make sure she's okay if I'm involved)? Should I just bow out?

Any input would be much appreciated. Because right now, gah.

(Image credit to megyarsh)

Hugs, not drugs

I got hugged tonight. Twice. Once by a parent, once by a student.

It's not that this is a bad thing, per se. It was just....surprising.

I was at a basketball game - not for my school, but three of my kids are on the team and they'd invited me, so I went. I got there a little late so I sat by myself, but afterward, I went up to the mom of the kid who'd invited me. (Same mom, by the way, who was so mad at me earlier this year - we've come a long way since then.) I said hey, and she said hey and reached out and hugged me. And....I don't know, I was surprised but it seems rude to back away from a hug and she had already initiated it so I hugged her back. And then when her son came over, he grinned, "Oh! You came! Thanks!" and as he was speaking, reached up and hugged me. Again, I hugged back. What else could I do?

I generally don't hug kids. If someone's really upset about something and talking to me about it, I'll hug them, but I don't initiate it unless it's something like that. I'm more likely to do it with girls than boys, just because of...well, you know why, and no matter who I'm hugging, I usually make it a side hug, kind of an arm-around-the-shoulders-quick-squeeze-and-release kind of thing. Just for safety. Just to be appropriate.

The thing about not hugging, though, is that it sucks. I'm a hugger. Always have been. Greet my friends that way, say goodbye that way, give hugs for congratulations and excitement, hugs to console or's a big part of how I interact with the world. But I can't with my kids because of the potential creepazoid factor.

That annoys me. Why should a few creepy weirdos who can't behave appropriately with students ruin things for everyone else? Physical contact is a good, healthy thing, and people need it - there's plenty of research that supports that. Virginia Satir even said, "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." Twelve! And now schools are banning hugging entirely!

I get the potential for problems, I really do. I had a colleague my first year who made me very uncomfortable because of his lack of understanding of personal space (both with his peers and with his students), and I have a friend who works in a school that had a teacher/student affair crisis. Both of those are terrible things, and no kid should ever, ever, ever have to go through that. But I just think that so many kids and teachers could benefit from a little more contact.

In general, I try to pat my kids on the shoulder or back, give high fives or fist bumps, or place a hand on an arm if I'm going to initiate physical contact. That's what I've done and that's what I'll stick with. I wish, though, that it could be different.

(Image credit to Julie McLeod)
"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.
Blogger Templates created by Deluxe Templates
Wordpress Theme by EZwpthemes