Sometimes you have to fight for a cause you believe in.

As a teacher, I attend a lot of meetings. PLC meetings to plan instruction or to grade. Grade-level meetings about 8th grade issues. Faculty meetings. IEP meetings. Student behavior meetings. Evaluation meetings. They never seem to end, and I never seem to have enough time to attend all the required meetings and do all my other work too. And yet, yesterday I volunteered to go to an extra meeting on Monday, one at which my attendance might be considered less a standard part of my job....and more a declaration of war.

I mentioned yesterday that I'm going to this meeting because the student involved asked me to be there. Specifically, it's the Antagonizer. His current Language Arts teacher kicked him out of class this week, for the entire week, and told the whole class that she was doing it because he didn't want them to learn, he just wanted to distract them all and hold them back.

Now, I of all people know how incredibly obnoxious the Antagonizer can be. He is truly gifted at getting under people's skin - it's actually pretty remarkable, from sort of an anthropological perspective, when you're not the one he's harassing. So I can sympathize there.

But I also know that he's still a child, and that he's capable of trying and learning, and that
he'll do it if he believes that the teacher actually gives a crap about his education. And I know that his current teacher speaks to students (and sometimes adults) more rudely than any other teacher I have ever met, and I know that you shouldn't talk about kids that way to their peers.

So I'm going to this meeting, even though the teacher will probably take it as a personal affront and will react accordingly. I'm going because this kid deserves better - because all her kids deserve better - and because in the end, my job is to promote my students' achievement. I might not have the Antagonizer in class anymore, but he's still my student and I still care about his success, and I can testify to his ability to achieve that success in a different setting.

She fired the first shot. It might not have been aimed at me, but it grazed me nonetheless, because I can't just walk away from a kid whose educational opportunities are draining out of him more and more each day. I'm in. Scared, but in.

(Image credit to yngvarda)

I miss them too.

What do I do when I still have kids literally begging me, every single day, to come back to my class? What do I say?

I've been telling them that I didn't have the option to trade students, that if I could have, of course I would have traded for them...but it's not enough. And even though I think most of the teachers they went to are really good, solid teachers....the kids aren't connecting with them, at least not yet.

This morning, two of my boys came to ask if they could please come back to my class, PLEASE, they HATE their new teacher, they promise they'll work really hard. Because of their support needs and the school schedule, they can't come back. But they're also not making any growth in their new class because they're not doing a damn thing. One has been kicked out of class all week, in fact. (He and his parents have a meeting with the school Monday to address the issue and they asked me to attend. It'll probably be deeply uncomfortable but I said I'd do it, though I don't know what I'll say.) I saw one of them in the hall a bit later. As he trudged into his new class, he called over his shoulder to me, "Miss you..." :(

During lunch, a group of boys was walking down the hall using some rather school-inappropriate language; I called them out on it, and they apologized. Then one said, "Isn't it interesting, Ms. Teachin', how we all used to be so good and now that we don't have you anymore, we're acting so bad?" (They're in trouble in their electives.) I tossed back that they make their own choices and could still choose to be good, and that they damn well better start, but it still broke my heart a little. As I walked up the stairs, I heard them talking about how they missed the good learning environment in my room. Yes, actually in those words.

After school at a basketball game, several of my girls clustered around me. What are you doing in class, they wanted to know. I told them, and they seemed surprised. Oh, we're doing that too....but it's so boring in our class, I bet you'd make it fun. I shrugged it off, said that I'm sure plenty of kids find my class boring too, but they shook their heads and said that no, it would be more fun with me, it always used to be.

What do I say to them? What do I do?

Why I Teach.

Paul L. Martin has an absolutely gorgeous post up about why he is a teacher. You really, really, really need to go read it. Like, now. I'll wait.


Good, right? Totally inspiring and maybe brought a few tears to your eyes? At least that's how it affected me.

Because....I totally agree with Paul.
I have hope. I do not believe in a lost cause. Yes, the world seems mired in darkness, students read less and less, and no one seems to know how to get things back on track. But I know my presence in the classroom is a blow against all that. The odds are overwhelming, and the learning I facilitate may not have any effect for a long time, but I believe in what I do...When I walk in that room, see my students, launch into the lesson, everything lifts. This is where I was born to be, pure and simple.

And that is why I know that if you do not feel that, the classroom is not for you. Sure, we can look at test scores, and successful schools, and effective administrators, but it all boils down to the teacher. Why are you a teacher? The answer to that question is everything.

And it is. It is absolutely everything. For you, for your students, for their future husbands and wives and employers and employees and children and everyone.

I thought I'd mentioned before that my school is an AVID school but I can't find a post in which I did that. Anyway, we are, and I think it's a fabulous program. If you don't know AVID, it's a program designed to support academically-middle kids from underrepresented groups (like first to attend college, kids from poverty, or kids from minority groups) in their quest to attend college. The kids have to want it for themselves; it can't be their parents, because that's not enough. You can learn more about it here.

Our AVID students are writing essays right now about their personal struggles and how AVID has helped them overcome those challenges to keep them on track to go to college and achieve their dreams. The AVID teacher had emailed the 8th grade Language Arts teachers to ask us for help with revisions if we had time, so today during my plan, I trotted on down to the AVID room to read a few essays.

Each piece was to start with a personal introduction, sort of a dedication, in which students thanked anyone whom they felt had been truly instrumental in their success. Kids thanked parents, sibling, uncles, and, of course, teachers. In two of the three essays I read, I was one of the people thanked. One was the Chatterbox, who thanked me for having always been there for her, no matter what, for more things than she could ever express. The other was a sweet girl who thanked me for teaching her to love reading and writing and for never giving up on her.

That. That is why I teach.

Oh, not for the thanks, not exactly, though of course that was wonderful (so nice to be appreciated). But for them.

For the kids who shout hellos to me
every time I go to an event. For the students who say they hate reading, till they find the right book. For the poets who come in after school for extra help, just because. For the boys who eat lunch in my room every day and laugh and joke and compete for attention. For these beautiful, wonderful, talented, funny, smart, heartbroken, ridiculous, crazy, obnoxious, sad, dreamy, open, confused, angry, loving, hopeful children.

I teach for them. Each and every one of them. Nothing else could be worth it.

(Image credit to Q. Thomas Bower)

I'm like Lola, in that I never get to stop running.

I sure have not been posting much since coming back from winter break. I've just been swamped - although I have way fewer kids (just over half the number I had before), I now have twice the planning to do. Since we do workshop-style, for the most part that's not a big deal because of lot of my actual teaching is done in individual conferences, but I still have twice as many focus lessons to plan as I did before and I need twice as many resources to get through a class period, and it all just takes some time.

Also with the schedule change have come some personal changes. I was the leader of my core beforehand, doing agendas for our weekly meetings and tracking down information we needed for things; we no longer have cores, so that's no longer a responsibility. So me being me, I'm all, "Oh! Sweet! Got tonnnnnnnns of extra time now! SURE, I can take over the leadership of a school-wide team, 'cause that only meets once a month instead of once a week!"

Which is technically true, but with that also comes joining our school-wide leadership team, and that adds additional responsibilities, including things like a five-hour-long meeting once a month. Yep - FIVE. Suddenly I have less extra time. Go figure.

I also recently planned a grade-level-wide field trip, including the pre-field trip lesson, the post-field trip wrap-up (all told, about an hour and a half of material) and the lessons that the non-field trip attenders would do while we were gone (which had to fill about four and a half hours of time).

This week alone, between that and checking and organizing permission slips and haranguing the kids who hadn't brought theirs and going to the library to get twelve picture books on the topic to help build background knowledge and and and and and, I spent about 10 hours on that. Outside of my, y'know, actual job. But it was an awesome field trip (though a few minor bus glitches which I will know how to deal with for next time): the kids both learned a ton and really enjoyed it. And in the end, only about 20 kids (out of 250) didn't go, and 10 of those couldn't, due to suspensions or illness or family emergencies. So that rocked.

Overall, everything is busy, but good. And since it's always busy, the good part is the only thing that changes, and I'm glad it's on an upswing right now.

It's not just the student relationships that matter...

I just left the following as a comment to a high school teacher's post about disillusionment, and I thought it was worth reposting.

I think one of the most important factors in me enjoying my job and feeling successful at it has been other teachers. Having other adults to talk to about my kids, my content, my lessons has been crucial to ensuring my success. And those adults have included my mentor, my department chair (though I always have to seek her out - she doesn't come find me), and other Language Arts teachers (both in and out of my grade level), but also just other teachers in general. A math teacher, two social studies teachers, a science teacher, an ESL teacher, a special ed teacher, an art teacher, and a PE teacher are members of my go-to group when I want to talk about....well, anything. An individual kid, an entire class, an issue with administration, a conflict between students - whatever it is, I can find someone to talk to. And that has helped tremendously.

Now, I'm at a middle school, and that's one of the biggest differences, I think, that I have more built-in grade-level and departmental structure, but several of these people I've just gotten to know on my own through Friday afternoon drinks or sitting in new groups at faculty meetings.

I think the longer you're at a school, the easier it is to build those support networks, but reaching out to others can only be helpful. It takes time and effort, but it's worth it if it makes your job more enjoyable and thus easier.

(Image credit to hotrodhomepage - though I never share milkshakes with my colleagues. Maybe we should start!)

Triumph is mine.

Triumph (n): the joy or exultation of victory or success.

Example: when a self-professed hater of reading reads a book of poetry in two days, and then today, begs to continue independent reading because his book is so tight, and squeals in delight when given permission to read for another ten minutes.

Reading for the win - but Motormouth is the victor.

Make new friends, but keep the old....

So, I need some advice. I really want to maintain relationships with the kids I lost in the schedule shuffle, but I'm not sure how to do it with the ones who...well, who don't know how to do it themselves.

If a kid pops into my room before or after school or at lunch and plops himself down, well, then I know that he wants to stay friends and I can go from there. But some of them...I don't think they've ever had a teacher that they just hung out and chatted with.

The Antagonizer came to visit me after school today - twice. The first time, he wandered in, stayed for a few minutes, talked a little bit about his new teacher and how he thinks she's mean (which, honestly, she kinda is - I've never heard another teacher speak as rudely to students [and teachers, and administrators] as this woman), and then disappeared. Forty-five minutes later he was back, this time with a story about some guy who'd been yelling at his girlfriend outside the school, and how the Antagonizer and his friends had stood up for the girl.

Clearly he wants to keep up the relationship too, and I think it's good for him, but I'm not sure he'll continue doing this without some sort of encouragement (beyond my stopping to chat with him when he does come in, or saying hi in the halls), and I'm not sure how to do that exactly.

I'm thinking I might offer him a morning pass - a bunch of kids have permanent passes to come into my room in the mornings, and I get anywhere from five to ten every day. They like having someplace to go, especially when it's really cold outside.

I'd also like to let kids know that they can come have lunch in my room, so I thought I might post a sign with a list of days that my room is open for lunch and that they just need to tell me they want to come in so that I can come get them. Having it in the hall might help kids like my hugger from Tuesday (who stopped and hugged me again today) realize that they can come too.

Do those seem like reasonable ideas? Any other thoughts?

(Image credit to The ChainMaille Lady - get it? Silver and gold?)


At 4:30 this morning, my eyes snapped open. I was clearly done sleeping for the night, despite not drifting off last night till after 11 and having tossed and turned with troubled dreams the previous night. I've been....nervous about this schedule change, to say the least. Today we implemented.

Y'all, I now love blocks. Love, love, LOVE blocks. 91 minutes in a row with one group of kids, time for everything that matters, everything that I value, the opportunity to get to know students so much more's magical. Yes, it's only been one day, and yes, I can see where some challenges will come into play (hi, block 2! Boy, most of you sure do not much care for Language Arts, eh? We'll work on that), but overall, it's freakin' great.

I am still a little heartbroken about some of the kids I lost. I saw one of my favorites in the hallway during my plan and I told him he better start getting to his new class on time (he was habitually tardy for me, though he'd improved a lot as time passed) or I'd have to start harassing him again. He laughed and I told him that I was really sad I hadn't gotten him back in class. He said, "I know! I don't have you, or Mr. Social Studies, or Ms. Math....all new!" I pointed out that he still had a couple of teachers he knows, and he said, "Yeah, but I wanted're like the funnest teacher in the whole school!" At that, I laughed and said that I was sure that a lot of students wouldn't agree with that, but, aw, heartwarming, right? (I decided to skip the conversation about grammatically correct superlatives - seemed rude to correct a compliment.)

And one of my girls, when she came to get her binder, stopped as she was leaving and said, "I just need a hug before I go." They're so cute. I will miss them all terribly - I hope they come to visit.

But overall, feeling much more positive. Thank you all for your support and sympathy as I've struggled through this. Onward to June!

(Image credit to

Blog blahs.

Hey. How's it going? Been enjoying your winter break? Yeah, me too, mostly. Except that I feel stuck on posting here.

It's not that I don't have anything to say. Let's be honest, this is me. I ALWAYS have something to say, and usually say it far too wordily. It's that....I don't know what to say. Nothing compels me.

Do I write about how I'm going to restart my classes? I could, I suppose......except I don't know yet. I have a few ideas, but I'm like a hummingbird, unable to settle on any one concept for good.

Do I write about how the last week ended? Even I'm not that interested in it, so why would you be?

Do I write about how nervous I am, how even though I know it's going to work out fine (and on some level I do know that), I don't quite believe it? There's not much else to say there.

I feel stuck, a bug in a drop of amber, able to see the outside world and know that I should be out there, but instead crystallizing in my own indecision.

I'm assuming I'll be better next week, once I'm back, once I'm with the kids, once I've made some decisions and restarted it all. I'll have to be. Because if I'm not, it's going to be a looooooong rest of the year.

We'll reconvene then.

(Image credit to jayegirl99)
"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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