Did NOT see this coming.

Sweet Child o' Mine came in after school today. He wanted to use a computer to play a game; I said he could once he finished a science lab that I've been holding for him. He hemmed and hawed a bit, then sat down and got to work. We chatted a bit as he worked and I graded. At one point, he said, "Do they have teachers like you at Local High School?"

"I'm sure they do," I replied.

"Because maybe you could just go teach there."

I told him I probably couldn't (honestly, I'm lucky to have a job next year), but that I really appreciated that and that I'd keep an eye on the job postings just in case. He nodded. A few minutes later, he asked, "So.....would it be okay if I came back once I'm in LHS and you could still help me with my homework sometimes?"

"Of course it would," I said.

I don't imagine he'll ever come back for that, not actually...but how sweet that he asked.

And even more - how amazing that he's planning on doing homework in high school.

(Image credit to laffy4k)

Carnival of Educators - check that out!

'Sup, y'all? It's time for some carnival madness! We have a buncha good entries this round (though we can always use more....submit for next time here!), so settle in and get reading.

Mathew Needleman presents What to do When Children Cry in Class posted at Creating Lifelong Learners. Although I laughed so hard that I cried the first time I saw this video a while back, it's a serious topic when it comes to the classroom.

Erin Topping submitted a piece by Q6, described as, "a blog that doesn't update that often, but usually has some interesting things to say -- this one's a radical grading paradigm shifty thing": Grade Calculation, Student Focus, and Winter Sports posted at Assistive Principles . . .. And it is interesting indeed.

Sarah submitted THREE (love those overachievers!) and told me to I'm going with Confessions: Boundary Issues posted at Confessions of an Untenured Teacher. I totally get where she's coming from.

Pamela presents CreekSchooling posted at Blah, Blah, Blog. What a great experience....I want my kids to get to do more stuff like that!

Sarah Garb presents Hold Your Nose posted at Dead Class Pets. I like fries too....

Scott Palat presents Student Success Resolution #6: Get Help When Needed posted at Colleen Palat. Oh my GOD I wish they would do this.

TIC Technology In Class presents Whom Do You Help? posted at Technology In Class. I write a lot about the needy wacky kids, because they make for good stories....but I'm with the poster here. We gotta think more about the middle.

Georgina Baeza presents Mr. Hinz posted at La Brown Girl. I wanna be in the superhero teacher crew....

Sarah Ebner presents An education in good manners - are schools and teachers given too many parental responsibilities? posted at School Gate - Times Online - WBLG. Wouldn't it be nice to give BACK some of these responsibilities? Sarah's a rockstar, and she's got kickin' guest posters too!

Rhonda Franz presents School Choice and Student Discipline posted at Parenting Squad. This really is a HUGE issue. Like, ridiculously so.

Adriana presents How To Kill a Dream posted at Today's Life Psychology. You gotta keep your dreams.

Rachel presents Harris Burdick - Who's there? posted at Progressively Unnecessary. I know I'm a better writer when I think about who's reading my work.

teachin' presents Hell of a day. posted at I'm a Dreamer. I still can't even believe this day. Like...ridiculous. On so many levels.

Oh, and some list posts. I deleted most of 'em but these three seemed valid. (If I didn't include your list post and you think it was actually education related, comment, and I'll add it in.)

Florine Church presents 100 Creative Ways to Excite & Inspire Young Readers posted at Online Degrees.

Zach Macias presents 10 Essential Web Tools for Teachers posted at Online Teacher Certification.

Wise Bread presents How to answer 23 of the most common interview questions posted at Wise Bread.

Thanks to everyone who submitted - don't forget to keep 'em coming. Carnivals are always in the works, and YOU make them successful!

I always feel the loss.

A student I adore sent me this email today:

Hi Ms. Teachin' -

I'm going to be leaving the school to live with my dad. I know it would be better if I just waited to the end of the school year but that probably wont happen. I just wanted to thank you for all of the support you gave me, it means a lot to me. Hopefully I'll be able to see you again but if I don't, Bye.

Apparently she ditched one day last week, and her mom decided she was done; washed her hands of her daughter. Her beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, sweet, amazing daughter, who sometimes makes mistakes since she's, you know, a KID.


Although I think living with her dad will be better for her (she's a lot happier when she interacts with her dad and much more nervous around her mom), I'm so sad that it's happening so close to the end of her last year in the school. It's just one more month - I'm really hoping she'll be able to find transportation back (that's the issue apparently) for such a short time frame.

I emailed her back right away to say how much I'd miss her and how much I hope it works out....she's a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous kid who really will change the world.

This is what's hardest for me about my school, bar none - the mobility. It comes with the poverty, I get that, but it's so heartbreaking to watch kids I love leave....and it happens all the time. The Charmer. DC. BB Bob. The Eyeliner Queen. The Natural Athlete. Slick. The Goofball. Kids I adore, kids I worked so hard to reach, kids who learned and grew and changed and were the better for having been in my class (at least mostly)....and they're all gone. And I'll probably never see most of them again.

I have to believe that at least some of the changes are for the best, and that they'll be okay no matter what (and they will, they will, I know that), and that they did learn something in my class, and that they end up okay. But it's hard to watch them leave and know it might be the last time.

They're good kids. They deserve the best. They deserve to be in good situations and I hope they are, I hope they're in better situations than before, I hope they find some stability and happiness.

But I miss them.

I hope she keeps in touch.

(Image credit to Eisenheim.)

Carnival time is close....

....and I have gotten some awesome submissions (thanks!) but still want more!

So. Here's the deal. If you are reading this post and you have a blog that is related to education in any way....would you please do a quick post asking people to submit here by midnight Eastern time tomorrow (And. If you miss the deadline. Let's be honest - hit me up by Monday evening and I'll probably still work you in. See? That's how much I love you! That's how much I want your work in the carnival! That's how awesome you are!)?

Because, sure, I can go around and just gather posts I like from the millions of blogs I read (and I will if I have to), but I'd love to get more people submitting the work they want others to read. So any posts soliciting submissions would be much appreciated.

And. If you have not yet submitted. Do it. Do it now. Look at your posts, recent or otherwise, and choose one you like for any reason, and submit.

It doesn't have to be the most amazing post ever written in the history of the world; it just has to relate to education and be from an actual person. If you submit it and it's a real post and not just a spam list post about the 50 greatest things anyone could do in their classroom ever ever ever for reals yo (of which I have gotten about 20 and ain't none of 'em getting posted), then your post WILL be in the carnival! The point is to share ideas on education on a wider-than-usual scale, so that you find awesome new blogs and people who've never read you before find your awesome blog, and we all feel more connected and happy and yay!

So go. Go now. Choose one and submit and then come back on Tuesday and read the whole dang thing. It's gonna be sweet. For reals.

Better for everyone

I used my relationship with a student the other day to try to change his behavior in someone else's class.

It's the first time I've done this explicitly. Sure, I've talked to kids before to try to get them to change things, and sometimes it's worked and sometimes it hasn't. It's a bit of a sensitive issue for some teachers, because what it means is that I have a better relationship with that student than they do, and I know a few of my colleagues feel sort of bad about that, and I try to be careful with that. I go to other teachers for help when I know a kid who performs well for them is being a pain for me, but since relationships are one of my strong points, it doesn't happen with every teacher. And so I try to step in only if it's a kid I'm actively mentoring, or if a teacher requests the help.

This one was both. My pal Sweet Child o' Mine is hugely obnoxious in one of his electives. He doesn't like the class, he doesn't like the teacher, and it's the last period of the day so he's just kinda done anyway.

The teacher is in her first year. She tries really hard and she cares about the kids and their success, but she's new and she's struggling with her classroom management and her student interactions, and it's been a tough year for her.

A while ago, she asked me for help. I'm on my building's leadership team because I facilitate our PBS stuff, and she asked to come observe one of my classes and if I'd observe hers. She observed me and I observed her other 8th grade class and offered some thoughts, but I haven't done the one with SCoM yet.

Apparently Wednesday he was terrible. Rude, refused to work, disruptive to other students (with whom he is friends, but still). Thus Thursday he was supposed to go to her for detention. He went to my room instead.

She asked me if she could go get him (I was still in the cafeteria talking to a colleague) and I said of course.

It didn't go well.

When she told him to go, apparently he said, "When I'm finished eating." She doesn't have the power to compel him to go because he doesn't respect her, and I don't think she knew what to do, and she came back to the cafeteria practically in tears because of it. And I felt so bad for her.

I tried to help. Did she want me to send him down? No, because now she needed time to plan (and I think she didn't want to deal with him after that, for which I don't blame her). Did she want me to come down during his class and the three of us could talk? No...she wasn't sure if she'd have time when the other kids were working independently enough to step outside. Did she want me to come down at the end of the day and we could talk then? No to that too. She just needed some time to think. I said of course, and that's when I offered to use the relationship. I told her he wouldn't be coming to my room for lunch until his behavior improved in her class. She said okay, but I don't think she thought it would make a difference; nothing else has.

When I got back to my room, I pulled SCoM out to the hall. "SCoM, do you treat me with respect?" He said yeah. "Do you treat every teacher with respect?" Yeah again. I persisted. "Do you treat Ms. Elective with respect?"


"Right. But not always. Did you treat her with respect when she came up just now?"

"I just asked if I could wait till I was finished eating."

"Did you ASK her or did you TELL her?"

He thought briefly. "I think I asked....I don't know."

"Should you have asked or should you have just gone?"

"...I should've gone."

"Yup." I looked at him. "SCoM, you like eating lunch in my room, right? You like that I help you with your work? You like that I give you snacks?" He nodded to each. "As of right now, all that's done. Because right now I don't respect YOU." SCoM looked surprised, but I continued. "I don't respect someone who would be as rude to another human being as you are to her. You treat her badly, and I don't want to be friends with someone who would do that to someone else. So until your behavior in her class changes to be the type of student I know you can be, you and I are not friends. Understood?" He nodded again. "Do you know what I'm talking about? Do you know the problems with your behavior and what you need to do differently?"

"Yeah. I know."

"Then do it." I went back into the room, feeling kind of terrible. I don't like doing this kind of stuff, but no other consequences seem to matter to him (including referrals, detentions, suspensions....), and maybe this one would. He shuffled back in after me. We had maybe a minute left before lunch was over. When the bell rang, I told him to go to class and not be late (he's also tardy to his classes all the time). He nodded, smiling. I added that I didn't think it was funny to be late all the time, and he protested that he didn't either, and stopped smiling. He left, and I went about my business for the next two hours.

After school, he came back to my room. "Ms. Teachin', I was good in class today."

"Really good or just a little better?"

"Really good."

"Okay, SCoM. I'm glad to hear that. I'll check in with Ms. Elective to see if that's true." I smiled at him, and he smiled back and left.

When I checked, it was true; she said that his behavior was enough better that she'd be happy if it was that way every day.

This gives me some ideas for how to change things at my school which I'm mulling over now; I'll post about them eventually. But for now, I'm just glad that the situation's better for everyone involved.

(Image credit to Eye of Einstein)

I believe in her.

Sometimes I just don't know what to say.

I know; that's hard to believe. I am among the chattiest of Cathys, as you can all tell from my remarkably long-winded posts. And usually I'm just fine; I'm lucky enough to process quickly and so I can easily come up with replies to just about anything.

Note the "just about."

Because....I'm having a hard time with something.

I mentioned the other day that my student assistant, Bump It, is probably getting expelled. It's not definite yet, but it's likely - we run a three strikes kinda program for major offenses, and she fulfilled number three a couple of weeks ago (I'm not going to say anymore about why, just for confidentiality, even though this is already fairly anonymous). I heard about it from kids the next day, and was so sad; she's been my assistant since mid-October, which is when she transferred back to my school from the one she'd started at this year.

I'd had Bump It in 6th grade. Though she had some anger management and impulse control issues, they never came out in my classroom, so I was happy to try to mentor her when she returned. But in two thirds of the year, she never really opened up. She'd talk to me about stuff if I pushed, but only things I already knew about; maybe twice did she bring up anything new. But she was doing better than last year: grades, attendance, everything. I thought maybe she was growing up, and I was SO happy to see it.

And then. This.

A few days ago, a friend of Bump It's ran up to me and handed me a letter. I started to read it, but stopped halfway through; I knew from the first chunk that it would make me cry, and I couldn't do that before class. Later, I took the time to read it carefully, and I was right about the tears.

She feels hopeless. She's worried she'll never amount to anything. This has made her have goals - she wants to go to college, make something of herself, make her parents proud of her. That last part is especially important: right now, they think that she'll never amount to anything. Or at least that's what they tell her. (Most of my kids have awesome parents. But some make me sad.) She told me that the speeches I used to give her did make a difference, and she referenced a time that I asked her if she wanted to go to college. I don't actually remember this conversation, but apparently she said no, she didn't. And now she does, and she doesn't think she'll be able to.

I've been working on a reply. Here's what I've got so far.
Dear Bump It,

Thank you so much for your letter; I was so glad to hear from you. It made me really sad when I learned that you'd xxxxxxxxxxx, because you know I think you're so much more than that. I'm so sorry you're going through such a difficult time right now; you made a really bad choice and now you have to deal with the consequences (that's part of life), but what I want you to remember is that it was one choice, and it does not define who you are.

Bump It, you DO matter. You WILL be able to succeed. I'm so happy to hear that you want to go to college, because you're smart and capable, and you can do wonderful things with your life. Yes, you made a mistake. We all have. It doesn't end things for you.

Someone told me something once that has stuck with me ever since. She said, "Everyone makes mistakes. It's what we do after them that counts." I really believe that. None of us are perfect; we all mess up. It's what we do AFTER we mess up that defines who we are. You have an opportunity here to choose who you want to be, what direction you want to go. And you know the direction you want to go, and you can do it.

Whatever happens now, remember that this is just one part of your life, just one little part. It won't always be easy, and I know that. I know it feels huge right now - I know it's everything right now. But life goes on, and you will grow up, and things will get better. It might not help to hear that because it doesn't really feel real to you right now. Try to remember it, though, and try to focus on your goals for your future.

I want you to know that I will always be here for you and I will always believe in you. If you need help with something, call me. If you have a question, call me. If you want to just talk about life, call me. I believe in you. Believe in yourself.

Your friend,

Ms. Teachin'
What do you think? Okay? Lame? Should I change stuff?

(Image credit to Pink Sherbet Photography)

A creative consequence.

On a field trip today, Honey, the girl who asked if she could call me Mom, was apparently unaware that I was walking nearby as we were trudging up a hill to join a group. We're having beautiful weather here, but that meant that we were all baking in the sun as we went. One of her friends called back to her to hurry up; she responded with, "F---, n---a, I don't wanna f---in' run," as she flounced along the road.

I was, like, ten feet away.

I promptly called her out on her choice of phrasing. She was appropriately horrified that I'd heard her and quite apologetic, but that didn't seem sufficient to me in this particular case. I'm not big on detentions or referrals with cursing; they just don't usually seem effective. So I decided a language consequence would match a language infraction quite nicely. "If you're going to use language like that when we're out in public, I don't want you calling me Mom anymore. You're done with it."

"But ---"

"Nope. Done."

She tried to argue again and I told her that I wasn't discussing this then and we needed to get with the group. I figured later I'd catch her and we'd have a conversation about appropriate language for public and how it might offend others and how it makes her look bad....but I never got a chance. Honey found me.

"Ms. Teachin', I want to apologize for what I said before. It was rude and inappropriate and I shouldn't have said it, and I'm really sorry. And I won't do it again." She stood with her head hanging contritely.

"Thank you, Honey. I appreciate that."

"You're welcome. So......" She glanced up from under the curtain of hair shielding her face. ".....does that mean I can call you Mom again?"

I laughed and said that she could, as long as she kept the rest of her language within my expectations for decorum.

I don't know if it will last, but I like it as a new consequence for now....

(Image credit to circo de invierno)

Hook me up, yo

So I'm hosting the next Carnival of Educators, and y'all, I need some submissions. Send me anything you want - a piece you wrote that you're really proud of stylistically, something with intriguing or controversial ideas, a post about a problem with which you need assistance....anything that's not just a random list solely for revenue-generating purposes.

Know another blogger who should submit? Tell 'em! Or submit a post on their behalf - that's totally cool too (.....I think. Someone correct me if I'm wrong).

The former Carnival of Education was how I discovered a LOT of the blogs I now read, and I think we should keep doing the favor of collecting numerous quality posts from rockin' contributors in one place so that people interested in education can get a lot of goodness at once.

Let's do this thing.

"Yeah. Honestly."

Last year, one of my best students was Miss Enthusiasm. She's a brilliant writer and was always super engaged and super awesome in my class. Now, this was true in MY class - not every class. For some reason, she connected with me in a way that she didn't connect with all of her teachers, and that was reflected in her classroom performance.

This year, she and I have stayed pretty close, and have recently gotten closer. She's started volunteering to help me in my room on Tuesdays after school (she was the other kid there during Tuesday's awkwardness) and she sort of does some work and we chat and she gets some attention that she clearly needs.

A few days ago, she asked if she could become my student assistant; I had one, actually a friend of Miss Enthusiasm's, as a mentoring thing, but she's probably getting expelled (another post - I'm not ready to write that one yet). So I could use a new one, and I think it might be useful for Miss Enthusiasm. Like I said, she was a rock star for me, but that's not true of every class, and since she respects and admires me, she doesn't like it when I'm disappointed in her behavior.

Anyway, today after school we went to talk to her counselor about it. I'd already broached the subject and her counselor had been reluctant since it's so close to the end of the year, which frustrated ME. We were trying again.

The counselor was in a meeting when we arrived, and while we were waiting, I asked ME, "So...why DO you want to be my student assistant anyway?" I figured the practice answering wouldn't hurt.

She thought for a moment. "Honestly?"

"Yeah, honestly."

"Because....being around you makes me feel good. You're always happy, always positive. I like that about you. Sometimes I'm having a bad day at school and I'm all upset, and then I hear your voice, and then I'm like, 'Aw, Ms. Teachin'!' And I just....feel better."

It's hard to know what to say to a compliment that big. It filled all of me, and all I could respond with was, "Well....that does seem like a good reason." I paused. "And....thanks."

She smiled.

We kept waiting.

Nothing had really changed.

But I will never forget this afternoon.

Hell of a day.

I've figured it out.

The world likes me blogging.

I mean, it must. Because why else would I have a day like today if not to write about it?

When your day starts with one of your kids getting hit by a car and ends with a student peeing on your floor, there's gotta be some sort of higher meaning, right?

I'll begin at the beginning.

Grins came into my room this morning to hang out. He happened to be the only one in there, and we were chatting about this and that as I prepared for the day. Ninjas, his grades, why permanent markers are banned at school....and then he tossed in, "I got hit by a car this morning, Ms. Teachin'."

I looked at him. "What?"

"I got hit by a car."

"Hit. Like, actually hit. Like.....HIT. BY A CAR." He nodded. "Did it STOP????" Shook his head. "Did you report this????" Again, negative. Well, that was just great.

"Honey, I need to have you go to the nurse to get checked out ---"

"What??? No! I'm fine!"

I stopped him. "I hope you're fine, but I need to make sure. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if you had internal bleeding and died ---"

"Don't you think I would know if I had internal bleeding? I'm fine!"

"Grins, this is non-negotiable. I HAVE to report this. C'mon." We walked down to the office, he arguing with me the whole way, trying to talk me out of it, telling me that he was going to get in trouble, that his dad would think he was dumb, that he really was fiiiiiiine....

I felt terrible.

And how ridiculous that I feel terrible for reporting that a child got hit by a car that then drove away. But I do, because he was so upset.

So that colored the first hour or so of my day; this was right before first period, and I just felt so terrifically guilty about the whole thing that I was awfully quiet and serious during class (I know, because several kids asked me what was wrong). Eventually, though, I was able to put it out of my mind and refocus on teaching. And the rest of the day passed essentially uneventfully (though the Antagonizer did a surprisingly large amount of work - it was a pleasant change).

Then. After school.

One of my kids, Stephanie Meyer's Biggest Fan, had asked me if she could stay after. She was absent yesterday so I assumed she just wanted some time/space to do her work; we hadn't done anything new, just continued several ongoing projects so it didn't require any guidance and I was working on my own stuff. Another girl was in my room helping me with some clerical work; she likes to be useful and she likes to have personal attention, and so she volunteers with me once a week and we chat and she does this and that.

So all three of us were talking, and somehow Twilight came up (because it always does in conversations with SMBF), and I asked if they'd seen the Twilight/Buffy mashup (which, if you haven't, it's brilliant - go watch it immediately and revel in how much more badass and awesome Buffy is than creepy creepy Edward).

They hadn't, so we watched it, me sitting at my desk and the girls standing to the side. SMBF started moving oddly as she was watching - it kind of looked like the pee dance (you know the one) but I thought, hey, she's in 8th grade, it's after school, if she needs to go, she'll go.

Well, she did.

But not the way I would have hoped.

Suddenly I heard a distinctive splashing noise. I looked over and....yep. Yellow puddle forming. I said, "You can go to the bathroom...." because she was just standing there, peeing.

She said, "I can't."

What that meant, I got nothin' (maybe that she couldn't move right then?), but I was in shock, so I sat there for another 30 seconds or so while the video ended and she continued. Finally it finished and I said, "Why don't you go to the bathroom."

As she started out the door, SMBF stopped and said that her doctor had told her this might happen. And then she went. And I looked at the other student and said that I'd appreciate it if she wouldn't tell anyone, which she immediately agreed to, and then I went to find a custodian, and then to check on SMBF. She refused a pair of school dress-code sweats; she'd been wearing a skirt so she just took off her tights and said she was fine. She said this had started yesterday, and the doctor said to wait and see what happened; I suggested she have her parents call the school so all her teachers know that if she asks to go, she needs to go RIGHT THEN.

After she left, I emailed my AP, the counselor, and the school nurse because this was just so weird; it seems like something must be going on, medically or emotionally, for something like this to happen, and I'm certainly not equipped to deal with the situation. I will say that SMBF seemed remarkable unphased by the whole thing - at her age, I'd've been in tears, and calling my mom to insist on transferring schools immediately. I'll check in with her tomorrow after I get some guidance on what to say.

It was a hell of a day.

(Image credit to jomilo75)

A mid-April prank.

You know, one of the things I enjoy about my job is that it's always surprising. Whatever else it is, it's always surprising.

When I was in the office at one point today, another staff member stopped me. She pulled me into an empty room and closed the door. I had no idea why, but her daughter is a student of mine, so I was starting wonder if she was upset about something.

She looked at me for a moment. "Okay. Athleta has been bugging me to ask you this. She says you've had this glow, and you've been really happy, and --"

And I knew exactly where she was going with this. "Nope. Not pregnant."

She smiled. "Okay, just wondering. She's been bugging me to ask you for days so I thought I would. She just keeps saying that you're glowing and so happy and you've been wearing skirts."

Really? Because I'm happy and wearing seasonally-appropriate clothing, I'm knocked up? "I'm happy because I like my job and I'm wearing skirts because of the weather! That's so funny she asked that." I told the mom my story from Friday and we both chuckled. "So now you know," I finished. "Wait - don't tell Athleta, okay? I'm going to mess with her now." Hey, she didn't ask me herself, she made her mom do it - she deserves a little prank.

Her mom agreed not to tell and I started plotting. Athleta usually comes into my room to hang out before school. Assuming she does that tomorrow, at some point while we're chatting, I'll suddenly sit down with my hand on my face. After a brief pause, I'll say something like, "Sorry. I just haven't been feeling too well in the mornings some days."

Then I'm going to start talking about a name that someone mentions. I'll muse aloud, "XXXXX....that's a really pretty name. I like that." And then I'll go write it down on a piece of paper at my desk.

I even got another teacher to help. She's going to come in and say that she just heard and congrats! And I'll thank her, and then if a kid asks, I'll say that I won this thing, being purposely vague.

I think it's gonna be hilarious. We'll see how long it takes before Athleta says something or gets someone else to.....

(Image credit to Daquella manera)

Worth giving up 11 hours of my Saturday?

The field trip that was causing me so many concerns was today.

In general we had a fabulous time; all but one of the kids showed, which for a Saturday ain't too bad. One had to leave early due to an injury from a few days ago, and another went home sick, which was a shame for him (and for me, because I missed out on an hour and a half of the conference as I waited (...and waited...and waited) with him for a parent to show up).

Three of my darlings got into moderate trouble; it almost became real trouble, but something good happened. They had skipped out on one of the conference sessions and texted me to see if that was okay. It wasn't, and I called them to find out where they were so I could go discuss it with them in person; as I hung up, I heard Drama King say to the other two, "I think she's mad."

When I got to them, I started with, "I'm not mad."

"Yes you arrrrrrrrrrre, Miss!"

I stopped them. "I'm not mad. But I AM disappointed in you. I'm not going to tell you that you have to go back into the session; you can make your own choices. But you should know that if you don't go back to the sessions, you're banned from my room for the rest of the year [all three eat lunch in my room almost every day]." And then I waited.

Grins (he's one of those kids who smiles all the time, even when he's in trouble - he often gets in more trouble for it) asked, "If we go back in, will you still be disappointed in us?"

I shook my head. "Nope. If you go back in, the slate is wiped clean and we're good, assuming the rest of the day goes well."

For a moment, no one said anything. Then Grins spoke up. "I don't want to be banned from the room....but I really don't want Ms. Teachin' to be disappointed in me. I'm going back in." He looked at his friends, and after a moment, they agreed. They got up, and went back.

Were they perfect the rest of the day? No. But they tried. They tried hard. And they did fairly well. It's good to be respected....or maybe just to have a carrot that you can use as a stick when needed.

Another highlight of the day came when one of my kids told me I would not be working at my school next year because I'd be moving to the high school to teach her there (adorable), and then later asking if I could adopt her because I'm so fun. I declined, so she asked if she could call me Mom. I said she could call me that, but I might not realize to answer.....I was immediately Mom or Momma T (for Teachin', of course) for the rest of the day to four of them.

Another one won a book that she didn't want, so she said I could have it for my classroom library but not yet because she has to do something to it first, which turned out to mean sign it to me. :)

And three of my seventh graders (kids I had last year) agreed that while they really like all the 8th grade Language Arts teachers, they're going to have a fit if they don't get me next year. They planned it out: where to lie down, how to kick and hit their fists at the same time, just what they would say (along the lines of "It's not faaaaaaaaair! I want Ms. Teeeeeeeeeachin'! NONONONONONO!"). Clearly they will not actually do this, because if they even try it, I'll kill 'em, but it was sweet.

They are so cute. I love my kids.

To answer my title's question? Definitely.

Couch to 5K!

So I'm one week should do it too! I already am feeling better about it - my legs hurt less yesterday after day 3 than they did after day 1, which is quite encouraging! Do I love every minute of the actual running? No. Sometimes I don't mind it and sometimes I actively resent it :), but I'm so proud of myself for actually DOING it when I've never managed before.

I listen to Robert Ullrey's podcasts while I run - he tells me when to run, and when to walk, and says encouraging little things, and even though I know he's not actually talking to me personally, it still really helps to hear it. (Hmmmm....I wonder if I could harness that for my classroom.....) And other music/inspirational options are here.

In addition, I'm planning little treats for myself after each completed week; this week I bought some cute new spring exercise pants, and next week I'm planning on a new sports bra, so that helps too. And all my runner friends are being so positive and encouraging; it's awesome.

It actually makes me believe that I just might be able to do this thing....

(Joan, how's that for inspiration?)

Doesn't matter if you're not TRYING to be rude...

Today's high was in the mid 70s. Everything's greening up and daffodils and crocuses are popping up all over the place. My local park is jammed after work; while I was running yesterday (week 1 day 3 of Couch to 5k - I can feel myself improving!), I saw two girls actually lying out in bikinis.

I have spring fever, and baaaaaad.

So last night I went and got my first pedicure of the season, and today I wore a cute new dress that I picked up in Beijing.

Now, I am not always the fanciest dressed teacher around. I wear jeans on our school pride days (because my school pride shirts are all pretty casual - hoodies and t-shirts and the like) and often one other day as well, and I wear a skirt maybe once every three or four weeks. Pants are easier when I end up sitting on the floor to conference with kids, y'know?

Thus I expected a few comments about my fancy-schmanciness today. And I got them.

Most were very positive.

"Ms. Teachin', you look so cute!"

"Ms. Teachin', that's such a pretty dress!"

"I love your outfit, Ms. Teachin'!"

Those were my girls. My boys were less sure what to say.

Sweet Child o' Mine went with, "Ms. Teachin's wearing a dress?"

Which I said was not the MOST complimentary thing I'd ever heard, so a friend of his countered with, "You look like a flower that's just....uh.....starting look like a flower." I said that was better; this is a kid who said a few weeks ago that I'm like a second mom to him, so I thought it was a sweet effort.

My favorite, though, had to be the student who came up to me after class. He looked at me and said, "Ms. Teachin', I'm not trying to be rude, but that dress kind of makes you look pregnant."

Yep. JUST what you want to hear about your cute new and, yes, empire-waisted summer dress.

I pointed out that just because you're not trying to be rude doesn't mean you aren't still being it.

He nodded, and kept staring skeptically at my midriff. "I'm just saying that's what it looks like...."

"No, honey, I'm not pregnant. I'll keep you posted, though."

Just then one of my girls came in for the next class and gasped. "Oh, Ms. Teachin'! You look so nice today!"

I called to the boy, "THAT'S what you say, my friend. THAT'S what you tell someone."

I don't think the dress makes me look pregnant; I can see where he got that, and it's not the most body-flattering silhouette, but since I'm not looking to impress a bunch of teenagers with my figure, I'm good with that. I will say, though, I did go ask a friend for reassurance. She said I looked very cute and not to worry.

Might not wear that dress again to school, though.

(Image credit to housingworksauctions - my dress looks NOTHING like this one, except for a similar waist-line)


I love field trips. Love coming up with concepts, love going on them, love talking to kids about them after. I even love the planning of them - figuring out what will be fun to do, why it's valuable, how to make it all work.


This should not be that hard! Of course, "should" is the operative word there...


Liar liar

Do you guys read Road Diaries? It's Anthony Mullen's blog; he's the Teacher of the Year, and he's a DAMN good writer. His post today is about breaking points - "the moment when remaining calm and appearing sane becomes harder to grasp than hugging smoke." It's an interesting story, and one I'd recommend you read, but I'm not posting about that overall. I'm writing about one line. Mullens was talking to someone about the situation in which they found themselves, and his conversational partner said, "People can take a lot of tings [sic], but not the lies. Not the lies."

And I was going to write about that (though not from Mullens' perspective so go read his too), just sort of a general thing because I try really, really, really hard not to lie to students; I don't like lying and I don't like to do it and I feel bad about myself when I do and so I just generally don't do it. It's awkward sometimes, because they'll ask me about things that I really CAN'T talk about from a confidentiality perspective, so then I have to find ways to answer without actually lying, but usually that works out in the long run.

So that's what I was going to write about.

And then I read about Constance McMillan, and the end to her prom saga.

Have you followed this? Constance, a senior in Mississippi, is gay. She wanted to go to her prom with her girlfriend. The school board said no. Constance and the ACLU sued. The school board lost and so they canceled the prom entirely rather than let her go. But then a private one was being put on! Constance was to go to that! A victory for reasonable, accepting, open people everywhere!


Oh, except.

The new prom was fake. Seven students, including Constance, went. SEVEN. Everyone else went to the REAL private prom that night, at a location kept secret from Constance.

And my heart broke.

Because why would you do that? Why would you treat another human being that way? I just....I don't get it. She's a person. SHE'S A PERSON. A human being like all the rest of us. That's all you should have to say.

And what makes it even worse is that it seems some teachers and the principal may have been in on it, since they chaperoned the fake secret prom.

In my classes recently we've been discussing what it means to be an American, particularly in regards to race, gender, social class, and citizenship status. I wanted to include sexual orientation as well but I got shot down on that because it might be too controversial. And I deferred. And now I'm so angry that I did. Because if we don't talk about this kind of stuff, then nothing changes. And this bullshit keeps happening. And we're lying to ourselves about our society and our futures and our humanity.

See, the thing is, lying isn't just about saying something untrue. It's about not saying the truth when you know what it is. It's about hearing the word gay sneered at someone and not calling the user out. It's about letting a friend refer to a decision as retarded without correcting their language. It's about ignoring the dozenshundredsthousandsmillions of petty cruelties that we perpetrate on each other every single day.

Land of the free. Home of the brave. We should be brave enough to stand up for those who aren't allowed to be free to be themselves.

Anything else is a lie.

I hope that I can someday be as brave and honest as Constance McMillan. I try every day but I'm not there yet. But I'm going to keep trying. That's my truth. That's what I have to do, because I can take a lot of things, but I can't take the lies.

A new level of personal.

A while ago, Rachel at Progressively Unnecessary asked how personal was too personal - as in, would you give students your cell phone number and allow them to text you. At the time, I said that I had a couple of students who had my cell phone number but just for setting up or rescheduling meetings (I mentored both).

As of today, that's going to change.

As of today, about 25 kids will have my cell phone number.

I'm taking those 25 kids on a field trip this Saturday and I want their parents to be able to get in touch with us during the day if needed, so I'm sending home my cell phone number. And while we're on the field trip on Saturday, I want those kids to be able to get in touch with me in case they get separated (we're going to a conference and people will be in a bunch of different places. Two other teachers are going too, but I'm leading the trip so I figure I'm the one whose contact info should go out).

I'm mildly nervous about this. They're all good kids and they're all (reasonably) trustworthy....but that doesn't mean they won't think it's exciting to have a teacher's number.

We'll see how it goes. I'm torn between not making a big deal out of it, you know, just being like, "So here's my number in case you need it," and between having the conversation about how I'm trusting them here and asking them not to abuse the information and keep it to themselves and use it only if needed and stuff. I'm leaning towards the former as a group, and then the latter if it becomes an issue with an individual student. Does that seem reasonable?

What a strange milestone in the life of a teacher - distributing your cell phone number. That was not something my grandmother dealt with when she taught high school English (though she did teach in her own community - plenty of her students knew exactly where she lived).

(Image credit to woodleywonderworks)

A better person.

One of the things I enjoy about teaching is that it makes me a better person. Not inherently - I'm not saying that teachers are better people than most (though some of us, no, I kid, I kid. Sort of). No, I mean that I become a better person because I'm trying to be a good model for my students.

Some days I just don't want to get out of bed and go to school. But I do, because that's the responsible choice (and because sub plans are more trouble than they're worth, but that's beside the point).

I NEVER want to sit down and grade papers; I can always think of something else I'd rather be doing. But I do it because I've promised the students (explicitly and implicitly) that I will; if they've put in the work, I need to put in the work.

And today I went running for the first time since college (when I ran a grand total of twice before giving up and going back to the stationary bike). I've been talking about considering trying to start jogging off and on for a few years, but never have quite managed it, mainly because I freakin' HATE it. But I think it would be good for me, and I don't get much exercise during the school year because my gym is too far away and I'm too tired in the evenings, and so running seems like it would be a good solution, particularly as the weather's getting nicer. My husband runs, a ton of my friends run, I live half a mile from the nicest park in my town, it'd be good for my dogs....I have lots of reasons to take it up. But I never have.

Today I went because on Friday, two of my favorite students asked me if I'd do a 10K with them at the end of the year. I hemmed and hawed and said that I hated running, and they cajoled and pleaded, and in the end I said I'd think about it. And they cheered, and I thought, "I really have to do this now." They tipped the scale towards trying instead of just continuing to make excuses.

So now I have to keep trying.

I will certainly not be running a 10K in two months. But I'm doing the Couch to 5K plan, and if I can run half of it and then walk the rest, I'll feel damn good about myself. And the girls who asked me to join plan to run only part too, so I won't be letting them down. Week 1, Day 1 is down and the race is 8 weeks out, so I'll have time to get through almost all of the schedule.

I'll keep you all posted - but because I now feel answerable to my students, I'm going to have to keep it up.

See? A better person. Or at least one whose legs hurt more than usual. It's probably kind of the same thing.

Jokes are funny!

April Fools' Day went well. I had two jokes per period - a real one and a distractor.

The distractor was a fake test (on the board: "You have 5 minutes to study for a test on everything we have learned to date this year. It will be worth 50% of your grade for the trimester.") which totally panicked blocks 1 & 2 until the kids I had enlisted to help with my REAL jokes were like, "Ha ha, April Fools?" To which I replied, yep, just a joke, gotcha! And we all chuckled and got down to business.

Then first block I had two co-conspirators. A few minutes into class, Drama King whispered to a neighbor that he was going to call Brilliant One as a prank on him and me. Brilliant One had (as planned) left his cell phone on and so it rang loudly, startling everyone. They'd both been acting obnoxious since they walked into my room (again, as planned) and I'd given them both two or three warnings. So when the phone rang, I acted like I'd had it. "That's IT," I said. "I'm done. Give it to me. It's going to the office."

"But, Miss," Brilliant One whined, "it's not my fault. I didn't do anything! And it was Drama King calling me! He should be the one in trouble, not me."

I whirled around in a masterful demonstration of rage. "Both of you, OUTSIDE. NOW."

They argued and I insisted; once outside, I kept yelling at them as I handed them previously prepared passes to the office, where they were going to wait for five minutes and then come back, and individual packets of eye drops (just saline) to use as fake tears.

We had one hiccup - right after I sent them and pretended to call, I turned around and my AP was in the doorway. "I was walking by and heard," she said. "Want to fill me in before I go deal with them?"

So we went out in the hall and I frantically whispered that this was a prank we were pulling and that they weren't actually in trouble, to which she chuckled and said she loved it. Apparently when she got to the office, she pranked them by shouting at them to get to her office right which point, she then said that we were all really good actors and good job.

They came back a few minutes later, "tears" dripping. I asked if they were just back; they said no, that they'd be suspended for either three or five days, the office was just deciding. I said maybe next time they'd remember that there were consequences to actions. We went back out in the hall to congratulate ourselves and then came back in and shouted in unison, "April Fools'!"

Second block was simpler. After we got through the fake test hilarity, a kid asked me, "Ms. Teachin', was that you I saw on the news last night winning the lottery?"

I sighed exasperatedly. "Well, I wasn't going to tell you all yet...but since he brought it up, next Friday is going to be my last day."

Gasps of shock and a few "oh no!"s.

"Yeah. I won the lottery, and I'm going to travel around the world on a hot air balloon."

General cries of whats and reallys and why a hot air balloons and are you going to buy me somethings rang out.

I kept going for another minute until I couldn't keep a straight face anymore, at which point one of my girls said, "Wait.....April Fool?" And I laughed and 'fessed up.

I forgot to do my second prank third block (I was going to say they'd apparently been so bad at lunch yesterday that they weren't allowed to go to the lunchroom and were going to have eat in my room for a week, writing a daily essay about appropriate behavior in different parts of the school), but maybe I'll add it in tomorrow.....

I didn't get pranked much by kids - Brilliant One did tell me that Drama King was absent at first and my face fell, till he April Fools'ed me. And then one other thing that damn well better be a prank: Sweet Child o' Mine told me he was going to be a dad.

"Haha April Fools'," I said.

"No, really, Miss, I am."

"HA HA APRIL FOOLS'," I replied.

"Well, she's not sure yet, but she thinks she is," he amended.

"HAHAHAHAHA APRIL FOOLS'," I kept insisting.

He never admitted to the joke but his best friend did whisper to me that it was one, so I REALLY hope that's true. I did tell them, though, that if it is true, he needs to start reading to the baby right away because research shows it's the best way to get the kid started right. May as well push some of my reading philosophies when I can, right? All the boys in my room found that very interesting, so maybe they'll remember that for what better be way in the future.

Now I have to start planning for next year!

(Image credit to Mykl Roventine)

Funny, Onion. Verrrrrrrrrrrrry funny.

From The Onion, March 30th:

Increasing Number Of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home.

Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller said that many parents who school-home find U.S. households to be frightening, overwhelming environments for their children, and feel that they are just not conducive to producing well-rounded members of society.

Thousands of mothers and fathers polled in the study also believe that those running American homes cannot be trusted to keep their kids safe.

"Every year more parents are finding that their homes are not equipped to instill the right values in their children," Miller said. "When it comes to important life skills such as proper nutrition, safe sex, and even basic socialization, a growing number of mothers and fathers think it's better to rely on educators to guide and nurture their kids."

"And really, who can blame them?" Miller continued. "American homes have let down our nation's youth time and again in almost every imaginable respect."

According to the report, children raised at home were less likely to receive individual adult attention, and were often subjected to ineffective and wildly inconsistent disciplinary measures. The study also found that many parents expressed concerns that, when at home, their children were being teased and bullied by those older than themselves.

In addition to providing better supervision and overall direction, school-homing has become popular among mothers and fathers who just want to be less involved in the day-to-day lives of their children.

"Parents are finding creative ways to make this increasingly common child-rearing track work," Miller said. "Whether it's over-relying on after-school programs and extracurricular activities, or simply gross neglect,† school-homing is becoming a widely accepted method of bringing children up."

Despite the trend's growing popularity, Miller said that school programs are often jeopardized or terminated because shortsighted individuals vote against tax increases intended to boost educational spending.

"The terrifying reality we're facing is that the worst-equipped people you could possibly imagine may actually be forced to take care of their children," Miller said.

Parents who have decided to school-home their children have echoed many of Miller's concerns. Most said that an alarming number of legal guardians such as themselves lack the most basic common sense required to give children the type of instruction they need during crucial developmental years.

"It's really a matter of who has more experience in dealing with my child," Cincinnati- resident Kevin Dufrense said of his decision to have his 10-year-old son Jake, who suffers from ADHD and dyslexia, school-homed. "These teachers are dealing with upwards of 40 students in their classrooms at a time, so obviously they know a lot more about children than someone like me, who only has one son and doesn't know where he is half the time anyway."

"Simply put, it's not the job of parents to raise these kids," Dufrense added.

Though school-homing has proven to be an ideal solution for millions of uninvolved parents, increasingly overburdened public schools have recently led to a steady upswing in the number of students being prison-homed.


"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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