Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Elvis has Left the Building

That's right. The kids are gone, G-O-N-E! They are outta here! The classroom has been packed up ready for the janitors to do their "deep" cleaning, probably two days before we return. My grades are turned in, I've checked out and have already attended a workshop to help me prepare for the fall. Who said teacher's get a summer vacation?

I've started my summer reading, and have finished 3 books! I can sleep as late as I want and stay up until I really feel tired. No alarm to rudely rouse me from my slumber. I can take a nap at 2 o'clock.

The best class I have ever worked with has graduated. I've gotten teary eyed as I have seen them and wished them well. I've gone broke buying them gift cards to a book store for graduation. Only rarely have I sent graduation gifts to students. I've gotten writer's cramp from writing notes in graduation cards. As I wrote to each of them "I feel so blessed to have been your teacher". I meant it. So as I complain, know that I do it with a smile on my face, and a tear in my eye.

As for the students I had this year, I watched most of them mature and learn. Some of them were a trial and some a joy. It was a challenging year (aren't they all?). Hurricanes came into our lives and we showed what we were made of. Some of those students I will have again next year, as I teach multiple grades. I do enjoy being able to work students for more than one year. So kids have a great summer!

As for the parents, too many have forgotten what their kids are like and need to be reminded. Let me remind the parents, I don't want your job. Please be a parent to your child. Your children need you to be the parent. Kids need parents and friends. But their friends can never be their parent. Don't give up the unique role you play in their lives!

I tell kids I am not their friend, I am their teacher. That is the role I want. I will never lie to them and will always tell them the truth, that is something their friends don't do. I can be their friend when they have graduated from high school.

Back to that class that graduated this year. The last year I taught them they tried so hard to get around that rule of mine. But when they gathered at my house after the funeral of their friend, I gave them permission to call me by my first name, and they would not! They said it wasn't respectful. I was surprised, but not surprised. One of my good friends was once my teacher and it took years for me to call her by her first name.

Teaching is the career I chose. I decided I wanted to teach at a young age, and while it took me a while to get here, I enjoyed the journey and treasure the experiences I had before I had a classroom. Sometimes I think teaching chooses us. Perhaps someday we'll find out it's in our DNA. I am truly blessed and humbled to be a teacher.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teachers Such

Yes, you read that right. That was recently scrawled on the door to the teacher's stall in the restroom. I found it and I had to wonder was this a sentence fragment or bad spelling? If I were in charge I would have gotten on the intercom and said something like this:

"Boys and girls, we've had something sad happen. There is graffiti in the girls restroom. I want to read it to you. It says teachers such. Now I don't know who would do such a thing. But please remember to spell your graffiti correctly." In my imagination in some class all eyes would turn to the offending person, and some kid would remark "Gee, you can't even spell suck?"

In my mind I wondered, golly you can all spell the F word, don't yah know the two rhyme? Whatever happened to teaching word families? Somebody is falling down on the job! But on the other hand perhaps it was some youngster who admires the educational staff and was interrupted while writing "Teachers such wonderful people".

On another note, I had phone calls from my son and daughter in law today. They called each independent of the other. They have separated. I am heart broken. I am hoping they will work things out. My son will be coming to visit for a few days next month. My daughter in law wants to stay married, my son wants to find himself. I have no answers for either of them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Plot Thickens

Yes as with all good stories the plot thickens. There is more on SOB. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be, school has not ended.

The next day at lunch SOB's momma was the topic of discussion! A few of my lunch buddies and fellow educators had also spoke with momma that morning. Her attitude had not changed and the most polite description of her attitude was terse. Like all bad commercials, there was more! Momma told another educator about her sick and dying parent. Momma was just so concerned that she might have to leave her baby here, to go to summer school, while she was in a different state tending to her ailing parent.

I almost bought that except my principal had stopped me on my way to lunch to give me a heads up about having end of the year tests done a few days early as Useless Bag of Flesh (I had that one last year) will be going to a major amusement park before school has ended, during our "finals" and guess who is going with Useless?? Yes SOB! When I shared that info at lunch; all conversation ceased. Yes, that is the feeling of being sucker punched. Today we got the official memo about giving the tests early to the previously named Useless and SOB aka the Dynamic Duo. I will give SOB the grade earned, but I would REALLY, REALLYlike to fail momma! On the other hand I may give a party that they have left the building early!

I, for the first time in my career took a student to the Assistant Principal and requested they not come back. Lumpy, spent quite a bit of time defacing the textbook. Lumpy had a piece of junk, and kept scraping it across the cover of the book. Yes, books are supposed to be covered. I asked Lumpy to stop, and I could not exactly figure out what was going on. Lumpy did not stop. It was not the motion, but the subtle noise that it made that really clued me in. I got a very close look at Lumpy's book, and could how it had been deeply scraped. The books are only two years old. So I escorted Lumpy to the AP's office, showed him what Lumpy had done and requested that Lumpy not return. My wish was granted. Lumpy has only turned in about 5 assignments this year, and had not been a major behavior problem; hence the name Lumpy.

The "assembly" this afternoon put the frosting on the cake. The Athletic Director for the high school we feed into came to speak to the classes. He was late. I can deal with late, it happens. His message bothered me. Basically he said if you aren't on a sports team you are a loser. He gave lip service to a couple of round ball sports and talked FOOTBALL! Nothing was said about sports for girls, no mention of tennis, or golf, sports people use for years. He did "advertise" about how track helps you play better football. What I have repeated here is what my students shared with me. That is the message the kids heard. That is the message I heard. I could really rant about all of it, but the man shot himself in the foot. Kids that had been interested were turned off.

Finally I'll share how I started my day, I think I broke the law. Lil' Bro came into class early to tell me he had not done his assignment. Gramps had been injured and so they had spent all their time at the ER and ICU. Lil' Bro was in tears. He is a spirited kid, but not given to deep displays of emotion. I asked if he needed a hug and he nodded. I hugged him. We walked down to the administrative wing and I got him into the counselor's office. On my way back I let the rest of his teachers who are in my building know what happened.

Lil' Bro came back to class, put his head down and quietly was emotional. I escorted him to the library, saying he could finish his assignment there, while we graded it. Before I left is when I think I broke the law. I asked if he wanted a prayer said for Gramps. He did, so we bowed our heads and prayed for the doctors and nurses to know what to do, and for Gramps to recover quickly.

On top of all this it was also group picture day! Teaching, ya gotta love it; it's never dull, never boring and never the same two days (make that classes) in a row.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Still hanging in there

It's Tuesday. I didn't sleep well last night. I finally fell asleep about 2 am and the alarm goes off at 6. I felt groggy all day and told the kids. They asked why I couldn't sleep so I told them. My brain would not be quiet. It happens to them sometimes too!

I have what I call busy brain syndrome. I doubt that any medical professional would know what I mean. Sometimes my brain has a party and it doesn't invite me. It's like living with a noisy upstairs neighbor, except it doesn't help to pound on the ceiling.

I thought about what I need to pack into our hurricane evacuation suitcase and made a mental list. Yep it's that time again. Then I thought about new furniture, and rearranging. My brain sang a few songs and tap danced and then I decided to come upstairs and read blogs. I do that sometimes. It helps, I realize that my experiences are like a lot of others but somehow seeing it in print and reading about squirrel boy (now who does not have one of those?) helps me to feel connected, and not alone.

I thought about the two kids who had been busted Friday. Seeing their faces, I can't forget it, or the mom who threatened to beat the _____ out of her kid. I totally understood her emotion! The administrators looked exhausted, mostly out of sadness for kids who have made some bad choices. I don't know either one of the kids except by reputation.

Today we had another fight. One girl pushed another up against a locker and proceeded to pound away. It took 3 teachers to get the two separated and deal with crowd control. What was it about? Girl A like the boys who eat lunch with girl B, so girl A decided to teach girl B a lesson. Yeah right like that will work. One teacher got punched a couple of times, and may press charges.

I did finish all my end of the year tests, and they are in the copy room waiting to be run off. I did it different this year! I made the kids turn in a list of 10 questions they expected to see on a test, and provide answers. I got some great questions! So my finals came from student generated questions, and I didn't pick just the stupid questions or the hard questions, but a measure of both. I also added 5 short essay questions about what they had learned and enjoyed and want to see changed. I get the best feedback from those questions and they help me to do a better job.

I am so tired! I did walk 1 1/2 miles last night 'cuz I bought new walking shoes and did another 3/4 mile this morning to try and wake up. I signed up for 3 days of summer workshops, so hopefully I will get some extra technology out of this. Started piling up my list of summer reads as I compile the lists the kids gave me of books they would recommend.

I view myself a bridge for these kids. (Yeah they would like to walk all over me) but as the school year progresses each class becomes like a family , some functional and others dysfunctional. We do a lot of sharing about life in general. It's hard to teach reading without sharing the real life stories . We've all learned a lot about each other. For 4 of my classes these next few days will be my last ones with them, and for others they will probably have me again for another subject next year. I like having kids for more than one year (most of the time). I get to see a lot of growth and change.

Down here, there is the end of the year battle of the kids who have all their credits to graduate, but they cannot pass a portion of the state test. Do we let them walk in the ceremony or not? I say let them walk, and send the diploma in the mail.

Our sister district across the Interstate has decided to apparently void all contracts at a specific school and make all the teachers re-apply for jobs. This is for ONE campus only, and is due to the low scores on the state test. I am not applying over there. First they got rid of the principal. Yeah let's blame the guy in the office. Now this. I don't want to work in that district. It couldn't possibly be the students who didn't do much that caused scores to be low. Nope it had to be the principal and when they got rid of him the teachers went nuts. It's a conspiracy! Nope it's the Blame Game!

Gets out soap box, steps up and clears throat:
Ladies and gentlemen, mothers, fathers, mommies and daddies. Blame can be spread around thickly. But rather than point at everyone else, evaluate what you personally could do, should do and are doing to improve the academic life of your child. Let's try some traditional stuff, like a regular bed time, no computer or phones after a decent hour. Basic conversation, and compassion. Maybe all eat together for a meal that is not fast food. Now for the more challenging, parents drop the attitude your darling can do no wrong. You know that's a lie, you've been watching them. If you don't allow them their failures, they cannot own their success. Parents stop doing your kids homework, we can tell, your writing is neater and has better spelling. Part of learning is learning how not to do something, as well as learning how to.

Anyway that's what I have to say today. Nothing major or profound, just another day at school, and they are winding down quickly. As am I. I'll end this while I can still see and get some much needed sleep. My friends hang in there! Take it one day at a time. Yes there is much that can make one feel so frustrated in this business, but don't forget the aha moments that we see and almost no one else does. The moments that make it all worthwhile. Here's hoping to a good nights sleep. I need it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ranting Demon Parent(s)

It happened, a ranting demon parent has called. (We have about 2 weeks of school left.) I was told today, by the momma of SOB, (I admit that I enjoy that alias for the kid) it was MY responsibility to make sure her child didn't fail. I was in trouble for not contacting her sooner. What did I mean there is an assignment due tomorrow? EVERYBODY up at school knew her. Her child was NOT going to repeat a grade and was NOT going to take summer school. She had already called the principal and he had agreed. Why hadn't I called her and told her I had moved SOB's seat in class? She didn't care about what I had to say, because if I was a CARING teacher I would have contacted her.

The momma also continued to rant about the FEDERALLY required testing that the states do. I'm not a fan of No Child Left Behind. I have real problems with the testing and all the pressure that goes with it. She kept telling me how teachers had pushed for all this testing stuff. That should have been my big clue that the woman had no clue. I don't know of any teacher who pushed for the testing, or even a teacher who likes it.

I am not writing about a little student, but a student in their early teens. I left school after talking with my principal, feeling frustrated. My principal listened and told me that what SOB's momma had told me was not accurate. His version of their conversation was quite different from hers. My principal told me it is my call as to whether or not SOB passes. It is SOB's responsibility to do the work and turn it in.

Let me tell you about my classroom. First of all it is user friendly. Upcoming assignments are posted in more than one prominent place. For example, my school uses a computer reading program and student are required to read a specific number of points within each grading period. Those dates are posted and discussed the first day of class. The upcoming date is also posted beneath the clock and next to the schedule. They are posted there because students always look at the clock and wonder how many minutes of class are left. I call attention to the dates at least once a week.

I have a large classroom library of probably 1,000 books. Students have access to these books on a daily basis. All the books are clearly marked as to whether or not they have a test for the computer reading program. By the way this program is used district wide and from grade 1 on up!

I write the daily assignment on the board, I have a make up calendar in the classroom and I have assignments posted on my class web page. I have tried to make it hard to fail my class. My principal commented on that and said, "How can this kid fail your class? It's difficult to fail your class." That made me feel better.

I deal with over 100 children daily. I have a fair number for whom I am required to make academic adjustments. Her child is not one who has "special" needs. Her child is IMHO lazy, does not turn in assignments and is hanging around with kids who are not a good influence. Her child is bright. Bright enough that I have talked with SOB, and tried to figure out what the problem is. Watching this kid do nothing is like watching money burn. SOB went from A's & B's to F's.
I did call the momma, I talked with her in January about SOB's dropping grades. She wasn't concerned. She did not email me, or contact me after progress reports and report cards went home. When I heard nothing from her, I figured it wasn't important to her. There are parents who don't care about the grades.

I do understand that momma is panicked. The school year is ending and SOB isn't doing well. She feels like she needs to blame someone, and I am handy. I found out SOB's not doing well in other classes and for the same reasons. I've had one of my own kids pull the same stunts. It's a frustrating place to be.

I hope there are not a lot more ranting demon parents out there just waiting to ambush teachers who have worked very hard at a difficult job. Making do with low pay, lack of respect and an increasing level of responsibility. Let me make this clear to all the ranting parents who might read this. I am not your child's parent. That is your job. I am not a babysitter, I don't get paid enough. I am not here to entertain your child. My job is the tough one to make your child think and I hope learn. It is your job ask to see their work. If there is a problem, let me know. I have access to a school phone only during my lunch time and planning period, if I leave my room. I do have email that I check as frequently as I can. That is the easiest and fastest way to communicate with me.

If I call you after school hours it will be on my time, time that I would like to spend with my own family. Stop and think, am I asking this teacher to do more than I am willing to do at my job? If you are not willing to take phone calls after hours, have a business conference anytime you run into a client, or patient, why do you expect that from teachers?

Yes education is my business, my profession. Yes I get off a couple of months during the summer. But I also pay for my own continuing education courses required for me to maintain my certification. I spend far too much of my own money on supplemental material for the classroom. I work long days, attend student performances, help with school activities, show up at school dances, assist with clubs, and the list could go on.

There, I 've vented and I feel better. I hope this rant of mine opens the eyes of a few people. I'm all too sure that the other teachers who read this are nodding their heads and saying "Preach it".

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just Being Myself

School is almost over. I am tired of the kids and they are tired of school. Just the usual is happening. Kids are being goofy, I am a bit crabby and we're all counting down the days.

It's time to pack up the classroom, and beg the janitorial staff to NOT move the computer. There are files to go through, reports to finish up and the top of my desk to find once again. We're having fire drills, weather drills and intruder drills. There are field trips out the wazoo and teacher appreciation luncheons, at least once a week.

I am looking forward to sleeping in, reading all day if I want to, traveling, sewing, and in general relaxing. Speaking of reading I have a stack of books to read, and I am looking forward to driving to a beach and sitting and reading. I'll have a cooler of soda, junk food and a portable radio to listen to an oldies station.

I don't have anything to rant about. My state probably won't fund a raise and the much needed changes on campus and in the district probably won't happen. I've done my job. I've tried to be a good teacher.

I guess that's it. I've almost made it through another year of teaching and I plan to go back. But I really need this summer break!