Monday, December 13, 2010

THAT student...part 2

The idea that teachers shouldn't have favorites in their students is a valid one - but we're all human so, every once in a while you find students that you wish you could clone. The student I'm talking about, no one wants to clone, but I still like him. For whatever reason, he's the kid that comes into my class and everyday, I can't help but want to do everything I can for him.

He's naughty a lot of other places and for other teachers. He's naughty in the hall and gets into trouble a lot...but I can't help it. He's works for me, he really likes to read and he's patient in my room. His home life is tough...and there are some days I wish I could just bring him home with me.

This year during conferences, I watched as he looked at the different kinds of books on the table at the book fair. He didn't say anything, but he looked particularly at one book and a couple of things that if he had had the money, he would've gotten. Earlier in the day I had decided to choose one student from each block of students I have and get them something from the book fair...I chose him as one of these students.

I know that this generation of students sometimes feel the need to be entitled. They believe that they are entitled to certain things because of who they are. He doesn't seem to feel this way. There were two kids that I was able to get things for that were so appreciative it almost made me cry...he was one. The smile on his face was so big! He carried that book with him for the rest of the short week and then made sure I knew that he had read it by retelling me practically every part of the book.

These are the kids I work so hard for...these are the kids that make it worth it to come to school...these are the kids that I would gladly do anything for - accommodate them, help them and work with them. THAT student is one that makes it all worth it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Us against Them...

It seems for a while it's been a game of us against them. Them are a lot of things; administration, parents, curriculum, the district....lately, it's the kids. Don't get me wrong, it's always been kind of that way, but this year is different. This year some students have decided that this is a serious game. Before, perhaps, it was about the amount of homework we were giving them or maybe they didn't think they were treated fairly....etc.

This year, I was told, is the highest for claims against teachers of abuse. This year is also the highest of students being violent toward staff. This issue is troubling to me. Troubling because I'm wondering what's perpetrating this. I'm thoughtful as well.

When did students decide it was ok to take out their aggression out on us? We ask them to follow certain rules to keep them safe...we ask them to be polite and respectful...we ask them to make sure they keep themselves, if they don't want to do this - it's suddenly ok for them to lash out at us?

In the news of my area a teacher was repeatedly assaulted when he saw a group of students in an area they weren't supposed to be in and asked them to leave. The student repeatedly used profanity and when the teacher turned his head - the student hit him...then came back for a second round. When the police arrested the kid - his response was that he was having a bad day. I'm floored by this comment. You're having a bad day, so you assault an adult who was asking you to follow the rules?

The other thing that really surprised me? The teacher's response..."Everyone has a bad day, if you let something like this get to're in the wrong profession." His response is one that is full of forgiveness and grace.

What we have to deal with as teachers is sometimes seemingly impossible. But this teacher's response is why I still believe our profession is a good one. The people that can remain strong even after someone has literally tried to beat them down is one of determination and dedication and I applaud him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I've been wanting to do this for a long time...I've thought and thought about this...I'm still not sure how to do it, but I'm at least going to blog about it.

Today, I want to issue a challenge. I want anyone who thinks that teachers have it easy or that we really don't do anything or that we have summers off to lay around to come and shadow a teacher. Seriously. You can't do this for one day. Perhaps not even a week. You need to be here, in the trenches for at least two weeks...better if it was a month. Come see what we do. Come see who we teach. Come see what our expectations are and how much we have to work to get in all the things we need to do. Come see how much we have to much we collaborate with each much we share. Come see how little we have to work with and how much we give to the kids in either time, money, ourselves and resources. Come see what we deal with and do everyday.

If two weeks of seeing this stuff doesn't make you wonder why we don't run out into traffic or go get ourselves committed, then nothing will.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I believe there is a lot out there that is hurting education...legislators who don't know what the system does and have never been in it, society as a whole, people who don't value education and, right now, the media. Our state newspaper is one of those things that really irks me when it comes to reporting on educational matters. The latest story is that educators are abusing children and it's just being covered up....with the recent stories that have been breaking because of youtube videos - I find that extremely hard to believe.

My frustration and lack of trust toward our media right now is one of sheer disillusionment. I guess the days are gone where perhaps we could get stories that portrayed both sides of an issue. The idea that one opinion is just as good as the other is acceptable now. I don't understand how this idea has become the mainstream. It makes me unhappy that people who know nothing about education, think the articles in the newspaper are fact and not necessarily someone else's opinion.

I hope that we can figure out how educate the public on issues that affect them and their children. I am thankful and grateful that we have parents that understand this and are willing to ignore the naysayers. While I keep acknowledging that the educational system isn't perfect, I hope that people understand this and work WITH us and not against us to mend it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

frustration.... get that in any job you have. Sometimes, it's from technology glitches - the computer, the infocus machine, the copier...sometimes, it's curricular - one more assessment or a lesson that didn't go well....sometimes it's colleages. Today frustration came from a nameless source...I just don't know who exactly to blame or if everything is to blame.

I have a student...she's one that comes from a family where there is no relevance or emphasis put on education. For the last month I have seen her sporadically. Most of the time she doesn't even get here until my class starts...which is at 10:45am. The last few weeks she's been here at noon. From what I understand, she was showing up for lunch and then going to wheel classes. The school has sent home at least 3 letters talking about her truancy from school and how it will be moving to truancy court soon.

My frustration here is that, while I think that she may be a little low skill wise...I really don't know. I don't know what her level is. Today she came in with her motor going on full throttle. I'd seen her in the hallway running to hug everyone...talking to everyone....hanging on everyone. She came into my room full of life and spunk. She began working with the journal question and got through the vocabulary lesson we did. Then she hit a wall and pretty much passed out, drooling on a desk. You can't wake her...I've tried. It's like a diabetic that hits a sugar coma...she's out and there's nothing you can do about it.

What do you do for a student like this? It's not their fault that the value of education is lost. She has numerous family members that have dropped out....and some that are on the verge of doing so again. She seemingly has no support at couldn't be found, her grandparents stepped up and now it seems they've stepped out. What are we doing for her? In the hallway, we talk about her - what can be done, what have we done, what can we do to support her? What is she on? Is she on something?

The circle is continuous and pervasive....I'm not sure that even this year, I will be able to answer this one. But I'm hoping we can do something...

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Uncertainty is what I've been feeling since the elections. Our state elected a new who was in office before. While he was there, education got the shaft...teachers didn't get pay increases and we sunk to 48th in the nation in pay. This year, as he ran, he talked about how he was going to cut funding for preschool/early childhood education. It made me shiver. I know how much preschool does for a child going into kindergarten...I know what teachers at that level are having to do and how much they have to prepare these kids to go to kindergarten...I have a good friend that teaches at this level. I can't imagine kids going into kindergarten not having had preschool.

Our new governor and it seems our new government is not education friendly. What we needed was a government that is education friendly...especially with all the things that we are being asked to do. I hope that we start to think about what we are going to have to do to get our representatives to realize and remember what we do.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Today when I got home I had a nice surprise in the mail...a letter, all the way from Korea. My sister-in-law's sister, Becky, sent me a letter. I love the fact that she is over there...what I love most is viewing her blog about her experiences in Korea. If you want to read it: It's full of her adventures.

Becky is working as a teacher for two years. She's working with Kindergarteners. She having a great time there. What I love are her comments about teaching. We've been having a lot of conversations about that too. She's experiencing parent/teacher conferences, having to discipline students, planning curriculum....all while in a completely foreign environment. And I mean foreign......

I'm really impressed with all the things she's been able to see while she's been there and stuff she's learning. A very large part of me is so jealous...but I don't know if I could do what she is over there. I am more than jealous of her ability to decide to take on an adventure like this...she's the definition of a "go-getter" in the best possible way.

I hope her experiences over there are positive and that she keeps sharing what she's doing.


So, tomorrow is Election Day...I can definitely say that I'm nervous. Tomorrow we are voting for a new governor, representatives and whether or not we keep some Supremes.

Here's what I know. I am voting for the lesser of two evils in the governor race. Of the two individuals, I just feel one is less worse than the other. The one that I am probably voting for is the one that talks a good game but kind of mucked it up when it came to education in this state. He didn't give us everything he promised - what politician does - but he won't hurt as much as the one he's running against. The second candidate...ah, gotta love this one. When he left, the educators in this state were being touted as the best teachers in the nation, but almost the lowest paid in the nation. He cut a lot of taxes, but for big business and not for those who truly needed it. I'm afraid of what will happen if he comes fact, I'm in fear of it. Most people were leaving the state when he was governor - like rats in a sinking ship. I can't imagine that it will be any better if he returns.

The second thing, in my opinion, that is big for us to vote on - is the to vote out some of our state Supremes. Our state decided that it was ok for EVERYONE to be able to get married here. I'm all for that...what people in our state want now is to vote those people out. Ok, let's think about this. We want to get rid of people who essentially don't agree with us...this is what we're saying. The Supremes aren't corrupt or incompetent...we just didn't like the way they voted.

Yea, I don't understand people either.....

Either way, Wednesday morning will either bring a sigh of relief or a shriek of frustration at the outcome of this election.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You know in every profession you have those people who are difficult to deal with. Either they don't have the people skills, the work knowledge or whatever. Yesterday, was my day to encounter that person. The One who yelled at me about being "professional", when he's YELLING at me through a doorway. He wasn't listening and he didn't understand that there had been a miscommunication. He didn't realize I didn't understand what he was asking me, so my answer wasn't what he wanted to hear. He didn't know that my definition of what he was asking me wasn't the same as his at that moment either.

I guess my real issue here, is that he's been allowed to behave like this. He's been allowed to talk over people and bully them until they break. He's been allowed to behave as if his ideas, thoughts and issues are the most important and no one else matters.

What I also find discouraging is the fact that he does this with kids too. I'm not saying that I haven't been rude when I'm irrated too, but I guess, it's frustrating to realize that it's more than just when he's frustrated. In my perspective and what I see, he does this a lot. I'm not sure if he just doesn't see or if he doesn't think that it's him.

I've got a lot of questions instead of answers after my encounter with this man. I wish I could understand....but I think I'll have to be satisfied, with not knowing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I love it when the kids teach me stuff. Part of my love of teaching is education. Education comes in all forms - whether it be me in a classroom learning new things or me in a classroom being taught by my students. Every year I find something they can teach me. Sometimes, it's about them, sometimes it's things they know, sometimes it's things I THOUGHT I knew - but they know better. I love this....I love that they can teach me stuff and they sometimes think it's cool that I like to learn from them.

In November, I get to be student and teacher. The daughter of a teacher I work with is going to teach me to play the guitar. I've had this thing sitting in my living room mocking me for the last 6 months...I figured it was time to do something with it. I knew that A. was giving lessons to some of the underclassmen last year when she was still in high school. We're actually doing this in trade. She's looking for someone to help her vocally. So, I'm going to work with her on voice and she's going to teach me to play the guitar. It works out pretty well.

I guess the kids think it's kinda cool that I'm "letting" a student teach me something. It's funny to me, because I think of it as normal.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

THAT student....

Every year I find out what it's like to be a parent. You have those kids who so totally need direction either academically or just in the aspect of growning up. They need you to calm them down, show them confidence and just be there for them. Sometimes they need you to get mad at them and discipline them.

As they get to know you, the more they rely on it. They hate it, but they don't. If you're talk to them about bad behavior and grades, they start to understand that you care. They know that if you don't talk to them about it, you may have given up on them. These kids - the needy ones, are sometimes the ones I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I like the ones that are independent as well, but the ones that test you...the ones that completely try your patience...these are the ones that come back to visit. These are the ones that want to show you how well they are doing now...that want you to be as proud of their accomplishments as they are.

Today I had one come visit me. He really struggled in middle school. He wanted to be popular and not goody. He wanted his independence from his family who were immigrants. When I had him in class he struggled...not just with the curriculum, but with himself and who he was. He didn't know. As his 8th grade year progressed, he started finding his way. He became more mature, he ignored those around him who still weren't focused, and became a leader in different groups. I was lucky enough to still be in the 8th grade hall as he progressed into high school. Every year that I saw him, he seemed more confident - more mature. He was making good decisions and even got a job. He began to help his parents out more and try to mentor his younger brother. When he came in today, he talked of what he wants to do in the future. He spoke of wanting to even go back to his freshman and start over with the knowledge he had now.

His young man impresses me. He reminds me that middle schoolers eventually become high schoolers, who eventually become adults. These kids grow up...they mature...they pull their head out of their hind quarters and look around. He reminds me that THAT student can become more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Lesson for the day...flexibility. Today I needed to redo lesson plans on the fly...something took longer than originally planned, so we had to cut something out. I didn't realize I was supposed to be done with something by the end of the 2nd grading I had to rethink teaching a story and do another one. A teacher needed to work with a smaller group of students, so I took the others into my room and let them work on a math project using my computers.

Everyday teachers need to be fast thinkers. They need to flexible and they need to have about 100 different tricks up their sleeve. I've had people in the past ask me why I'm so tired...all I do is sit in a chair and teacher - how hard can that be? Um...well, I don't just sit in my chair, I move around to observe, listen and work with individuals and small groups. I mentally have to be on "my toes" if the lesson I started with isn't the lesson I end with. When you're constantly having to think on your feet - it's as draining as a physical job. Anyone who tells you differently, doesn't get it.

So, flexibility...if you can't be's hard to do this job.

Monday, October 18, 2010


In this blog you will hear many times of the people I work with. As much as I love the kids, I equally believe that the people I teach with are special too. They are a constant source of knowledge AND entertainment. This past week, we had conferences. Conferences are an interesting time. It's where you find out a lot of things about the kids you teach.

This year, I was introduced to the wonderful quirky personality of one of my favorite literacy teachers in the building. At any time a period of down time can occur. These times are quiet and you actually have time to think. One of my colleagues decided to favor us with her "interpretative dance". It was interesting, funny and gave us a reason to laugh, if just for a moment.

These are the times I love being here. Sometimes you just have to blow off some steam and be able to laugh.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

example of a good teacher - part 1

I work with a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds and experience. Every day I marvel at what I can learn from them. This is my first installment of mentioning those that have qualities that I appreciate, covet or wish I had....

First, my parents, biased or unbiased in my opinion, were my first and best examples of teachers. I watched them for years put a lot of time in planning lessons, grading papers and establishing relationships with their students. My mom especially was interesting to me because I originally started out wanting to work with elementary students. My dad became more of an interest to me as I began to work with middle schoolers.

One thing I want to clear up right away....I was not the perfect student. In fact, I was that one student that teachers don't like. You know, the one that messes around in your room and then you ask them a question hoping to trip them up...and they are able to answer the question. Yeah, that one...that was me. Plus, I was very negative ways. I didn't want the kids in school to think I was the goody kid, so I acted out. My parents now laugh and think that it's kind of karmic that I work with some of the kids I do.

Anyway, back to the teacher I want to mention today. The behavior interventionist - you know who you are - that works across the hall from me......I knew she worked hard, but until this year, being as close to her as I am....I'm also realizing how much patience she has. At times where I think I'd be pulling out all of my hair...her calm demeanor makes the kids feel more at ease. She has the great ability of being able to let things roll off her when she needs to let them go. She doesn't feed into the meltdown that's going on and then lets them know that she's still there for them and moves on from the incident. She is able to establish such a good relationship with them that they depend on her, whether they realize this or not. I have found myself taking her into my confidence at times about what to do for certain students when I'm stuck and don't know what to do. She seems to have a plethora of ideas and let's me know that I'm not dumb for asking. She even has a way of putting ME at ease at times.

So, here's to one of my colleages. I will be talking about the rest of you that are in my pro column of good teachers I know as well. Don't be guys are my rocks and people that I'm glad I get to work with...what you do is important and should be celebrated!

Monday, October 11, 2010


This is my lesson for the day....patience. I think this is an all around thing. Not just in the classroom....but even on the volleyball court too. Teaching middle school has taught me a lot about the art of patience - even if you give the directions, oh let's say 4 times, you'll still have to repeat them and maybe even have the kids repeat them and then, someone will still ask.

I once saw a magnet in a store that said, "some days it's not worth chewing through the restraints". That's how it feels some days. Right now I have a practicum teacher...she's doing 30 hours and has never worked with middle school kids. There are days that she looks and me and just rolls her eyes. It's funny, because if I hadn't seen it fourteen different ways, I might be doing that too. However, now I just have laugh and shrug it off.

Sarcasm is my greatest tool. I always make sure the kids know how sarcastic I can be and then make sure I use it only with those that will laugh with us. Middle school kids can appreciate a good dose of sarcasm...they know what it looks like and use it a lot as well.

Today patience came in the form of an activity. I was having them create graphic novels in small groups. I wanted them to come up with characters, setting, plot and conflict. They know all of these terms. I'm pretty proud of them. I gave the directions, said it could be whatever they wanted to create. They could do this individually if they wanted. Then I asked if anyone had any questions. SILENCE. I told them they could get started. Five minutes later...."Ms. D. - I don't get this...." Stopped class to reteach and give the directions again...asked for questions. SILENCE. This went on at least one more time. The practicum teacher was nearly pulling out her hair. I just over to the group that was having issues, I sat down. I began to ask them to tell me a story....from there, it was like the clouds opened up, birds sang and a rainbow appeared. I love when that light goes on.

So, the moral to the story....don't give up. I think that all of us has some form of attention deficit some time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

martyr teacher....

Last night I was talking to a friend - a teacher, just like me. He had posted an article on his facebook about a teacher in LA. The article stated that the LA Times had run a story naming not only the schools that had low testing scores but also specific names of teachers who had low scores. This teacher then took his own life. According to his colleages, he was a very good teacher, but he taught special ed and worked with some difficult students.

When I hear stuff like this - it makes my stomache hurt. As in physically sick, hurt. I don't understand the reasoning behind why a newspaper would publish something like this and name names. When the Times was questioned, they said that the stats could be off and that there were "a lot of different variables"... Of course there are!

The variables are the kids! Did they have breakfast this morning? How's their home life? How do they feel this morning? Did they have a fight with their parents? There are a whole list of questions that come into play when dealing with kids. They are kids.

When I have conversations lately about the state of teaching and education makes me wonder if I'm going to have to find something else to do soon. Administrators, teachers and students are getting hit with a lot of extras - assessments, initiatives, curriculum, etc.

I'm starting to wonder where it will stop and when we stop trying to put a band-aid on a problem instead of trying to figure out what to do about the problem.

For now, I have the family of the LA teacher in my thoughts and I hope they can carry on.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

percentile ranking....

The school I teach at is on the PLA's list...we decided last year to take on the Transformation Model, so this year we are working on initiatives to transform our school. We're looking at more testing of reading and math, writing and working in cross-curricular teams. We're having sped teachers come and work in smaller groups with our students. We're meeting constantly to find ways to increase our testing scores for the ever important, completely outdated's crazy.

What kind of cracks me up is that people actually expect schools to have EVERY child proficient in reading and math...100%. Seriously? Do you know that even if every student scored 100% that the percentile ranks would STILL rank the schools and SOMEBODY would have to be in the lower 41%? ARE YOU LISTENING?! Some school would have to be in the lower 41%...IT'S RANKED!

Every time I hear talk of people who are working toward this, it makes me laugh. Percentile ranking...there is NO WAY that we can all score above the 41%. I hope that people understand this and know why schools continually pull out our hair because we know this, but when we try to explain it to people....ugh. You might as well be talking to a wall for all the understanding of this concept. Don't get me wrong...I have met people within my own profession that don't understand this.

So, just to reiterate...percentile ranking....not happening - it's in ranking order and someone will have to be below.

Monday, October 4, 2010


So, this weekend was spent with some of the women in my family. Some I haven't seen in a long time and others that I miss on a regular basis. There were vary ages, from my mother and my aunt to a couple of cousins that are in college. There were varying degrees of education within this group...high school, college and post college. There were varying job descriptions; teacher, students, graphic designers, stay-at-home mothers, those that were retired and those that are in the professional and collegiate world.

What I learned this weekend is that no matter what....personal experiences matter. Each woman came with something that they knew and something they could learn from another in our group. It was nice to hear the conversations around the table, in the hotel room and just in general. No matter what, I respect these women because of their unrelenting drive to learn as well.

I hope that I get the chance to be a part of this group of wonderfully diverse and life educated women again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

So sick....

This is my 11th year as a teacher....yes, a teacher. I came to this year after one of the most tiring, burnt out, ready to switch my profession years. I moved grade levels, teams and was a fresh start....and it has been.

I don't profess to be perfect....I'm not. But what I do admit a love of my job, a love of teaching and a love of students.

This year started so positively. I really like the kids this year. They have a good sense of humor, they want to do their best and they seem to geniunely be willing to show me how well they can do.

What's not starting so positively - the jabs that my profession is constantly enduring. I've been watching what the Obama administration has been saying about, I voted for him, so I'm not afraid to criticize when I'm the one who believed that he could help schools. I've been watching my state legislature state over and over again, that teachers are so terrible and now basing testing scores of children on how much I get paid. I've been watching the media bash what I do over and over again - Waiting for Superman....GET REAL!

What I have seen....teachers coming together, not always to have to justify what they do, but to find common ground with others who don't know WHAT we do. Teachers not only educate, we know our curriculum....we went to school for 4 years - some of us longer - we know our curriculum. We have to be parents, mentors, counselors, etc....I'm not blaming anyone when I say this...I'm just saying, sometimes our roles are more than what we do. We don't deal with things....we deal with kids. Kids who sometime don't eat breakfast in the morning, that go to bed late at night, that have imperfect families....Everything that other people don't sometimes think about.

I've watched some of us work long hours, attend countless meetings, and re-educate ourselves. I've watched some of us do this with families, and second jobs, and no sleep. I work with these people, commiserate, support and respect these people.

Don't get me wrong....there are bad teachers. I've worked with them too. EVERY profession has bad ones....EVERY PROFESSION!

Unfortunately, I've found people focusing in on a few instead of the many. I'm hoping that my blog might have a bit of an impact on that...but who knows. A blog is what it is....sometimes a place to share info, vent or celebrate. Whatever this becomes....I'm hoping that someone sees something on here and thinks...."whoa...".