Sunday, April 13, 2014

A letter to my students

Dear Students*, 

After "researching" you via your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites (due mostly to my insomnia) I have come to some conclusions I would like to share. 

1. Your family must be very proud of their bathroom. It is features predominantly in the background of at least one of your profile photos. Next time your mother asks you to clean the bathroom, keep this in mind, as it is a major part of your selfies. 

2. Why are you flipping off the camera in every photo? Isn't the person taking the picture your friend? Or are you just trying to assure the general population who might see this photo that, were you to meet them, you would flip them off? 

3. Those activities are illegal. I have no desire to see you smoking anything or drinking out of a clearly labeled beer can. I understand publishing these photos online may be an important part of establishing your "street cred" to your friends. However if your teacher who is not your "friend" on this site can see it, so can the cops. Or your mother. Or the manager of that job you just applied for. 

4. How old is your boyfriend/girlfriend?! I mean seriously! They are drinking and have photos of them at college events. You are a freshman in high school. Yuck. See #3 regarding inappropriate photos above. 

5. When the heck did you take that photo in my classroom?! There is a strict "no phone" policy at school and in my class. How did I not only fail to take your phone, but also fail to notice you taking pictures? Even worse: the photo of you I found in drag, in my classroom, I KNOW I would have remembered that, so where was I?! 

6. Oh good, I'm on your "wall". I'm very flattered. It's quite sweet that you made a reference to me on your wall. I'm even more flattered that other students "liked it" and didn't use any profanity in the "comments" section. This isn't really a negative thing, I'm just surprised I'm as important in your life as the family bathroom, see #1. 

7. Your language. You are in my English or Spanish class. I know I have taught you basic spelling and language better than that. If you wish to express yourself using such foul language, see #3 above. 

You adore these sites and technology. I suggest, that should you ever want a job or acceptance to a college, that you quickly do some damage control and begin raising your privacy settings and deleting the photos that would make your mother blush.  Or at least wait until she's cleaned the bathroom before your next photo shoot. 


*** this is not a letter I have shared with my students, although it is under consideration. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

As a new teacher, you quickly learn that your best survival skill will be to utilize the three verbs "beg, borrow, and steal." Upon quickly being thrust into a room with 35 children, and realizing not only do you have very little clue what to do, or materials to do it with, your best strategy is to beg, borrow and steal from those who have been doing this longer than you have.

Beg - Need lesson plans? Emergency plans? A new classroom management strategy? I have met many teachers whom I have asked advice from, and not once has someone said, "Oh, I really don't want to share my wisdom with you." They always say, "OhMyGosh, try this!" And invariably, it is a fresh new idea that works great when I put it to use in my classroom with my own spin on things.

Borrow - I adore I work in a small, rural school district. I am my department. I am two departments technically. I came from my previous schools being the same size as the size of the town I currently work in - so it has been and adjustment not having other teachers at my site to run to for materials that I can borrow, manipulate, and copy. I am always making new connections at conferences, but discovering that TPT means I can share materials with educators all around the world was the best find ever! Each time I search for something on there, and find it with ease, already created, I do a happy dance. No. Joke.

Steal - I'm still pretty new to this blogging world. I know my way around basic Web design, photo design, and HTML, but any way I can make this journey of mine into blogging a bit easier I am a fan of.  My incredible friend over at Assisting Descubrimiento has been wonderfully helping me to set up all the awesomeness you find here. She even made this adorable button to link to your Bloglovin site! So I promptly stole it, mixed it with some code, and here we are - a snazzy button to link to Bloglovin.

Take the code below, paste it into your Design Layout, HTML editor section, and you will have a snazzy button that links back to your blog through Bloglovin. Check it out! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sacred Saturdays

One of the first things a professor of mine shared upon beginning the credential program was the idea of Sacred Saturdays.

Here's how it works: block out a few hours for yourself at some point each and every Saturday. Come hell or high-water, that is your time, to do what you please. It is a sanity saver beyond measure, and it is incredible how rejuvenating those few hours once a week can be for the teacher's soul!

Some sample Sacred Saturdays I've given myself ...

  • Trip to the Farmer's Market
  • Delicious cup of tea and a good book 
  • Early morning walk with my dog
  • Iced-soy-chai-latte and a chocolate croissant or apricot bar, while wandering downtown
  • Morning bike ride
  • Classic movies (today's selection: Hercules! Hercules!)
  • Baking: cupcakes, bread, anything not healthy and absolutely delicious
  • Trip to Barnes & Noble, for the purpose of wandering aimlessly. Bonus points for drinking tea while wandering through the store

Friday, July 5, 2013


Now that the end of the year has come to a close, I'm reflecting on the many amusing things that I did not have a chance to blog about because I started this so late into the year. Here are some of the moments I can't forget ...

"Take my stapler out of your pants!"
 Yes, I teach high school, and I had asked that some of the taller boys help me to put up a word wall. Apparently after putting up the word wall, the logical next step was to put the stapler away ... down his pants. Let us consider this your introduction to the student I will call Romeo* from now on. 

"Caliente means horny!"
If you know basic Spanish, you might realize the immediate error above. 'Caliente' means hot, as in temperature, climate or sometimes intensity of spice. However, due to an unfortunate error in judgement of Google translate, Romeo had been informed that the definition was 'horny.' Fast forward, he shouts this helpful phrase across the classroom after another student had asked how to say 'caliente' in English, and I scream, "OhMyGod, Romeo, noooo!" Through the use of urban dictionary, and then Google translate I managed to convey the meaning of "horny" to Romeo in an awkward conversation I assume no 17-year-old wants to have with his English teacher. 

"ATV in the mude"
I often skim my students exam essays as I wander around the classroom during testing days. My first thought was, hmm, I think he means "nude". My second thought was what the &$@! that sounds painful! I hope the person scoring that essay got as many laughs as I have from that one sentence - and decided he deserved to pass because of it. 

"I got new soccer clits!"
On Monday mornings I often start the class with a BellWork assignment along the lines of, "What did you do this weekend?" One of my darling 7th grade boys wrote the above sentence on his paper. Seeing as I have English Learners, this happens a lot more often than you might expect. I noticed this and asked him, 
"So, what did you do this weekend?" -me
"I got new soccer cleats!" - him
"Ah, okay, let's change that 'i' to 'ea.'" - me
And no, I didn't inform him of what he had written and its real meaning ;)

"Ms. works at Hooters!"
Kobe began a conversation in my class, discussing the merits of this particular establishment with another student (a girl). The girl insisted that of course she would never go, and neither would Ms. (she's correct) because it is demeaning to women (correct again). Which led to this...

"Have you ever been to Hooters Ms.?" - Kobe
"Uh, no..." - me
"Are you kidding Kobe?! Ms. works at Hooters!" - Kobe's bff
"OUT." - me

It took all of my personal restraint not to laugh out loud in his face, as I thought it was the most awkward & hilarious statement I had heard all week. Yes, I have been very blessed in that department, and likely could obtain immediate employment there should this "teaching gig" not go as planned. However,  I had to "be teacher" and thus, on went my "serious face" and finger pointing towards the door. The rest of the class could tell I wanted to laugh, but I did a reasonably good job keeping it together, all things considered.

And now, it is July, and I am missing these kiddos and my comic relief like crazy! Luckily, I start summer school next week, which should provide excellent inspiration ;)

* as always all names have been changed. I decided on "Romeo" for this student, because when in doubt about his behavior or actions in my class, his response is, "I love you Ms., you're beautiful Ms." 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Best. Lesson. Planner. Ever.

As a new-ish teacher I'm constantly moving my lessons around & making changes. I found planning on paper was insufficient, because with my jumbo eraser and all the changes I was making on a daily (hourly?!) basis, I had holes in the end of my pages by the end of the day.

So then I created a Word document for planning ... it was nice, I could type quickly and avoid those eraser tears in my paper. Except the formatting was a nightmare. And it wasn't pretty. (Pretty is a big deal for me). And I had to have a different document for every class I teach ... ugh.

[Drum Roll Please]
Enter, the life changing,

This Website is INCREDIBLE. I know, I'm a bit excited here, but I feel if there is anything you can learn from me, it is about this Website. I plan everything online. I can print, e-mail, or publish directly to my class Website. I can link to files from my dropbox ... that the kids can download from my class Website, or the school's secretary if (God forbid) I'm hit by a truck and can't make it into class. My favorite part -- when something unexpected happens (6th period rally anyone?) I can BUMP all of my lessons forward a day -- saving myself from those treacherous eraser marks tearing across my page. The help guys are awesome - I often IM them in the middle of the day, they are always super sweet, and do whatever they can to fix my problem.

And after all of my constant e-mails and IM's to them, 24/7 for the past year, when they unrolled their new (paid for) site, they let me be a beta tester and gave me a free subscription. I would pay for this site in a heartbeat. It is that good -- and that means a lot, coming from a poor teacher who's still paying off her loans ;)

If you do one thing to improve your lessons and classroom this year, start using this site. Seriously. You will thank me later.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why Teachers Should be President

This idea came to me a few weeks ago while listening to NPR on my daily hour-long commute. They were discussing the president and his current strengths and weaknesses. Ok, mostly just weaknesses. Now, I'm not promoting one political party or another here, but realized that the average teacher is much better equipped to handle the role of president instead of a rich businessman from the corporate world.

My Argument:
1. Teachers deal with 35 people in a room all day, who want different things, and don't agree about how things should be done. High School teachers deal with this for about 150 people on a daily basis - talk about the perfect real world experience for dealing with large groups such as congress that the president needs to persuade and assuage!

2. Classroom management. When someone hits someone else, they have consequences. When homework isn't done correctly, there are consequences. A teacher-president would easily be able to outline consequences for people in his cabinet who behave with less than exemplary behavior. Congressmen hiring hookers? Please write an apology letter to every person from your state. Congress managed!

3. Terrorism and other deadly conflicts. If a student were to set off a bomb in my classroom, or do anything else that would cause physical harm to another, they know there would be a price to pay. A high one. This is where a teacher would suggest In School Suspension (ISS). In America, I picture this as forcing criminals to do hard labor - for free. The grosser & more disgusting the job, the better. No one ever wants to be asked to scrape gum off the bottom of desks, hence, no one chews gum in my class.

4. Give choices. Too often the people in America seem to feel as if their rights have been taken away, or they are not included in the process. In the classroom this is fixed by giving choices and using the Love & Logic classroom management technique. For those of you who may not be familiar with this, it is essentially how you put a 2-year-old to bed. Would you like pink pajamas or blue pajamas? Either way, you're getting them in pajamas, but they're getting to make the choice on which ones, thus giving them the sense of power and choice. The possibilities for this one are endless in government. 

5. Appropriation of funds. Who knows better than a teacher about how to stretch a dollar the furthest way possible? Teachers use their own money to provide for their students, create their own materials, and give selflessly so their students can have more. Imagine if there was a president who did this -- took no salary, spent their hard earned savings on others, and did everything possible within the budget because there was no backup funds? National debt solved.

I'm sure there are more reasons , but for now, I think this a solid start. Soon teachers will rule the world.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Appreciate Me Damn-it!

With it being teacher appreciation Day-Week-Month (depending on who you talk to) I've found the lack of appreciation for teachers in MAY is quite astounding.  Let me summarize my teacher appreciation day:

1. "But we didn't know it was teacher appreciation day!"
-- Yes you did, I told you.

2. "Happy teacher appreciation day to youuuu" - sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday"

3. "You should throw us a party"
-- It's MY DAY. You should throw ME a party!

4. "In Mexico teacher appreciation day is May 15. We can celebrate then."
-- May 15 came and went, did they appreciate me? Let's just say I wrote 2 referrals that day ...

In summary, my day ended with a Jr. High student whining at me that he needed me to do something for him, and my response was "Appreciate me!" (I left the Damn-it part of the sentence in my head, thank heavens.)

I think teacher appreciation day should be in September - when kids are still relatively happy to be at school, and reasonably still like their teacher.  Not at the end of the year when they are burnt out and taking out their angst on anyone who will listen.