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 TeachersPayTeachers.com. 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, CommonCurriculum.com

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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Praying Mantis Kid

Had I started this blog back in August, when I rightfully should have (minus the fact that I had temporarily lost my sanity, because, well, it was August) you would have been introduced to Praying Mantis kid*.  His antics have been daily, all year, and escalating.  He is not vicious, hateful, or purposefully malicious -- he just wants to be the class comedian and get all the attention. Here's the run-down on how he got this nickname from me.

One day in the fall, he comes in after lunch -- acting his usual, goofy self.  The kids around him were a bit silly as well, but, hey, they're high schoolers and someone getting a new haircut can send them into giggles for hours. While working through our Bell Work, there was an excessive amount of shouting from the corner of the room. When I approached, I found him holding a large praying mantis-- which he had lovingly named in honor of the girl who sat in front of him. He was attempting to frighten his group members by putting it on their shoulders - clearly a good idea - as if naming it in honor of them of one of them wasn't frightening enough. Thus, I pulled an epic teacher move -- give them choices...

"Ok, you can put the praying mantis outside or I can put the praying mantis outside." - me
"Noooooooooo, I love her!" - him
"I understand, will you put her outside or should I?" - me
"Here, you can have her." - him

I'm quite certain he didn't think I would actually take the praying mantis from him. Unfortunately, being the epic multitasker that I am, I put her (?!) in my hand, promptly forgot I was holding a praying mantis, and continued my rounds of the classroom, answering questions and guiding students. One or two of them asked, "Why are you holding a praying mantis?"  At which point (realizing it was still in my hand) I came back to Praying Mantis Kid, asking if he could put her outside at this point. He decided he could. Yeah, he's 17-years-old.

{*All names have been changed on this blog, hence the misnomer of Praying Mantis Kid - clearly not his given name}

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Show Must Go On

One of the first things I learned with teaching is that it is 98% about the "show" you put on everyday.  I honestly don't know why more teachers don't have a background in theater and acting - it is one of the things that has helped me survive without going postal. 

The quote, "your mood makes the weather in the classroom," is so true. If I'm tired or feeling "off," the kids can tell - and act accordingly. If I'm excited, upbeat, and ready to go (albeit a bit silly) they are engaged, energetic, and into it.

This has been a week of struggles, for many reasons, personally, phsyically, emotionally, and to be honest, I haven't been all joy and sugar; but I have managed to fake it till you make it, and get a reasonable amount of buy in from the kids.

One of my master teacher's once said, (forgive me for my innacuracies in discussing sports but here I go) "Basketball players only have to have their best game 27(?) times in a season; as teachers we have to have our best game every day, no excuses."  It has been one of the quotes that has stood with me most strongly.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Can't Live Without's

This list below is as much for me as it is for you. I use "you" loosely as I am not sure if anyone besides me reads these selections of stream-of-consciousness - but if "you" do, I hope it might prove useful.

I hope to update this as time goes on, but these are some of the Websites I have found most crucial in my survival as a teacher. I use my i-Pad in class on a daily basis, and anything that makes teaching easier, and can be implemented on the i-Pad is something I love.*

jeopardylabs.com -- this is the quickest, easiest way to create & play jeopardy in class

soundcloud.com -- the unblocked music streaming service on our school's internet connection

typingtest.com -- great free games for students to practice typing with both hands

litcharts.com -- basic breakdowns of classic texts that are available in app form as well

wordle.com -- make word collages for games, art projects, or book reports

makebeliefscomix.com -- students can make their own comic strips illustrating a variety of standards

yolasite.com -- I built my free classroom Website here, the kids are so impressed and it's SUPER easy

commoncurriculum.com -- my FAVORITE site right now, free sign up, completely editable modules for lesson planning and they are automatically published to my class Website and e-mailed home to parents. Doesn't get any better than that.

I haven't tried the following yet, but they're high up on my priority list:

classdojo.com -- haven't tried this one yet, but I'm liking the look of it

divshare.com -- file sharing for access in the classroom

schoolology.com -- free resource to allow students blogging for your class requirement

* For those of you with students who have sticky fingers (yes, my 4 year old i-Pod touch got stolen last year) I highly recommend use of an i-Pad in your classroom with the addition of a locking cable case to prevent it from leaving the room without your knowledge. Best $40 I've spent on Amazon.

A Substitutes Prayer

As I am at a conference for the next few days, I have left my children in the hands of a very competent substitute. None the less, I find myself saying a prayer for my substitute and my students in the upcoming days.

Dear Lord,
Please guide my substitute:
That she may keep my children in their seats,
from throwing things and poking each other.
That they may get the work done that I left them,
and not balk too much in the process.
That my pencils and pens not be stolen,
and the computer, projector and document camera still be working when I return.
Please guide my students:
That they may help each other, instead of taunting.
To refrain from poking with pencils, throwing airplanes, and graffiti-ing my desks.
To put their trash in the trash can, instead of their partner's hair.
And that they may learn something this week, before Spring Break.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Public Nudity


"Ms. why don't you wear sexy clothes to school?" -Kobe*

"Because I wear teacher clothes to school."-me

"If I was a teacher, I'd come naked."- Kobe

"Yikes." - me

As far as inappropriate comments go, this one is pretty mild, but it made me laugh for a good 3 minutes so I thought I would share.

* this is not his name, but he is certain he will be the next Kobe Bryant, as all teenage boys are confident of, therefore we shall call him Kobe.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sweet, Sweet Victory

Some days my little darlings, are actually little darlings. Yes, I mean that in a non-sarcastic way.  Yesterday was the begining of the last quarter of the school year, and for once, when I implemented my seating charts, I was not faced with the usual screams of sheer terror that tend to reverberate from the walls on new-seating-chart-day.  Mondays and new seating charts can be hell - today, not so much. Thank God.

Being that 98% of the kids I teach are English learners, my daily struggle is trying to find a way to keep them in the target language, in my case, English. I know I am sucessful in life when they "hate" some new plan or idea I have put in place. Yesterday, I implemented my new revalation. They all hate it. I have succeeded.  Here it is for anyone with a similar struggle in a language class.

I adapted this from this website. This is the BEST idea I have heard so far and I'm so excited.

1. Give the kids a list of "survival" phrases they need to exsist in your classroom. May I use the bathroom? Can you help me? etc.

2. After they have this list, they know they can always say, "May I speak in (native language)?" for clarification.  Our struggle is that I am fluent in English and Spanish, and often I will answer their questions in Spanish without realizing this is English class!

3. From now on, anyone who is "caught" speaking in the native language instead of the class language gets a strange "object" on their desk as a visual reminder. I chose a HUGE dictionary that takes up 1/4 of their desk space. Awkward, and difficult to use as a weapon, were pretty much my criteria when chosing my "object".

4. (Here's where it gets fun) The student who has it on their desk, instantly pays closer attention to their language and those around them. When they hear someone else not speak in the target language, they get to put the dictionary on that person's desk. My high schoolers thought this was the best GAME ever. My new English learners are not happy; but I hear more English, and silence, so I'm happy.

5. (Why they care). I have participation points in my class--- at the end of the period, the person who has the dictionary on their desk looses 3 out of their 5 participation points for the day. I think this is an improvement on the suggestion in the article, because I'm not asisgning extra work for the students or myself, but it does directly affect their grade.

I love small victories.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Inspiration.

My Inspiration.

Teaching. I decided I needed a profession where I didn't hate my life at the end of the day, and that I was marginally good at. Plus, I'd tried retail - it stank. So here I am, year two, and most days, I love it.

Praying. As someone who is self proclaimed as raising 78 children, it takes a lot of prayers to get us through the day/week/month. Between the things they get themselves into and their grades, I lie awake at night unable to sleep and praying about the crazy messes they get themselves into. 

Loving. Many of my students are raising themselves. Most of their parents are at work long before they wake up, and come home very late in the evening. My kiddos need someone who cares for them - and if they were blessed to be put on my roster this year, well, then I'm that person. 

About me.
I'm a 20-something English teacher in a small school district. I have a dog, a cat, and 78 kids - this year at least. I naively chose teaching because I had imagined it would grant me the freedom to explore classic literature with today's youth, while instilling in them a passionate love of literature. Turns out, teaching is more about raising teenagers and keeping them alive until their brains develop enough for them to be allowed out into society.

I once read this quote: "If you like to bake cookies and read stories you should teach kindergarden.  If you like to teach literature and world philosophy, you should teach high school. And if you like to bungee jump, you should teach middle school."  At the time I was teaching middle school, and no, I would never be caught bungee jumping. Now teaching middle and high school, I have decided that if you like to teach literature you should probably be doing something else. If you want to raise human beings to be productive members of society, pick any grade K-12 and you should be just fine. They all like cookies anyway.