Posted in Teaching

Highlights, Lowlights, and A (Possible) Glimpse into the Future

I’m home sick today. I was home sick yesterday too. I’ve had a cold since last Wednesday and am also dealing with some crazy home repair issues, which I’ll probably write about in a later post. (They say comedy = tragedy + time, so I need a little more time before this whole house issue is funny.) Yesterday, I was sick-sick. Like, “pajamas all day, 4-hour naps, multiples doses of Robitussin” sick. Today I’m “I feel better! I’ll accomplish something! Oh wow, that took a lot of energy, I think I’ll lay on the couch for a while” sick.

Photo of teddy bear, tissues, orange juice, medicine, and a book
If anything will cure my cold, these things will.

Tomorrow it’s back to work, regardless of how I feel because…

A) Taking two days off in a row when you’re a teacher is kind of unheard of and definitely unsettling. You can’t help but wonder what sort of shenanigans are happening  in your classroom without you there. Also, one year, every single time I was absent, I got a new student. Every time. That’ll teach you to take a “me day”. *
B) Being absent is a lot of work when you’re a teacher. Last night (whilst sick) I spent an hour making sub plans, and this morning (whilst still kinda sick) I spent half an hour redoing the sub plans that I did wrong last night because I was sick. (I don’t recommend trying to operate Google Forms under the influence of cold medicine.)
C) I miss my students. I have GOOD kids this year. Kids that smile at me when they walk in my room and say “Have a nice day” when they leave and sometimes laugh at my bad jokes. I have kids that listen (mostly) and do their work (mostly) and politely point out that I wrote the year as 2011 instead of 2018 and offer to fix my mistake. They’re not just good kids, they’re GREAT kids. I love teaching them and, despite getting the year wrong once in a while, I think I’m doing a good job of it.

However…

Today during one of my short bursts of energy, I decided to clean up a random pile of papers on my desk. In it, I found a scribbled sheet of notebook paper from last November titled: Highlights From the Week Before Thanksgiving. I thought, Oh, neat! Then I read it and realized that “Highlights” was sarcastic, and I thought, Oh, no.

Here’s what it included:

Handwritten note that reads, "Highlights of the Week Before Thanksgiving"

  • Yesterday I wrote on a student’s paper, “This is not a simile! You are not comparing two unlike things. Liver is liver.”
  • Today a student misspelled his own last name on his paper. His last name is three letters long. He has no academic disabilities.
  • There are currently SEVEN project books in my lost & found box. Four of them have the owners’ name written prominently on the cover. We are working on the projects in class today. The students need their books. No one is approaching the lost & found box. ???
  • Conversations I’ve had in the past three days:
    • Conversation #1
      Student: “Where should I turn this in?”
      Me: “The same place we’ve turned things in since the first day of school.”
      Student: *stares at me blankly*
    • Conversation #2
      Student: “I have a question.”
      Me: “Yes?”
      Student: “I finished my assignment.”
      Me: “That’s not a question.”
      Student: *stares at me blankly*
    • Conversation #3
      Me: “Every day you ask to go to your locker to get your book.”
      Student: “I know. I just forget to bring it.”
      Me: “Okay, we need to come up with a solution for this problem. Why don’t you put a big colorful sticky note on the inside of your locker door that says, ‘Don’t forget your book.'”
      Student: “But I don’t go to my locker before this class.”
      Me: *stares at student blankly*
    • Conversation #4
      Me: “Please read the next item on today’s Workshop Rules.” [Note: The sentence says, “I will use my resources if I need help.”]
      Student: “I will not use my resources if I need help.”
      Me: “Let’s try that one more time.”

 

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, her students last year were definitely not cut from the same construction paper as the ones this year,” but you’re WRONG! My students last year were AWESOME! They, too, said please and thank you and laughed at my jokes. They, too, worked hard (mostly) and followed directions (mostly). But during the fourth month of school, they all– collectively and simultaneously– lost their minds. I remember it now clearly. It was a dark time.

So, here I sit, itching to get back to my classroom tomorrow, hoping against hope that my two-day absence has not made my beloved little seventh graders regress into name-misspelling, book-losing, non-question-asking shadows of themselves, because that really shouldn’t happen for at least another two months.

Wish me luck.

* Update: Since the writing of this post, I have received an email telling me I will have a new student tomorrow.

 

Posted in Teaching

The First Week of School, In Review *

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Tonight when I got home from work, I pulled into my driveway and was sitting in my car trying to summon the energy to get up and walk into the house, when a dog walked through my front yard. Not my dog, just a random dog I didn’t know. So I got out of the car (barefoot, because I usually take off my shoes on the drive home) to help this poor lost creature. That’s when he turned around and started barking at me. Really loudly.

I wasn’t scared. I have pretty good dog intuition, and I could tell he was probably friendly, just wary or protective, but I couldn’t approach him like that, and he wasn’t wearing a collar, so there was no tag to read anyway. I said, “It’s okay, boy. Hang on a second.” He hung on, still barking, while I reached back into my car and dug around for the tennis ball I knew I had in there. I was just about to offer him the ball and see if we could come to a compromise when a car pulled up and a neighbor got out.

“Bowser!” she yelled. “What are you doing?” (Note: Bowser is not the dog’s actual name.) She got out of her car and came to grab him, saying, “I’m so sorry! He just ran out the door!”

I said it was fine.

When Bowser saw his mom, he stopped barking and started running around me and my car, happily evading capture. I stood still while the following things happened, simultaneously and repeatedly.

  • Bowser ran around me.
  • Bowser’s mom ran around me.
  • Bowser ran around my car.
  • Bowser’s mom said, “You’re a teacher, right? How’s the first week of school going?”
  • Bowser jumped up and put his paws on my butt.
  • Bowser’s mom yelled, “Bowser no!!!”
  • Bowser laughed with his eyes.
  • Bowser’s mom said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Finally, on one of his trips around my car (which was still open), Bowser decided to to jump into the driver’s seat, at which point his mom yelled, “Bowser! Why are you getting into her car and not mine?!” and apologized about twelve times. Then she grabbed this forty-pound dog, yanked him out of my car, flipped him around so that she was cradling him like a baby with all his legs up in the air, and apologized one more time. I said it was fine. And it was. Truly.

Then I said, “You asked about the first week of school. Well…” I gestured to the big, doofy, furry, bundle in her arms. “It’s gone pretty much like this.”

As the woman carried Bowser to her car, scolding him all the way, I reflected on my little joke and realized how accurate it was.

Exhaustion + The Unexpected + Conflict + Problem-Solving + Remaining Calm During Chaos + Tackling an Obstacle and Subduing It Through Sheer Will + Laughter = The First Week of School

The truth is I’ve had a great first three days, I promise, even though I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and my ears are ringing. The other truth is Bowser didn’t bother me one bit, I promise, even though I had to clean a little dog pee out of my front seat.

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* I don’t want to hear any of your complaints about how it’s not even Friday yet, and I can’t actually review the first week until it’s complete. Let me tell you this: The first week of school takes approximately A YEAR of your life. If I want to say it’s been a week on Wednesday night, I can. Deal with it.

 

 

Posted in Teaching

Forgetting the Pledge of Allegiance and Other Symptoms of Adult Summer Slide

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A couple of weeks ago, I was at my parents’ house when my mom mentioned that she “pledged the table.” She meant that she used Pledge cleaner on the kitchen table, but I (being the hilarious and punny daughter that I am) wanted to make the obvious joke that she pledged allegiance to her table. I put my right hand over my heart and said, “…” nothing. After a few seconds of sitting there with my hand on my chest and my mouth hanging open, everyone started looking at me funny, possibly wondering if I was having a heart attack. So I put my hand down and said, “Um, how does the Pledge of Allegiance start again?” My dad, looking concerned/disappointed in me, replied, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…?” at which point I was like, “Oh! Right!” and lamely finished my joke to a bunch of blank stares.

It wasn’t one of my finest moments.

You might be thinking, So you forgot the Pledge of Allegiance. Big deal. I don’t remember it either. But what you’re forgetting is that I’m a teacher. In Texas. Which means that every weekday morning from mid-August to May, I recite not only the pledge to the American flag, but the pledge to the Texas one as well. So, when I failed to bring those words to mind in late July, I knew I was in trouble.

Most parents and educators have heard of the “Summer Slide.” For everyone else, no it’s not the new ride at Schlitterbahn. The Summer Slide refers to the tendency for students to lose some of the academic achievement they gained during the school year while they’re off for summer break.

What many people don’t know is that teachers suffer from the adult version of the Summer Slide. (I’m trying to come up with a catchy name for it. So far, I’m partial to the Vacation Veer or the Sunny-Days Slither. Let me know your thoughts.) No matter what you want to call it, it exists, and forgetting the Pledge of Allegiance is the least of my worries. Here are the…

Top Six Things I Forget Over the Summer:

1. My Password for That Thing We Will Inevitably Have to Use on the First Day of Back-to-School Professional Development

It’s some combination of the year one of my pets was born and the middle name of one of my former students… I think…

2. Roughly Half the Acronyms I Need to Know on a Daily Basis

Go into SEEDS and review the IEP and BIP before the ARD. Then make sure the data is up-to-date in TEAMS and document the MOY and ISIP scores in ECST so the LSSP can access them. And do it all ASAP, OK?

Sure thing! Just let me Google a couple of things first.

3. What’s Appropriate for Seventh Graders and What’s Not

When September rolls around, I’ll pull out those notes I made in July for that really engaging lesson I wanted to teach, and then I’ll realize that excerpts from House of Leaves and clips from an episode of The Santa Clarita Diet probably aren’t approved resources for twelve year olds. Oops.

4. Where I Put My One Good Staple Remover

Seriously, where is that thing?!?! I’ve already broken two fingernails!

5. Pretty Much Everything About How to Teach Grammar

Sleeping past 7:00AM and swimming in Barton Springs and wearing pajamas all day somehow knocks subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns right out of my head every summer. I have to relearn them again every year.

6. Exactly How Short Forty-Six Minutes Really Is

In August, when I start getting excited about school again, I go into idealistic mode, which is fun but, cruel. There’s nothing quite as disappointing as creating the perfect week-long lesson full of inspirational warm-ups and ample time for questions and enrichment, only to realize later that it would take me ten days to actually implement my plan. Soon I’m bummed to find all those little extras are on the educational cutting room floor. Forty-six minutes a day is just too short for everything I want to teach them, but I do the best I can. Sometimes I think it’s good that I forget how short the time really is, because it makes me plan those ideal lessons, and once in a while I keep the good stuff and cut something else. (Shh!)

***

The Summer Slide (The Dog Days Decline? The Free Time Free Fall?) is real. For students, the best way to fight it is with a book. Getting kids to read over the summer keeps their brains active and prevents them from losing important reading strategies and vocabulary. As for me, well, I’ve read seventeen books this summer, but that hasn’t helped me remember how to reset my voicemail message or reserve a computer lab, so I’ve got some studying to do. I guess it’s time to make some acronym flash cards.

***

And now, a quick moment of seriousness. Are you worried your student is slipping down the Summer Slide? It’s not too late to do something about it! This would be a great time to check your school’s website and see if your child has a summer reading assignment he/she’s not telling you about. Or, take them to the library and have them check out one of my favorite books. (There’s a section of YA & middle grade titles about halfway down.)