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Saturday, January 29, 2011

You actually can take the ghetto out of the girl

So you know that old saying "you can take the girl out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the girl".  Well I beg to differ.  Last year I worked in a terrible school with kids who were just completely off the hook school wide.  It was pure hell.  It was definitely in the ghetto.  I now work in a very affluent neighborhood with a great school...a mile and a half away from my old school.  That's right, a mile and a half.  It's mind boggling.

There is a student at my new school that I actually taught last year at my old school in the ghetto.  She was insanely rotten last year and would constantly get in fights on the playground and cuss everyone out.  This year she is at my new school and you would be amazed at how night and day she is.  She is truly a different girl and amazing!  I always knew she had the potential, but being surrounded by bad examples was never going to help for her.

I feel very strongly that when there are horrible schools like mine from last year, it would be in the best interest of the students to close the school and split the students up into a variety of other schools where there are lots of strong kids academically and behaviorally to be a good influence on them.

My old student is living proof.

"Sometimes kids just need to learn to be bored"

That was the conversation  that was had in the staff lounge today when I brought up the topic of the need to incorporate technology in the classroom.  I feel it's very important to have the students taught using all sorts of different types of media, and they should have hands on learning experiences with technology as well.  But one of the teachers actually said to me, "why should they have to have so much technology?  Sometimes people are bored in life and they just need to learn to be bored."  As I was sitting there with my mouth half open trying to process this comment, I was in utter shock and awe that all the other teachers agreed!!!  What is wrong with these people?  I guess I'm just a different generation, and I recognize that my students are from an even more different generation, I need to help teach them in the best way that will engage and excite them.

We have a Mac laptop lab that our PTA spent $34,000 on last year to help incorporate more technology in the school.  I convinced my principal to let us store the laptop cart in my room so I could use them more often, and he more than willingly agreed.  I use them several times a week with my class and their level of engagement is huge!  They are using the computers to do research projects related to their curriculum, we are using the amazing website "National Library of Virtual Manipulatives" which helps them bring math concepts to life, they LOVE to write now because their final drafts get typed, and it's amazing how much longer their rough drafts have become all on their own because they realized that a handwritten document vs a typed one is a very different!  The sad thing is, out of the whole school, only 2 other classes use the computers once a week, and one of the teachers just let's the kids look around on websites and uses it to punish the kids who aren't in the "gold group" (whatever the heck that is).

One thing I've learned as a teacher is that someday when I am a mother I need to be very active in making sure I know who my child's teachers are.  I really do believe in public education and feel children can get a great education!  Every schools is going to have some duds, and some amazing teachers too.  I just need to make sure I get to know my school well enough to get in good with the good teachers!

Oh if I could use a paddle...

I would use it on my teaching partner.  What did you think I would actually use a paddle on a student?  Ok, so I have dreamed about it from time to time, but I always knock some sense into myself.  But right now I would like to use it on my teaching partner.  She's nearing retirement age and I'm amazed that after all of her years of experience teaching, she has NO classroom management!

We have a door that goes in between our two classrooms and every time I walk in there I am baffled at how off the hook her class is.  The sad thing is that there are some really great kids in there, but since there is no classroom management it's like a bunch of monkeys swinging from the trees!  I would NEVER let my class do 1/10th of the things she lets them get away with.  And what's her result?  She spends half her day venting and groaning about how horrible her class is and how I wound up with all the good kids.  I can't honestly believe that the teachers from last year would deliberately set it up so I, the unknown teacher at the time, would get all the good kids.  Her kids could be good if she would put some guidelines on them!  I tell my class at the beginning of every year that if they can prove to me they can handle the little things, we'll have lots of fun with the big things!  I work really hard the first few months of school getting them used to my expectations and by this time of the year, we are having a royal blast of fun!  I love having fun with my class, but when you have 33 students in one classroom, there has to be guidelines for sanity.

Today was over the top for me when I had my students very silently working on a test and I opened her door to hand something over and discovered, they too were taking a test, but kids were roaming around, throwing things, talking, and were SO off task!  Baffling...absolutely baffling.  No wonder parents are requesting to be moved into my classroom mid-year.  I am in no way finding this as a compliment by the way.  I'm just baffled at the lack of classroom management.

Now that is H-O-T HOT!

OK, I must say...I saw one of the hottest things I've seen in long time today.

I was walking across the playground going to my classroom and I hear all sorts of fun going on behind me.  Little boys were cheering and having a blast!  So I turn around and what do I see?  Pure hotness.  That's right, pure hotness.

Here was a Dad (who I must say was mighty easy on the eyes) playing basketball with a bunch of 2nd graders in his super nice business suit.  And keep in mind it was a damp foggy day today and the playground was wet, thus making the act of playing basketball a relatively messy activity.

He was really getting into it too and the kids were having a blast.

Like I said...H-O-T HOT!  Smokin' hot!

Amazing Generosity

One of my classroom management techniques is to give my students group points.  They can earn group points for a variety of things, some big, some small, you name it all.  It's amazing how hard they work for their group points because they like their reward.  If they were in the class next door with my teaching partner, they would get to pick a pencil out of the prize box.  YIPPIE a pencil!  Please read the pure sarcasm, and please remember that I teach 6th grade.  That age could care less about a pencil.  The reward for my students is to go to lunch with them, my treat.  The kids LOVE it and I wish I could record their faces when I tell each new class this news at the beginning of the year.  And it's great because they will do just about anything for group points.  It seriously makes my job so much easier because all I have to do is grab my clipboard that I keep track of points on and the kids instantly straighten up in their "learning positions" (meaning they sit up with their hands on their desks and a cheesy grin).  It truly bliss.

So the thing about this is that I generally have to drag the points out for like 5-6 weeks because it costs me roughly $30 every time I take them out, and that gets a little taxing.  My husband had the bright idea to ask the parents if they would be willing to pay for their child if they won.  (I work in a very well to do area).  So I sent out an email and asked for their opinion.  I got a 100% feedback with an outstanding yes!  So I will now end group points every 2-3 weeks, and the class is super excited about it!  I am as well because it's such a nice way to get to know your students in a more relaxed setting.

Now for the amazing generosity...many of the parents responded to my email by not only saying that they would pay for their child, but they would also pay for me.  I was very grateful that they were showing such kindness.  But then I got an email that surpassed them all!  One parent actually said she was going to bring in a $100 check to help cover the past and future expenses!  I of course couldn't let her do that, but I was amazed at her generosity.  How sweet is that?!?!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Great Idea!

This came from one of my fellow teachers...

"Just had a kid in detention who thought it was funny to shove carrots up his nose...until I made him eat them :)"

That just makes me happy!


So every year I do a writing activity where we use magazines to make a collage of different types of topic sentences.  I love this activity for many different reasons.  This year I asked parents to send in any old magazines that they wouldn't mind having us cut up.  BUT I also strongly emphasized that I needed them to be BORING and APPROPRIATE magazines, so if they could please flip through them and remove anything inappropriate.  Well either parents forgot, or we have completely different views of what is appropriate.  I of course pre-screened the fronts of the magazines and quickly thumbed through the rest.  Here's some of the gems I found on just the front and back covers!

OK...first of all, words like infidelity and intimacy are kind of a red flag for me...

I don't want to see a picture of people getting all up on each other, do you really want your kids seeing that?

RED FLAG - Shouldn't Howard Stern's picture plastered on the front cover make you at least think, "hmmm maybe not the best magazine for kids"?

How do you think a bunch of 6th graders are going to respond to the word SEX?  Really, come on!
And the kicker of them all that I did NOT find on my own, but a student found tucked as an ad in a magazine, was a picture of topless woman just using her fingers to cover her nipples.  LOVELY.  That led to quite the discussion of what's appropriate and what's not. 

Bullies - Big and Small

Bullies make me SO mad!  How dare you think you are better than someone and try to boss them around?  My personality doesn't mesh well with bullies, although I doubt many people's do.  But when I see a bully I want to fight back and shove them in a corner.  Granted I can't literally shove them in a corner, but I'd like to!

Today I encountered 2 types of bullies.  The first bully was a 3rd grader out on the playground who asked another boy to see his work.  You could see a sense of pride on the young boy's face and he was eager to show off his work.  As soon he showed it the bully started cackling and being rude.  I gave it a second to see how the other boy was going to react, and to try and figure out if the project was something that is supposed to be funny.  I quickly realized it was not and that the child was just being a bully!  So I jumped in, pulled the bully aside, and scared the living tar out of him.  Do I think it will prevent him from ever being a bully again?  Probably not, but hopefully it at least makes him think.

The other bully I encountered today was a parent.  That's right, a so called ADULT.  She met with me previously this week to try and demand that I move my students out of groups and have all their desks individually placed in my classroom.  After I told her I would NOT change my arrangement and gave evidence of the effectiveness of my teaching strategies, she seemed miffed that she didn't get her way.  I offered moving the placement of her child within his current group and that in 2 weeks we would be getting a new seating chart, and this would provide him the opportunity to gain effective social skills with his peers.  She again contacted me today telling me when SHE was going to have a meeting with ME.  I'm sorry, did we prearrange a meeting?  Did you call my secretary to check my schedule?  Oh wait, I don't have a secretary and NO I am NOT going to meet with you when you demand it.  Yes I am willing to meet to try and best help your child, but we need to BOTH agree to a time and date.  She then called the office and DEMANDED that I call her at lunch.  So what did I do?  Ate my lunch in peace and waited until after school to call her and let her know that I'd be happy to meet and we needed to arrange a time that works for both of us.

The world encounters all types of bullies, and sadly there are many adult bullies out there.  I'm sure you know at least one!


While even I as a teacher teach students the difference between a tattle and a tell, I must admit, I love it when I have spies that rat out the other students!  There is no way that my 2 eyes can watch 33 students all at the same time.  I do my best and I have learned lots of tricks over the years, but I can't catch everything.  So I love it when students wind up spying on others for me.  I have one student this year who comes and sneaks notes to me that rat out other kids around her.  I can then use that to my advantage and not only look for the behavior tattled about (like note passing), but also BUST the kids who are doing it!  So to all my sneaky spies, while I would never let the rest of my class know, THANK YOU for being a tattle tale.


What is a PCS epidemic you might ask?  Well, parents, you can ask your child because according to you, they are perfect and could never do any wrong.  PCS stands for Perfect Child Syndrome.  Now I recognize that not all parents have PCS, but there are always a small handful that do.  If you do suffer from Perfect Child Syndrome, here are a couple of strategies to help you overcome your problem...

1.  Get over yourself.  Your child is NOT perfect and by all means YOU are probably FAR from perfect, so just accept reality.
2.  Be honest with yourself and others.  Lying to the teacher's face about your "perfect" child doesn't do any good but make the teacher realize they REALLY can't trust you! 
3.  Realize that when you are suffering from PCS, all you are really doing is teaching your child to be a spoiled brat.  And guess what...when spoiled brats grow up and have kids, they too often suffer from PCS causing a never ending cycle!
4.  Don't be an idiot.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Power of Parents

I have taught in a wide range of schools.  High performing schools, low performing schools, rich areas, middle of the road areas, and really poor areas.  It doesn't matter what community I am in, when a child has a supportive parent who teaches them values and hard work while being involved in their education, without fail I have seen those students shine and be high achievers!  It's amazing to me that no matter how hard I work for the 6 hours a day I have students, there is no way I can be 100% effective unless the parents are supporting their child at home.  Parents must not realize the power they have to help their children because it seems that if they knew, every parent would be involved!  It's remarkable to see the difference a parent can make!  Here is a list of ways I have found parents to be truly effective...

1.  Be educated...my highest achieving students are always the ones with the highest parent education
2.  Value education and let your child know how important it is
3.  Be active in the school.  Know the teachers and office staff and be aware of what classroom your child in.  If you've been nice and a friendly supportive face, most likely the office staff will put your child where you want them.  I know a lot of parents work, but you can still be friendly and make yourself known, even if you can't be there often.
4.  Communicate with your child's teacher and do so effectively.  Let them know you are there to support them and help your child at home. 
5.  Accept that your child isn't a prince or princess and that they should NOT be exempt from all the rules.
6.  Make sure you have an active role in a homework routine, but please don't do homework for them, give them answers, or complain to them about their homework.  And if you don't know how to do it, do some research so you can help your child.
7.  Attend the school functions and show excitement about it so your child can know that their education is important to you.
8.  If your child gets suspended at school please do NOT let them go home and watch TV and play video games.  A day on suspension should be far worse than a day at school!  I will never forget my brother being suspended for 2 days and how he became a slave around our house!  Just seeing him miserable inspired me to never get myself in trouble!
9.  Love your child.

I am sure there are million more things I could add to this list, but that's all for now!  What do you feel is the best thing a parent can do to support education?


I moved schools this year and it's be a complete change!  I am now with a different principal and it's very refreshing to have someone who doesn't tell the whole staff about how much they suck on a daily basis!  My new principal is supportive, tells me what a great job I'm doing, and helps out where ever possible.  It really makes a big difference having effective administration.  Last year none of the teachers were ever able to really do what they know best, teach.  We were constantly being micromanaged, told to do things a certain way, and then 2 weeks later told to do them differently.  We all spent the whole year trying to make the principal happy and as a result we weren't able to truly teach the way we know how to!  The poor students were all effected and given a disservice simply because of the principal.  Yet all of the teachers needed good evaluations so we could keep our jobs in a tough economy, so we did what we had to do to get by and accommodate to the system.  Last year was a classic example of how the school system is failing our students.

Now this year I am in a community where there is a supportive principal who knows how to run a school effectively.  The teachers are given the academic freedom to teach how we know best and our students very clearly benefit from that!   Would you really want to tell Michael Jordan he wasn't playing basketball right and make him do all sorts of nonsense things to effect his style?  He knew what he was doing, so people let him do it!  Good teachers know what they are doing and we each have our own style.  As a good teacher we know how to make sure the kids not only learn the required curriculum, but know how to push them above and beyond their abilities!  So when you have a school with good teachers, you are going to have great progress, as long as we are given the trust and support we need and deserve! Yet sadly, our system often allows poor leadership to stay in their positions and continue to effect hundreds of students and teachers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Are YOU smarter than a 5th grader?

That's right, I am talking to you...all the cashiers in the world that I wish I had as students because I could have taught you to make change.  Does it scare anyone else in this world that when my bill is $19.27 and I pay with $20.02 I get looks of serious confusion?  To me it's plain as day, I don't want pennies back, I want quarters back.  I have such a feeling of defeat when I see that look on the cashier's face and watch them punch the amount into the cash register so they can figure out the change.  Even though I was never their teacher, I feel like as an educator, I (we) have failed them.  My mom is even tutoring a COLLEGE student and teaching her how to make change, tell time on an analog clock, etc.  How sad and scary is that?!?!  It's frustrating and heart breaking all at the same time.  Thoughts?  Do you struggle with this either as the person who can't make change, or the person frustrated when others can't make change?

***Disclaimer:  this post was not meant to offend anyone who can't perform the above said tasks...but if you can't, please start to learn! 

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Your Face!!!

So I was told all year last year by my wretched principal that I was horrible teacher.  I just got an email from said principal thanking me for having the BEST state test schools FOR THE WHOLE SCHOOL!  I had the most dramatic improvement in student achievement!  The sad part was that my first thought wasn't "yeah for my students!" but it was more like "take that you horrible principal!"

Single Digits

I'm into the single digits of the number of days before school starts up again.  9 days left of summer.  Be looking for stories to be updated soon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

In the Summertime when the weather is fine...

First and foremost, I am thoroughly enjoying my summer break.  It's amazing how much teachers really do need that time off.  People always tease teachers about how we have such a cushy schedule, and while I must say it's really nice, we honestly need it!  No matter how good you are as a teacher...you get burned out and need breaks away from your students.  So thank goodness for breaks...especially summer!

I will try and reminisce on some truly fascinating teaching stories that I haven't shared yet.  But don't get your hopes up too much for posts this summer.  My biggest summer goal is to de-squirrel my house (aka - clean out).  So far so good!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sayings that make them smile every time!

I like to discipline with a little humor.  When kids are doing minor things that they aren't really thinking about, I have found that putting a little humor into it not only makes the kids smile, but helps stop the behaviors, or at least temporarily tame them...without them feeling stupid.  Here are some of my favorite things you will often hear coming out of my mouth in my classroom...

Things I say on a regular basis:
- Unless you're a camel, you have no need to spit
- This is not American Idol, please keep your songs to yourself
- Until you see a big sign outside the classroom saying "Tattoo Parlor" you do not draw on yourself
- I didn't realize we were having tryouts for "so you think you can dance" today
- You are not a dog, so don't bark like one (yes I have a barker in my classroom)
- Excuse me, can you tell me who this hoodlum is sitting next to you?  I don't recognize them.  (Said about a child that is wearing their hood in the classroom)

Things I think, but thankfully haven't accidently said out loud (not yet at least):
- You are not a stripper, get off the pole
- The poles are not for dancing
- Pull up your shirt, you're not a prostitute

Monday, June 7, 2010

Squirrels (AKA teachers)

Squirrels like to horde stuff.  Sure they are sometimes cute and lovable animals...like the one we fed marshmallows to while I was camping with friends.  However, the problem with squirrels is that they just can't stop hording stuff!  They would never throw something out, and as soon as they see a sign that says "free nuts" they go crazy and take as many nuts as they can hold!

Some teachers are like squirrels.  They horde as much stuff as they possibly can and never get rid of it! I totally understand some of that mentality because you never know if you are going to teach a certain grade again or not, so you keep all of your boxes from the grades you've taught.  Why reinvent the wheel every time you change grade levels?  I get it...even my husband can attest to the multiple teaching boxes in our attic.

What really boggles my mind though are the teachers who just can't get rid of anything!  Don't they ever think about the poor teachers who have to move into their classroom the next year?  I am currently one of those teachers that had to come into a classroom where the previous teacher was a cute bushy tailed squirrel!  It's taken me all year to clean out the mounds of "nuts" that was in there.  Who really needs to save report cards from 2002?  As the school year is winding down and I am having to do the final stages of cleaning and organizing in order to check out for the year, I am vowing that I will not leave it a horrible mess for the next teacher in there.  Even if that means that I have to clean out all the garbage from the last squirrel (I mean teacher).  I will not be a squirrel!

I will never...

As a teacher I hereby vow to NEVER do the following when I am a parent...

1.  Show up to school wearing my pajamas, or my robe (especially at 3pm)
2.  Wear my slippers to pick up my kid
3.  Always believe that my child could NEVER do anything naughty
4.  Give my kid some weird spelling of their name that no one can pronounce
5.  Put a hypen in my kids first name (not to seperate the first and middle, but just in the first name alone)
6.  Call the school and interrupt the classroom everyday just to tell my kid to walk home
7.  Tell the school I will come pick up my sick child, or when my kid is suspended, and then never show up
8.  Tell my child's teacher in May that since my kid acted out they can plan on Christmas being cancelled (especially when I know the teacher would know that no one would ever follow through with that threat!)
9.  Let my kid sit at home playing video games all day because they were suspended from school
10.  Name my kid some jacked up name that they will despise for the rest of their lives such as La-a (pronounced La-dash-uh)
11.  Tell my child that if someone talks smack to you, you should hit 'em

The H and P words

I was very proud of one of my students who came up to me and admitted what had happened when I broke up her argument with another student.  The other girl lashed out in anger yelling and getting herself in more trouble.  The other one came up to me and had this conversation with me...

D:  I did something stupid so I came to talk to you about it.
Mrs. J:  (I was very proud because one of my classroom rules is, if you do something stupid, which we all do from time to time, come talk to me about it and you'll be in far less trouble, then when I find out from someone else)
D:  She called me a...well you know a bad word...
Mrs. J: (probing) A word that starts with the letter... (I am waiting for the response of B)
D:  You know, the H word, so then I called her the P word.

At this point I am totally perplexed.  I thought I knew my bad words pretty well...apparently not

Mrs. J:  OK, you won't get in trouble if you tell me the words right now, but I need to know what the H and P words are.
D:  You know, she called me a Ho so I called her a Prostitute

One of my funniest teaching moments ever!  Certainly the funniest this year!