--My student and good friend, Larry, when asked what would be the modern-day equivalent of the sleep syrup used by a character in the novel we are reading.
(If you are unfamiliar with sizzurp and why it would be a wildly inappropriate thing for a 14 year-old to say out loud in class or even know, check out the Urban Dictionary definition here.)
P.S. I do not condone underage drinking, recreational drug use/abuse, mixing substances, or stupid answers to questions.
P.P.S. I was looking for "NyQuil."
P.P.P.S. Did I mention I was being observed at the time?
Friday, May 20, 2011
School is winding down. I have almost made it through my first year.
If you had asked me back in September (or October… or November) if I thought I would have ever made it this far, I would have answered with an emphatic, “Oh, hell no.” Ooo, child, I was a sad case. Recently, my mom recalled a Sunday afternoon last fall in which she drove 40 minutes to my house to do my laundry because I was so miserable just thinking about the week that awaited me that I was practically paralyzed. This post from September does a pretty good job of summing up my sentiments from last semester.
Then, for whatever reason, something clicked after Christmas. I figured a lot of things out. I changed what wasn't working, and found ways to improve what was. I forced myself to have a life outside of school, however small it might be. I became a teacher who is firm, but kind. I finally managed to use my classroom's bedamned projector system.
Yesterday, I was one of three teachers who showed up to school in the 7th grade hallway. Substitutes had been called, but few showed up and my assistant principal was visibly frazzled. I ended up redistributing the kids from the unsupervised classes into classrooms where a substitute or teacher was present. I then taught five, hour-long classes with 36-40 students in my room. I missed lunch because I met with a parent who is worried that her ex-boyfriend will kidnap her child. I read 20 pages out loud to each of my last two classes of a book they love. After school, I went to my students’ talent show where I screamed myself hoarse. Before falling asleep, I typed up two quizzes for the following day and sent some emails about scheduling. And yet, as I was laying in bed waiting the few moments it took for sleep to settle in, I felt empowered. The day was chaotic, but I was the anchor. I felt proud—of my students and myself. It had been a good day.
Maybe I will burn out going so hard like this, but it’s miles better than being miserable.
Or worse, bored.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
When I was in junior high, if you got in trouble, the teacher called home. Your parents would be embarrassed that they raised a total nincompoop and would make your life miserable via grounding, a long talk, removal of privileges, etc.
At this junior high, if you get in trouble, the teacher calls home. The student returns the next day and continues the behavior.
I finally figured out the trend around December (which is partly why this past August through November was one of the most miserable seasons of my life) and had to totally reinvent the traditional behavior management system I’d grown up with. Here are some of my favorite non-traditional ways to redirect minor infractions in the classroom.
1. I tell them they are officially uninvited to my birthday party/wedding/future child's christening/crawfish boil/Nobel Prize ceremony. Even if they make it through this one with a straight face, they usually get distracted by reassuring their classmates they would have NEVER GONE ANYWAY.
2. I ask them to make an announcement. (This is only if I have parent permission.) This is when they do something they know WAY better not to do, like ask to go to the bathroom 3 minutes into class (after a passing period between bells), or tell me 20 minutes into an assignment that they don't have a pencil. I call them over to my desk quietly and write down what they have to announce to the class. I explain to them that if they don't do it, or do it and say, "Miss Teach is making me do this," it invalidates the offer and they must fix the problem on their own. The announcements can range from "My name is Dontre and I am still going through puberty and I am miserable," to "My name is Marco and I just love everything about tiny baby bunnies." It is very effective in that it puts me in an amazing mood while also discouraging careless behavior. BTW, Dontre's mom came up with that one herself. Hilarious.
3. I say, "That is SO weird; I had a dream last night that you kept interrupting me while I was talking, just like you are now! Then in my dream you got mauled by a bear." Sometimes I change it up-- disemboweled by a cougar, lanced by a unicorn. Whatever it is, I make sure it's a species not native to this area. I'd feel bad if my fake prophecy was realized.
4. I have three telephone tricks.
Trick A: I have them talk to MY mom. (First I get a pretend call on my phone and I pretend-answer it.) "Oh hey, Mom. Yeah, I'm teaching. It's fine, but Samantha is really testing my nerves today... I know, especially because I didn't get much sleep last night...You want to talk to her?..." I cup my hand over the receiver. "Samantha, want to talk to my mom?" (They never do.)
Trick B: I call their former elementary school. (First I pretend I'm looking up something online. Then I make a pretend phone call.) "Hi, is this Forest Meadow Elementary? Hi, this is Ms. Teach with So-and-So Middle School... I'm doing fine, how are you? Listen, I have JaMichael Phillips in my class, do you remember him?... Yes, that one. I told JaMichael today he could use the bathroom if he came back in 5 minutes, and he returned to my class 25 minutes later. He says he didn't know that much time had passed, and I was just wondering if you guys teach math at Forest Meadow. You do? Even up to big numbers like 25? Oh, that's great. I just wanted to check. Thank you! You too. Bye now."
Trick C: I document my own misery. Every once in a while I'll turn my cell phone around and take a picture of myself pretending to cry. Then I say, "I'm going to show this to Mr. V and say you did this to me." Mr. V is a teacher at our school/former bodyguard. No lie.
5. Just once, I created a punishment fortune-teller. It was for a kid who missed way too many days of my class for in-school suspension already, and the last thing I needed was for him to be gone some more. So I made a fortune teller with 8 different punishment options:
(He landed on file cabinet. Holla!)
Life is too short to just yell at kids all the time.
Also, did you notice that I said “telephone” on number 4? I am 87 years old.