Category Archives: School

What’s going on at my school and with my students.

A new school year is about to start

My former teacher friends have been dropping off supplies for the school where I am chaplain. They hear my stories of need and they remember what it was like when they were in the classroom. Generous women. My computer/office room is beginning to look like an Office Depot. I found these suggestions for those who want to help a neighborhood school but may not have someone like me in their circle of friends who can make suggestions.

Here are five tips to get you started on getting involved with your local schools.

  1. Donate Supplies – Teachers often end up spending money out of pocket on school supplies and classroom needs. Ask a local teacher or principal for a list of needed supplies, then invite your neighbors, members of your Bible Study, or co-workers to chip in to fill in the gaps of the school’s needs. This is how my retired teacher friends have stepped up.
  2. Appreciate Teachers and Staff – Take time to recognize the important work of your neighborhood teachers and staff. Consider bringing fresh fruit or gift cards into the staff room. A handwritten note of kind words will go a long way to uplift and encourage those who serve your neighborhood kids. I would also suggest occasionally taking goodies to the teacher lounge.
  3. Show Up and Support – Attend Friday night football games to cheer on your local team or listen to your young neighbors at the school band concert. Both students and teachers appreciate a full, supportive audience to see the results of their hard work. I recommend this if you know a student at the school.
  4. Pray for Schools – Take the time to pray for your local schools. Pray these places would be a source of positive influence for students in your neighborhood. Consider regularly joining with others in prayer for schools that contribute to the fabric of your community and equip children to achieve and thrive.
  5. Form a Long Term Partnership – If you have the time and commitment, a great way to make an impact is to be consistent and form a long term partnership. Pay attention to what the school needs and be flexible and willing to help. This is sort of what I have done as school chaplain, but it could take many forms.
  6. Bonus Tip! Remember Your Role – As a community member, your role is to support the priorities of the school, rather than set your own agenda. Make sure the school, administration, teachers, students, and families take center stage. Your relationship with the school will deepen as you uplift their story and give them the credit for their investment and hard work.

Teachers and district have an agreement

While at Columbia last week, word came that the teacher’s union and Fresno Unified School District had come to an agreement and there would be no strike. A collective sigh of relief went through the campus, and later I learned, across the city.

Here is the agreement that teachers will vote on in a week or so:

If I was still employed by the district, I would certainly vote YES.

Hug a teacher

It looks like the teachers in Fresno will go on strike in the next couple of weeks. Negotiations are not going well. It’s not so much about wages and benefits as it is about smaller class size and better discipline measures. The president of the teacher’s union is a friend of mine. I encouraged her to run for the position. She is smart, she is passionate for kids, and she’s a born leader. If she can’t get this settled, then no one can.

Because of these  tensions, and all of the usual school-related stress that comes at the end of each October, teachers are feeling pretty low right now. Every teacher I know is feeling the pain. They are questioning their career choice. When my grandchildren visited two weeks ago, we went to See’s Candy and bought Halloween treats for the teachers and staff at Columbia. The kids even helped load up the goody bags:

This is so cool

Today, at lunch in the cafeteria, I saw Aiden, whom I was pretty sure had drawn this picture:

There were two Aidens last year so I wanted to check and see if I had the right one.  I showed him the picture, on my phone, and he immediately said,

“I drew that for you.”

“I know you did, Aiden, and I liked it so much that I used it for my Facebook profile.”

I then showed him my Facebook page and how I had used his drawing of me, red hair, bag of tricks, and a book.

“That is so cool,” was his response. He beamed.

Another way to handle discipline

This post is a continuation from yesterday’s when I ranted about seeing too many students in the office at Columbia Elementary.

The principal and I had been having a chat about a grant that Southwest Fresno is getting (that’s where Columbia is located) and she had asked me to sit in on some meetings to discuss how the monies would be used. As I step out of her office, there sits a small boy whom I recognize from my travels around the campus. When he sees me, he looks away, hoping to be invisible. I go over, sit down next to him, and start chatting. It’s a kindergartner and he’s “in trouble.”

“What did you do?”

“I punched Philip in the stomach.”

“Oh, dear. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to do.”

“He called me @&($#.” I won’t say the word and am not even going to type it. 

“So, you punched him?” He nods his head.

“You know, there are better ways to handle that. He shouldn’t be calling you such bad names, but hitting him is not the answer. You need to tell Philip that you don’t allow people to talk to you like that. I don’t allow anyone to say things like that to me. I stand up to them and tell them not to say that. If they continue, I walk away. You need to walk away and tell a teacher.”

Mrs. Brown, the principal is listening to this, nodding. She walks back in her office and I continue this chat with the little guy. I’m thinking the whole time, why didn’t the adults in charge have this talk with the two boys? How did it end up with one in the office and other one no where to be seen? Both boys should be there to work this out.

By now it’s time for me to go to lunch with the first graders so I tell this little guy he will have to wait for Mrs. Brown to bail him out. I don’t know what she did after I left, but I’m sure she was like me, this should never have made it to the office but rather been handled right where the “crime” took place. I don’t think the other boy, who fired the first “shot,” will be changing his ways any time soon, and the hostilities will just be simmering.


school discipline is just not my thing

First, let me review my classroom management skills with you. I taught high school students for 21 years. All grade levels, all sizes, all personalities. I got them all in the elective classes that I taught. I believed that those classes should be so engaging and the students so involved that they didn’t have time nor inclination to get into trouble. I set up the room and the lessons to maximize classroom control. It worked most of the time, but there were occasional miscreants.

I handled those miscreants on my own. Occasionally I moved a belligerent student into another room or made them step outside, where I could still see them, while I continued with the class. When I got to a point where I could step away, then I lit into the kid with the bad behavior, pointing out what they did and what they should have done and were they ready to get back to work OR did I need to call home. My method worked better than 99 percent of the time. I seldom had to send a student to the office, but I did occasionally write up a conduct referral if I thought a good talking to from the vice principal or counselor would make a difference.

The last year I taught was one time I had to call the office for help. I had a kid show up in my advanced multimedia class and insist he was in my class now. Nope. Not on my roll. Go away. He refused to do so. Just sat himself down and would not leave. My students were busy with a website design so they didn’t have time to pay much attention to this character, but he was a little scary in that he continued to loudly insist I give him an assignment. I called the office to send help.

When the campus assistant (CA) showed up, he was rather sheepish. “Did you call for help?”

“Yes, I did,” pointing to the young man. “This kid is insisting he is in this class but he is not enrolled. Please take him away.”

The CA chuckled and got the kid on his feet and headed to the door. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message that YOU needed someone. You never call for help.”

“Darn tootin. I don’t have time for such nonsense.”

Now fast forward to my days at Columbia Elementary. The office always has kids in there that teachers have sent to the office. I don’t get it. These kids are much smaller than those high school kids. What’s going on? Why can’t the teachers handle these kids? Things have changed, but that much? Who is in charge? Who is the grownup? What is going on in those rooms, curriculum-wise? What are the assignments that these students are trying to escape?

I sit with some of these miscreants and we talk. It all seems easy to me to handle, but I’m not the one in the classroom. I’m not the one whose back is up against the wall to produce higher test scores. I’m not the one who has to answer to parents. As I said in the title, school discipline is not my thing.

Addendum: Maybe teachers would have fewer problems if they had lessons like this one.

Running a speaker’s bureau

Much of my time this week was spent setting up guest speakers for the sixth grade class at Columbia. I’ve been working with this class since last fall, and had just talked with the teacher about involving the students in a local competitive writing project when he mentioned that he would sure like to have more guest speakers. Did I have any ideas? So that’s how it all started. Yes, I had a few ideas. I have friends I can call on that would be willing to speak to a group of inner city kids.

This is a sort of payback for all the guest speakers I had during my 21-year teaching career. Then I was fortunate to have a partner who ran the “speaker’s bureau” for our department. She did the heavy lifting–calling, pleading, setting dates and times. Our department secretary did the followup calls and mailed the thank you notes that the students wrote. I merely prepped the students, welcomed the guest, and oversaw the letter writing afterwards. Easy stuff compared to the work to set up these speakers.

Facebook messages, texts, and emails flew around all week as I was the go-between for teacher and speakers. I’m still waiting for one more response and we are all set. The first speaker will arrive at 8 on Tuesday morning. He will talk about what it takes to get to college and be successful.

Included in these negotiations was the one I had with the principal about “swag” to give the speakers as a token of our appreciation. Turns out, the school really doesn’t have anything with its name on it. They are working on that. She offered tee shirts with the school logo. Okay, that will work. I’m packaging the shirt with some swag from the Police department and candied nuts from Fresno State University.