Category Archives: School

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

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:

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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.

Working with small children can be hazardous 

Small children cough, sneeze, and wipe their hands on me. A flu shot is mandatory. I take probiotics to stay healthy. I also change out of my school clothes as soon as I get home. I’m always washing my hands, and I carry tissues and hand wipes in my bag of tricks, along with stickers, to hand out as I move through the crowds of children who seek me out on the playground and in the cafeteria.


I’ve had two jackets at the dry cleaners recently. One had milk spilled on it by the little girl sitting next to me in the cafeteria. The other one had pink-reddish smears on the back probably put there when one of the kids hugged me. The dry cleaning lady pointed out, with both jackets, moth holes and asked if I was sure I wanted the jackets cleaned. She probably thinks I’m some eccentric old lady.

“Yes, please clean it. I know the holes are there, but this jacket is only worn to school, to work with small children,” was the response both times.

Those two jackets, one purple, one maroon, are the only items I wear to school that need to be dry cleaned, and I only wear them on really cold days. We’ve had lots of really cold days since Christmas break.

Yesterday we had pulled pork for lunch.


This time, a different first grade girl, dumped the container on the right on my pants and shoes. Lots of pork and barbecue sauce. Fortunately, the items could be easily cleaned.

Today is the 100th day of school for our students. Lunch will be pizza, which I don’t eat, and we’ll see what happens as far as messes go.

Seeking sunshine & better days

The weather here has matched my mood–gloomy. We’ve had more rain this month than ever in Januarys past.

Although we need the water, the cold and gloomy days have not made me happy. Every time a storm front blows in or out, and the air pressure changes, the migraines hit. I’ve used more imitex this month than ever in Januarys past.

The third graders at Columbia have been asking me to come have lunch with them. The only way that is possible is to add an extra day to my schedule. On Tuesday this week, and hopefully for the next few weeks, i’m making a point of getting to Columbia for lunch with the bigger kids. Wednesday and Thursday are set aside for the first graders.

So many of the third graders (who were the first students I read to when I started as school chaplain two years ago) want to sit with me at lunch. We run out of room at the table. I took lots of stickers and puzzle pages but ran out before lunch was over. I will have to get more for next week. The cafeteria manager told me that there were more kids in attendance on Tuesday than any other day this year. She could only attribute it to the sunshine.

Next week is the 100th day of school. I have a special book to read and special stickers for the children to wear stating they are 100 days smarter. We celebrate all kinds of things in first grade!  But I find the fifth and sixth graders like this stuff, too.

Here is some elementary school fashion to make you smile. These shoes sure brightened my day: