Tag Archives: students

Don’t be gone

Yes, Friday was a bit of a mixed-up day from what was planned to what really happened, but it was okay. I did laundry, worked in the backyard, and then sat on the couch reading my latest Marcia Muller book. The sitting on the couch thing had been in the works due to the covid vaccine. I figured resting afterwards would be a good idea. Resting after my busy week was also a good idea.

Two of the six classes at Columbia had substitutes this past week. The first graders are still getting to know me, and figuring out just how far they can push my buttons. With a sub, one class figured they would attempt another push.

They wanted to stay at their desks rather than go to the carpet for the story. That was okay with me, I’ve done that over the years. They reacted well to the story, but there was some noise and it didn’t seem to disappear unless I stopped reading. I gave them a warning and also reminded them about the next-door class who had missed a story a few weeks ago due to being noisy. They took the hint and finished strong. The sub asked if I could stay a bit longer. No, I have another class waiting for me.

The next day, one second grade class had a sub and the students were very noisy when I came in but cheered when they saw me and quieted. The sub explained it had been a crazy day. I took over the class. Now mind you, these are students who know me from last year when they were first graders. With my directions, they moved to the carpet, ready for the book. I had to make a few stops and remind them of proper behavior. They actually reminded one another. The sub asked if I could stay a bit longer. No, I have another class waiting for me.

The cheers went up when I opened the door for the last class of the week. Their teacher said they had been waiting for me. You may remember that I missed the first two weeks of October. One of the little girls reminded me of my absence:

“You were gone for two weeks.”

“Yes, but I was back last week. Were you not here last week?”

She looks at me, with really big eyes, “yes, I know, I remember the book you read about Milo, but you were gone for two weeks. Don’t be gone.”

That’s how I feel about the Target and CVS employees–don’t be gone. People are counting on you.

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This was one of those mornings when I wasn’t ready to jump out of bed. I seem to be having more of those lately. There was work to be done, though, so I shook off the drowsies and got busy. 

Cats fed (the important stuff first), hair washed, and yards watered. I got my cup of coffee and sat on the porch, watching the sprinkler and reading email and Facebook on my phone. Snapped this picture:


And decided I would like to sit on the porch all day. 

Ran errands. Addressed birthday cards. Made lunch. Reviewed all the projects for tomorrow night’s transformative climate communities meeting where we actually start deciding which projects will get funding. There are 38 projects and most are very good. Just wish there was money for all of them. 

I’m telling a wonderful story to first graders this week, “Let’s go, Hugo,” set in Paris and the Eiffel Tower. 

I made an Eiffel Tower for each classroom to keep with the hope that it will encourage the children to want to know more about Paris. 

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.

No substitute #2

The Ladies Who Lunch turned into The Ladies on a Mission this week. We met for lunch on Tuesday, and these gals loaded my car with an abundance of mission-building supplies. I asked our server to take a picture of the group to share with the 4th graders to show them who had gotten them all of the supplies.

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From the left: Cathy, Jeri, Gladys, Diane, Delaine, Janet

 

One of the Ladies is missing from this photo, but she has promised to be there when they  come out to Columbia to view the finished missions and meet the students.

I delivered everything on Wednesday and handed out almost all of the supplies that day. After the final bell rain, and the 4th graders headed out, a group of 6th graders showed up at the door and wanted to know what I was doing. These kids knew me from the craft days I’ve done for the after school program. They wanted to know if I would be coming on Friday for crafts. No, I did that last week, and now I’m giving all my attention to the mission projects.

They talked about their missions that they made two years ago. They wanted to know why I hadn’t brought supplies to them. I wasn’t even around two years ago. This was the first time I had even thought of the need for such a project. Then they asked if I could be their substitute. NO.

That is one position I now know I cannot do. I have never wanted to be a substitute teacher even though I have been asked by numerous teachers (including the four first grade teachers whose classes I read to each week) to do them a favor and sub for them. After the last three days of intense work with kids, only four hours each day, I know for sure that I do not have the energy or wherewithal to do that work for an entire day. Sure the extra money would be nice. The district is paying $135 a day for a credentialed sub. But not that nice. It’s too much responsibility and too much hard work. I like being a volunteer.

Mission building

Today I delivered a carload of supplies that my friends had collected for the fourth graders to build the California missions.

The school’s janitors were so kind and unloaded my car, delivered a cartful of supplies to the classroom and then unloaded them. Here is what it looked like BEFORE the students arrived:


Here is the same area AFTER the students got what they needed to get started:


I need to get green paint tomorrow and deliver before I go to work with the first graders. That is one thing I didn’t know the kids needed. Many got right to work today:


 

I was exhausted by the time I left at 3:00.

The week’s not over just yet

Today should be the last day of my week. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are my work days so it always feels like Friday by the time I wrap up Thursday afternoon. This week, though, I have an invitation to return to the elementary school on Friday afternoon and join the first graders for their Thanksgiving Feast.

I plan to go but in plain clothes, not my chaplain’s uniform. I will be their guest and let the small children entertain me. They have been filling me in these past two days with what they are planning to bring and what we will do. It all sounds delightful.

It is a beautiful fall afternoon here. The sun is low on the horizon and lights up the family room each afternoon. I would love for it to be like this next Thursday when we have Thanksgiving dinner here but the forecast is for rain which we need so I can’t complain. It’s nice to sit out here in this sunlit room to do my writing for now.

Hopeful

The skies are dark with clouds today. I awoke with a bad sinus headache so I know the barometer is shifting. Can we be hopeful for some precipitation on the first day of the new rainy season?  

Even on a dark, cloudy day the place where I do my writing, reading, praying is warm and cheerful. 

 

Soon I will leave this to drive across town to Columbia. I’m hoping that the office will be calm today. When I arrived yesterday I found a number of kids there, all in some sort of trouble. The office manager and receptionist both needed hugs. They bear the brunt of disruptive students. 

When I went through on my way out yesterday, one second grader was still there, on the naughty bench. His teacher didn’t want him in class and had sent a packet of work for him to do which he did not understand.

 I sat for awhile, attempting to help him. Common Core math is hard. All these boxes and groups of boxes. The receptionist was complaining  about its usefulness, but as I told her, you have to jump through the hoops that the educational bureaucracy puts up. This is just the latest. 

Building resiliency

That’s what I’m supposed to be teaching the first graders–how to be resilient. I’ve had to take a dose of my own “medicine” the past two weeks as the school’s oven has gone kaput. Although the lunches are made off-site, they are kept warm in two large ovens that serve 600 lunches each day.

With no oven, the lunches have been cold food. Last week was corn chips and cheese, this week was ham sandwich yesterday and peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. None of which I care to eat so I’ve just helped the kids with their lunch packages and encouraged them to eat their veggies. I have started mingling with the kindergartners who have lunch a half hour before the first and second grades arrive. They too throw away the veggies so have started encouraging them. Today many of them showed me how they were eating carrots and celery sticks.

One of the first grade girls was excited to show off her new shoes and wanted me to take a picture. Instead of a lunch picture today, I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook:

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As I was driving home Thursday, and feeling really pretty crummy, I realized I had not eaten all day except for a piece of toast and cup of coffee for breakfast. It had been hard to make it through the classroom sessions today as I felt like I had so little energy. Well, no wonder! As I tell the students, you have to “fuel up” to do your best.

On Wednesday, while greeting the first graders as they lined up for lunch, one of the boys handed this to me:

kevin thank you

Sweet notes like this sure help me be more resilient! Oh, and a cup of tea and a muffin when I got home helped boost my spirits, too.

Nothing much changes

Teachers get blamed for everything. If students don’t do well in school, it’s because the teacher isn’t interesting or caring or well prepared. The teacher didn’t try hard enough, didn’t call home enough, didn’t encourage enough. The lesson should be jazzed up, made better, worked more diligently.

Because I teach in an inner city school with all the inherent problems, I see so many students who come to school totally unprepared for and uninterested in school. Asking them to sit still, be quiet, work all period, organize their work, turn in their work, is daunting, but I do it everyday. The teacher is too demanding. The teacher doesn’t understand the situation from which the student comes. It’s ok if the student misses class to take care of smaller siblings, a sick parent, or to work a job to help with the bills. No one says no to a parent who wants to pull their child out of school for a week or a month to return to Mexico for a family visit. This is all part of the culture. Teachers need to be more compassionate.

Then the tests are given and the students are not prepared because they haven’t been in class. The scores are low, and again the teacher is blamed. If you had tried harder, worked harder, cared more, the students of color would have done better. The achievement gap would be diminishing.

I have worked harder, cared more, done more, and it’s not enough to please everyone. After 18 years in the inner city school, working with kids from severe poverty, I am discouraged and feel beaten down. When will it get better? I truly believe that we should be producing a better student, but it is not happening for every kid. Too many are being separated by the achievement gap. Poverty is only part of the equation; culture is also an issue. Someone needs to speak against parents taking their kids out of school for a myriad of familial reasons.

I wrote the above post almost seven years ago, when I first started this blog. Holiday season was upon us, just as it is coming up this year. Parents at the inner city high school were planning trips back to Mexico for the Christmas season. They would be taking their kids with them. Or, I had students who had younger siblings and there was no child care except for the older sibling. So, when their brother or sister was ill, they had to remain at home, missing school. Nothing much has changed in the past seven years except I’m no longer there.

A tragedy that shakes me

The accident involving the FedEx truck and charter bus just north of Sacramento has shaken me to the core. This kind of trip, high school students getting to go see  a school, a business, an institution, was what I did with my students for 21 years. Nineteen times a year we got on a bus and went somewhere. Trips in town,or locally, were taken on school district busses; those out of town trips were taken on charter busses.

Before every trip, I would prepare the students as to what we would see, how they should dress, how to behave, when we would leave and when we would be back. One thing I never discussed was how to handle an accident, especially one of this magnitude. The bus drivers would quickly tell the students, before we pulled away, about the emergency exits and how to access them and what to do should something happen to prevent the driver from performing his duties. Almost all of these drivers were highly conscientious and well trained. Many of the drivers would request our trips because the students were polite and well-behaved and the teachers on time and knew where to go. Our trips were successful.

As Terry and I sit in front of the television, watching the film footage of this horrendous accident in Orland, we reach for one another, thinking the unthinkable–this could have been us.  Terry often accompanied us on out of town trips. I would pray before each trip, asking for safety and good behavior. Once we returned to school, and stepped off of the bus, all of  the teachers would say, “Thank God, we did it again. Another trip done.” And then we went to our cars and drove home, safe and sound. The parents picked up their kids and took them home.

Those parents and loved ones who will not be taking their child home weigh heavily on my mind. The young couple who was chaperoning the trip to visit a college at the other end of the state will not get to see their own children go on such a trip. They didn’t even make it down the aisle to say “I do.” All, in a moment, gone. The thought keeps running through my mind, “It could have been us.”