Tag Archives: lessons

Hey! Teacher! Leave Them Kids Alone! Confessions of a Wanna Be…

For years I’ve thought of myself as a master teacher (that right there is what we call foreshadowing, and it usually portends some bad juju). I’m always going around dispensing teaching advice and solving the world’s education problems in two hour conversations over coffee or five hour conversations with roommates on UIL trips or in blog posts here or all over the Internet on twitter and Facebook and the Diane Ravitch blog…

So when my principal and assistant principal asked if I would be willing to take over our new AD’s 7th period senior English class with nine weeks left of school I said, “Yeah! It’ll be fun!!!!” (No really, all those !!! belong there. No, really, I said fun. With a bubbly smile and perky personality. And all the hubris of a 20-year veteran teacher–with all the answers–who’s had a blast the last 15 years teaching classrooms filled with kids who apply to take her class for the most part.)

The last time I taught English I was in my 20s. I could wear high heels and did, often…weird, weird, weird. My daughter was in early elementary school. Obviously, I’d forgotten the realities of teaching a required core subject. I longed for the days of literature circles and vocab tests and essays over real life issues.

And that hubris…well, it came back to bite me in the backside big time.

Those kids…

The worst class I ever taught was my first year. I taught all juniors except one group of freshmen. There were around 30 kids in last period, six girls, the rest boys. I had no freaking idea what I was doing and discipline was just not even on my radar. But I was also 25. And by the end of the first semester I loved that class and most of them liked me and we had a lot of fun. I’m even Facebook friends with some of those kids, so if you’re reading this, “HEY!”

The second worse class I taught was a couple years later. I’d volunteered to take on the juniors in “regular” classes. Classes that were supposed to be smaller for more individual time with students who struggled. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Those classes were huge. And their real purpose was because Honors English was too tough and they wanted a second tier option so kids wouldn’t be held back by the others or bothered by discipline issues. That quickly became apparent. My friends saw my roll sheets before school started and said they’d pray for me.

I LOVED those kids (for the most part) from day one. We had fun. I was still in my 20s and discipline still wasn’t all that great. Once I sat on the floor with a poster that said I AM CRAZY on it and held it in front of me until they shut up and let me talk. One boy said, “Miss, why you got that poster?” And another answered, “Because she wants us to know she might go nuts in here.”

Actually, what I wanted was for them to think I might just throw someone out the window. Not really, but maybe if they thought it was a possibility….

A fellow teacher and I had a stalker from one of those classes that year. One of the kids ate pages from my personal copy of The Last Picture Show.

And I still had fun. I’m even Facebook friends with some of those kids (not the stalker or the book eater), so if you’re reading this, “HEY!”

Fun kind of drives my education car. If you were in the MSU education department in the early 90s, you understand that. If not, well, just accept it as a fact.

Flash forward to two weeks ago and that hubris I mentioned earlier.

Day one was awesome. I was a rockstar. (Again with the foreshadowing and bad juju)

Day two was a disaster. But they were still along for the ride.

Day three was OHMYGODYOU’VEGOTTOBEKIDDINGMEWHOARETHESEPEOPLE(SPAWNSOFSATAN)ANDWHYAMIHERESOMEONECALLWALMARTINEEDANEWJOB.

I. Cried. In. Front. Of. The. Class.

Oh, teacher with all the answers….ha! ha! ha!

Day four I looked in the mirror and told myself to get over my whiny self. Fun was not driving my car. And I was done going to them. They came to my class.

Day five one of the kids who’s in an earlier media class with me said, “Yesterday was good.” He was talking about English. I was a little surprised. And I almost got a little cocky about my awesomeness. But then day five happened. I didn’t cry, but yeah….There’s probably a youtube video out there. If there is, please don’t tell me. It won’t be the first time, though. The first time was when one of my students (one of my now Facebook friends) and his cohort in crime decided to do their project on how to get D-Hall in 60 seconds or less. It worked.

When I got home last Friday I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry and maybe eat some ice cream. And Cake. And Peeps…because, you know, they have all those new flavors.

I couldn’t have a margarita or 10 because I have a no drinking when you’re super stressed policy. Those kids were not only keeping me from fun and my dream of awesome English teaching and my self-actualized reality of awesomeness, they were keeping me from tequila. This was not okay.

Monday of this week something in me changed. When they walked into my room, I greeted every student the way Spanish teacher Lisa Williams taught us at inservice once. And as the kids walked in my room I saw them as people–who were stripped of a teacher they liked because he got an awesome promotion–getting ready to face the realities of a world that kind of sucks on a regular basis these days. I mean we’re on the brink of a new Cold War and there’s all this hate and it costs a freaking fortune to go to school and we’re 36+ inches behind on rain and the wealth gap is growing at astronomical rates. But these kids…they’re excited and probably a little afraid and it doesn’t really matter if they get satire or not but it does matter that they know they matter and who cares if fun drives my car and I thought teaching English would be fun?

Tuesday of this week was ok. Sort of.

Wednesday of this week was ok.

Today was ok.

Tomorrow’s going to be ok.

Will it be awesome, amazing, wonderful, terrific? Probably not. They’re seniors in their last six weeks of school with a new teacher they didn’t want.

Is that okay?

Yeah.

Will I show up in that classroom ready to teach to the very best of my ability?

Yeah.

Have I learned a bajillion and twelve lessons in the last nine days?

Oh yeah.

And all those answers….it’s easy to have them when you live in a glass house.

The newsroom is a glass house in a lot of ways. I mean we have deadlines, but we also have people who WANT TO BE THERE and usually love us.

Confession: for years my friends have said, “You have no idea,” and I’ve said “I know,” but on the inside I’ve smugly thought they were wrong. I totally knew.

Well, I didn’t know. I still don’t know.

And the truth is I will never really know and that’s okay because the not knowing is what makes us seek answers and seeking answers is what really makes us grow as teachers and for years I thought I knew, which means in a lot of ways I was stagnant, and that’s a scary bad place to be as a teacher. Whatever else happens, I’m no longer stagnant. And that’s something I can’t thank these kids for enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Turns…

When I started this blog, I didn’t have Facebook or twitter or Pinterest. My daughter was in junior high. I’d lost a lot of weight on WW (and then gained and lost and gained and lost…). It was super bowl time and I talked about strawberries a lot. I wrote a lot. I read a lot. I posted crazy photos. I dreamed about traveling. I was a cat mom and never thought about owning a dog. I ate carbs all the time (thus the weight gain and loss, gain and loss). My grandparents were alive and I went to stay with them every once in a while, usually with my daughter. My grandma sang all the time. She and her best friend my Aunt Helen let me take their photo at family reunion, I belonged to a yahoo group called catarom and spent a god-awful amount of time reading emails. I hadn’t ever heard of education reform or the WFISD Leadership Cohort.

It’s crazy how much has changed.

Those changes are why I love this blog. It’s so amazing to walk back through life and see how I’ve grown. It’s also awesome to connect with readers and writers and just say hey.

Today I wrote 7k words. I still write a lot.

I’m up to chapter 7 in a Karen Templeton book. I still read a lot.

I deleted twenty emails and kept about 50 I need to read. I might get to 10 of them. I rarely read email now.

I checked in on facebook and twitter for what was supposed to be a second but that turned into an hour. Facebook and twitter consume time if I let them.

I was grumpy about some things and then a friend posted asking for prayers for a family member and it was like God smacked me with some perspective. I still learn a lot.

Happy reading and writing.

Hopefully I finish a book draft tomorrow before lesson plans.

 

Finding Flaws

Sometimes you need a lesson. I’m getting one now.

Thank God for lessons.

A long time ago author Helen Myers, told my (now disbanded 😦 )romance writing group if you’re going to write, you have to be willing to bleed on the page. I’m trying to channel the emotions into the story I’m working on. I think I might need to take up kickboxing and channel some emotion in that direction, too. (Okay, not really. If you know me at all, you know there is zero percent chance of me kick boxing. I would hurt myself.)

It’s funny because in critiques I’m always telling my friends they’re committing the nice-nice sin. Making things too easy on the characters. I see it in their work because it’s a huge flaw in mine. I like the people I create. I don’t want to put them through hell. But those struggles make the book so much better!

 

 

 

 

Little Ms. Whiner…yeah, I admit it

If you’ve ever dealt with education, you know about modifications. I’ve been doing them forever. They’ve NEVER bothered me. Until today when I saw I need to read to some students for them to get the content.

For some reason, I just looked at that, said no way and that was that.

Until I walked across the hall to tell my friend, Lynda.

Lynda didn’t tell me I was wrong. Instead, she re-framed the issue. And then she offered a solution for what SHE was going to do. She’s going to record her bookwork.

Suddenly, I saw potential. I mean, hello, I have a Mac lab.

And so, I sat down with two of the last assignments and recorded them on GarageBand and added an audio file to their home on my classroom assignment site.

This isn’t an optimal solution, but it’s doable.

I’m going to try wearing a mic and recording my class at least one day next week. If it works, it could revolutionize my classroom. I already use an assignment area and calendar. If the mic works, my kids won’t have to worry as much if they’re absent.

Of course, the mic thing could be a total disaster. This class keeps me on my toes. We’ll see.

A long time ago I read The Success Principles. In the book Jack Canfield teaches Event + Response = Outcome, ALWAYS.

He’s right.

If I break this moment down here’s what I see:

My bad attitude=me walking across the hall to complain=my friend sharing what she was going to do for HER classes= the ball was back in my court. I chose to try something new. Hopefully it will help.

DH says it would’ve helped him in school since he’s dyslexic. Want to feel bad? Let the person who needs the extra help you’re grumbling about be someone you love. Puts it in a whole new perspective. Lesson learned. This time.

#

Reminder, Honor and Lies & Prodigal by Elizabeth Lee (moi!) are available on kindle or smashwords or wherever ebooks are sold. If you prefer paper, Honor & Lies is available on amazon.com.

Interested in ebook publishing or blogging or using your teacher webpage as a classroom extension and have questions or comments? Feel free to ask here or email me at marybeth   AT  marybethlee  DOT  com.

 

Love Your Work, and it won’t feel like work

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Confucius
I don’t jump out of bed the minute the alarm goes off, throw on my clothes and hit the door running like I’m Wonder Woman out to save the world (although, if I looked like Wonder Woman, I might!).
BUT
I love my job.
I love the deadlines, the whiny kids, the strange directives from “down town,” the parents, the HORRIBLE new grading software. I love it. Every bit of it makes it my job. And my job is awesome.
If I teach my students nothing else, I hope I teach them to find a job they love so it feels like life instead of work. And I hope they truly believe they’re capable of changing the world.
We’re down to another few months before awesome kids walk to stage and start on their futures. I hope they take this knowledge with them.