September 28, 2011

Why It Was Due Last Tuesday

I feel a little bad about that stack of process journals that still have not been graded after a week.

A little bad is about it, and as I lamented to my colleagues yesterday during lunch--a lunch where I was doing work--they assured me that it was okay.

These particular journals were submitted late. Granted, they were submitted only one day late, as that is the maximum I will accept, and late work gets graded last, but a week is a long time.

I'm sure there will soon be e-mails, "Why is this showing as missing? Johnny turned it in!" and then what do I have to say except my stack of excuses?

--All of the students who turned it in on time received it back the very same day. I just had to read it and give a completion grade for their reflections.
--During class for the remainder of last week, I spent my time going from student to student giving them feedback on their writing while they read their novels.
--We were in the library one day last week, and although, I could have done some grading I did not want to lug their journals around campus, and more importantly, I have decided that this year, when we have library days, I plan to read with the students, so I can be a good model.
--My preps were taken up with STUFF. I can't remember exactly, but at least half the time was taken up with collaborative planning, and the rest included running around talking to people about pressing issues and getting materials ready for upcoming lessons.
--Although my contracted time technically ends with the bell, I did stay after every night until 4:00 pm. Two of those nights were for clubs I co-advise. the other day was more of the STUFF I was doing during my prep.
--It's mostly futile for me to take work home on weekdays because I have my own children to deal with at home. Last week I spent time bustin' my own middle schooler's chops for having a couple of missing assignments in her classes.
--In the evenings, I teach two classes, so doing any kind of homework for the teacher just does not happen. Sure, sometimes, I take it, but my students are needy, and they have their own assignments that need to be graded.
--On the weekend, I did five hours of grading and two hours of planning. Do some simple math about how much of a weekend I get. Again, I did not want to lug those process journals around. I already had a bin of work to carry out on Friday night, and taking those journals would have meant two trips to my car. Call me lazy, but it's just not worth it the hassle of exertion of the 100 degree heat, the long walk and obstacles of locked doors whe trying to get back onto the building for the second trip at 4:00 pm on a Friday.
--It's to bad that I have been out of my classroom for two days this week, but I am afforded sick days for doctor appointments. I have 130 days accrued. Obviously, it's not like I make it a habit to be gone. The other day is for school business. I was invited by the principal. I think it's excused, don't you?

So many excuses for myself. I know they aren't good enough. But you see, I am a busy teacher who is plagued with too much work. Sometimes I plan things for a reason. You know, like due dates.

September 24, 2011

Because I Said So

Sometimes students have the strangest ideas about writing rules. Oh yeah, it doesn't help that a lot of English rules are more suggestions. It makes writing just so much fun to teach!

Last week, the conversation about because came up with my desperate-to-pass-their-writing-exit-exam seniors.

"Miss, is it true that you can't start a sentence with because?"

I sighed. This is not the first time I've ever had this conversation with my hapless high schoolers.

"Nope. It's not true. That's something your elementary teachers told you so you wouldn't try to write sentences with because and then screw them up. You see, it's really easy to write a fragment when you start with because, but if you are careful, using it can create a good sentence."

Now, I don't know if it's really elementary teachers who perpetuate this idea, but someone is doing it. I understand that the teacher is probably trying to save them from themselves. Oh boy, do I understand that!

Once I show the students on the board how because can go bad fast, and how to fix it, they understood. I suspect that a few years back they might not have understood, but they get it now.

But it's during times like these when I wonder if I ever send students down the wrong path when I'm just trying to help.

September 23, 2011

Effin Part 2

A few days after confiscating bracelets from Marcos, which I took to the Dean's office just in case Marcos's mother wanted to pick them up, I was cruising the aisles of my classroom looking over student work, when I spotted a bright red bracelet with the letters STFU.

What is with these students?

These aren't even my hard-core high schoolers. This are my middle school students. It's the first month of school. They usually stay innocent until at least Valentine's Day. (Or so I like to believe.)

"Stephanie, you need to take that bracelet off." It was rather ironic that she had such a bracelet. I'm pretty sure I'll be screaming the words of that acronym to her--in my head--by the time the year is over.

"But, Miss--" she tried to look innocent.

"Save it. I know what it means." As she slipped it off her wrist, I gave her the low-down, "Take it home, and never bring it back. If I ever see it again, it will be mine."

How smart would she be?

The next day, I was heating up my lunch in the workroom, and I glanced into the Spanish classroom. There was Stephanie with her red bracelet on. I walked into the room (the teacher is a close friend, so it's okay), straight to Stephanie with my hand out.

"Give me your bracelet. I told you yesterday not to ever wear it again."

"But, at least it doesn't actually say the words."

I stood with my hand out. Eyebrows raised: Stink Eye activated.

Blah, blah, blah. She gave me some lip before surrendering it.

"Can I get it back?"

"You mother can. From the Dean."

I took it directly to the office. The way she was acting, I thought her mother might actually pick it up.

As I handed it to the dean, labeled with the student's name, I said, "This is the third inappropriate bracelet I've confiscated in the last week."

The dean looked confused.

"You know what this means, right?"

Blank look.

Not censoring for him, I said, "It stands for Shut the Fuck Up.'"

He recoiled a little when I said it.

Exactly my point.

(Sorry, Dad. Sometimes you have to tell it straight.)

September 21, 2011

Effin Part 1

Marcos raised his hand to ask me a question, but I was too distracted from the words that I thought I saw on his silicone bracelets to pay attention. I squinted at him, trying to focus on what he was saying and while looking at the lettering on his bracelets.

Surely. No. It couldn't be.

"Marcos, just come here," I motioned him over to me. He asked his question. I answered. I was too distracted by my own agenda.

I pointed to his bracelets, "What were you thinking? You can't wear those! Take them off. I should take them, but you may put them in your pocket. If I ever see them again, I will take them and cut them into tiny little pieces."

You see, he had two thick silicone bracelets that said, "F*ck You." (censored for my dad)

He was irritated at having to take them off, but he shrugged off my reaction like it was no big deal. That ratcheted my irritation.

"It is so disrespectful! You raise your hand, and what's the message you're sending to me from your jewelry? What did I ever do to you? You know, I saw a woman with a shirt that said that once, and I instantly wanted to punch her. I'm a peace-loving teacher, but her t-shirt provoked me. Why do you want that reaction from people? It's not at all funny. Nor is it charming."

Several of his classmates were staring at him like he was an idiot.

I wanted to tell that disrespectful little boy to F-off himself.

He (and I) was lucky the bell rang for the next class.

I had my doubts about how I handled it. I probably should not have told him how I wanted to punch someone who had delivered the same passive aggressive message to me before. Mostly, I was pretty sure I should have simply taken the bracelets. It's just that I hate taking student possessions.

Two period later, I spotted him in French class with the bracelets on. He had the better sense to turn the words inward, but I did tell him if I ever saw them again, I would take them. So I did.

September 17, 2011


Dear parent, thank you for quoting me from open house night when I said it was best to contact me about things before they become a problem. Of course you are concerned about one of your son's assignment that wasn't turned in. Of course, I uploaded that fact 12 days ago.

What I meant when said that statement is that students need to come to me immediately if they are struggling with an assignment, not weeks later. This situation is not quite what I was talking about, but it's okay. I am happy to hear from you.

I'll certainly check into it.

Perhaps there's an error and the assignment was turned in. Perhaps I missed putting the grade in the computer. I hate it when papers stick together. Perhaps it didn't have a name on it. Did you know I've already collected five assignments with no names already this year? Yes, perhaps it's an error.

I should mention--or maybe it's not worth it--that your son did not talk to me about this problem? Also, he did not see me grading the assignment. Is that something you might want to check into? No I don't have a witness to my testimony...but that's the point. There were no witnesses when I graded the assignment in question.

How many themes I could visit with this story.

I always say, "It's the little things in life..." Usually I'm speaking of the simple joys of life and how I adore them, but there's a dark side to everything, right? Sorting through the many small untruths I encounter from the under-20 crowd on a daily basis is exhausting. It's takes a lot of simple joys to beat down the bitterness and paranoia that result in the barrage of lies I get weekly. What did I ever do to deserve this?