RSS Feed


Posted on

This week, I’m teaching my 7th and 8th graders about persuasion.  The 8th graders are working on persuasive speeches on an injustice in the world that needs to be eliminated.  The 7th graders are writing persuasive essays suggesting a book that the entire middle school should read next year.  We’ve talked about emotional appeals and logical appeals and calls to action.

And then, it got turned around on me.

The high school speech team coach brought in a few of his team members to my class to try to drum up some interest.  He wanted not only the 8th graders to think about joining the high school team next year — there are also plans for a middle school team, and he wanted to get the 7th graders involved as well.

After the performances were over and our guests left the room, my students had questions.  I couldn’t answer all of them, but I gave them what I knew from when I had been on my own middle school’s speech team.

Then one of them said, “Speaking of academically related extracurricular activities…”

Uh oh…

“Why don’t we have a newspaper?”

I replied that the newspaper was generally the domain of the journalism teacher, who also does the yearbook.  If there isn’t enough interest for both, yearbook usually gets preference.

This is when the students began testing their new-found powers of persuasion.  “We should have a middle school newspaper next year!”

“Dude,” one of them responded.  “We can’t even afford paper.”  (True.  Teachers are responsible for buying our own copy paper.  And chalk.  And dry erase markers.  And Kleenex.  As a result, extra credit is often offered for students to supply these items.)

I started thinking.  “Well, it could be a digital, online newspaper.”

Once they saw I was thinking about it, some of them got really excited and began talking about possibilities.  “And you could be the sponsor!” they exclaimed.

Yep.  Shoulda seen that coming.

So, I’m thinking about it.  It could be fun.  A lot of work, for certain.  But maybe also enjoyable, and something unique to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  A way to make a positive name for these stuck-in-the-middle kids who, in a K-12 school, sometimes get overlooked or left out.  And if I can encourage young writers on top of that, even better.

They’ll need to keep working on convincing me, though.

In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions (aside from just a blog) for a site where we could make a free digital newspaper?

Flip It

Posted on

No, I’m not talking about real estate.  I would be terrible at trying to flip a house.  First of all, I don’t have that much capital.  Second, I don’t have construction or design skill.  Third, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own house.

I’m talking about the mattress.  You may know that you’re supposed to flip your mattress every couple of months to keep it from wearing down and developing ruts.  But I always had the hardest time remembering which way I flipped it last time.  Is it time to flip it the short way or the long way?  I wanted to get the maximum life out of my mattress, but wasn’t sure how.

The first decision I made was to flip it when the seasons officially change.  So, the first day of spring, the first day of summer, and so on.  I don’t usually hit the actual day, but whatever weekend is closest, I take off the sheets and mattress pad and flip the mattress.  (I also flip the box springs in spring and fall.)

To keep track of whether it’s time to turn the mattress the short way or the long way, I wrote numbers in a permanent marker on each end of the mattress.


When I take off the sheets and see the 4 at the top, I know I need to flip it so that the 1 is at the top.  The next quarter, the 2 will be at the top.  Easy peasy.  And this way, I know I’m doing what I can to get the longest life from my mattress.

Renewed Appreciation

Posted on

SONY DSC SONY DSC   They may look all sleepy and lazy in these photos, but I have a renewed appreciation for Gryffon and Gracie after this week.

Yes, I admit that not too many months ago, I’d had it up to here and I was looking to find a new home for the canines.  Dogs are a lot of work, and they bring in a lot of dirt.  They can be noisy and messy and on top of that you need to walk them and bathe them and brush them and clip their nails and treat them for fleas.

But in the wee hours of Thursday morning, something woke me.

The hubs has been out of town this week, as he is much of the time in the winter, traveling hither and yon to participate in ice carving competitions.  So when I thought I heard someone pounding on my front door at 1:30 in the morning, I froze.  I lay very still, wondering if I heard what I thought I heard, and if so, questioning why on earth was someone pounding on my door at such an hour.

Normally when I hear such things, I wake up The Man of the House and make him check it out.  But with him gone, I just lay there, tense, wondering what to do.

And then I realized something.  The dogs weren’t barking.  And I’m pretty sure that if someone was pounding on the door, the dogs would have woken up and would have barked.  And if they were barking they probably would have frightened away anyone with ill intent.

Once I realized that, I could breathe again.  And as I relaxed a bit, I thanked God that I have dogs who help me feel safer when I am alone in the house.

At that point, I recognized that as long as my husband travels a lot, I will always have a dog.  A big one.  Little yappy dogs don’t scare anyone.  I want a dog with a big, deep bark.  I’m willing to put up with the mess and the responsibility as long as I feel safe.

Thanks, dogs.

Two Good Things

Posted on

I had a pretty tough week.  I just felt like I was doing everything wrong (whether I was or not) and like I was unable to figure out what the right things were and how to do them.

However, two good things did happen this week.

Thing One

I had to give a bunch of kids detention for missing assignments.  That’s not the good thing.  The good thing is that one parent emailed me and said, “I am aware of my son’s detention and the reason for it.  I support you in giving him detention.  I will try to be more on top of his schoolwork so this does not happen again.  If you have suggestions about how to help my son, please let me know.”  It was really wonderful to have a parent actively support me when his kid got detention!  This almost never happens.

Thing Two

I recently read a blog post about how to work just 40 hours per week as a teacher.  The author seemed to have a lot of good ideas, thought they pertained mostly to elementary school and not to middle or high school.  (I don’t have “morning work,” for instance.)  Some day soon I hope to post my own version of how to work just 40 hours per week as a teacher, but first I had to figure out how to do it!  When I taught many years ago, I almost never took work home, but that was before having to attend a billion meetings and collect data to prove that I’m doing my job.  But this week, I was determined to bring less work home — or even better, to bring no work home.  And you know what?  I did it.  I didn’t bring any work home with me during the week days, and the only thing I brought with me this weekend is my planning book because I have one little thing I need to figure out before my students go to hear a speaker on Thursday.  I graded or planned or made copies every spare minute I had while I was at school — which means, I didn’t waste any time.  Even when on hall duty this morning, I was filling out paperwork on a student who I think is being evaluated for ADD or something.  One of my co-workers said, “Are you always working?”  And I told him my plan to not take work home.  If I have to bust my tail while I’m at school, I’m okay with that as long as I don’t have to take work home.  I’m going to work harder at that for the rest of this school year so that maybe next year, I will learn how better to keep work at work so that I can have more rest and relaxation at home.

Those are my two good things.  What good things happened to you this week?

Things to do…

Posted on

SONY DSCToday’s to-do list was long.  I was feeling overwhelmed.

I made a commitment this week to try to do better at being a 40-hour per week teacher.  Many teachers — and I’m included — work more than this.  I’m usually at school at least 35 hours per week, but I take a lot of work home and am often grading or planning in the evenings and on the weekends.  That makes it feel like my job is my life.  And while I love teaching, I need to have time away from my profession as well, in order to do fun things and to refresh myself.  Living your job is a recipe for burn-out, I think.

So, I just made that commitment on Thursday, and Friday I did a pretty good job of using my time wisely at school.  With free moments, I graded tests.  After school, I graded written responses to literature my students had read.  (I got three of four classes done.)  However, I didn’t have my lesson plans turned in to the administration (and I’m late in doing that, since I started teaching this unit before spring break) and I didn’t have detailed ideas on what I’m doing next week.

Add onto this the fact that I haven’t properly cleaned my house in ages (largely because I’ve been doing school work at home), and all that made for a to-do list that felt a mile long.

But I got up this morning, took time to pray, and then got started.  I had intended to go for a run first thing, but I didn’t (I can’t even recall what delayed me).  But I did get some of the house cleaning done and had the laundry started.  It worked out for the best, though, because my running buddy wasn’t available until later, and we ended up going together.  And by late morning, I needed a break from the housework.  When I returned from the run, I felt more energized and ready to do what was left to be done.

If you look carefully at the list above, you can see that most of the things on the list are crossed off.  I got most of it done today.

And then, the dogs gave me some inspiration:

SONY DSCSONY DSCTheir naps gave me a great idea.  It’s Saturday, it’s cloudy and chilly outside, and I just got a truckload of stuff done.  Time for me to take a nap as well.  So I curled up on the couch, cuddled under a blanket, and slid into oblivion for a little while.  Dogs are smart sometimes.

After I awoke, I folded laundry and put it away, enabling me to cross one more item off the list.

Still, I’m pondering the best ways to be a 40-hour per week teacher.  A blog post had inspired me, but most of the writer’s suggestions were specific to teaching elementary school.  I’m hoping to make up my own list of ideas and write about it here in a few days.

And if I keep work at work, that means I’ll actually have time to write when I’m at home.  I hope.

Peace in Routine

Posted on

The beginning of this week was rough.  Really rough.  We had just returned from Spring Break, and students are often a little rowdy for a few days after a break anyway.  But this time, we had to do our state standardized testing as soon as we got back.  At nine o’clock Monday morning, I was reading standard notifications about how you must use a number two pencil; pens are not allowed.  And how I can answer questions about the directions only, not about the actual work.  And how only work on the lines will be scored.  For an hour each day of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the kids tested.

And after a standardized test, students are often rowdy.

Return from spring break + standardized testing = unruly children that I had a difficult time managing.  Or liking.

And my temperament was not so great as a result.

I couldn’t really go on with my normal schedule, either, because I had only one of my two 8th grade classes and one of my two 7th grade classes, and for my own sanity, I need to keep the classes together in the lessons.

Other teachers showed movies.  I had my kids do vocabulary activities.  It was low-key and low-pressure, but I wanted to make their brains work a little bit.  Plus, I’m not a fan of watching movies, especially in the classroom.

But although the kids did the work, I felt I was constantly talking over them and scolding them for being out of hand.  That makes for a stressful day.

Today, there was no more testing.  I was able to put my bell work on the board and remind students that they are expected to do the bell work silently while I take attendance.  I conducted class normally.  We had good discussion.  Students wrote responses and talked about what they wrote and what we read.  I raised my voice only once today, I think.

Routine makes all the difference in a classroom.

Balancing Yes and No

Posted on

I read a lot of blogs that seem to have all the answers.

This is not one of those blogs.

Maybe if it were, I’d have a wider audience.  I’d have hundreds of followers and scores of “Likes” on Facebook.

But me?  I’ve just got a whole lot of questions.

My latest question is about committing to things.  When should I?  When shouldn’t I?  When do I say yes and when do I say no?

Maybe you’ve heard of the movie Yes Man.  It’s an older flick, but I saw it just a few months ago.  In it, Jim Carrey plays a guy who never has any adventure and always says no to anything new.  As a result, his girlfriend dumps him, his friends become exasperated with him, and he leads a terribly boring life.  He goes to this seminar about saying yes to absolutely everything.  Everything.  And it’s pretty wacky, but it ends up changing his life for the better.  He has fun.  He tries new things.  He goes on adventures.  And eventually he learns that saying yes to everything isn’t the answer either, but he realizes that while saying no is sometimes necessary, saying yes can be great.

I wish I could get that lesson figured out in a sweet little two-hour movie, replete with fun music, lovely scenery, and a Vespa.

It seems a little harder for me.

How often should I say yes?  How much time to I take away from my primary responsibilities — work and home — in order to do something else?  How much should I invest into broken systems I don’t believe in (there are two major ones with which I’m currently affiliated) in order to improve them?  How do I know when something will be a fun, new experience, and when it will be a time-eater that takes way too much preparation and planning to make it worth it?

I know it’s not all about me.  I want to have an impact on my community… but not at the expense of my mental and emotional health.

So, what’s the answer?  I sure don’t know yet.

If you find one of those have-all-the-answers bloggers, send them here.  Maybe they can hand me an easy solution, tied up in a bow.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 176 other followers