Category Archives: first days of school
I survived the first week—barely!
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Am I ready? Of course not!
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Ms. M and I co-teach a life skills class for seventh-graders. The class is composed of ten boys and one girl, so you can imagine the hormonal issues we confront in that room almost all of the time.
Today, for example, E-Boy called me “big mouth.” We took an immediate trip to the office so that he could call home and explain to his mother why he was in trouble with me. Despite my prompting him several times, however, he adroitly neglected to tell his mother what precipitated the phone call. He simply said, “I’m in trouble with the teacher.”
So we went back to the classroom, where I dictated, and E-Boy wrote, the following letter to his mother:
wen I call you on the cell phone I forgot to tell you what I said to Mr. R. I called Mr. R Big mouth. talking like that to a teacher or any adult is not acceptable. the next time I do that I will be referred to the principal for insubordination and I will probably be suspended for at least a day. please sign this paper so I can give it to Mr. R tomorrow
If he doesn’t bring the signed letter back, I’ll write up a disciplinary referral.
Another student, J-Boy, ignored Ms. M’s repeated injunctions to get to work and quit horsing around. She finally had enough of his antics, took him to the office, and made him call home. J-Boy’s dad wasn’t too happy to hear from his son.
Still another student, J-Boy Two, shifted his weight in his seat as I stood nearby, aimed his posterior in my direction and unleashed his intestinal gas with explosive force. He laughed gleefully. I was not amused.
“Now,” I said, “you have a choice: You will write sentences using all 14 words on the board [the other students had to write only six sentences], or we can go to the office right now and you can call your mom to tell her what you just did.”
J-Boy Two decided to write sentences. It became obvious, however, that he wasn’t going to finish them before the bell rang, so I said, “The sentences are for homework. If you don’t hand them in tomorrow, you will call your mom.”
Seconds before the bell rang, Ms. M turned to me and whispered, “I can tell this is going to be a shi**y year.”
I hope she’s wrong.
Children sometimes get into mischief. (Oh, you hadn’t noticed?)
While I was away from my desk, M-Boy helped himself to the high-quality stapler I had said was for Teacher Use Only. When I confronted him, he flippantly refused to admit that he had done anything wrong.
I suggested we call his mother, and he could explain to her why he was in trouble with me. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. (He’s always smiling.)
I punched the numbers and handed the phone to M-Boy. After about three rings, he handed it back to me, smiling.
“The number you have reached is not in service at this time. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please hang up and try again,” a synthesized voice said.
“My mom’s phone is out of minutes,” M-Boy said—with a smile.
“Well, since you can’t call your mom,” I said, “you’ll write me a letter of apology. You know what you did wrong.”
“Fine,” M-Boy agreed.
This is what he wrote:
I am sorey about ding in your dask it was in mastack…I did not now abut ding in your daske it is not cool to dig in you dask. I’m am so not happy abut it is not good to dig in your dask is.
M-Boy knows that digging in my desk was a mistake.
I don’t think he’ll do it again.
If he does, I have his note of apology to share with his parents.
I knew our back-to-school night was in trouble when the principal invited parents and teachers into the cafeteria for a brief meeting—and the “crowd” was equally divided between parents and our school’s small staff.
Before the meeting, two parents had stopped by my classroom to introduce themselves. After the meeting, no other parents came. As I sat in front of my computer putting together lessons, I counted the minutes until 8 p.m., when I could finally go home.
The eight-grade special ed teacher, came into my room at about 7:45 p.m.
“I’ve had two parents all evening,” I said with a sigh.
“Well,” she said, “I haven’t had any.”
I understand that back-to-school night (or open house or whatever you choose to call it) is an opportunity for parents and teachers to meet—but if hardly anyone shows up, what’s the point?
Maybe a Saturday afternoon picnic would be a better idea.
In ruminating about her first days back to school after the summer break, Miss Teacha at Confessions from the Couch writes that she “sent one student to the office for profanity.”
I’m impressed—not that she sent the student to the office, but that the administrator apparently kept the student and dealt with him. (I presume the offender is a male.)
In my school about the only thing we can send students to the office for is bloodshed—and it better be life-threatening, or else we’re wasting the principal’s time.
Profanity in my classroom? Well, as they say, sh*t happens!
I just wish it didn’t happen so often.
Today marked the end of the first week of school with kids. While there were many delightful moments along the way, the journey from Monday morning to Friday afternoon left me more than a little weary.
Thus I’m looking forward to some quality napping time on Saturday and Sunday. With slumber in mind, I leave you with this limerick:
A teacher too weary to teach
Decided to head for the beach.
“I need to unwind,
I hope you don’t mind—
I’m putting myself out of reach.”
© 2009 by Magical Mystical Teacher
There are usually always some shocks in the first few days of school. For example, I’ve discovered that I have two sixth-graders who can neither read nor write—and they are not English Language Learners.
Monday I asked my sixth-graders to draw a picture of a person. First, they were to write their names on one side of a clean, white sheet of paper, and then draw an oval with ears. Then they passed the paper on to the next person, who added eyes and eyebrows. After the paper was passed again, the next student added a mouth. After one more pass, hair and other finishing touches were added. (Since I forgot to mention a nose, there are at least two noseless portraits hanging on the board.) I gave the kids crayons and let them color the pictures for about five minutes. After coloring, the pictures were given back to the student whose name was written on the back.
“This is a picture of a new student to our school,” I said. “How does he or she feel today? Is he scared? Is she angry? Does he wish he hadn’t come? Is she having a great day? Give your student a name, and then write his or her first-day-of-school story.”
I gave each student a fresh sheet of lined paper and told them they had to write a half-page story—all the way to the second punch hole in the paper. After fifteen minutes, I collected the stories.
One of them began: “This is Ben he has a Big face.” The story concludes with the observation that Ben is a friendly guy: “He like to smill at any dody” [He likes to smile at anybody].
In other stories I met Bob and Tonya and Ed.
But I became concerned when, after fifteen minutes, the only thing that A-Girl had written was “Boy has a nme”—which I took to mean “The boy has a name.” That was her whole story. Except for her name and the date, there was nothing else on the page.
I became even more concerned when I read D-Boy’s story, a half-page that looked like this:
Aexle is a solne in step for arn a keoil for arn step leoilt do a tnetoh a likiy arn of lapel elikd heoithat rad and go arn is a inem eaime is the is a arn mebi somi buibli a is amil yous uobimi bulu ilkie eanky…
I have copied D-Boy’s story “word” for “word.” It looks like some arcane language. Yet even Gaelic, which I cannot read, looks more comprehensible than D-Boy’s work. Why are students moved through five or six years of school without being able to read or write? Do you see why I’m concerned?
Let me hasten to say that I am not blaming any of D-Boy’s previous teachers. I am, however, saying that there should have been some heavy-duty intervention for this child years ago. It isn’t fair that he has landed in middle school without even being able to recognize basic sight words.
Can I do anything to help D-Boy and A-Girl learn to read and write between now and the end of the school year? I don’t know—but I’m about to find out.
What an adventure this year is shaping up to be!
I work in two different classrooms. Just before I left the school for the weekend, I taped name tags to the desks in each room. For the first couple of weeks, at least, my students will sit in assigned seats.
I smiled as I taped the seventh-graders’ name tags to their desks, because I know these kids. They were my sixth-graders last year. It will be good to see them again: the one who speaks so softly I can barely hear her; the one who grins mischievously, but rarely gets into mischief; the one who reads fluently and with fairly decent expression, but who barely understands what he’s just read; and the one of gentle demeanor, who is taller than any of his classmates. These are “my kids.” I know them, and they know me.
The sixth-graders, however, are just names to me at this point. Does one of them like to play practical jokes? Will I always need to be on the alert around him or her? Is one an athlete? Do any of them like to read? Is one of them an artist? What kind of music do they like to listen to? Will they make use of the chess set I have in my cupboard, or will the chessmen gather dust this year? Do they have older or younger siblings? How do they feel about their parents? How do their parents feel about them?
Monday morning, when I meet my sixth-graders for the first time, I’ll begin to get answers to some of my questions—and probably ask a whole bunch more.
Meeting new students at the beginning of a school year is a gift. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I can hardly wait to open it!