Why would anybody want to be a teacher?

Hmmm...

Why would anybody want to be a teacher? Let alone a middle/high school teacher? Aren’t those kids awful? I couldn’t do it! Teenagers are so disrespectful nowadays! They’re so entitled! How can you stand it? Especially when you know you’ll never make any money? NO WAY!

If you’ve been a teacher for more than five minutes, I’m sure you’ve heard some version of this rant, whether from a friend, family member, or even a stranger who wanted to give you their two cents about your chosen profession. I have asked myself some of these very same questions in moments of crisis or despair.

Here’s the truth:

Yes, I am crazy. Yes, I think I can change the world. Yes, I enjoy being around kids (most of the time). Yes, I knew I wouldn’t ever get rich doing this job. Yes, sometimes I cry in the parking lot. Yes, teenagers can be disrespectful, and entitled, and mean (so can most people by the way).

Yes, I’m still a teacher.

I went to Texas A&M, and we have a saying- “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” That is a spot-on way to describe teachers vs non-teachers.

If you’ve never seen a kid’s eyes light up because they finally understood something they had been struggling to learn, you can’t fathom what that’s like. You’ve never had a kid cry and hug you and thank you because they finally passed their state assessment for the first time, ever, so you can’t imagine what kind of payment that is to a teacher’s heart. If you’ve never realized that the disruptive kid is just acting out because he doesn’t recognize what love and caring is, then you would just see the disrespect and entitlement.

For me, the joy of teaching is truly the kids. I have NEVER wanted to leave a job, or cried in a parking lot because of the kids. It’s always been the administration or parents or colleagues or too many meetings or unrealistic expectations that have caused that. I think true teachers realize that, no matter what the jerk principal or jerk parent or jerk colleague does, the kids still need us. Even if it’s the kid being the jerk, it’s usually because they need us the most.

Don’t get me wrong, I can argue with you all day about how stupid it is that people who play a game or act make 57 times more than we do. I’d like to see any one of them come and sub in a classroom, then realize how much they will be getting paid, and watch how fast they walk out. This job isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, your heart will take the biggest beating! You have to be called, and I think that’s why teachers put up with so much other nonsense and keep fighting the good fight. It’s in our DNA.

So here they are, the top three reasons why, after 20 years, I’m still a teacher:

  1. It’s great for my ADD. I’m all about fresh starts. If you want a fresh start every year, heck, every day, this is the gig for you. When a lesson falls flat, I get to try again. When a particular group of students is tough, I get a new group the next year. Had a bad day? You get to do something different tomorrow.
  2. Teenagers are HILARIOUS. I cannot tell you how many times the wit and humor that comes out of these kids has knocked me flat.
  3. The reward isn’t monetary. It’s all about the FEELS. ๐Ÿ™‚ The smile on a kid’s face when they get it. The discovery of the love for reading when they find the right book. The excitement when they learn something, and they thought we were just “messing around”. (Sometimes you have to sneak the learning in!)

Those are my top three. I’m sure others have different reasons, so share them in the comments!

Dark and Twisty and Proud

Dark and Twisty

I was recently perusing some of the posts by my fellow WordPress bloggers when I came upon this little gem by Tales from the Back of the Classroom. I felt like I was reading something I might have written myself. I have always prided myself on my ability to provide a bit of snark to whatever situation I find myself in. It’s usually good-natured, but truthfully, I am a self-described dark and twisty gal, so I do go to the dark side sometimes. Especially with friends. I mean, seriously, I’m freakin’ hilarious.

But not with students.

As a secondary educator for my entire career, I do not understand the concept of not using humor in your classroom. Honestly, it’s probably the key to most of my relationships with students. I can laugh at myself, I can laugh at some of the lessons we must teach, and I can laugh with them about the funny stories they tell me. If I didn’t find humor in teaching teenagers, I probably wouldn’t be in my 20th year of teaching. Plus, kids are FUNNY!

But I’m not laughing AT THEM.

Sarcasm is dark, twisty, hilarious, sometimes completely accurate, and usually pretty honest. I find that being honest with my students earns me more respect than anything. When I don’t know something, I tell them I don’t know, but I will find out. When I’m wrong, I admit that I’m wrong, sincerely apologize, and move on. When they are wrong and apologize, I graciously accept and move on.

However, when the moment calls for snark or dark, I go there. My students know from about the first 10 minutes of their first class with me that I’m sarcastic. It’s in my blood, and I’m a pretty open book, so they get it immediately. Because of this, by about the 3rd week of school, our classes run fairly smoothly with only the occasional hiccup. There comes a point when I don’t even have to say anything anymore. When a kid asks me a question that I just answered three times in the instructions, wrote on the board, and is answered in the directions on their assignment, my kids groan and tell that kid for me. I can accomplish most of my classroom management with a look. When we get a new student, and they push a boundary, the students give them the lowdown on me very quickly, and things self-correct.

As a wise and noble colleague said today, “A friend in a former district ‘described the concept of sarcasm as a “higher order thinking skill'”.

Exactly.

Basically all of this is to say that you can have my sarcasm at the same time you can have my Oxford comma- when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

 

 

Is anyone reading this?

Is anyone reading this

If you are reading this, then it’s a damn miracle because there are billions of people in the world, and about 2.5 of them actually read my blog (that’s actually 2 1/2 people, not like 2.5 million or anything). I mean, hey, I think I’m pretty funny, and I have a lot to offer other teachers in the way of experience and expertise. I can come up with an English lesson for grades 6 to 12 on the fly like nobody’s business. Classroom management? Nailed it. Need help with your data disaggregation? Bring that mess over here. Having trouble with NJHS? StuCo? Cheerleaders? Technology? Yep, been there too.

Anchor charts. Symbolism. YA Authors. Grammar games and resources. Hero’s journey. Annotation. Reference folder. 11 minute essays. I’ve blogged about them all and gotten zero feedback. Basically I’m a walking encyclopedia of educational know-how spanning from 1999 to now. Someone should be taking advantage of all this stuff in my brain besides me, right?

Not a teacher? How about parenting advice? Bring it! I have two teenage daughters, and I’m still alive, so I’m obviously some sort of teenager whisperer or savant of some kind (although that might also be because I’ve taught middle and high school for 20 years).

Don’t have kids yet? What about marriage advice? No problem! I’ve been married for 21 years, so I guess that qualifies me as a professional at that too. Ladies, need to know how to get your guy to fix that fence that’s been leaning since God was a child? I’ve got this. Fellas, need some gift ideas to get you out of the doghouse? Hit me up for some great advice.

Are y’all feeling what I’m trying to tell you? I am frustrated with this whole thing. I’m trying to do everything at once, so nothing is getting 100%. Plus, why would I want to keep blogging when NO ONE reads it anyway? Okay, there was that one time I said nice things about my co-workers and they commented and stuff. Yeah, I sent a mass email with the link. So what? Still counts as readers. I even have a few brave souls who follow me. And I’m so grateful. Those followers (and my own need to talk about myself), are the only reason I still sit at this computer and pour myself on to the page, or screen. Whatever. The point is that I’m driven to share and collaborate with other educators, but I haven’t found an outlet for that desire that works for me.

When I go on Pinterest to try to get help with my side hustle, everyone wants money for stuff. Want your own website address? $300. Need an emailing service? That’ll be $12.50 a month. BUT we want you to pay off the next 17 years and 3 months in advance, so that’ll be $9,528 plus tax. Um…if I had that kind of coin, I wouldn’t need to write a blog so that people would check out my TPT store. Want us to host your blog? Do you even know what that means? No? We didn’t think so, but you need it, so we’re going to charge you the blood of your first born child and the naming rights to your next dog. Facebook ads, Instagram promotions, TPT marketing…the list of ways to drain your bank account to get yourself seen is endless.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, blah, blah, blah… I understand now why so many of my students are depressed about social media. I didn’t get any likes either!!! How do these people keep up with it all?ย I’m going to assume that they were all already independently wealthy and, therefore, able to pay for those web-whatevers with no problem. It’s surely not because their blog is better or that they are funnier than me.

I think it would be great to get some feedback from my readers. What do you want to read? What do you need help with? What do you think is funny (besides me)? Do you have a lesson or novel that needs tweaking? Hit me up and let me help. I would be thrilled to be your go-to person for all things English! I also have a pretty cool TPT store that you can check out for more ideas.

Seeing Red: Teaching Symbolism by Close Reading Text and Film

Seeing Red

Last week I got to do one of my very favorite lessons of all time. Don’t you love those days? You can go to school knowing that you’re going to get to teach something way cool that you feel good about all day long. In my case, I got to teach it for two days because we’re on an A/B schedule. It was awesome!

So here it is: We compare and contrast the use of red as a symbol in the short story, “The Scarlet Ibis”, and in the film, The Village.

Day One: Tone Exercises

On the first day, we start with a tone exercise. This year, for the first time, I used paint chip tone. It was great! I gave each student a paint chip with four tones of the same color. Depending on what color they got, they were assigned a generic tone word to write at the top. Then they were to use the tone worksheetย in their folder to write synonyms of that word in increasing intensity as they went down the card. (These tone notes, as well as 16 other pages of helpful English notes, can be found here in my TPT store) Here is a list of the words they were assigned according to the color of paint chip they were given:

  1. Red- Angry
  2. Orange- Bored
  3. Yellow- happy
  4. Green- jealous
  5. Blue- sad
  6. Purple- loving
  7. Brown- calm
  8. Black- tired

Here is a picture of the examples I showed them after they finished so they could see if they were on the right track:

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After that, I gave them a sheet of words from the first paragraph of the story, and asked them to write three tone words for each, and tell me if the word has a generally positive or negative tone. The words are red, stained, rotting, autumn, empty cradle, and graveyard. For red, I have to steer them away from just naming things that are red and explain that I’m looking for things that red makes them think of (like stop, anger, or pain). For autumn, I typically get that they think it is generally positive in tone, and then I have to rain on their parade by telling that, in literature, autumn is negative because it’s the season when everything dies. For example, when they say autumn is nice because the leaves are colorful, I tell them, “The leaves are turning colors because they’re DYING!” After this, they generally get what I mean when I say I’m dark and twisty. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Short Story

The Scarlet Ibis

After we’ve established that the story we’re about to read won’t be all warm and fuzzy, I give them the text with explicit instructions to mark every mention of red, every synonym of red, and everything in the story that makes them think of red. At this point we usually list synonyms for red, especially the ones mentioned in the story, like scarlet, crimson, mahogany, vermillion, etc. After we’ve listened to the story ( you can find an audio text here) and marked the text, I ask them to tell me what the scarlet ibis symbolizes and what red symbolizes (Doodle and death respectively) along with the inciting incident and climax.

Day Two- The Film

The-Village

During the next class period I tell them we are going to close read another type of text- media. I explain that the way that authors use words is the way directors use images. An author has edited and revised and edited again until every word on the page is purposeful and intentional. When a director puts out a movie, every frame of the movie or show, including the credits, is also purposeful and intentional. It’s also a good idea to tell them that they will NOT be “watching a movie”. They will be close reading text, just like they do when they read, except the text happens to be a film. That means there will be annotations, discussions, inferencing, and debate, just as there is when we read a piece of literature as a class.

Side note- I usually introduce the concept of close reading film with the credits of Edward Scissorhands so they understand what I’m talking about, but we moved some stuff around this year, and I didn’t get the chance. But I guess that’s a whole other blog post, huh?

During the film, I make sure that I highlight the first few glimpses of red. The first one doesn’t occur until five minutes into the film, and it takes me about 15 minutes to get there because I stop them so many times to ask things like, “What do you hear?”, “What is that?”, “What colors are on screen?”, “What is happening in this picture?”, “What time period is this? How do you know?” By the time we get to that first red, they have definitely figured out that we aren’t “watching a movie”! Here is a Viewing Guide for The Village. By the end, they are stunned speechless, and then they all try to talk at once. The end of this movie is one of the treasures of my teaching career. The engagement on their faces is priceless! I always warn them at the end of each class not to spoil it for others. I ask them to remember what they felt when they reached the end, and that usually makes them stay quiet so their friends can experience it too.

I’m not going to spoil it for you here, but you really should watch The Village as if it’s a piece of literature. Actually most of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are directed the way books are written, and they are so amazing. You can use The Sixth Sense for red as well, but it’s a bit scarier, and it uses red to symbolize death just like “The Scarlet Ibis”, so I like The Village better for the suspense and contrast.

If you have questions about this lesson, or close reading film in general, please feel free to comment below or email me, and I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.

Yeah, I Saw That: The Crazy Stuff I’ve Seen Teachers Do

IMG_E6794

Teachers are insane. Factor in the public scrutiny, the low pay, the extra hours, the grading, and the enslavement to standardized testing, and you have to ask yourself what college-educated professional would sign up for that? Crazy ones, that’s who.

You would not believe some of the things I have seen teachers do in the course of a school day. Shocking, I tell you. Shocking. Once, a teacher put money in a student’s lunch account because she heard him in the hall saying he didn’t have any money left to eat that day. Can you believe that?

There is a teacher at my school that gets jackets out of the lost and found items that are bound for a donation site, takes them home, washes them, mends them if they need it, and hands them out to kids in the fall and winter that aren’t wearing any warm clothes. Are you serious?

During October, when we sell BooGrams, I have witnessed teachers buying for kids that typically don’t get one and sending them anonymously. What?!

I have seen teachers buying school supplies out of their own pocket so that kids don’t have to worry about their parents being able to afford their supplies. Craziness!

There was a time when a teacher quietly handed a student a tissue and patted her on the back when she saw her crying. She didn’t call attention to the girl, but that girl knew her teacher had her back. What kind of a monster does that?

One teacher at a former school bought a new book for each child she had (this was a high school teacher), wrote a personal note in it, wrapped it, and placed them on their desks the last day of school. She made sure she bought books based on what she had learned about them throughout the year. It became a tradition that the kids looked forward to all year. What a lunatic!

Don’t these teachers know it’s all about getting summers off? Don’t they know they don’t get paid enough to try so hard? Don’t they know that anyone who went to school could do their job and they shouldn’t want good benefits or a reasonable pension?

They must think that personal investment in kids is a payoff all its own.

And it is.

Share the crazy things you’ve seen at your school in the comments!