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

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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!

The Long Walk to Thanksgiving: Surviving School in the Fall

The Long Walk to Thanksgiving

It’s raining. Again. I think we’ve all mutated and developed webbed feet because it. never. stops. Seriously, shout out to people that live in Seattle. You guys must have superhero levels of optimism and happiness to deal with as much rain as you do. Added to that, it’s cold, like record-breaking cold. Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer fall and winter to summer, but COME ON.

All of this is happening during that interminable stretch of time leading up to Thanksgiving break. You know what I’m talking about, right? If you’re not lucky enough to have fall break (which, thankfully, I do) September, October, and the first part of November feel like a long walk down a road with no end in sight. Normally this time doesn’t really bother me. Like I said, I get fall break so I really shouldn’t be complaining. But for some reason, this year is different. I really think the stinkin’ rain must have something to do with this dour mood I can’t seem to shake. I’m even doing some of my favorite lessons right now, so I’m enjoying what I’m teaching, and the kids seem to be getting into it as well. So what is this funk?

I have started this blog post several times, and deleted most of what I’ve written. I think my confidence in myself is shaken by things other than my job. I mean, my job is AMAZING, and I’m thankful everyday that I work at the school I do, so I guess it feels like whining to say things are feeling a bit off. My hubby is awesome, my kids are healthy and happy (I hope), so what the heck is wrong with me?

If you have any tried and true pick me ups, please share. I know that we can all benefit from little rays of sunshine in our days. How do you get through days that have got you dragging? I’d love to try what works for you!

I Don’t Wanna

I Don't Wanna

I’m sitting here, having just wolfed down my lunch in record time, trying to get inspired to write a post. Lately, I haven’t had much to say. It’s been one of those weeks where every time I cross something off my to do list, two or three things get added. Finalizing first quarter grades. Setting up material for tutorials when we get back from break. Hanging stuff on the StuCo bulletin board. Getting ready to sell Boo Grams. Making the Red Ribbon Week dress up posters. Buying the gift for our teacher of the month. Running to Mardel because our laminator broke.

I know, I know. Boo hoo, quit your crying, we’re all trying to keep our heads above water. All I can think is, “Thank the good Lord that fall break is next week”.

Speaking of which, is it bad that I just want to spend the days in my pajamas? That I don’t want to think about anything school-related? I don’t want to make grand plans to deep clean my house, give away all our extra crap to Goodwill, and plan out the next semester of school (since next quarter is already planned and done- don’t hate me). I don’t want to plan a mini vacay, a trip to the state fair, or even a trip to the grocery store.

I want to stare mindlessly at the TV while endless episodes of Supernatural unfold in front of me, and Netflix has to ask me if I’m still watching. I want to eat junk food and drink soda.

All right, all right, let’s be honest, there is no reason in the world that I couldn’t make all of this happen. Except one. Teacher Guilt. Do y’all feel me? It’s that evil little voice inside my head that comes out during any sort of break and whispers, “You should be doing something productive. You should not be sitting here wasting the days when there is so much to be done.” As an English teacher, the least I should be doing is reading a book, right? Well, I don’t wanna.

Normally I would say, “Girl, you need an attitude adjustment!”, but not this time. The big buzz right now is self-care, right? That’s what I’m going to try. It’s called fall BREAK, so I should give myself one. So when I’m sitting on my couch watching Sam and Dean gank another demon, I’m not going to be thinking about how the grout in the kitchen would look so much better if I cleaned it with a toothbrush. As I’m sitting around in my pajamas eating ice cream with crushed up fortune cookies, I’m not going to mentally rearrange the linen closet.

I don’t wanna. This is my fall break mantra.

Did someone hit fast forward?

Did someone hit fast forward_

Seriously? Did someone hit fast forward and not tell me? I feel like yesterday was the first day of school, and now we are one week away from nine weeks exams. How did that happen? How is it almost OCTOBER? Is someone drugging my coffee?

Does anyone else feel like it’s been difficult to hit your groove this school year? I am an uber-organized person, and I still feel like I’m constantly running to catch up with all the things I’m supposed to do. I don’t feel like I’ve hit a rhythm with the kids, and I don’t feel like the lessons I’ve done have been all they could have been. Maybe it’s because I started the year with a unit I’ve never taught before, but I don’t think that would be the only reason. I’m used to mixing it up, and I change my curriculum pretty often because I don’t want it to become stale.

So what is it? The weather? Do my meds need adjusting? Is it because my oldest left for college for the first time, and I feel old? All I know is that I truly have not been able to get a handle on things that have normally come pretty easily.

I will say that I’m not having a bad year, just fast. I love my school, our staff, my kids, my schedule- I’m just trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I actually have fall break in TWO WEEKS. I just feel that, so far this year, my to do list only grows, and I can’t seem to knock things off of it like I used to.

I hope all of you are having a better start, and that your life doesn’t feel like someone hit fast forward. Here’s to a better nine weeks the second time around. Maybe I can find that pause button soon.

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Game on!

Game On!

Changing my mindset

Five years ago, I moved from teaching in a public school to teaching in a charter after 15 years. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my brain around was that my new school did not focus on state testing. They knew it was a necessary evil, and our students take the tests every year, but as an accelerated charter, their expectations are that we are teaching above grade level, and therefore, we should hit that mark without worrying about teaching to the test.

Novel concept, no?

Well, after 15 years of public school testing indoctrination, it was VERY hard for me to wrap my brain around this. After years of meetings about curriculum adoption and data disaggregation, not to mention the marathon vertical planning sessions that took place in public school, I needed a bit more direction with this. I asked my principal how many days we were expected to directly teach using STAAR-type materials, and he said that if was doing that for more than two or three days, he was going to need to know why.

What?

You mean I get to teach what I want, when I want, as long as I’m covering the student expectations in the TEKS? Are you serious? You mean, you trust me? To teach?

Whoa.

A quick note, before I came to my charter I had only taught 8th grade and above. The last school I taught at, I was teaching English I PAP and on level. Here, I was teaching 6th and 7th grade, so I was responsible for 3 tests- 6th grade reading, 7th grade reading, and 7th grade writing- in grades that I hadn’t taught before. Stressful.

Fast Forward

Fast forward to the end of that first year. All of my passing percentages were above 90%. For real.

I attribute this to a few of things.

  1. Our students are at an accelerated charter school, so there is a higher level of academic expectation.
  2. Parent involvement is sky high.
  3. We are on A/B block schedule, so I get more time in class with my kids to do instruction before turning them loose on independent work. Then I’m actually there with them when they are working independently, so I can answer questions and give clarification.

Instead of using worksheets, I came up with an idea to use games to highlight specific things I wanted the kids to remember when they were taking the test. At the beginning, I just created games for reading and writing. As I saw how well they worked, and how much the kids liked them, I started using them to review concepts like genre, poetry, and parts of speech. In my TPT store, I have the games listed separately, and in bundles (to save you money!).

Reading STAAR Game Bundle

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Included in the bundle are
Reading STAAR Review Game
Reading STAAR Review Game 2.0
Figurative Language Review Game
Literary Elements Review Game
Inferencing Practice Game
Poetry Review Game

Writing STAAR Game Bundle

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This bundle is great for reviewing your students for the STAAR without boring them (or you!). Buying this bundle saves you 25%- You get 4 games for the price of 3!
You get:
Writing STAAR Review Game
Writing STAAR Review Game 2.0
Editing and Revising Game
Dictionary Races

Grammar Bundle

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This is a bundled group of all my grammar products that saves you over 15% versus buying them separately.
This bundle includes:
– Editing and Revising Game
– Grammar Pre-test
– Image Grammar Brush Strokes Practice
– Image Grammar Brush Strokes Quiz
– Grammar Practice
– Grammar Game
– Parts of Speech Review Game

Happy gaming!