Saturday….

Saturday….a day off from school. That is so exciting because that means I get to work from home! I am working on lesson plans. I am working on the website. I know, I should have been set up last week, but I wasn’t. Of course, since I am the tech leader at my campus I should be setting a good example and I didn’t. So now, it’s catch up time. I will be making phone calls.

The truth is that I don’t really mind doing all these things. I have students I need to reach. I want to make sure that kids know that I believe in them. I joked with them yesterday that while they were stuck going to the beach or playing video games or spending time with friends, I had the chance to grade Engineering Notebooks and I was going to be selfish and not let them do it with me. Most of them had a good laugh at that.

I have such a great group of kids or so it seems so far. If they are this good, then I am compelled to make sure they have the teacher they deserve and I need to work even harder to make the lessons engaging. How can we get through the tedious parts of the work in a way that captures the attention of the kids so that we can get on to the fun projects? How can we move QUICKLY through the parts that are necessary, but that neither the kids nor I really enjoy? That’s part of the process all teachers have to deal with. When the kids are as good as the ones I have, I don’t want to “go through the motions” and put the year on automatic. So Saturday is, for me, a day of work. I’m willing to bet that a lot of other teachers are working like that too.

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False Pretenses

So today was a rather interesting day. I asked the kids to reflect on their first week as 6th graders. Many of them said nice things about the class. My class is not normally boring so kids seem to like it most of the time. Today in fact, I got excited about pencils and how Science, Technology, Engineering and Math played a part in developing the pencils as we have it today. As we talked about that I could imagine kids going home and telling their parents that their teacher was going bananas over pencils and the technology involved! (If you don’t understand why I could get excited, ask ¬†and I’ll tell you why in the comments.)

Anyway, I was riding a bit of a wave from some of the nice things being said; the GOOD note left by my sub; and then the kid I had to write up earlier in the week doing well today. I should have seen it coming. A kid griped as he left the room, “I took this class because I thought we were going to work on the computers all the time and not do so much writing.” No doubt. We do a lot of writing. We study a lot of different aspects of technology and sometimes that includes a lot of writing. But we also do some amazing projects. How often do people make snap judgments and not look at the long term possibilities available. We will do some computer work. We will work with automation and robotics. We will work in the field with GPS units and laptops. We will create some amazing windmills. In short, we will do far more than he really expects and in the long run he will enjoy the class far more than he realizes.

This class is called “Gateway to Technology” and we open all kinds of doors for kids if they will just open their eyes to the possibilities. My job is to give the kids the opportunities to see what’s available there for them in the future and teach them how to learn as the technology of tomorrow will make any skills they learn this year obsolete within a few years. I just can’t wait to see how these kids grow and develop.

Substitutes

Well, I started off the year doing two things I hate to do. Yesterday, I wrote a referral for a student. Today, I had a sub for a half day. I have told my students that if I am 50% or better, I will be in class. Unfortunately I had a doctor’s appointment today. I hate having to use subs anyway. I especially hate having to use a sub this early in the year. I put the request in a few weeks ago because I knew this was coming and wanted to be sure and get a good sub. Still, I waited with trepidation.

The email came. The job had been picked up. That was good. Who picked it up? Fantastic! My favorite sub of all time had picked up the job! I couldn’t find her last year and I thought she had stopped subbing. The joys of having a good sub allows you to do some different things. If I had a sub I didn’t know, or one that I wasn’t confident in, that would limit my lesson plan options. With this sub, I knew that I could do practically anything and she would either pull it off well or, if there were problems, she would adjust and fix things on the fly.

I’m anxious to see how the kids responded tomorrow. I didn’t stop by after my doctor’s appointment to check on notes or anything like that. A good substitute is worth their weight in gold and I knew that my classes were in good hands today when I left. And I already have two more absences to schedule…..

Failure?

Today I got a failing grade. As a teacher my job is to teach, to inspire, to motivate students. Sometimes I do that well. Sometimes I do well enough to pass, although “just passing” isn’t good enough. Sometimes I fail. Failure isn’t with every student, as I see it. Failures for teachers happen one student at a time. Those are the times that I fail a student because I have to write a referral.

Oh, it’s easy to blame the student. He earned every bit of that referral. I had already sent an email to people who needed to know that there might be an issue because he came in with an attitude – although he wasn’t disrespectful to me. He wasn’t violent. He wasn’t really disrespectful while he talked to me. But some things have to be written up. (I am not being specific for the sake of not allowing anything to be tied to a specific student.) When the incident happened I was quite sorrowful because I knew the minute that it did, I had failed to inspire him. I had failed to motivate him. He would rather do something that got him in trouble that stay in my class. I failed him.

I didn’t get him involved in the lesson. I’ve had kids come in with bad attitudes before who have later become engaged. Those are days I passed with every student. On this, the third day of school, I couldn’t do that. He has issues, though. So what. My job is to deal with students with issues. He has problems. So what. (Yeah, the same thing only say “problems” instead of “issues.”) Every child that comes into my classroom deserves the best I have to offer each and every day. Every kid deserves a chance to succeed and a teacher who believes in them enough to help them succeed. I do believe in my students. I believe in this one. He has so much potential that if I can find a way to tap it and get him moving in the right direction he could flourish and become very successful. And today I failed him. I don’t think he sat in the office thinking about how much I believed in him. I don’t think he sat in the office inspired by my passion for the subject, the work and the student. He so wanted to get out of my class that he was willing to endure the trip to the office and the consequences of his behavior.

I have to find a way to reach this student. I have to find a way to help this student believe in himself and realize how successful he can be. The bad thing is that I had to write a referral on the third day of school. The good thing is that there is a chance to restore things with this student and I have a long time to do it this school year. My homework assignment now is to find out what makes him tick and then find a way to reach him using that information. I can’t put the blame on him for circumstances beyond his control. It’s my job to work around that. I need to know my students because there are others like him who need to find something that causes them to desire an education. Teaching is not just a job. It’s not just a calling. For me it’s a passion. I don’t like failing any student and I will overcome my failures

What Right?

Ok, I stole someone’s idea. I didn’t use it like they did…it wouldn’t have worked with what the rest of the day was going to be…but hopefully it had an impact. Student’s filled out an information sheet for me with their “drop dead phone numbers.” “What is a ‘drop dead phone number?'” I hear you ask. It’s a number to call so that “if you drop dead in the middle of class I have a number to call so that a parent will pick you up right away and I don’t have to push you over to the corner where you’ll stink up the room all day.” Kids get a kick out of that phrase. But that isn’t the idea I stole. That phrase is original as far as I know. I hereby grant you permission to use it.

In addition students were given an index card to answer the question “What gives you the right to sit in class.” I based it from the story of a teacher who set the classroom up without any chairs. Each class that came in that day had to deal with the same question. Finally, at the end of the day, 27 uniformed servicepeople: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines walked in with the chairs to remind them that people fought and died to preserve their freedom to be educated. So, after giving them time to answer, I asked for answers. Not many volunteered and very few were anywhere near the right answer. Closest answer was the Constitution – but even that wasn’t a correct answer because education is not mentioned in the Constitution. Then I told them the story of that other teacher and reminded them that people fought and died to protect our freedoms. I pointed out that fate of children in other countries where they don’t have a right to education. I then added two people who were important to this answer; especially in a school that is mostly Hispanic: The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Hector P. Garcia. They fought to end the segregation that included the lie of “separate but equal.”

These students need to know how much others have sacrificed and fought for their right to an education. So often they take it for granted. To be honest, I wanted to stir them up to the point that they would now fight for their own education. So many of our kids don’t understand the sacrifices that others have made for them. So many don’t understand the value of an education. If I can get them thinking about that and help them realize their potential, I can be proud of the work that I do.

Calm Before the Storm

It’s Saturday. Amazing how many cars are in the parking lots of schools today. Last minute touch-ups happening to get the year started off right. It truly is the calm before the storm. This would be a good time to pray for teachers. This would also be a good time to pray for students. If nothing else, pray for my students: they’ll have to start putting up with me. It’s going to be a long year for them. (If we had sound effects on this blog, now would be the time for the laugh that the evil genius makes before he unveils his latest creation….)