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Things I Will Never Understand About Teaching…

There are a few things about teaching that I’m sure I will never understand.  I’m sure that no matter how much science I did and no matter how many la-BOHR-uh-tor-ees I put together, I will never find the answers to the infinite unknowable.  And though I was once a teenager, apparently I was an oddball, because for the LIFE of me I never did some of the things that my students do.

That said…things I will never understand about teaching:

  1. Why do kids stand in inconvenient places?
    1. If there is a doorway, students will stand in it.  Why?  Furthermore:
    2. If there is a hallway, kids will clump up in the middle of it, blocking off the arteries of the school like…cholesterol.
    3. If you are cleaning your classroom, walking from desk to desk, or obviously walking back and forth between your desk and the whiteboard, the kid talking to you will follow you back and forth, and you will trip over them several times before telling them to just sit down somewhere and tell you what they want you to know.
  2. Do they want you to yell at them?  My grandmother used to ask me this question all the time, and now I understand it.  It does not matter how many times you ask them not to, they will.  Until you yell at them.  And then they will look hurt.
  3. I suppose that my father would say ‘If there is a doorway, Alicia will leave it open and attempt to air condition the neighborhood.’  Perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much….but WHY oh WHY must they stand in the middle of the doorway?
  4. Who came up with the rule that “if my bookbag is in the classroom, but I’m not, it means I’m not late”?  Because they always look confused when I tell them that this is not a thing.
  5. Likewise, who came up with the rule that when your teacher says “take off your headphones” all you need to do is pull one out of your ear?  It is not okay to talk to people with one headphone dangling out of your ear.  This is not a thing!
  6. Why don’t we do more to encourage/teach kids to think?  Thinking is hard and unpleasant work for those who are not accustomed to it.
    1. If you want students to learn, you should ask them to think.
    2. If you want students to “be good”, you should give them a worksheet.
    3. Students may not like worksheets, but they do like the certainty of knowing what they are doing.
    4. For some reason, they can’t learn and “be good” at the same time.
    5. I’m always nervous when my students are “being good”.
  7. Students enjoy hard work.  So why do they complain when they have hard work?
    1. They want structure.  They want to learn.  They don’t want to be spoonfed information.  They would prefer to be learning than napping on their desks.
    2. All of the above observable facts are contrary to what their whining would have you believe.
  8. Kids, though not always well behaved, are generally good.  Why do people think kids are bad?  Worse yet, why do people tell me that my job is noble or that they wouldn’t or couldn’t do it?
  9. Saying something to the entire class is less meaningful than saying the exact same thing to individual kids.  Similarly, writing down instructions word-for-word is much less meaningful than reading them directly to the kid.  Why must I repeat THE EXACT SAME INSTRUCTIONS to students at their desks that I gave the entire class?
  10. Kids will say that they don’t understand something…and then when you ask them what they do understand, they will repeat the exact assignment back to you.  What is THAT all about?
  11. Why do kids think that when their diction and spelling suddenly improve dramatically in a paper that somehow you won’t get suspicious and catch their plagiarized work?
  12. Why are kids surprised when they fail a test or quiz that they fell asleep on?  Furthermore…why are they surprised when they aren’t allowed to make it up?

I might add that if I did understand these things, I would be able to harness this knowledge for the powers of good…and an awesome book deal.  Am I the only one who deals with these issues?  Has anyone figured out the answers?  Ron Clark?  Harry Wong?  Anyone?!

Persistent Baby’s Into Everything

Petals is nothing if not determined – as evidenced by this webcomic I drew for Firetower’s website.   Here is a picture of The Boy attempting to write with The Baby in his lap.

It ain’t happenin’.

She grabs at everything she sees.  Anything we’re touching, she wants to touch.  And she isn’t satisfied to explore the thing in front of her.  No no no no no.  She must go for the thing that’s just out of her reach, the thing that’s been hidden away from her.  Her life isn’t eat, sleep, play – it’s eat, sleep, study.  It’s not like you can put her in your lap with one of her favorite toys and then use your computer.  You can’t even put her on the floor with one of her favorite toys and use the computer whilst hoping that she won’t notice.

She will notice.  She will reach for it.  And she will grab, climb, pull, twist, and wriggle until she gets it.  If you move her hands, she will just put them right back where they were.  It’s exhausting!  When she gets it, she will first bang on it.  Then, she will turn it over a few times to inspect all sides of it.  Then she will begin to nom on it.  Finally, she will begin to rip it apart.   This is the process that she goes through with everything, from Rock Band drum sets to Cooking Light magazines.

Super Baby needs no shirt!

She is also an intense little busybody.  She is demanding when it comes to food or sleep (or not sleeping).  She hates being interrupted by silly things like diaper changes or the need to wear clothing.  Buckling up requires a special buckle up song.  Routines are paramount.  We’ve been fighting over the plastic outlet covers for weeks now.

I’ve been assured that all this falls within the scope of “normal” baby behavior.

I know that you’re not supposed to compare your kid with another person’s kid – but it’s hard to do when other people talk about how chill their babies are.  To be fair, Petals isn’t “intense” all the time.  She likes to sing and dance, she can entertain herself and she also interacts with other babies.  She’s pretty mild-mannered in the grocery store, because she enjoys riding around and watching stuff…it would just seem that she’s easily bored.  And I actually get a kick out of watching her do her thing…y’know, when it doesn’t involve trying to ingest electrical cords or Scotch tape.

People tell me that this means that she’s smart, and that these character traits, though exhausting, are ultimately positive ones.  She is inquisitive, she is intelligent, she is determined, she is focused, she is tuned in to the world around her.  Of course, I don’t want a daughter who is merely and is okay with being ignored!  Of course I want a kid who is paying attention to stuff and things and junk.



I mean, I look at her and wonder where my students lost this urge to know and to do.  Was it adolescence?  Did institutionalization beat it out of them?  Or is it just part of general American anti-intellectualism?  I don’t want her to lose her persistence.  I don’t want her to lose her drive to know and to discover.  I mean, I almost want to hit myself for saying this but…I’m kinda hoping she’ll stay this way forever.  (Not the life-threatening exploration part, though…just the “Hey, that looks cool, lemme find out more about it on my own without anyone spoon feeding me the answers,” part.)

Teaching to Distraction

Some days, I wish I worked at a job where I could walk in, do my work, and go home.

But I can’t do that, because I’m a teacher.

  • I wish that I didn’t have to put on a happy face upon entering the building.
  • I wish that I didn’t have to hide my food, because any kid seeing it is going to say “Hey, thanks for bringing me that Bojangle’s,” or “Ooh, what are you eating?” or “Should you be eating that?” or “I can’t believe you’re eating that without giving me any.”
  • I wish that I could hold a conversation with one person without having another person repeatedly shouting my name and sucking in their breath when I don’t immediately respond.
  • I wish that I could talk to one student without feeling taps on my opposite shoulder or seeing the backs of someone’s hands repeatedly covering my eyes and asking “Guess who?!”
  • I wish I could drive down the street without waving to everyone.
  • I wish I could go to the bathroom or close the door to my room without having some kid think they’re entitled to enter at will.
  • I wish that my students could see me working and know that perhaps their IMMEDIATE NEED to tell me who fell in the lunchroom can wait a couple of seconds.
  • I wish that I could clean my dry erase board without immediately having to clean it again because of flowers and hearts and “I love you”s and “Your the coolest teacher” (sic).
  • I wish that I could go home without taking the cares of my kids with me.
But then, it seems, just when I’m frustrated the most, someone comes along and makes my job worthwhile.
  • A kid says thanks for caring about what happens to me when I go home.  Thanks for asking about that thing that happened that time.
  • A kid shares a funny story with me because they knew I would like it – or emails me a picture of an otter because they know otters make me happy.
  • A coworker tells me I look snazzy in a new top and commiserates with me about the stresses of my job.
  • A parent sees me in the store and tells me how much their kid has learned from being in my classroom.
  • A kid brings me a cupcake that they made in foods class, making sure that it doesn’t have too much icing because they remember me saying that I don’t like the icing that much.
  • People wave to me and smile at me when I walk in, because they’re happy to see me.
  • My board gets covered with flowers and hearts and I love you’s and “your…i mean you’re…the coolest teacher”s.
  • A former student comes to visit and says that the thing that we learned that they didn’t think they’d need…they actually did need.
  • Heavens forfend, someone actually learns something!
And I become re-addicted to teaching all over again.

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…And Another Thing!

I’ve been doing educational workshop type things lately. I’ve been to the New Schools Project Symposium – which, other than getting fed very well, involved visiting a peer school, running into old friends (and making some new ones), and then attending a symposium to collaborate with other teachers and principals about how to make our school a better place. On top of that, I went to part three of the Learning Centered Schools training that began this summer. On top of that, I have to get in grades, make sure my kids were on topic, AND prepare to do homework for my own online class.

And on top of all this…I lost my gas cap.
I know exactly where I lost it too. At the gas station to the left of Crabtree Valley Mall. The one that’s near the diamond place and the Bank of America. I put it on the back of my car. And then I drove off, not realizing my folly until I got to Elmo’s that night and saw that my flap was open…and that there was no gas cap inside.

I have to find a replacement.
I don’t want my car to blow up.
Which is exactly what I think my car might do.

But anyway, on to the real reason for this post.
I don’t mean to sound ignorant. Or backwards. Or just…elitist…but I visited a school – City of Medicine Academy – where the students all start out taking Honors level classes. Honors English I is the only class offered. Their reasoning: they want to detrack students, and, more over, they want to give students who don’t usually have the opportunity to take honors level classes a chance to do so. They want to give them an opportunity at success. From there, once they get to their Sophomore year, they can branch out, choosing to take a lower level of English class if they so choose.

Here’s my question. The question no one has asked.
If all the kids in the school are in Honors class…is it still an Honors class?