Blog Archives

Your and You’re

I’m beginning to believe that fighting the erroneous “your” is futile.

It started, like most bad things do, with Paris Hilton.  Actually, that’s not fair.  Surely, people had been doing it for years – Paris Hilton just popularized it with a t-shirt declaring “thats hot” on one side and “your not” on the other side.  “Ha!”  I thought, upon seeing the shirt.  “Grammar fail!  Let’s all point-and-laugh now!  Guys?  Guys?”  I thought that surely all would see the misspelling for what it was, a silly grammatical error.  That was ten years ago.  Today, I am an English teacher who wades through piles of my pupils’ puerile papers wielding a weary red vis-à-vis pen, blithely circling “your”s and adding apostrophes and “e’s”.

But it’s not just my students.  I see it in text messages and on Twitter – from people who really should know better.  I get letters from my daughter’s daycare with the common typo.  One card said “Mommy, your the best!” and someone had affixed my three month old’s “signature” to the offending statement.

At first I found it funny.  Then I became enraged by it.  Now, I’m just shell-shocked and numb to its effects.  Perhaps fighting the rising tide of “your” has become a hopeless battle.

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?!

The First Spring Semester

I just found a reflection that I wrote as a requirement during my first year of teaching.  I don’t want it to get lost in my email again, so I thought that I’d post it here.  Considering that it’s been a…trying Spring semester (As a fifth year teacher, do I have Senioritis, or is it being a new mom that is making this so much more difficult?) it was really interesting to look back at what I wrote in 2008.


Here it is.

from: Alicia Burnette
to:  Penny
date:  Fri, Feb 1, 2008 at 1:54 PM
subject:  Reflection for January
Hi Penny,
On this wonderful, beautiful,  bright, sunny optional teacher’s work day, I sit down at my computer, with Regina Spektor on my mp3 player, to reflect on the past month of teaching.
Actually, I’m rather upset that the students aren’t here.  I was excited about finally completing a full week of school and getting back into the habit of going to school for a five days at a time.  I was also excited about finally getting back on track with my lesson plans because I am bound and determined to cover everything that we are supposed to read this semester.  I don’t want to get stuck leaving anything out or rushing through anything as I did during the fall.
At any rate, I’ve been falling behind since Monday, and feeling like a pretty crappy teacher since end of last semester.  There was the solid week of feeling like crying every time I thought about either my horrendous virgin administration of the English I EOC or the six (and then five) kids that had yet to pass the EOC out of the 22 students I had take it.  More recently, there was the vocabulary quiz that I forgot to prepare, there were the journals that I forgot to take, there were the stacks of worksheets that I lost amongst Beverly Gambill’s filing system (I still need to go through and instate my own method of organization amongst the many files in the cabinets.), and there was the 30-minute Navigator that I forgot about.  There is the power struggle that Tim the Jerk continues to try and pull me into.  (Is he joking, or is that a glint of real malice in his eyes?)  There are the new students added to second period daily (I’m up to 34, technically.  Three of them have not shown up for class since the first day of school.)  And there is the third period class that I dreaded since the first day of the Spring Semester in which I heard sounds of “Oh Dude! You’re in this class too?!  This is going to be interesting!”.
And the new students.
I don’t love them like I did the others.
I like them, but I don’t love them.  Not yet.
I wonder if I will ever feel as attached to subsequent bunches of students as I did my first classes.
I had an evaluation that wasn’t all together horrible.  In fact, it went well, except for the fact that I received the same criticism I’ve been fighting since student teaching: “Your lessons meander, and while it was obvious that you know what you’re talking about, and you have some goal in mind,  I’m not sure that the students knew what they were supposed to be learning or where they were supposed to be going with this information.”  The agenda wasn’t clear.  The lesson wasn’t clear.  I wasn’t clear.  My mind went racing back to those professors in college that I always complained about:  They knew what they were doing, but they didn’t know how to tell US what they were doing.  I don’t want to be that teacher.
What I did find out, though, this month, is that sometimes the students REALLY come through for you.  For example, some of the students I thought would be absolute horrors have turned out to be great — I’ve learned how to harness third period’s boisterous powers for the greater good of the class.  Also, one day, during a fire drill, and after a particularly bad day of classes, one of my former students ran up to me and gave me a big hug.   Furthermore, Dakota  stops by every afternoon before fourth period just to say hello.  Nikki  came in yesterday just to draw a picture for my wall and talk to me before her parents came to pick her up.  Several of my students have decided to keep me company during morning duty in front of the school’s most popular smoking section.  After having several kids pick on my outfits and rib me about my music, I read a journal entry that said something to the effect of “What do I love?  I love Ms. B’s crazy outfits.  I am excited to see what she might wear every day.  And I love her music, she listens to the same type of music I do.”  Moreover, another teacher told me,  today, that one of her students wrote an incredibly positive journal entry about Ms. Cianciola and I, saying that they’d deplored English class before ours…and even though they still don’t love English, they think that it’s OK.  I counted that one as a win.
What I’ve come to find out is that while I don’t need my students to absolutely love me or need me (I quite honestly don’t care if they don’t like my music or my stripped pants), there are some days when I’ve been put down, picked up, chewed up, and spit out.  At the end of most days of emotional abuse, it is nice to have students say “I appreciate YOU.  Not just you as a giver of grades or a purveyor of language arts, but you as a professional and you as a person.”
The response?
I had chills when I read your last paragraph – the kind that make me feel good.  You realize what you will do differently this semester and you understand what an impact you have had on your students.  I believe this is what will make you a great teacher.I will be out this week for a visit.  We can discuss the “meadering” if you want to.  Thanks so much for sharing your adventure as a new teacher.


Teaching & Social Networking – Is It Do-able?

This was a post I originally shared with my students on my teacher blog.  It is something that I’m particularly interested in, so I wanted to save it on my personal blog as well as a teacher reflection.

Right now, in order to check my (or the school’s or county’s) Facebook page, I have to put it in a special username and password.  Why?  Because Facebook, and other sites geared toward social networking – like LiveJournal or Tumblr – are blocked.  These sites are deemed too out of control, too unprofessional, too irrelevant, and too controversial to be granted general access past our district’s firewall.

Certainly, teacher/student Facebook relationships have raised a veritable hailstorm of controversy.  (When Teachers Talk Out of School –  Pshaw, even things that teacher’s post on Facebook to their own friends – about school or about their personal lives – have become questionable.

The list goes on and on.

Now another teacher, Viki Knox, is coming under fire for “anti-gay” comments that she made on Facebook, objecting to a school display for National LGBT History Month.  The high school display honored gay and lesbian authors and artists who have contributed to great works of art, music, and literature.  Knox, made the comment that “homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation.”  She also said that she was “pitching a fit” in response to the display.

You can read about it here…and here…and here…:

This has, of course, raised tons of debate – both supporting the teacher’s right to free speech and against the teacher, saying that she couldn’t possibly perform her job while holding and voicing such opinions.  But, this raises several questions.

  1. Can Facebook and other social networks have a positive place in school?
  2. Should they be banned outright?
  3. Should teachers be held accountable for what they do outside of school?
  4. Do teachers have a right to free speech?

What do you think?

(Respond below by clicking on the comment button.)

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.