Saturday, May 22, 2010

The ownly best teacher in the world, part 2

After I hugged the girls and thanked them for their cards, I told them I would take them home and put them on my refrigerator, where I hang all the cards they make for me. (When I hang them on my desk in the classroom, they inevitably get ripped and torn down by my whirling tornado students.) As usual, they were fascinated by any mention of my personal life (Miss Brave has a refrigerator?!).

"Did Mr. Brave ever make you a card telling you he loves you?" one girl asked.

Mr. Brave? Love? Everyone giggled the way second grade girls giggle when the subject of romantic love comes up.

Then, glancing toward our class birthday calendar (my birthday is next month), she ran away with it: "Ooooh, maybe he is waiting for your birthday and he is going to surprise you!" With that, everyone began chiming in. "I think Mr. Brave should make you a birthday surprise!" "Yeah, I think Mr. Brave is going to surprise you on your birthday!"

"Wow," I said, "I should bring Mr. Brave here to listen to your suggestions!" Now poor Mr. Brave has to compete with the girls in my class for a birthday surprise.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The ownly best teacher in the world

Here's hoping that at least some of you fabulous teachers out there were blinded by a dazzling display of appreciation this past Teacher Appreciation Day. I know I sure felt appreciated by those "STOP LISTENING TO THE TEACHERS' UNION!" commercials I hear at the crack of dawn as I steel myself for another day in my overcrowded classroom with zero intervention services support and no accommodations for my special education student in a teaching position that may or may not be eliminated due to excessing and budget cuts...but hey! Thanks for the belated bagel!

Anyway, my class had a trip on Teacher Appreciation Day, so in the morning before we left, I had my kids make Teacher Appreciation Day cards for other teachers in the school. Most of them chose their first grade teacher. Emilio (aka the Class Clown) started going on and on about how he loved Ms. S because she had given his class ice cream. I reminded him that we had had an ice cream party, too.

"Yeah, but that was one time," he said scornfully. "In Ms. S's class we had ice cream like millions of times." (As you may have guessed, Emilio is prone to exaggeration.)

"Oh, so you like Ms. S better than me because she gave you ice cream?" I asked jokingly.

"No, I like Ms. S better than you because she's nicer than you."

Zinged! No one cuts a teacher's self-esteem (well, other than those "STOP LISTENING TO THE TEACHERS' UNION!" commercials) more skillfully than the Class Clown.

Since then, a few of the girls in my class have been out on a mission to reassure me that I am, in fact, the teacher most deserving of appreciation. I'm sure every class has a cohort of those girls: They live to please, they always volunteer to help, they bat their eyelashes adoringly and shyly tell you that they want to be teachers exactly like you when they grow up. And that's how I ended up with these:

Take that, Education Reform Now! Now I feel appreciated.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What every teacher longs to hear

The Class Clown has recently discovered the Magic Tree House books, a series about a boy and a girl who travel back in time and around the world to solve mysteries. The other day, he looked up from his book with an amazed expression on his face.

"Miss Brave," he began, "I may have never said this before ever in my whole life, but...this book is awesome!"

Later on, he approached me with an expression on his face that said, Are you ready for this?

"Miss Brave," he said, "I may have never, ever, ever, ever said this before, in my whole life, but...I like reading!"

Ladies and gentlemen, my work here is done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Be here soon, June

This morning, a very verbal, intelligent student said to me, "Miss Brave, my daddy said something really bad about you." Then she kind of clapped her hands over her mouth. Half-concerned, half-curious, I asked what he had said.

"He wasn't gonna get up and take me to school because he was too lazy. So I said, 'Do you want Miss Brave to give me a bad report card and I won't go to third grade?' And he said, 'If Miss Brave gives you a bad report, I'll just punch her in the face. She's short anyway.'"

Apparently I don't deal with enough; now I have parents telling their students they have no problem with punching me. I felt like I was in that scene in It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey calls up Zuzu's teacher and bawls her out for letting Zuzu walk home with her coat open and then the teacher's husband punches George in the bar. "She cried for an hour!"

To top it all off, on the way to lunch, one of my girls dropped an entire can of Pringles (why do parents send an entire can of Pringles for lunch? Particularly when we eat lunch at 10 am?) on the staircase, and The Baby decided to eat chips off the floor. I don't know why they constantly pull stunts like that when they're so totally and obviously going to get caught; besides the fact that about six grossed-out classmates ratted him out as soon as we exited the stairwell, plus the fact that their grossed-out-ness was reported to me by another teacher who overheard cries of "Ewwww, he ate it!", but he was staring at me bug-eyed with chipmunk cheeks and chip crumbs all over his face. It was exactly like that scene in cartoons where the cat eats the bird and there are bird feathers floating in the air.

30 more days?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Miss Brave: Lawyered

One of my students handed me this note this morning as I was taking attendance.


(Yes, he actually wrote the date.)

Dear Miss Brave

I Just need to tell you that the Mean Girl is bothering me here are the things she does.

(What follows are actual bullet points, ladies and gentlemen)

  • Dosent know how to play.
  • hits me.
  • tells me to tell something to someone else when you arnet looking.
  • takes my pencils.
  • Dosen't let me concentrate when you are speaking.
she bothers me soso so so so so much.

Miss Brave I want you to change the Mean Girl's seat.

(And just in case it wasn't clear...)

P.S. I don't want to be her partner :(

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Too funny not to share

Scene: My classroom, during art. Our lovely art teacher, Ms. R, is good-naturedly complaining to my students about their habit of anxiously hollering her name across our (small) classroom.

"Every five seconds I'm hearing, 'Ms. R, Ms. R!'" she scolds. Emilio throws up his hands.

"Welcome to Miss Brave's world," he says.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Not-So-Magnificent Seven

My new points system is working out pretty much the way I thought it would (although not necessarily the way I hoped it would): my most fantastic, excellent, never-ever-misbehaved students have hit 30 points and above, my good students have between 20 and 30 points, a large chunk of the class has between 10 and 20 points, and then I have seven students -- the Not-So-Magnificent Seven, let's call them -- who have yet to reach 10 points for their first "reward" and usually hover dangerously around zero.

What I like about my new system is that it allows me to hone in on the kids who are doing the right thing, rather than going right to the kids who aren't; when I stand there with my points clipboard, I'm looking for the kids who are doing what they're supposed to be doing. It's allowed me to recognize those quiet kids who always slip under the radar because they never cause problems. It's also allowed me to recognize exactly who's in that troublemaking category, that core group of seven kids who can't manage to hang on to their points long enough to earn a chintzy eraser from the small prize bin. 75% of my class makes an effort and strives to do right most of the time. But it's the Not-So-Magnificent Seven, the other 25%, that cause 90% of the problems. They are the kids most likely to call out, to interrupt, to be unprepared, to lose their books and papers and folders and pencils, to use unkind language and violent behavior. Together, they present such a broad spectrum of capital-I Issues that, for those of you who have never had the chance to observe the Not-So-Magnificent Seven in their natural habitat, I thought it would be useful to present a guide to their actions and behaviors should you recognize one of the Seven in your own classroom.

1. The Sneak
The Sneak gets away with a lot because he, unlike many difficult students, is not loud and obnoxious. It's only by making careful study of his actions that a teacher begins to realize that the Sneak is not actually working, as he appears to be, but rather is crashing colored pencils together under his desk, or thumbing through Pokemon cards, or drawing crude pictures of gangster-looking dudes with giant sunglasses and weapons. The Sneak is frequently discovered to have items that don't belong to him in his possession, but when confronted with the evidence, the Sneak goes completely blind, deaf and mute, all "Who, me?" and "I don't know how that got there" and "Someone must have put it in my desk!"
Most common form of communication: Shrugging and blank stares.
Most recent offense: Getting up in the middle of Read Aloud to pass a notebook to another member of the Not-So-Magnificent Seven. When I confiscated the notebook, I found that it was filled with inappropriate language and drawings. The Sneak, of course, could not explain how any of it appeared in his notebook or why he was getting up in the middle of a lesson to pass it on.

2. The Baby
The Baby mistakenly believes that he can get his way in the classroom simply by pouting and whining, even though he is neither cute nor persuasive. When others are being rewarded for good behavior, the Baby is frequently heard to exclaim, "I want that!" or "I wish I could get that!" without acknowledging the unfortunate truth that one needs to behave in order to earn rewards. When threatened, the Baby reacts by pulling his sweatshirt or schoolbag over his face, avoiding eye contact, refusing to explain himself. The Baby is unhealthily stubborn and reserves the right to stew in his own bad attitude even in the face of others enjoying themselves. Although he clearly finds the thought of negative behavior intoxicating, the Baby doesn't have it in himself to cultivate that devil-may-care attitude, so his forays into genuine troublemaking usually result in him bursting into tears and begging for a second chance.
Most common form of communication: Whining "Aw, man!" when he gets in trouble.
Most recent offense: Refusing, for an entire afternoon, to do any work. When I whipped out my cell phone to call his mother (I have threatened to do this many times, but this was the first time I actually went for it), he flipped out.

3. The Drama King
With an attitude usually assumed to be more native to females, the Drama King insists that it's not his fault he can't get any work done -- everyone has it in for him! Someone was making fun of him! Someone didn't want to share! Someone snatched something away from him! Someone won't leave him alone! No one wants to be his friend! The Drama King is so wrapped up in his woe-is-me lifestyle that he often isolates himself in a corner of the room for no apparent reason. Should something unfortunate happen to him -- such as a broken pencil or a dropped book -- everyone in the room must experience his inappropriately loud cry of distress. When caught red-handed in the act of wrongdoing, the Drama King's rebuttal emerges in a rambling flood of mumbled excuses that typically have nothing to do with the crime at hand, usually something like: "It's because, at lunch no one wanted to sit next to me, and I was trying to get the pencil but she just snatched it away from me, and everyone was just telling me to stop for no reason, and my head hurts because I'm so thirsty because I didn't eat breakfast this morning because my stomach was hurting."
Most common form of communication: All misery, all the time.
Most recent offense: According to the Sneak, the Drama King is allegedly the author of many of the inappropriate sections of the confiscated notebook.

4. The Antagonist
Unlike the Drama King, who mistakenly believes that he is always the target of some imagined offense, the Antagonist is spoiling for a fight. A bright and creative thinker, he believes all of his classmates are far less intelligent than he is and never passes up the opportunity to let them know it; a loud "Duh" or an exasperated "Noooo!" to a classmate's wrong answer is the Antagonist's favorite weapon in his arsenal against second grade stupidity. The Antagonist, unlike the Baby, actually is cute enough to get away with some degree of wrongdoing, but his taunting of his classmates and his aggressive behavior leave other students begging to be separated from him.
Most common form of communication: Name-calling and the occasional punch in the arm.
Most recent offense: A sad-eyed student approached me in the lunchroom today and said, "I don't feel comfortable with the Antagonist at my table because he called me a poopie girl and took my pencil away from me." (Side note: Don't you just love that she phrased her complaint by saying, "I don't feel comfortable"? I changed his seat pronto because that girl worked it.)

5. The Class Clown
Hyper-energetic, frenetic and occasionally entertaining, the Class Clown loves to sacrifice a serious mood in the classroom for the sake of a good joke. He wants all the attention, all the time, even if it makes him the target of what he believes to be unfair punishment. Despite his obvious intelligence, the Class Clown is so focused on pretending he's the star of his own one-man show that he is often lost when it comes to independent work. While others listen to directions, the Class Clown calls out to ask what he's supposed to do because he wasn't listening the first time the instructions were given; while others raise their hands and wait for help, the Class Clown hollers across the room that he doesn't understand, or needs help, or doesn't get it. The Class Clown just can't seem to stop himself from jumping out of his seat and interrupting constantly. Believing himself to be adorable and funny, he is deliberate in his attempts to get away with everything from extra sips of water from the fountain to drawing pictures during work time. While his behavior may seem harmless and cute in small doses, his overbearing personality and refusal to admit any wrongdoing will wear thin by May.
Most common form of communication: Sly (although toothless) grin.
Most recent offense: While making a card for his first-grade teacher for Teacher Apprecation Day, he commented that he loved her because she gave the class ice cream a lot, whereas I have only held one ice cream party this year. "So, you like her better than me because she gave you more ice cream?" I joked. He replied, "No, I like her better because she's nicer than you." Ba-dum-ching!

6. The Mean Girl
Interestingly the only female of the group, the Mean Girl is all attitude, all the time. Her responses to simple requests ("Please take out your math journal") consist of dramatic sighs, elaborate eye rolls and often the phrase "Oh my Gawd." A resentful teenager trapped in the body of an eight-year-old, the Mean Girl spends every waking second of the school day chatting, gossipping and making excuses, all the while managing to act incredibly put out that she's being expected to do any work.
Most common form of communication: Besides all the dramatic body language, the Mean Girl is cursed with a loud, piercing voice that somehow always manages to sound like a whine.
Most recent offense: While sitting right in front of me during one of my many lectures about not speaking when a teacher is speaking, she attempted to whisper to someone at the next table.

7. The One Who Completely Loses His $#!@
This is, of course, Julio, about whom no further explanation is really necessary; what other kid would deliberately squeak his sneakers across the floor so often and so loudly during today's Read Aloud that I interrupted it to call my assistant principal, feign normal behavior while she was watching him and then begin throwing things across the table and finish it off by barricading himself under his sweatshirt inside the closet? This after a morning in which he, for no apparent reason, cocooned himself inside his sweatshirt and crawled underneath a table from which he would occasionally emit a loud groan, squeak or meow. (Yes, a meow.) Evidently this didn't garner the desired attention, because he emerged only to fake hitting his head on the table and collapse on the floor again. He topped off the afternoon by randomly spinning in circles. A telling anecdote: During Read Aloud, we were discussing what it means when someone can't be trusted, and Julio stood up and yelled, "Like me, when I tell lies!" After school, when I personally delivered him to his mother to tell her what a terrible day he'd had, what did Julio do? He lied.