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Teacher, Writer, Proofreader

Archive for the tag “middle school”

Writing Prompt Day 6: Something You Were Proud of in the Last Few Days

This one is tough. The last few days have not been my best. But, I guess I can talk about my 6th graders. I prepped them this week before beginning a novel with them. I have a “prediction board” (see photo below) that I created, dangling hints about the story.


I showed them the board and had them discuss with each other what they thought the book would be about. Then, I had them write a prediction paragraph. So, for two days, we discussed, we questioned, and we predicted. I loved watching the anticipation rising in them.

Right before reading, I had them raise their right hands and repeat after me.
“I do solemnly swear that I will not, under any circumstances, be a book spoiler.” (I make a huge deal about this.)

So, we read (I read it aloud to them while they followed along) the first chapter of the book Thursday, then I made them close the book. I’ve taught this book three times before. As ususal, they were shocked, moved, and begged to keep reading. They peppered me with questions, to which my repeated reply was, “That’s a great question!”

Even students who “hate reading” are hooked, as I knew they would be. These are the times when I feel like my job is worth something, when I am actually making a difference and enjoying it.

What’s the title of this awesome book? That’s a great question!

The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer


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A Teacher’s Decade: Suck it up, Buttercup!

Wednesday the 25th marked the official ending of my tenth year of teaching and my second year at Hefner MS. Unfortunately, the infamous Oklahoma budget cuts have forced me and many other teachers to leave our exceptional coworkers and administrators. Apparently, reading classes aren’t important enough to keep as core subjects if your school isn’t already a Title I school. But, whatever.

Experience and college degrees speak volumes in education, right?

Let’s talk a second about tenure and years of experience. The two are not compatible unless you stay in the same district forever. My 10 years of experience doesn’t count. My coworker’s 16 years of experience makes no difference. One of my social studies friends who has taught for ten years and enhances classroom learning with his military and travel expertise is still job hunting after being “let go.” We three have only one or two years each in the district. So, we are in the group that gets cut first.

Additionally, some districts and states won’t accept all of a teacher’s years of experience from another district or state. One of my colleagues has moved to Colorado. She already has a job lined up, but the Colorado district won’t accept all of her years of teaching science.

Is there any other profession that doesn’t really take into account all of your education and experience besides Monster Ed.? If there is, please inform me.

I call our educational system Monster Ed. because students are not a priority, at least not to those who are making the laws and mandates. It’s never really about the kids, and it certainly isn’t about the teachers. It’s about the almighty dollar, of course.


However, since April, when my principal reluctantly conveyed that I would be looking for another job, my mind was bombarded by words that I say so often to my students.

In response to their, “That’s not fair!” declarations:

Life’s not fair. If anyone tells you that it is, they are lying to you. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome the obstacle. There’s always hope.

  • [sidebar] This reminds me of a Princess Bride line when Whestley says, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Then, there’s the less formal bit ‘o wisdom:

Suck it up, Buttercup! Put on your big-girl pants!

  • [another sidebar] Oh, look! Another reminder of The Princess Bride. Happy coincidence!

So, that’s what I’m doing. Just call me Buttercup ’cause I’m suckin’ it up, putting on my big-girl pants, and thanking God that I have a job in place at another school, same district. Change is never easy, but it prompts us to learn and grow. What’s happening in our state’s budget crisis isn’t fair, but I have to go with hope and overcoming the obstacle. If I don’t, then my words to my students are empty–and I don’t like that.

Thanks for reading. I’d like to hear your stories of “suckin’ it up” during this budget fiasco (link to my letter to legislators). Please share! 🙂

Entitlement of Sixth Graders

Warning: This is a venting rant full of sarcasm that all frustrated teachers of middle school aliens will completely understand. Tread carefully if you seek to judge or are easily offended.

Disclaimer: I’m aware that not all students can or should be lumped into the following generalization. I’m not an idiot.


What the frack?! Why the hell is this generation so freakin’ ENTITLED?? Good grief! A frightening number of parental units are raising a bunch of whiney-assed, wussy kids who have no gratitude, and no clue what exerting effort entails. It’s like Garfield multiplied to the Nth degree. Self-centered, lazy sloths. (No disrespect to actual sloths intended).

Their motto:

The world revolves around me and should cater to my snarky, rude, disrespectful whims. Everyone, especially my teachers, should entertain me 24/7.

I get the fact that self-centeredness is a natural quality displayed in most adolescents, but at what point does it stop? I don’t see much evidence of the entitlement lessening as teens approach adulthood.

Who or what is enabling all this entitlement?


How Does Writing Fit?

While perusing my “Blogs I Follow” page, I landed upon the following quote by Suddenly Jamie, and it hit home.

“I find myself wanting to better understand how this writing thing fits into my life.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. Smooshed under the layers of work, stress, being too tired from dealing with precious sixth graders all day, trying to keep up with housework (or at least, thinking about it), and plugging through all the chores of life, this thought has been there. Nagging, poking, scratching like a June bug on the window screen of my soul. It’s been annoying me that I “have no time” to write and keep up my blogs. I have no real opportunities to apply myself to writing because all of the necessities of life are getting in the way. I have to do all the things that help me bring home a paycheck, as minuscule as it is. I don’t have a choice. If only I were married to a guy who made enough money that would allow me to be at home, or at a Starbucks or Panera for hours a day, musing, writing, editing my next masterpiece. I guess another way to put that is, “I need a sugar daddy!”

Yeah. That’s what I need. But, that’s not what I’m going to get.

So, how does my writing fit into my life?

Well, as I say to my students, “You need to learn to take responsibility for your actions.” The same stands true for your NON-action. I must take my own advice. I must take responsibility and require myself to write consistently, regardless of all the other distractions. I need to be free from the relentless hounding that I’m not fulfilling all of who I am if I’m not writing. I need the personal satisfaction that what I’m writing matters. If not to anyone else, though I hope some of it does, then to me. It matters. And we make time for the things and people who matter, right? So, it’s time to put on my big girl pants (another mantra that I frequently share with my students) and get on with it, already! Write! Make it happen!

Got a New Job!

The past three weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. After job searching since the middle of April, I finally (thanks to God) got a new job. I’ll be teaching 6th grade reading at a middle school on the opposite side of the city from where I’ve been teaching the last 8 years. Our kiddos come back on Tuesday, and I’m almost ready. 

I think it’s important to change things up a bit ever so often in order to keep from getting burned out or stagnant. So far, it’s been a good change. Especially considering I applied for non-teaching jobs because I was pretty much done by the end of the very, very long year. (More about this later).

At my new school, the other teachers and the principals have been kind and welcoming. They aren’t putting on a show, just real people. The way I like it.

I really want to write more, but I have to get my body clock in gear for getting up ridiculously early again. (Mornings are my most difficult challenge). So, with that, I’ll log of and get myself ready for sleepy time.

Big Mouth Bully

This is one  I wrote for an assignment for a writing class I took a couple of years ago. Any suggestions? Any personal connections? Let me know!

“Today’s children should be taught to treat everyone with respect!” shouted the protestor. The swarm of frightened parents had formed in front of Layton Middle School the morning after three eighth graders had jumped a sixth grader.
Reyna half-listened to the news clip she found on Youtube while researching information for her bullying project. She chatted online with her friend back home and belted a Katy Perry song playing on her iPod.
She typed, it’s freezing here! I want my arizona sun! 2 girls talked 2 me 2day in social studies. Dulce is nice. Karla is loud! Miss you!
On day two at her new school, Reyna found Dulce smiling and waving on the front steps. Then, like a tornado siren, Karla sounded off from across the lawn, “O-M-G! What is that HUGE red knob on your nose, Dulce?!” Dulce stopped breathing for a split second and dipped her head to hide the zit, her lips forcing a smile. Before Karla made it to the steps, Dulce had time to whisper, “It’s no big deal. I’m used to it.” Karla broke into an obnoxious rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” then cackled, “Just kidding!”
Reyna couldn’t figure it out. The only part of Karla that was huge and intimidating was her mouth, but she clearly had a knack for turning faces fire-red with embarrassment. Reyna thought, Why didn’t Dulce stand up for herself? What if Karla starts making fun of me, too?
As the trio clicked down the science hall in their heels, Karla suddenly did a double-take. Dread pressed down on Reyna’s chest when she realized who caught Karla’s attention. “Oh, no,” she mouthed. “Not him.”
“Hey! Who’s that kid? I’ve never seen him before,” quizzed Karla.
“He must be a sixth grader,” Dulce said softly, hoping Karla would just go to class.
“Why is he walking funny?” Karla persisted loudly.
“Um, I think he might have a fake leg,” said Dulce.
Reyna’s breathy voice emerged, “You mean prosthetic leg. It’s called a prosthesis.”
Karla’s eyes were tenacious. “Yeah, whatever . . . HEY, LIMPY!” Though the crowd of voices was squelched, the feet shuffling intensified. No one else wanted to risk being a target.
Cringing, Reyna said, “Karla, he has a name, don’t call him that.”

Karla’s momentum intensified. “You should go out for track! Maybe you could win a medal!” The boy never looked back at her.
Reyna had heard enough. Before Karla could spit out her next piercing comment, Reyna slammed her against the locker. “Shut. Your. Mouth. He’s my brother! He has a right to be here just like anyone else, and he should not have to listen to your ignorant, ugly comments!”
For once, Karla was speechless. Reyna walked away, having immediate clarity about how she would present her bullying project next week. With a deep breath of relief, Dulce followed.

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