Stay Flat

I thought this was a good take on bullying. How often do we model positive, kind, behavior for our kids? I can’t say that I always do.

 I’m at the point in the year where I’m frustrated and snippy. We’re near the end of the term, kids owe work and are unmotivated to do it. I also have quite a few students with excessive, unexcused absences who haven’t grasped the responsibility of making up work. But I haven’t reacted well and have been using angry words and tones.

 Last year, a colleague and I had a catch phrase we muttered to each other when our voices started to raise. “Stay flat,” meaning use a flat affect and tone when dealing with a frustrating situation with a student. You speak almost in a monotone and use short, directive statements and it keeps an escalated situation calmer and more serene. I need to remember that right now.

 In this book about mindfulness and teaching, the author talks about setting an intention for your day. This is my intention today. Stay flat.

Grading, Grading, Grading

It’s near the end of the term here so as you can guess, I have a stack of grading to do. As I write down my 73%s and maybe an 85%, I feel a little sad inside. Grading a group of special education students is difficult, because how do you grade them? Especially with writing when they ALL have some sort of disability that makes writing hard for them. Do I grade them against their best work, what I know they can do? Do I grade the kids who strive to be in a regular ELA class against regular education kids so they know what they’re up against?

It’s tricky because if I grade too hard, they lose confidence. However, if I grade too easily, they become complacent. I would prefer not to grade at all and just write more extensive comments but they strive for that number, that measurement. And sometimes the kid who does no work, makes no effort really needs to see that F. I think often special education students expect to be pulled through, to pass, even if they are not willing to put in the effort. I often tell parents I can’t modify your kid’s work until I see what he can do. And right now he’s not doing anything. How do you modify nothing?

Tonight was one of those nights I’m not proud of. Z is phasing out of his nap and hasn’t napped for three days. Although I miss the time, bedtime has been quicker and he’s slept better at night and a little later in the morning. Today at daycare, he napped and had a great day but came home and was whining and complaining nonstop. He would not take no for an answer but would just ask for the same thing over and over again like a broken record. Finally when he was watching his nightly video and complaining about THAT, I lost it. I said no movie, go to bed. Not my most mindful moments. What toddler takes no for an answer and I should know it’s hard to hold it together all day. Of course, he’s going to lose it a little bit at home. But there’s something about listening to middle schoolers (and sometimes other teachers!) complain all day and then have to listen to it at home too that can wear on you after a while.

We went to his room and after a little crying and fussing and a goodnight talk from Papa, he surprisingly turned it around and we had a lovely time reading stories and singing songs together. When I left the room, I heard the pitter-patter of feet and some chatting, but now it’s quiet and I’ll go shut the door soon. I think he was begging for me to put him to bed.

Now for knitting mittens and Modern Family and early bed. I hope!

Separation Anxiety

I’ve been working with most of my students for two years. They are in 8th grade and headed on to high school and we are, as it is the last two weeks of school, in the throes of separation anxiety.  Here is how it manifests itself in my students.

  • One student, who has done no and I mean no homework for any class all year, actually for two years, asks inane questions or makes comments that have already been answered or stated. The other day an assembly was scheduled during her class so obviously there is no reading or homework assigned.  She asks me what the other class read that day in the last five minutes of school.

“Why do you want to know that?” I ask.  Keep in mind it’s 90 degrees out and about 100 degrees in my fourth floor classroom.  I just want to send the kids on their way, go pick up my son, and eat popsicles and watch Thomas the Train Engine.

“So I can make up the reading, I just want to know what they read.”

“You have done no out of class work for two years. Are you really telling me you’re going to start now????

  • I checked out multiple copies of books from our media center for a reading group novel. I tell the kids if they lose it they will have to replace it and will get a detention.  One kid (who is pretty weird anyway) promptly loses it within an hour and tries to make my TA look for it. He comes up to me after school and tries to talk about it.  I eventually find the book along with his journal, which has all his work, in the recycling bin in his math class. I believe he put it there to test the detention rule and to get attention. This is also the kid who bites all the erasers of my pencils and breaks them in half and hides them in my books.
  • The most common line…

“Wait…I’m gonna be in a bigger English class next year???”
“Yes. We talked about it at your IEP meeting.”

“Oh.”

This is after two years of bitching about being in a small, special education, English class.