We’re on February break here. It’s not my favorite vacation, honestly. It’s cold here without even a teaser of Spring because of that cold New England wind.  We have all just battled a wicked stomach bug and are now on to the sniffles. Still, it’s a good time to get things done, like taxes, and start some home improvement projects. We bought this condo last year and I have continued to break every venetian blind that came with it. So unless I really wanted to expose my family’s foibles to the neighbors, it was time for some window treatments. We also need a bigger fridge but that will have to wait. Only one big ticket item every few months around here.

It’s also an ideal time to set some intentions in teaching. This passage from this book I’m reading is especially sticking in my brain:

“Not knowing that thoughts are just thoughts can get us into trouble in virtually every aspect of our lives. Knowing it can help us stay out of the traps our own mind sets for us. This is especially true in parenting. For instance, if you have the thought, “Tom is lazy,” you will easily believe that this is true about Tom, rather than just your opinion. Then, every time you see Tom, you will tend to see him as lazy, and not see all the other aspects of who he is that are blocked or filtered out by your strong opinion, for which you may or may not have much evidence. As a consequence, you may only relate to him in a limited way, and his response to how you treat him may only confirm and reinforce your view.

In reality, you have made Tom lazy in your mind, and are not able to see Tom as Tom, for who he is as a whole being. Instead, you see just the one attribute that you are preoccupied with, which may only be true to a degree, if at all, or may change. And this may make it impossible for you to connect with him in any meaningful way because everything you say or do will be “loaded” in a away that he might feel and feel uncomfortable about, and that you might not even recognize as coming from you.”

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings; The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

I hope the authors don’t mind me quoting them. I feel like I have a tendency to do develop strong opinions about my students because I work with them so intensely. I develop these opinions about my students and maybe don’t recognize enough that they can change. Especially in middle school, the kids change from day to day. I’d like to try to separate a bit from my opinions about my students and try to really see them. At this time of year, it’s easy to form these strong, often negative, opinions which get reinforced when venting with colleagues. I think the last sentence of the above quote is especially apt. That our strong opinions can make it difficult to connect in a meaningful way because the receiver of our strong opinions will feel uncomfortable but not even be able to name why he or she is feeling that way.

How hard is this though? To separate from our thoughts and opinions about people? Especially because middle school students are constantly trying to aggravate a reaction. But for the rest of this year, I’m going to try. I’m going to try not to form such opinions about my students. To be more open to who they truly are. I think this will refresh my teaching in a way. Make it more positive. It will be my challenge.

Do you have any intentions for your teaching? Or parenting?

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.

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.”


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