Root Canal

I am getting a root canal tomorrow, and I can't wait. I know, it sounds crazy, but my students seem to have plotted against me to be major pills today. It is interesting because I know that they are not plotting against me. The truth, and I think it is a difficult truth for some teachers (especially me) to accept, is that I simply did not plan a good lesson today, and I am not doing well in the classroom management area. It is really frustrating, because I should be doing better. And I know that I can and have done better. I have always found that if I know why I am failing in a certain area, it is easier to deal with. It is easier to realize that it may just be a fluke. It is easier to realize what I need to improve on. The really amazing thing about today is that one of my most troublesome and rebellious students actually did the work today and did very well.

Irony and Punishment

Today, my students wrote five paragraph essays on a subject of their choice. They had to write two essays. Let me back up. One of my students has been throwing paper into the trash can like basketball. He and some other kids got really into it and it got out of control. I asked them to stop many times but this kid repeated the same thing every day. So, yesterday, he started it up again, and I said, "You better not let that leave your hand!" Of course, he did just that. I grabbed a referral and wrote it out. He was not stoked to get a referral. But, instead of handing in the referral, I waited and thought about what to do.

If my students did not want to come up with their own topics for the essays, I gave them two ideas. First, they could talk about students who get in trouble should have to do manual labor for a punishment instead of detention, where they just sit there and "think about what they have done". Their second option was to write about whether teachers should be allowed to show PG-13 and R rated movies in school. Many students chose those. Curiously enough, I decided to make this student who was throwing stuff come into my room for lunch detention and pick up all the pieces of paper on the floor (I made sure my room was extra messy). I got that ready for him in my prep period, 4th, and he came sauntering in 5th period (and, I think he was happy that he had not been pulled out of class yet by the vice principals; he probably thought all was forgiven and forgotten). When I sat down to grade his essay today, I was very shocked to read his introduction:

"Some people believe that instead of detention or suspension the students' punishment should be labor. I think that we should not do labor and that those people are wrong. First, labor is not part of a school situation for punishment. Second, labor's not something you should do in school. Third, if you're going to do that, you might as well send them to DT"

The really great thing is that he had one more class before lunch and so he had time to think about that, and then he actually had to do the chore. It was great. You cannot buy opportunities like that. By the way, I guess that DT is something that is like jail, but not entirely.
Okay, I fixed the comment moderating. I didn't know that I set it up that way. Sorry, sheesh!

One of my students suggested that I hide a dollar in the mess, and tell my students that if they find it, they get to keep it. Well, I thought about it and decided that they would probably make a bigger mess. I asked my last class if they would clean it up, and they all did it without complaining. They didn't have a problem. I didn't have to do anything.

The Vicious Cycle

Some of my students don't have very good lives. Low-income, low self-esteem, low expectations for themselves. It is tragic. It hurts me to see it. One of my students today refused to do any work because she is having a bad week. Sadly, this happens 2-3 times a week and so it has become a bad habit. I had my own struggles growing up and finding out who I was. The thing that my students do not understand is that they can change, both their lives and their situation. They need an advocate and someone on their side. Most importantly, they need education. Education can change their lives in ways they cannot even dream of. If they want to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty, they need education. It is their best key at getting out. They live in a cycle that drags them down and once they are in it, the task of getting out is overwhelming.

My sister spoke about another cycle that is difficult to get out of. Once you get upset or mad, it is so much easier to stay upset and mad than it is to be happy and positive. Usually, you need someone to educate you about how to be a better person to be able to pull yourself out of it. I believe that we all have a little bit of godliness in us. We have absolute power inside of us, but we need to find a way to tap into that. In my sister's case, the staff at her doctor's office taught her how to tap into that. For my students, I (and every teacher) needs to be that one person that can help them tap into their powerful reserves. They have the potential in them, but it is easier for them to continue in their vicious cycle than to strive to change their surroundings.

I will be forever indebted to my sister, Andrea, and her husband, Jason, for lighting that light in my mind. They provided the strong hand that I needed to guide me out of my painful choices and on to the road that I am on now. I am truly happy. I did not get here on my own, and I can only pay back those who helped me by helping others who need someone like them. Hopefully, I can be the kind of teacher that inspires and uplifts students to reach for the stars and go beyond.


I am trying to teach my 9th and 7th grade students about organization. Sometimes the best example is the null example. So, when my students came into class, they were greeted with a giant mess. The desks were strewn all over the place, and there was paper all over the floor. The really great thing was that they were not expecting anything like this. I am really particular about how the desks are organized and they were blown away that the desks were strewn all about the room.

My tardy policy is that students must be in their seats when the tardy bell rings to be considered on time. So, with one minute left in the passing period, I let them into a room where their desks were strewn all over the place. Obviously, only one or two students were able to get in their seats in the right place. So, most students got a tardy. Later in class, I reorganized the desks how they should be and told them they could remove the tardies if they all were in their seats in less than a minute. They all did well with that, and nobody received a tardy. We talked aobut how it was easier to find your desk and be on time when the room is organized how it should be. They seemed to understand that well.

They needed to come up with five reasons why organization is important in writing. They mostly did well on that. One student had a really interesting idea: your writing should be organized to help save wildlife. He said that the wildlife is saved because when you are organized you don't waste as much paper restating what you already said, and your rewrites are more apprpriate and you don't need to rewrite as much. Although he was trying to be a smart-alleck, he did make a good point when he was pressured to continue developing that thought.

The reason the floor is so messy is because I passed out their papers by throwing them in the air. They could, if they wanted, get their papers from the floor and some of them tried, but it was very difficult to find them when they were not organized.

The lesson ended with them trying to organize themselves for getting into their seats within 30 seconds. Only one class made it in that short time. The others were not able to organize themselves at all. So, it appears that there are still struggles to overcome, but hopefully, it made an impression on at least some of them.

About this Blog

I am 2nd year teacher of 7th grade language arts in Utah. I also am enrolled in the Executive Leadership program offered through Brigham Young University. I see this blog as an opportunity and place where I can express my feelings and thoughts. It will allow me to reflect on the things that happen to me. It is a place where I can put my ideas where they will hopefully never go away. As I said in my very first post, I hope that it will be beneficial for me and at least one other person.

Have a good life.