Teacher Tales


Sometimes a teacher’s work seems to never end and, honestly, it keeps me from posting here as often as I might like.  At the same time, it provides me with endless joy and entertainment.  The last couple of days brought lots of laughter.

I teach 8th – junior English and Spanish 1 and 2.  This past Friday, Spanish 1 class became the site for lots of laughter.  We were practicing translating sentences from English to Spanish.  To date they have learned to say what they like, sentences about the weather, write about time, and to use the two “to be” verbs used in Spanish among other things.  Somehow in the process of describing a person using a variety of adjectives they have been taught, one of the students blurted out, ” I think old people are ugly.” I said, “So you think I am ugly?”  This caused a minor uproar with laughter and indignation.  In an attempt to make the situation better, he continued, “No, I mean people over 60.”  I repeated, “So you think I am ugly?”  By this time everyone was laughing, including me, protesting his attitude.  He started to try to wriggle out of that one when I pointed out that it might be better if he kept quiet.  He started to say something about wrinkles but that got shut down by the other students.

Just before all this,  his younger brother came into the classroom.  He is the student who wrote a page-long poem about my hair last year.  He said to his brother, “What is wrong with you?  She is beautiful.”  Then walked out of the room.

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By this time everyone was laughing and talking except the student who made the original remark about old people and a few were shouting at him about his awful attitude.  By the way, in case you do not know, the word for ugly in Spanish is feo or  fea, depending on whether you are describing a male or female.

This weekend I read 50 or so book reports.  One of them included this statement in response to the question, “What did you learn from this book?”  “I learned it is sometimes fun to be bad.” The student was referring to the book, “Tom Sawyer.”

I have no clue how to respond to that remark.

 

 

 

Appreciation


A few weeks ago it was Teacher Appreciation Week.  Several students brought me things, home made cookies, something orange–my favorite color, a gift certificate.  However, two notes written by the students themselves caught my eye.  One especially made me smile a lot.  Here they are:

“Thank you for improving my language skills and being such an amazing teacher.”

 

“Ms. Lightle

“Thank you for making all of us laugh every single day!  Your craziness and how you stay true to you, even when we say stupid things, and make you angry.  We have not known you for very long, but we hope we can keep you here at LEAST until we graduate!”

Love, ”

I do not think I am one speck funny.  However, for years now, students keep telling me I am super funny.  I have no idea what I do to make them think this, but guess it does not matter.

 

It is a beautiful spring day, exceptionally green for the Panhandle of Texas.  Papers are graded. Now,  I am going to read, cook cod with lemon and fennel, feed horses, and watch the moon rise.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

My Hair–a Student Poem


Recently, my students read a poem where the eggs in a carton expressed terror at being removed by human hands and a Pablo Neruda poem about his socks–hand made, blue wool with a golden thread running through them.  Their assignment was to also write a 20 line poem about something ordinary which they love or appreciate. One student wrote about my hair.

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New Adventure: A New Teaching Job


Monday I went to my new job, finished decorating my new room with a few posters, a giant puma drawing from one of my former students, and an old National Geographic photo of a giant redwood tree with several men stationed at varying heights.  This year I will be teaching English Language Arts to grades 7-10, a writing class, and Spanish 1 and 2.  The 7th and 8th graders will be a new experience.  However, several have already come by to meet me, chat, hang out.  Hard to knock that for starters. It is a nearly new building out in the country surrounded by fields and pasture with a feed lot down the road–ranching country where rodeo is a major activity.

On the east side of my classroom a giant window takes up 1/3 of the wall.  A small section of the window even opens.  Twice I have opened it and listened to the birds singing outside. The window sill can hold several plants because it is long and at least one foot wide. Plant shopping occurs this weekend. Students begin next week.

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No Offense by Esther Nelson


This blog will be of special interest to university professors and anyone who teachers in a college or public school at a higher level or those concerned about the state and future of education.

What a pleasant surprise to become acquainted with Samar Habib when she appeared on my newsfeed the other day.  According to her biography, she “is a writer, researcher and scholar” as well as “[a] tireless advocate of human rights.” She is also “an expert of international standing on Gender and Sexuality in the Arab world, with unparalleled publications on same-sex love and desire among women and the juncture of Islam and homosexuality.”  The Ted Talk I stumbled upon, titled “Let the Scholar Speak, Even if it Scares You,” explores the modern university’s difficulty navigating that murky space between academic freedom (based on scholarship and inquiry) and giving offense (based on fear of decimating a student’s belief system).

Samar is Palestinian, raised in a secular, but nominally Christian, household.  Initially, her research focused on the study of sex and gender in the Arab world and gradually incorporated the more specific…

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Why Teachers Suck …


I was going to write a nice little poem for my blog post today but instead decided this was more important to post. As I teacher, I can verify the veracity of this post. In some ways it may be a little easier for me because I teach mostly seniors in high school who are somewhat self sufficient but many still get free or reduced lunches, some are homeless or drift from one friend to another since thrown out of their own house, some work so late they can barely stay awake in class, some self medicate because no one can afford the meds they need. Most graduate in spite of this. How? Because the school and teachers go to great lengths doing everything imaginable to help them succeed, e.g. online programs, extra time, alternative assignments. Why do I continue to teach? I love teenagers; I never have a boring day; I work hard to make a difference; I think public education is the foundation for a working republic, for this country to flourish and succeed.

Bert Fulks

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one question:  “How has education…

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Cheating, Stealing


The story that follows keeps running through my mind, disturbing my inner peace.  It occurred several weeks ago while I worked.  As a teacher I take plagiarism seriously.  Repeatedly, I explain that it is cheating and ultimately a form of stealing.  Yes, stealing.  When students cheat, copy another’s work whether from some famous author or from the student by them, they are stealing from that person, and in reality cheating themselves, cheating themselves from learning what may have proven to be valuable information or a needed skill later in life.

Several weeks ago, a former, talented student asked to observe my classes as part of his assignment from a college class.  He sat in on a couple of classes, many of the students already knew him, and I explained his purpose in being there.  At the end of the day, while we chatted about the past and his excellent grades when he attended my English class, he informed me that he frequently writes not only his own papers but also the papers for another student, who was also a former student and perfectly able to write decent papers himself.  He told me that the student for whom he writes these papers pays him either with money or beer.  Too astonished to adequately respond, I kept silent.   However, this continues to haunt me, not only because my opinion of the student plummeted but also because he plans to be a coach and teacher himself.  Will he later realize the unacceptability of his behavior, how unethical and immoral?  Will he change when he becomes a teacher himself?

I also remain unhappy with myself for not saying something to him immediately.  My shock really is not an excuse.  I now promise myself that if I do see him again soon, I will definitely explain my dismay and sadness with his story.  I also wonder why he told me?  Regardless, I worry for the future if this is the type of person who will replace current teachers.  I also wonder how many current teachers find this sort of behavior normal, acceptable.

Contemplations, High School Seniors–May 18


Rarely do I go ten days without posting on my blog.  I teach English IV in high school.  Most people think students want to graduate, will do what it takes to do so.  Such is not always the case.  Ten days ago, at the time of my last post, at least ten per cent of my senior class members did not have passing grades.  When the school looked at all classes, including math, the percentage hit 47.  Hard to believe, I know.  After nearly harassing students about missing papers and their grade, emailing parents, and hunting students down during other classes and the hallways to remind them, I am down to only a few not passing.

Several types of students exist, including those who work hard and care no matter what, those who think a miracle will occur and they will pass no matter what, and those who really do not care all that much and think whatever, it won’t matter.  Today we had Senior Day.  As a teacher delegated to go, I spent from 8 to 4 with nearly 90 students between the ages of 17 and 19.  All the above groups presented themselves to jump endlessly at a trampoline club and later at the local university athletic center to engage in the activity of choice.

Some students demonstrate the social ability to move from group to group comfortably.  Others, like several young women with whom I walked, exercised on various machines, and then played racket ball, feel comfortable chiefly with close, at least somewhat serious friends.

This leads me to contemplate what creates career success in life.  Social dexterity helps as does a decent work ethic.  Intelligence matters also.  The more adept combine all these.  Is it possible to find success if these are lacking?  It depends on the chosen career and what the individual wants to achieve.

Last year some of the smartest students, especially females, made choices that in the short run cut off their academic life.  Some are working, some waiting for a baby to be born.  Several who demonstrated less academic acuity in high school have finished their first year of college quite successfully.  Some of their choices continue to mystify me.

Yesterday, a freshman commented to a senior that freshmen year does not matter much.  The senior, who does have ambitious college plans, immediately corrected the freshman.  He expressed regret at not taking high school more seriously sooner.  It does matter.  Choices a student makes as young as 14 and 15 can affect the rest of his or her life.

The question I keep thinking is this:  how do I as a teacher help them make wise decisions?  The literature we read aptly demonstrates the effects of both good and bad decisions.  Does that help?  How many will only learn through life’s hard lessons?

 

Note:  Four female students who do care walked into my classroom yesterday and presented me with a red rose bush ready for planting.  I will plant it this weekend.

 

 

 

 

Thursday’s Thoughts on Moths and Teaching Teenagers


It started around 4.  I was awakened by the sound of soft, rather indescribable thuds against my bedrooms windows.  Half asleep, at first I thought it was rain, opened my eyes, saw stars staring at me.  Floating in and out of sleep, my mind puzzled as the thuds increased making it impossible to return to comfortable sleep.  Finally, awake, I swung my feet around from under the covers, pushed sandals on, walked to the French doors, and turned on the outside light.  Horrified, I watched thousands of dark brown, one inch moths flying around, hitting the windows, dropping to the patio floor, rising again, over and over.  I shut off the light, went back to bed, drifted into a troubled slumber, and experienced one of those ludicrous dreams only half remembered–people I know and do not know all mixed together in impossible situations.  At 5:19, I gave up on any hopes of sleep, climbed out of bed again, and began the early morning ritual of preparing to go to work.

When I arrived at work, a note lay on my desk from yesterday’s substitute teacher.  It indicated that all classes but one, the last one, behaved ok and completed the assigned work.  However, it specifically stated that a number of the males in the last class took papers from previous classes and copied them, never even opening the book to attempt pretending to read the assigned story. Did they think he would not notice?  Did they think at all? Were they like the moths, flying mindlessly, not caring about the outcome?

When that class arrived, I read them the note.  Some denied it, some said nothing.  The females, absent on a field trip, were blamed for “ratting us out”.  It seemed they did not realize this was a sort of confession.  How any of them think I will not know about their transgressions mystifies me.  Repeatedly this year, I caught them plagiarizing, lying, and various other forms of cheating, not everyone of course but sometimes half.  I find it increasingly disturbing how many students find this sort of behavior acceptable.  What do their parents teach them?  Where do they get that “wrong” behavior is fine as long as you do not get caught?  Do they even think it is wrong?  Most admit it is thankfully, but why keep engaging in wrong behavior?  Somehow I keep hoping they will learn from these experiences, but other times I really wonder.  What can I do to help them realize just how wrong cheating is, how it is a form of stealing?  In the end, perhaps, I can only hope that the life lesson mentioned in the words of one student solves the problem:  “Karma’s a bitch.”