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Hit the Road, Jack

Dear Fred Jones,

I am writing this letter to inform you that I am ending our love affair.

Yes, I realize that we were only together for twelve weeks, but quite honestly, you have fulfilled your purpose, and I am no longer in need of your attention.

Our time together taught me many things.

1.  I will be more in control of the little realm I refer to as my “Queendom.”  No longer will I allow others (i.e. the teenagers who enter my realm) to take advantage of me and control my emotions.

2.  You taught me how to ward off attacks to my confidence with one single look…the Queen Victoria look…solid…without emotion…relaxed jaw in check.

3.  I learned the importance of “The Turn…” slow…toes pointed out…arms hanging behind my back…steady gaze.

4.  You taught me that it’s pointless to argue back with a person who’s set on putting forth his/her demands or objections.  Listening, with a straight yet unemotional face, while not defending or arguing back, is the way to go.

5.  You taught me the importance of helping kids to save face by not calling them out in front of their peers but by having steps in place to help them recognize and correct their behavior on the sly.

So thanks, Fred, for all that you contributed to our brief relationship.

I know it won’t be long before you find a replacement (or two) for me.

Though they don’t know it yet, I pray that they take to heart the lessons you so enthusiastically wait to bestow upon them.



I Wonder…

This has been another interesting week at school.

I had training on Tuesday…Classroom Management.  We did a not of fun activities and watched several clips of Harry Wong’s videos…

Little did I know how quickly I would call on the information and inspiration I had gleaned that day.

After I left training, I went back to my classroom and read the note from my substitute teacher.

It was not good.

At all.

This was the second time in as many weeks that I had received a bad report about my classes.

Something had to be done.

I decided that I needed to do some soul searching and, in the end, realized that my best course of action would be to refresh my students’ memories on classroom procedures.  The training I had received also brought to mind the fact that I had not created procedures for such things as moving around the classroom and how to act when a substitute is running the class.

I called my friend, Barb, and asked her advice.  She suggested that I offer some sort of reward for good behavior.  You see, my students would be having another sub on Thursday and Friday (it’s Thursday as I write this).

Smart idea!

So, I stayed up late, typed up my notes and new procedures, and went into class ready.

My students entered the classroom like they were about to face a firing squad.

Isn’t it funny how we know when we’ve let someone down, and we dread facing the consequences?

I surprised them, though, by not yelling at them.

I think this scared them.


I had a very frank talk with them, keeping things low-key and real.

We discussed procedures, and I explained what to do if a substitute was coming.  I even went so far as to apologize for not giving them enough credit to be told that they would be having a sub ahead of time.  Silly me had thought that they would be concocting wild and crazy schemes ahead of time.

Shhh…don’t burst my bubble.

What I did, in effect, was give them more responsibility along with the expectation that they would rise to the challenge.

Then, I told my students that I would be having a sub on Thursday and Friday.  Reading teachers had been tapped to administer FCAT retakes to juniors and seniors.  I offered up the incentive that the class with the lowest percentage of students’ names written down by the sub would get a party…provided by me…on Monday.  I even allowed them to vote on the food.  Two classes voted for pizza, and the other one voted for brownies and ice cream.

I’ll be busy on Sunday.

The rest of the class period was spent going over the instructions for a project students are completing to round up a unit of study.

I said a prayer as I closed my door late Wednesday afternoon…my classroom prepared with all of the supplies laid out.

I wondered, all morning as I administered the exam, if my words had left an impression.

After the testing, I popped my head into a school employee’s office.  She’s does a hodgepodge of things, including running the school’s positive behavior program.  She had some lesson plans that I wanted to look at, and we had a good chat in the process.

I shared my story about the talk about procedures with her, and she complimented me, saying that I seemed to have my act together.

I don’t know about that.

I’m still struggling…trying to figure out stuff.

Still, between the classroom training and her comments, I’d found myself wondering…what kind of teacher would I have been if I’d finished college on the traditional timeline…i.e. in my early 20’s?

Would I have been as patient?

Would I have been as discerning?

Would I have been as empathetic?

Would I have been as willing to learn more and tweak things if they didn’t work the first time?

I’m 41 years old.

This is only my second year of teaching.

Yet, I bring a plethora of real-world experience to the table.

I’m a mom.

I know kids.

Precisely because I’ve had kids, I know that I’m not perfect and have to eat crow often.

Such is teaching…reflection and revamping.

Would I have been willing to do this if I’d started twenty years earlier, or would I have taken the easy way out and blamed the students and/or the parents?

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I think there are some amazing 20-something year old teachers out there.  They’re young and energetic, and the profession needs that…heck, the students need that.

But for me, I think that I would have acted like a know-it-all and been a bit more unwilling to change.

So, in essence, I think I’ve answered my own questions.

In the end, I am reminded that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect.  He orders our lives with a purpose, and He uses our choices to groom us for reasons we may not understand at the time.

And I wonder…

What kind of teacher will I be like at the end of my career…

Time will tell.

Classroom Management 101

Forget Harry Wong…

Forget Fred Jones…

I have a rather unique classroom management strategy.

It goes something like this.

Spend the weekend out of town and return home only to apply makeup from your travel bag (if you’re a guy, you’ll have to improvise).

Go to school.

Watch as your energy-draining (I’m being very nice here) first period class walks in quietly, sits down, completes the bellwork on the overhead, and opens up their independent reading books…all WITHOUT being reminded.

Stand in amazement after you’ve tried almost every other trick in the books written by such illustrious education experts mentioned above, and think to yourself, “Boy, I seem to have things down pat.”

Listen as a student finally asks, “Mrs. AuburnChick [insert your own name here], are you sick today?”

Answer with the following, “No, why do you ask?”

To which you receive this response, “Because your eyes look kind of funny.”

Respond with a curious look on your face and the comment, “Really?”

Grab your mirror…only to discover that because you were living out of a makeup bag, you didn’t grab the eyeliner…thus your eyes look sunken in and sickly.

Hence, we have discovered a new way of managing the class:  look like you’re too sick to put much effort into disciplining.  The kids will feel sorry for you and will behave as they should.

Where’s a publisher.  I’m feeling the need to write a book and make millions.

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