Posted in Uncategorized

Will you adopt me?

This question has been haunting me all day. For some reason I had the occasion to tell (an edited version of) this story to my first period class at my previous school one morning. Then, I was again reminded of it as I talked with a student who sometimes calls me mom. Again, the question reared its head even while I watched TV with my husband this evening.

Will you adopt me?

She grew up in the islands off of the Bahamas. But what you don’t see on the cruise paths are the houses she grew up in and the men who paid her mom’s drug money so they could be with her, even as young as age seven–prostituted out for her mother’s drug money.

Their version of Child Protective Services eventually caught on. They sent her to the U.S. to live with her dad. He was a garbage man. Things were better. One day he didn’t come home from work; he’d been crushed in a work-related incident.

Her aunt lived in the U.S. as well. She was the only family left. But her aunt didn’t want her, and resented her, and they fought. They fought so much that her aunt turned her over to the state.

Enter foster care. Enter “high needs” placement. Enter a girl with such trauma that her problems and attitude were honestly understandable. Enter my classroom.

I’ve got a way with certain kids that other people have already given up on, or don’t understand, or don’t want to deal with. I’m not a kid whisperer, and not every kid “comes around”. But this young lady, she was one of the ones I was able to reach, even if for a short time.

I remember this moment so vividly. It happened in slow motion. I don’t remember what happened before it, or after it, but everything during this moment was so…. clear. I was teaching something. It was near the end of the school year. She looked at me and spoke up.

“Mrs. W., will you adopt me?”

The world stood still. I pictured a future where she was loved, and safe, and part of my family. I pictured us fighting. And driving to counseling. And hating each other with furious love. I shook myself back to reality, and I knew that I couldn’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t drag her back to my 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house and give her an air mattress while we crammed a fifth person into our home with a mom, a dad, two kids, two dogs, and now her, too. God, I wanted to. I clearly still want to. I went home that night and begged my husband, even though I knew in my heart that it couldn’t happen.

I tell this story partly because I’ll never forget it and partly because she isn’t the only kid I’ve loved this deeply. I love them all this way. I don’t want to take them all home, of course. But some of them break my heart. Some of them make me want to take them home and give them all the things they tell me in their journals that they don’t have.

Sometimes I think about how I can’t save the world. I’m just one person. And other times, I realize that I can save the world one kid, one class, one word or note or listening ear at a time.

I had a chemistry teacher that said:

We are all either infinitely significant or infinitely insignificant. You decide.

I’m deciding. 

-CL

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Posted in Spanish relapses, teaching

mija.

I was standing in line at the school cafeteria the other day. There was a student in front of me. The cafeteria server was asking the young girl to choose an option. From behind the serving line, I hear a familiar mantra: “this or that, mija”. Mija. Four years of elementary school lunches came rushing back with such force that I was nearly swept away with the flood.

There was a whole line of sweet women who knew me by name and took special care to make sure I had food on my plate. As I stopped for steak fingers, just before sliding her spatula away, she would whisper, “mija”. The next woman, presumably someone’s mother, too, would scoop a vegetable and repeat the word. “Mija”. I’d get mashed potatoes, and a roll, and then slide my tray and pass the last lady my lunch card. Mija. Mija. Mija. I remember the day that I worked up the courage to ask what it meant. And I remember the warm feeling of family that overcame me when the lady replied, “daughter”. This elementary school had a population of 97% Hispanic students. 1% Caucasian. For years, I had been one of the few people in the line who didn’t know the word, but had instead felt it.

Years later, I learned Spanish. In the family unit, we learned “hija”. I was confused, and lost, and I remember saying, “No.” I brought up the word. My teacher was kind enough to explain that mi hija shortened to mija because the first word and second word begin with the same sound. I was at home again.

I talk a lot of about the women who have mothered me in the absence of my own mother, but these women are different. My mother was alive and well during these years. My mom even subbed at my school. She spoke Spanish and knew these women. One of them was our neighbor across the street. These women represent motherhood in a different way, in the way that all of us do when we work at a school. Whether we whisper “mija” to a student while we guide her through the lunch line or we speak life or encouragement or correction to a child as we guide him through learning, these are the weighty tasks of a motherhood of sorts. And kids remember it. And it matters.

Posted in teaching, Uncategorized

Tag lines

This made my day today. Our superintendent gave us each our salary statements in Manila envelopes. Each envelope had a label. Each label has a tag line. She thought of a tag line for each teacher/ employee.

We have a small district. I’d guess we sit right at 20 employees total in the entire school DISTRICT. It is small and sweet. We are each well known one to another.

I have worked in small schools and districts before. I have attended tiny schools as a student. This is different. Very different. I can’t emphasize that enough.

-CL

Posted in classroom management, English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching

First day of school

I started a new teaching job. This year I’m teaching English, Spanish, and Theatre Arts at a small school. I’m mostly teaching 5th-8th grade, though I do have a specials rotation with 3rd abs 4th grade.

Every year I start my classes out basically the same way: students fill out info and goals sheets as bell work while I do first day attendance and housekeeping. Next, I do a basic introduction presentation and go over my syllabus. If there is time, we do the name game, and class promptly ends. Seven years. ~1000 kids.

This time, I did something different. Year 8 began with stations. I said hello, we made name tents, and off they went to 5 different stations. (1) student info and goal setting, #goals, (2) syllabus puzzle (using block posters) and syllabus quiz, (3) book tasting from my classroom library, (4) a reading survey, and (5) write a letter to yourself.

Doing something different has already changed everything about my class. I was able to teach my expectations by showing my students instead of telling them. They were able to experience my procedures for grouping and moving around the room. And, I got to see how and with whom they interact. It was a success.

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Writing

Last year, I attended some life changing writing trainings second semester. I get to start this year with all of that learning in mind. The best thing I learned is that I need to write when the students write. I’ve been doing that. We started our writing notebook with quick lists this week.

You can find awesome writing resources at bulbapp.com/shonarose2

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Teacher Rules

Teacher rules:

1.) you can turn ANYTHING into a game of Mexican Sweat.

2.) anything can be an excuse for students to get up and move

3.) anything can become an activity for fostering on topic small group talk.

4.) not everything has to be what it seems. Maybe instead of answering questions, kids are guessing questions based on their classmates answers.

5.) anything can be anything. Teachers decide if they are going to make it awesome or awful.

6.) extra work required: 2 min to cut out strips. Did it during passing period. #WorthIt

7.) the question on my head is a low level Q. But not all of them were. Low level Qs build confidence and provide cognitive breaks when kids have been working their brains hard. There is a reason I’m wearing this one and a student is wearing a question the length of a paragraph 👌🏼

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Wishlist…

Amy is a close friend of mine and a fellow educator. Who loves kids and families more than us? Please read her story and consider helping.

http://a.co/5kuVIVq

This Amazon wishlist is for my friend Any and her 5 foster kids!

On Thursday she was approved as a foster parent! 30 minutes later, she got her first emergency placement of FIVE (5) kids! Her heart is full… and now, so it her house and her car!!! Haha. She didn’t have any time to prepare for them, and since she was just approved, she had no supplies on hand. One reason this is so momentous for her is that Amy is a single foster parent and full time teacher with a car that only holds 4 kids! To say her hands are full is an understatement!

The kids are: twin boys age 5, Irish twins a boy and girl age 7, and another boy age 9!

They need some basics, and we can help lighten the burden for Amy while she coordinates school and appointments by purchasing from this list! All items will be shipped directly to her!

Underwear, socks, school uniform shirts, bedding, etc are priorities! There are also some basic toys listed as well! These kids care with the clothes they were wearing and backpacks… consider helping by purchasing from this list or sharing Amy’s amazing story! And, say a prayer for these babies and for Amy, and for the family from which they came. ❤️

Other ways to help:

PayPal: Amysoutherland@att.net

Facebook Fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1448490565254919/

Share her story!

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Just a thought…

I’m in a few EDU related FB groups. Every day I see at least one post saying “my evaluation is this week. What is a good lesson I can do?”

I understand that no one wants an evaluation on a day when they are testing or something, but in general, if you are doing a one-day horse-and-pony show for your evaluation…. a.) your admin will know. B.) your kids will know c.) it will flop d.) if you think that is how you should teach for an evaluation, you should probably be teaching that way every day. 

I’ll put my soap box away now… 

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

a little bitty star.

I want to reflect a little bit on last school year. It was hard, and I doubted myself a lot. I was a first year English teacher. I tried hard to project confidence. I really did. I comforted myself in the silence of the night by rocking back and forth and repeating “I taught Spanish Literature for college credit… I taught Spanish Literature for college credit.”   I had to force myself to believe that if I can get students to read 38 works of literature in one school year and earn college credit when they really didn’t want to do all that work… I could do anything, even this.

I started last school year with a post about all the reasons I could, and would do this job. But, for all the confidence I posted last year, each day and each month proceeded to break me a little bit more. Could I really do this? Were my kids learning? Would they pass their exam? In May when we got our results, I was elated and disappointed. If I’m honest, I was mostly disappointed. Our pass rates aren’t nearly what I am used to and what I expected. However, despite that, we improved by 10% or more in every category. I was bum-fuzzled to say the least. How do the kids improve in every. single. area. and still only the same number of them pass? I knew my kids had significant gaps… but hadn’t I worked to fill them all year long? Perhaps a school year isn’t enough time to fill years of gaps…

This summer I wracked my brain. I made changes. I beat myself up.

Then, in August, we got our State Accountability Ratings back. I was shocked to learn that our campus had earned a distinction in ELA / Reading. We only have 2 English teachers in our high school. Between the upper division teacher taking on and encouraging more dual credit students, and pushing them to earn credit, and the incredible reading / writing growth in my 9th and 10th graders… this is what I saw:

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 8.16.59 PM.png

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t cry. I cried. I freaked out. I jumped up and down a little.

Our campus only earned this one distinction this year. Although we are consistently considered one of the better schools in our area, the standards for this distinction are very, very high. Additionally, our campus has never, in the history of distinctions (since 2002), earned the ELA/ Reading distinction. 

This little star restored my hope and my confidence that what I am doing/ and did do works. This little star is actually a really big deal. This is the culmination of every crappy day last year, every email dealing with another parent unsure of my methods, every fight with a student, every doubt, and every kid/ parent/ colleague who occasionally thought I had fallen off my rocker.

This little star holds every student who came to school and pushed their limits in grades 9-12, every teacher/ coach/ sponsor who pushed literacy and writing techniques and encouraged kids to focus on school, and every parent who made their kid show up and buck up. This little star is the STARt of something big.

My home is Spanish, but my home away from home isn’t so bad after all. 

-CL