An Amazing Perk of Teaching – Outdoor Ed!

This past week, several teachers from Trinity School took 68 Fifth Graders up to Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA for the first our yearly overnight trips.

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We call these Outdoor Ed – outdoor education. The Fifth Grade takes two trips each year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Sixth Grade also takes two trips, but they take on a different tone. This post is not about Sixth Grade though. Outdoor Ed is pretty much exactly what its name indicates – education classes that take place outdoors. The students rotated in groups through six different classes; the climbing wall, canoeing, two low ropes challenge courses, ceramics, and horseback riding. It is a time for team building and coming together as a grade level. Coach Brian is the trip coordinator and he instructs the students to think in terms of, “We, not me. What is going to be best for the group rather than what will be best for me.”

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Just Like Starting Over

 

(Full Disclosure – this post has nothing to do with John Lennon’s song of the same title. I was hoping it would, but not happening. On with the post…)

Here at Trinity School, we are always striving to increase our ability to help our students. One of the main ways this happens is through the professional development (PD) that Trinity offers. Our PD is meaningful and impacting.

This is my third year at Trinity, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that I have grown more professionally in those three years than in the 18 I was in public school. That statement is hard to believe, I imagine. I am sure that you may even think that I am employing hyperbole, but I honestly think it is a true statement.

I have mentioned in a previous post that we are not only expected to continue to grow as a teacher, but it is encouraged. Opportunities abound for teachers and staff members to explore areas and techniques that will benefit us in the classroom, but also in areas of our own personal growth. The administration knows that when we are taking care of ourselves, stretching our minds, learning new things, we will be more effective in the classroom, and ultimately that is our main goal. To become the best  that we can be in the classroom so that our students will get the absolute best education they can while they are at Trinity.

So, how does that tie into the title of this post? That would be the recent addition of the concept of mini-lessons to the classroom. What is a mini-lesson? From the Web Site, Teacher Vision, “A mini lesson is a short lesson with a narrow focus that provides instruction in a skill or concept that students will then relate to a larger lesson that will follow. A mini lesson typically precedes reading workshop or writing workshop, but it can serve as an introduction to a social studies, science, or math lesson.”

I have always been a whole-group teaching kind of teacher. I have relied on my ability to hold my students’ attention through my kinetic personality and delivery as well as finding ways to help the students connect to the lesson. I think I have been successful at this, but after learning about mini-lessons and seeing this approach from some of my co-workers I have made a decision that it will benefit my students more if I adopt this method as well. It is a big change in teaching styles and one that I am attempting to make this year.

Two critical factors in successfully implementing the mini-lesson strategy are keeping the lessons short and concise and the conferencing that occurs with individual students while the remainder of the class is independently working. I’m not necessarily known for being one to get directly to the point. My students learn that pretty quickly. I am learning to cut down my delivery to the very essence of the lesson I am introducing or teaching to the class. Doing so will help to ensure that the engagement of the students will be held. One on one conferencing takes time, practice and a very different approach than a whole-group style of teaching. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not a quiet person, but in order to not distract the other students, I am going to need to find use my inside voice.  I have one, I just don’t use it very often. Learning to be unobtrusive as I make my way around the classroom to confer with students is something that I can see may be another challenge for me.

Luckily, I have the knowledge that challenges make me rise to the occasion. I have 20 years of experience in education. I have so many tools in my toolbox (teacher lingo, y’all). Most importantly, I have the support of an awesome administrative team and co-workers who will help me with this challenge. Their encouragement, advice, and observations will guide me along this path to taking my teaching to a new level.

To top it off, I am inviting my administrators and colleagues in my class to watch me this year as I am starting over. Robert Kaplinsky has issued the #ObserveMe Challenge, a chance for teachers to invite others in to observe them in the moment and look for specific feedback on different goals the teacher lists on a sign outside the classroom door:

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I am excited about this and a little nervous. As I said, it is a big change for me, but one that I know will be beneficial for my students, and above all else, as a teacher, I want to be the very best I can for my students. (Maybe I should have had a David Bowie song in my head?)

What challenges are you facing and what goals have you set for yourself this school year? I’d love to hear from you on these topics.

 

Current Favorites (fka Top 10 List)

The Cheeps

These chickens. They’re known as The Cheeps here at the Benefield Homestead. Each year Trinity School kindergarten students hatch chicks. Lots and lots of chicks. Since our last chicken experiment didn’t end up like we had planned we decided to start from scratch. I brought 5 chicks home so they could be with us and get used to us (and all the other animals) and hopefully stick around with us instead of flying the coop. Literally. We spend time with The Cheeps every day so as they get older they will not run away from us like crazy chickens, even though that’s what they are. The two white ones and Tina, the caramel colored one seem to get that idea. The two black/gray ones, not so much. It has been fascinating watching them grow. We think that one of them is developing into a rooster – the black/gray one with the growing comb on its head – that we will give to a rooster-friendly home before he starts to crow.  As summer goes on look for updates and pictures.

Keeping Kids in Motion

I have the great fortune to work at a school with some amazing PE teachers.One of them, Justin Cahill, blogs regularly about exactly what the blog is titled, Keeping Kids in Motion.
He also has a Facebook group under the same name. It currently has 921 members! People from all over submit articles, videos, and pictures of games, ideas, thoughts, questions and more dedicated to helping keep our kids, our students, ourselves active. I love his passion and dedication.

May 28 – August 7

It’s summer break, y’all! It’s awesome. I am so thankful to have this time off. I know there are some teachers that like to say that summer break has nothing to do with their decision to teach. I have no time for that. Of course, it’s not the main reason to get into teaching, but to deny that time off as an absolute reason to celebrate? Come on! This summer break I am trying something new – New Directions! I’ve made a two lists: Things I Need to Do and Things I Want to Do. Unlike years in the past when I’ve made lists of things to get done over summer, this time, I’ve included plans for getting them done. Now, I am sure that not all of them will get done, but this past school year with the help and advice of my department supervisor I started making lists of daily goals to accomplish, so I have somewhat of a habit going. To many of you this may seem like it’s common sense, well, to me it’s still a new thing. The whole planning thing has never been a strength of mine, so I’m trying to develop a new habit.

Summer Swim Season

Both of The Girls swim during summer league. Coco swims year around, but Ramona has several other sports going on, so we give her a break. I absolutely love summer swim season! I understand that it’s easy for me to love it because it’s not me going to practice and exerting all that energy, but I love it nonetheless. I have many, many great memories of my years of swim team summers. The first meet is tomorrow! TOMORROW! And sadly, Coco potentially has strep throat and Ramona is out of town on a choir tour with our church. That’s okay! We have the whole month of June for other meets. I love cheering on all of the swimmers, not just The Girls. Seeing young people with amazing strokes and skills is very exciting. I have seen some amazing swimmers over the past 8 years that The Girls have been swimming. We are at a new pool this year, so a whole new batch of swimmers to cheer on!

Good Music

The Avett Brothers, “Ain’t No Man”

JR JR, “Gone”

The 1975 – “Love Me”

Fitz and the Tantrums, “HandClap

The Lumineers, “Ophelia

Podcasts

I have spoken before about how I like to listen to music a lot. I still do, clearly. However, I have recently started listening to some podcasts on my way to work in the morning, and I have to say they have been very enlightening and entertaining. Glitter Queen requests me to put some on her Nano, so I have gotten some from her. Here are a few that I’ve been listening to:

  • This American Life
  • Nerdist
  • Freakonomics
  • The Way I Heard It
  • Nerdette

Freakonomics just recently had a whole month to learning to be more productive. I don’t know if there could have been a more opportune time for me to listen. (I think GQ might have requested those on purpose so I’d get hooked into them) I probably will go back and re-listen to one or two of them because sometimes it is a lot to take in at once.

Trinity School

I have just finished my second year at Trinity School. It was another phenomenal school year. It was a very challenging personal year, but my class, their parents, my teacher team, the administration, and everyone else at Trinity really helped me through a tough time. I continue to grow professionally and personally. I am excited about training opportunities coming up, and equally excited about the upcoming group of students that I will get to spend time with next school year. I am so fortunate to be part of a great school community.

So, there you go, that’s what I’m into now. It’s not 10 things this time. Maybe I’m narrowing my focus a little bit. It tends to be wide-ranging and makes it easy for me to get distracted. Hopefully, this shorter list will help me stay on task a little better this summer.

How about you? What’s good with you right now?

 

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge – Students’ Posts

class photo 2

The kids of Team Benefield have been doing a nice job of keeping up with the daily challenges. They aren’t writing as much as I had hoped, but they are doing it, and they are willing to share it with me. I’ve picked 3 topics to share some of their responses: 5 Problems w/ Social Media, 10 Interesting Things About Me, and A Place I Would Live, Even Though I Haven’t Ever Visited.

It’s interesting to note that many of them think that social media accounts are open and available for everyone to see. It was a reoccurring idea in the 5 Problems post. I will have to make sure they know they can change the privacy settings, but of course, since they aren’t 13 they don’t have one. (Uhhh…right)

5 Problems w/ Social Media

Andrew 

  1. It’s not always private
  2. Someone that you don’t know can look at your pictures or posts
  3. You can get hacked
  4. You can get tracked down
  5. Some things are inappropriate

Claire 

  1. Too much time posting so kids don’t do HW
  2. Posting and seeing inappropriate things
  3. Anyone can see your posts
  4. People can track you down
  5. Kids download without parents knowing

Marshall 

  1. You can do things you don’t mean
  2. People can get mad at you
  3. It can be dangerous
  4. You can be stalked
  5. It can be awkward

Finn 

  1. Hackers can hack you
  2. Inappropriate pictures
  3. Inappropriate comments
  4. Forgetting password
  5. Anyone can read your stuff

Grayson 

  1. Wasting time
  2. You can lie about your age
  3. Inappropriate pictures
  4. Sharing personal information
  5. Sharing someone’s picture when they don’t want it seen

Katrina 

  1. Anyone can see everything you post
  2. Some people post inappropriate things
  3. People can trace you
  4. People get addicted
  5. Strangers can track you

Kiki 

  1. Anyone can do anything and not get caught
  2. Inappropriate stuff can be posted
  3. No parental controls
  4. Nosy people stalking you
  5. MAPOTI!

Audrey 

  1. Instagram – it’s a good idea but random ppl can create a fake name and act nice, but they could be a weird murderer
  2. Snapchat – random people can see ur story
  3. Accounts can get hacked
  4. Ppl use it to bully or be mean
  5. Ppl can track you

Lawton 

  1. People insult
  2. Post inappropriate things
  3. Leave footprints
  4. People hack other people’s accounts
  5. People spend too much time

 

10 Interesting Things

Finn 

  1. I play PS4
  2. I like cats
  3. I play tennis
  4. I have a sister
  5. I am neighbors Mellow Mushroom
  6. I wear glasses
  7. My eyes are blue
  8. My favorite color is green
  9. I have a cat named Pete
  10. I have a cat named Poggi

Marshall 

  1. I collect lots of memorabilia
  2. I have over 100 stuffed animals
  3. Ketchup is my favorite food
  4. My favorite movie is a lot of the Star Wars movies
  5. My dad and I enjoy watching the Red Sox
  6. My favorite player is David Oritz
  7. I enjoy volunteering
  8. My favorite subject is social studies
  9. I dislike hot dogs, especially at Yankee Stadium
  10. I love hockey!

Claire 

  1. I have 2 cats
  2. I can now swallow a pill
  3. I play tennis tournaments
  4. I have curly hair
  5. I wear glasses
  6. I didn’t apply out
  7. I am allergic to carrots
  8. I suck at golf
  9. I love tennis
  10. I want to go to Woodward

Andrew 

  1. I play baseball
  2. I have a pool
  3. I have two sisters
  4. My middle name is Michael
  5. I play football
  6. I play basketball
  7. I have been at [this school] since I was three
  8. I don’t have a pet
  9. My mom is a substitute
  10. I like golf

Katrina 

  1. I’m allergic to Iodine
  2. I hate vegetables
  3. I’m allergic to dead bugs
  4. I’m lactose intolerant
  5. I love white chocolate
  6. I love Reese’s cups
  7. I don’t like to brush my hair
  8. I love the Beatles
  9. I love to listen to old songs
  10. I love to listen to Spanish songs

Lawton 

  1. I own two guitars
  2. I like Star Wars
  3. I have an electric car
  4. My birthday is tomorrow
  5. I’m going to Galloway next year
  6. I have an Ipad Pro
  7. I love to draw
  8. My Dad’s b-day is the day after mine
  9. I have my own theories about Dinosaurs
  10. I found a coin from Trinidad and Tobago in my Backyard

Kiki 

  1. I take college courses
  2. I am German and Polish making me a “Peace child”
  3. My initials are MAD
  4. My cats have nerdy names, Saturn and Spocky
  5. I am ambidextrous
  6. I am going to Zanzibar
  7. I went on a plane at 4 months
  8. I’m livin’ by the river
  9. 97 year-old piano teacher
  10. My eyes change with the seasons

Audrey 

  1. I have 2 dogs
  2. I have 1 turtle
  3. I play softball
  4. I have brown hair
  5. I applied out
  6. I have a sister
  7. I play basketball
  8. I like climbing trees
  9. I’m a lefty
  10. I like ice cream

Grayson 

  1. I love to bake
  2. I am allergic to peaches
  3. I’m pretty (according to Claire)
  4. I wear glasses 😕
  5. I also wear contacts 😊
  6. I like fruits and veggies
  7. My eyes are hazel
  8. I’ve worn glasses for 3 years
  9. I’ve had braces before
  10. I am a UK fan

Where would you live even though you’ve never been there?

Andrew  – I would want to live in California, or the Bahamas, or Great Britain

Claire B- New York City!

Marshall  – I would live in Fiji

Finn  – I would live in Hawaii even though I have never been to it

Grayson C- I would live in the Galapagos Islands. There are so many cool creatures and the water is beautiful!

Audrey  – I would live in Dubai because I’ve heard the buildings are awesome

Kiki – I would live in Australia in a heartbeat

Lawton – Australia

Katrina – I would live in Australia even though I’ve never visited it

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 3 – Your Favorite Toy or Stuffed Animal

Your favorite toy or stuffed animal; why is it your favorite? When did you get it?

G.I. Joe – A Great American Hero

Look at that guy up there. He’s ready for action. He’s ready for duty. He’s G.I. Joe and he was my favorite toy growing up. I had a lot of action figures growing up. When I say, “a lot”, I mean, seriously,  A LOT.  Lots of G.I. Joes (you have to type the whole thing, you can’t just shorten it to “Joe”), lots of superheroes, characters from Planet of the Apes, S.W.A.T., and Star Trek, Action Jackson, He-Man, and one I had forgotten about until a week or so ago, Big Jim.

The Aquabats – Playdough (I know the title is “Playdough”, but it’s all about action figures. It makes perfect music to go along with this post.

I spent most of my time playing with these action figures. Inside, outside, everywhere. I started getting them for Christmas when I was probably 5. I thought 3 at first, but I went and looked at old photo albums and 5 seems to be more actual.

I would take them to any of my relatives’ houses when we visited. I had some friends that I would take them to, but mostly they stayed at home if I was at a friend’s. Besides, everyone knows that someone else’s toys are always better.

Why is G.I. Joe my favorite? To be honest it’s because he is the one that I have left. Years ago my dad brought over no less than 5 plastic totes full of my childhood toys. They were getting ready to  move, so, “Here you go, Son. Here’s your childhood.” It was amazing to see them all. When my dad went off to college his mother, Grandmother Benefield from yesterday’s entry, threw out all of his toys with the exception of a dual prop passenger plane and a toy typewriter. I think my dad didn’t want that to happen to my brother and me, so he saved it. All of it. So much stuff.

Anyway, I couldn’t keep all of it. At the time, I didn’t want to keep all of it. But how do I get rid of it without just taking it to Goodwill? How will I know if the Human Torch will end up in the right hands? The Glitter Queen came up with a great idea (as she often does). Invite some students that you know are into comics, sci-fi, etc and have a private garage sale. I did. It was FANTASTIC. I had all the toys laid out and I could go around with the kids (who are juniors in college now) and let them know what accessories go with what action figure. At the end of the day, the stuff that had sold the least was G.I. Joe. I had a big bag of figures left, a big bag of uniforms and accessories. I guess the kids just weren’t into him. <SIGH>

So, I searched through all the accessories and the uniforms and found a set of matching combat boots (harder than it sounds), a rifle, shoulder-holstered pistol, a canteen, and a utility belt. This G.I. Joe didn’t suffer from hair loss or having a mask drawn over his eyes as others in my collection had. He was just about perfect. He IS just about perfect. His joints are a little loose now, because as I mentioned above, I played with my toys. They weren’t there to just look out from a box at me. Now that he’s served his time he has been retired to a shelf above my head right now as I type these words. I get him down every now and again for memories’ sake. He’s been involved in our Elf on the Shelf shenanigans in the past, and probably will be in the future, too.

I spent countless hours playing with those action figures. Countless happy, unstructured, imaginative hours. They were awesome!

What’s your favorite toy or stuffed animal?

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 1

social media

  • source – http://hivechicago.org/portfolio/social-media-working-group/

I gave my students a 30-Day Writing Challenge today. I have asked them to do this just to get them writing some each day. I know that some will do the very bare minimum that they can get away with. I also know that some of them will dive right into it. I will be randomly choosing students from my bag of Luck, Chance and Fate to share their thoughts. I am attempting to complete this challenge as well, and I will be sharing some of my entries with my students to let them see that I am taking part in it, not just giving them an assignment.

Day 1 – 5 Problems With Social Media

  1. Too many kids don’t understand the permanence of it.
    • I have two Facebook accounts. I started my second because former students used to find me and friend request me. I’m not embarrassed of anything that I post, but I’m an adult with adult friends who sometimes don’t have the same judgment I do when I ‘m sharing, and I don’t want to be responsible for exposing them to something that an adult friend may post. So, a separate account for former students. I can’t tell you the number of pictures I have seen of my former students engaging in…inappropriate activities for their age as well as pictures that will live forever on the Internet.
    • To be a 13-year old girl on social media
  2. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on it.
    • I have a problem with it. I do. I know this. I have gotten better than I used to be. It’s mostly Facebook and Tumblr that are my big problems. In the past year, I went through and unfollowed a long list of sites from my Tumblr account b/c I was spending too much time on it. It’s a rabbit hole, and I fell down it every single time.  What I try to do now is scroll through once, and if there isn’t anything that really catches my attention, or leads me to an article to read, get up and move away from the computer. It used to be (and sometimes still is, truth be told) too easy to just refresh again and again and hope for something new. I want to add that this is at home at the end of my day when I’m tired and sitting in my desk chair is MUCH easier than getting up and doing something productive.
    • b5cef-crackbook
  3. Too many parents aren’t aware of what their children are doing on it.
    • This ties into #1, but there’s more. I have current students who are on social media now. That would be fine except that I teach 5th-grade and 5th-graders are 10 and 11 years old and to have an account on almost all (if not all) social media sites you are supposed to be 13. I spoke about my laziness in #2 (ha, ha #2), but the laziness of letting children on social media without monitoring it is a big concern of mine. That being said, these are parents making choices about their children, not mine. GQ and I just offered our 14-year old an Instagram account this past December, and she declined. Our 11-year old can’t wait to get on, but wait she will. That’s how we roll.
    • Unaware Parents
  4. The people that say that it’s useless
    • I have no time for those people that don’t see the use of social media. I get a little annoyed and a little sad when I read an article that says how social media does more to separate than bring together. It depends on how you use it. I find the opposite to be true. I have made connections with people through social media that I would not have made otherwise. I have been fortunate enough to make some very good friends through social media also. I am a part of no less than six groups on Facebook. Each group centers around a specific thing that I am interested in, and discussions there are entertaining, sometimes enlightening, and help me connect with friends in a variety of ways. Social media is what you make it. It can be a drain, it can be a bridge, it can introduce you to new people and new music, books, ways of thinking, movies, and more.
    • Debate – Has Social Media Made Us Less Social
  5. When it is used to bully and intimidate.
    • Unfortunately, there is a part of social media that is a haven for people who treat others horribly. I don’t know if it’s that you can say whatever you want about a person or an idea without saying directly to another person’s face, or something else. I have read more articles than I care to number about teenagers getting bullied so extremely that they have taken their own life. I can’t think of anything to say about that except that it is beyond sad. This ties back into my second point also; parents not knowing what their children are doing or being exposed to on social media. Just because kids today intrinsically know how to use technology doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be monitored. In addition to monitoring, we can’t expect them to know how to use it properly if we don’t teach them how to be responsible with social media. Easier said than done? I don’t think so. I think it’s just staying plugged into what your kids are doing. Yes, if they really want to do it they will find a way, but that’s a whole other can of beans, isn’t it.
    • Cyber-bullying Statistics
    • Cyber-bullying

Whoo! Just made it! The first entry in my 30-Day Writing Challenge. I am excited about this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from it. See you tomorrow!

New Directions (again?)

I’m in my second year at Trinity School in Atlanta. In the 14 months that I have been in the classroom here, I feel that I have grown more as an educator than I did the previous five years at my old school. I think that the brunt of the responsibility for that lack of growth has to fall squarely on me. It’s tempting to put it on my old school system, but that’s not really fair.  Instead, I want to focus on the renewed energy, the renewed interest I have in learning and growing as an educator.

Here at Trinity there is a commitment to growth and development of the teachers. I have read more books related to my profession in this time than I have since I finished my master’s degree back in 2009. It’s not that they are just available here, they were available at my old school, I just didn’t take advantage of them. I was too exhausted at the end of the day.

I am being encouraged to blog, and as anyone who’s an educator knows, a schoolhouse or classroom is ripe with fodder to blog about. What goes on during the day, new lessons, new strategies, what works, what doesn’t, what flat out fails. And of course, there are the students. They’re an endless source of inspiration.

This isn’t the first time I’ve changed the direction of this blog, but I will say it’s the first time I have had a focus to set my sites on. My wife, GQ, has this with her writing, and now I’ve found mine. I’m excited about seeing where this goes!

So, new directions, right?

The Footsteps I Follow (and the Few I Avoid)

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Well, at probably every school except for the one where I work. We had ours back right before Spring Break. The Powers That Be decided that with it being so close to the end of school having Teacher Appreciation Week and End of Year gifts to think about was too much; so they moved it. 

A good friend posted on his Facebook account a list of 12 teachers by name and had nice things to say about them. This has prompted me to do something similar. Being that I am verbose I had to do it in this format, so David Slagle, thank you for the inspiration.

1st Grade – Mrs. Underwood. Yes, we called her Mrs. Underwear behind her back. She was mean. 1970s public school teacher mean, but she saw something in me and chose, for whatever reason, to not smack it down, but encourage it. We were making paper mache piggy banks and I decided to do mine all different colors instead of just one like everyone else. When she shouted out my name after looking at mine I thought my world was coming to an end. Instead she made everyone else do like I was doing.

2nd Grade – Mrs. Gartrell. Sweet, old southern lady that gave me a great line for my classroom, “Don’t blame your mother for not having your homework.”

3rd Grade – Ms. Rosen. She played “Disco Duck” on the record player for the class and one day when more than half of the class was out sick she took us on a walk around the neighborhood. I can’t even imagine that nowadays.

4th Grade – Mrs. Pullen – Beautiful woman. Very kind. She left for a large portion of the year due to breast cancer, I believe. Her substitute, not so beautiful, not so kind. Maybe I’m holding a grudge because she busted me forging my mom’s signature

5th Grade – Mr. Boyd. My first male teacher. Tall, salt  & peppered afro and goatee. Drove a silver Trans Am. He would leave the class for 15 – 20 minutes at a time. One time when he was gone I got up and was goofing around, looking out the door to see if he was coming. When I turned around to go back to my seat he was standing outside the building at the window of the classroom, just watching us/me.

6th Grade – Mrs. Rainey – Another kind, kind woman. I don’t remember much other than she was basically the antithesis of the other 6th grade teacher we had – Ms. Stallworth

7th Grade – Mrs. Thomas. I sold Mrs. Thomas a lottery ticket from the Briarcliff Community Sports raffle and she won $100. That’s what she wrote in my yearbook, “To my $100 friend.”

Growing up in DeKalb County in the early 80s we didn’t have middle school we went from elementary to high school. Starting in 8th grade I started a fairly consistent downward  slant in my academic career.

From 8th grade to the end of 10th grade nothing really stands out as positive. I know there are some moments there, but by and large it was a very negative experience for me academically. Unaddressed attentional issues, not understanding the importance of actually doing homework and knowing how to study guaranteed that these were not smooth years. I almost didn’t pass 8th grade ELA because for some reason I could not grasp the concept of diagramming sentences. To this day I cannot stand the idea, and will avoid it at all costs.  My 8th grade composition teacher told me that everything I wrote was absurd. Granted, it probably was, but would it have killed her to throw me a little encouragement, or to try to steer my writing to something less absurd? I failed Geometry at mid-term in 9th grade and was convinced I would fail it altogether. I had one of the vilest, most evil teachers that I have encountered. I was horrified to find out that she was still at my high school 20 years later and was still spreading malevolence and ill will at students. She is the teacher that would literally smile as she handed back test papers with grades of F.

In 10th grade I asked my mother to move me out of advanced classes to general ones, but at the encouragement of a neighbor who taught ELA classes at my school she kept me in,  and then something happened in 11th grade that made the last two years of high school not just bearable, but mostly enjoyable.

11th Grade – Mrs. Merkle & Mr. Glass – Mrs. Merkle was the school yearbook editor, junior and senior ELA teacher and the teacher of my favorite class ever, Humanities. For lack of better wording it was a class on appreciating all aspects of the arts; music, architecture, literature, art. Mrs. Merkle was probably the first teacher since primary years elementary school that I wanted to please. I had her my junior and senior year. She was, to my memory, the first teacher to not just assign a book to read, but to actually talk about the book. She was the first teacher to help me relate to the characters in the stories. She got me to see that novels and short stories are more than just words on a page.She was a significant influence on me as a teacher. Sadly when I saw her again at the unveiling of the new additions at Lakeside High School she looked at me with absolutely no recognition at all. I was more than a little hurt inside. 

Mr. Glass was the art teacher at Lakeside. He was a meticulously dressed and groomed gay man. I have no idea what he was doing surrounded by the stinky, unkempt hormone crazed high school students that clearly repulsed him in so many ways, but he was always there. It was well known that art classes were where most of the stoners, rockers and punks could be found. Being that I was none of those I’m not sure how I ended up there. I had several friends that took art and loved Mr. Glass, so probably by way of those folks. Mr. Glass was incredibly patient with me. As Glitter Queen can tell you, I am a painfully slow painter. He would offer encouragement and snarky critiques as I finished my pieces. He was entertainingly offensive and offensively entertaining. He did not suffer fools and spared no one. At the same time, you could tell that he really cared for some of his students. You could also tell that he couldn’t stand others of them.

12th Grade – Ms. Shelfer – Ms. Shelfer was the teacher that made me love to write. She was the first teacher since probably primary elementary school that I wanted to please. I loved that woman.

I was going to go into some vitriolic diatribe about the teachers that were so horrible, but it’s not Hate on Hateful Haters’ Week, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. So for all the teachers that have had a positive impact on me, THANK YOU! For all those other teachers that just had an impact on me and so many others, well,unwittingly you showed me how NOT to be a teacher, and because of that I will also say thank you.