Friday, September 30, 2011

A Crazy New School Year

This year has certainly not started like I had planned. After two weeks of school, I found myself flying off to Texas with my hubby as he went through more cancer surgery. During the prior week or so, I prepared detailed sub plans - two weeks of them. I really thought that would be more than enough. I also made all the photocopies I would need for the following week when I planned to be back in the classroom. It didn't turn out quite as I planned, but having prepared nearly everything I needed, it was pretty easy to extend the sub plans. We returned home Monday night, very late. I did laundry and ran errands all day Tuesday, worked in my classroom a good portion of Tuesday night, and started school again this Wednesday. It's been an intense three days, but I think I am caught up enough that I won't drown. I still have quite a bit of work to do, namely three sets of essays to grade, but other than that, I'm on it. Tomorrow the grandkids will be over for a while. It will be their first visit since surgery. We'll be ready for the little darlings; we've certainly missed them! I'm pretty sure they'll adapt quickly to their Grandpa's crooked little smile and new battle scars, none of which are very visible as yet. Bandages are good for hiding the wounds. I'm so glad it's Friday. I need the rest!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Benefits

There are tons of benefits to teaching in a private school as well as a few limitations, but last night my husband spoke with a friend of ours who revealed one of the big benefits. Teacher friend has 37 students in her 7th grade classes. Oh my goodness! We had 25 (our cap) and then enrolled that beautiful, little, blonde girl, who became my favorite student this year because she allowed us to split the class! We have 13 in each 7th grade, and 16 in each 8th grade. Goodness, I seriously cannot imagine having 37 in any junior high class. Horrors!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A New Addition

I added a new blog to my Worth Reading list: Books That Heal Kids. It is so true that kids come to school with a ton of baggage. You may remember that last year one of my students lost her father to cancer. It was discovered in December, and he died in June. Shortly after, she hurt herself badly, falling down a 15-foot shaft. After a summer trying to do things that would help her get on with life, school started... and she broke her foot! I'm not making this up. Of all the kids who might have to wear a boot and use crutches, this one was not the kid who needed that kind of hassle!

One of the things I do in my Bible class is the Silent Study. I teach a curriculum published by Lifeway called Character Quest - I love it! Each week, I introduce another character trait that should be a part of our lives as Christians. In addition to that, I have gone through scripture (mostly New Testament) and found short passages that apply to the particular trait being taught. Students come in each morning to find a new passage on the board. They get their journal and answer two questions: What does this passage mean? How can I apply this to my life? We just finished the first week of school and the introduction to the textbook. The passage I chose this week was Colossians 3:12-14. Students wrote about verse 12 on Wednesday and verses 13-14 on Thursday. (Friday is chapel - no silent study.) On Thursday or Friday afternoon, I read the journals and jot short response notes to my students. The pain that came from Thursday's passage about forgiving... it took me by surprise. It always does. I know students have broken homes and lives, but I am constantly surprised at the open, intense pain that 7th graders are willing to write about in a journal.

At the end of the day, Friday afternoon, we held our traditional first week finished junior high party. Before we ate all the junk food that the kids brought, we played a game - Just Like Me - students noted their favorites: books, food, musicians, etc. and then had to find someone who marked the same answer. It takes about 15 minutes to play. The 8th graders were acting too cool for the game until I introduced the prize: 1 Free Homework Pass for any of my classes. Suddenly, they were all over it! One new girl had a tough time with the game. She wrote her answers and then wandered the room, from person to person. I could see she was trying. Basically, she placed herself next to someone different every minute or so, and hoped that person would ask to see her paper. Shy is an understatement. But I know a bit about her story (family members with addictions, abuse, moving, legal problems) and her sense of who she is, of what she's worth, doesn't match the beautiful little person I see. And she is having an awful time trying to write. It is as though she is bound with ropes and cannot move off a certain position. I ache for her. She's in my writer's workshop and has yet to get a full sentence on paper. I have a feeling that I need to get into poetry quickly, much sooner than I usually do. I think it will open her more than fiction writing.

Books are therapeutic; they can help children heal. They allow students to identify with characters who have survived similar pain and sorrow. We live in a broken world, with fractured lives and relationships. Anything that helps children find a pathway through the pain is a good thing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Visitors

There have been a few visitors to my class over the past few days. Our beloved private school welcomed lots of children back to learning on Wednesday. Our K-8 school is one of three schools on campus; the high school is across the parking lot from us. As you might imagine, several new 9th graders came back to visit their old junior high teachers. I love getting hugs from my former students. Today three boys came to visit... young men actually. All three had grown considerably over the summer. But the greatest thing happened... Mr. Principal happened to be standing nearby as two of the boys left my classroom and called out to them, "Hey guys, how are you doing?" To which one of my dear grads replied, "Very well!" Isn't that great? He said well!!! Knowing when to use the word good and well is one of the heralds grammar acquisition. And believe me, junior high boys are not terribly excited by the proper use of small words. But I was thrilled. I turned to Mrs. History Teacher, also standing nearby, and asked if she'd heard what he said. Oh yes... she had a big smile on her face too. She heard him. The casual use of proper speech - music to a teacher's ears!