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Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 21

Posted on September 22, 2014 8:00 am in Blog | 0 comments



Day 21I love Justin confessed in a black pen
Scratched, hard jagged lines.
I study this while (excuse me for mentioning)
I sit on a toilet in the west building
On the 4th floor. The faculty lounge is
Occupied today.

I stare hard at the statement and wonder if a girl
From my class decided to
Publicly announce her love.
I try to teach them the power of words—
This is proof that they come to class already understanding.
This confession left on the wall for all the other girls to see. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 20

Posted on September 21, 2014 12:18 pm in Blog | 0 comments



Day 20Little Red Riding Hood. The Three Little Pigs. Cinderella. These were all fairy tale books I read and reported on in my third-grade class. Our teacher, Mrs. Sinoway, expected us to sit in a chair to the right of her oversized desk and read our favorite parts of the story. Each of us took a turn in front of the class while she sat behind her desk, like a queen in a throne with her white flesh spilling over the furniture, listening. When we rotated in and out of the designated reading seat, her hair wisped back in the shape of rollers she seemed to use every morning before coming to Washington Elementary.

That day I reported on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. By that point in the school year, I’d figured out that the more parts we quoted, the more her eyes beamed behind her large bifocal glasses, which covered over half her ample cheeks. Wanting not only better grades, but also her approval, my reports grew longer every time. I read from the beginning until Snow White and her prince lived happily ever after. Mrs. Sinoway shrugged her nose to push her glasses back up and broke into a smile that made her thin lips disappear. “Now that is a book report,” she said as she pointed her right hand covered in yellow chalk. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 19

Posted on September 20, 2014 11:52 am in Blog | 0 comments



Day 19“You’re chewing gum!” they exclaimed. “Caught ya’, Mrs. C.”

Typically, I am not a teacher who believes that the rules for kids should be different than the rules for adults, but one day a long time ago, my students caught me chewing gum. The rule was, chewing gum in school is not allowed. Being a rule follower, I was frequently telling my kids to pay a visit to the wastebasket with their gum. On this particular day, our roles were suddenly reversed. They were so excited to be able to catch me at their own game that they excitedly exclaimed, “Mrs. C., you have a detention!”

I didn’t really know where it was going to take us, but I decided to play along. I went to my desk drawer, and pulled out a blank form they recognized only too well. “OK, fine.  You can give me a detention, but if you are going to do it, then you need to make it legal,” I said as I pulled out a Teacher’s Disciplinary Report form and handed it to one of them. At the time, they came in a carbonless 3-part version where the white copy went to administration, the yellow copy stayed with the teacher, and the pink copy was sent home with the student for parent signature. Many years have passed, and now the form is so faded it’s hard to read in many places, but I remember the day, and I remember the students well. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 18

Posted on September 19, 2014 8:41 am in Blog | 1 comment



Day 18It is the first period of the day in English 10 on a Tuesday early in the school year. The class is far enough along in the year that we know each other’s names, but still we’re getting to know the details of each other’s personalities. Emily is not a morning person so we all leave her alone for the first 10 minutes of class. Jenny always wants to do every assignment perfectly and peppers me with questions before, after, and during class. Kurt is embarrassed by how young he looks and tries to act tough so other students will respect him. There are 22 students in the room but we are still somewhere between strangers and old friends.

Kurt walks into the classroom with his sweatshirt pulled over his head and an “illegal” coffee cup clutched in his hand (we are on a school wide initiative to only let kids have the “approved” travel mug or covered beverage container which means a milk carton is banned but soda is approved but that’s another story), two girls beg me to go to the bathroom with make up bags in hand, and Jenny wants to tell me about how she did yesterday’s homework. As the chaos mounts, I try to get a quick sentence written on the board for them to correct, my nod to daily grammar instruction. My hands are quickly covered in the greasy dust of dry erase marker when three people walk in who need my attention. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 17

Posted on September 18, 2014 1:39 pm in Blog | 0 comments



Day 17 Image BNew York
West Village
a classroom

five- and six-year-old children play
blocks, books, toys (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 16

Posted on September 17, 2014 1:32 pm in Blog | 0 comments



Teachers impact everyone in one way or another, and for whatever reason, some leave lasting marks on us and we connect to them. When I hear certain teachers say they never reveal much about themselves to their students because they like to maintain authority in the classroom so they can “show their students who is boss,” I always feel like that is a blanket statement given to protect themselves from exposing some crazy fetish or odd habit. I remember asking a sage, respected colleague of mine, Ms. Smith, why she kept a distance from students. She said doing so helped maintain her composure in front of her students, especially when dealing with conflict, as though nothing she said could come back in her face. “So many colleagues look at the gray,” she said “but you have to be black and white with kids.” This reminded me of the stereotype that many external people have about education: being a teacher is easy and that teachers can compartmentalize their feelings, tuck them away into a box, and hide them. Still, I marveled at her composure, as she told me this in such a matter-of-fact way, and felt my self-doubt surface when I began to question if I was doing the right thing. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 15

Posted on September 16, 2014 11:41 am in Blog | 1 comment



Dear First-Year-Teacher Self,

Day15First of all, I want to tell you how happy you’ll be that you decided to become a teacher. I also want you to know how much fun you’ll have with your students. Yes, they can be frustrating, really frustrating, at times, but I think you already know this. I also want to tell you that the fact you are not an idealist will help you through some rough spots in your career. You are not getting into this profession to change the world. You even know that you will not be able to reach and connect with every single one of your students; although, you will re-learn this over and over again, and you will keep reminding yourself of this when the students you fail to reach rankle, and thoughts of them won’t leave you alone. Yes, there will be times when you blame yourself, berate yourself for what you should have done, but try to forgive yourself, even though exhaustion is not an excuse. Overall, you will live the cliché that you will learn much more from your students than they will learn from you. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 14

Posted on September 15, 2014 11:49 am in Blog | 0 comments



Day 14Our syllabus indicates on this Monday morning we are going to talk about genre knowledge with respect to support comprehension. I am packing a box of books in anticipation of a sorting activity that we will follow with another in-class activity using those same books. We will need lots of books today, and I have prepared a large selection for the day. Blindly, I sort through piles thinking about individual students, books that would be of interest to them, and the grades in which they were placed for practicum. I will be prepared in time for class, I tell myself. I am always prepared.

This is my tenth and final semester of teaching this course, Learners and Learning in Context. The title of the course has never made sense to me, as it is a literacy course and focused solely on the ways in which my junior level teacher candidates will facilitate literacy knowledge in kindergarten through fifth-grade students. My twenty students this summer term have packed countless field hours into the first half of the semester. We are ending the relentless summer heat in a university classroom focusing on the literacy content knowledge they will need before entering the fall semester. The students are at heightened levels of anxiety as the condensed summer session is drawing to a close and our extended days are literally packed with content that is swirling in their heads. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 13

Posted on September 14, 2014 12:31 pm in Blog | 0 comments



Day 13Many miles away from home
my eyes, clothed in school uniforms, still burn.
Smoke and gunshots proclaim their urgencies
and rapid songs of sirens follow
announcing their deliriums
through the streets of my childhood.
Can you see? I’m in the same place
where you forgot to nurse me.
I’m still looking in your purse
for that little piece of chalk
which gave me the letters to form the word “return.”
But we can’t come back to the starting point:
Time runs like a child who drops his books on street corners. (more…)

Forty Days of Teacher Lore: Day 12

Posted on September 13, 2014 10:26 am in Blog | 0 comments



Day 12I came to Bermuda to escape my own past, to become a person without a history. To do that, I had to convince myself history didn’t matter, my own or anyone else’s. I arrived to take up my assignment in an alternative school, a self-contained class of 11- and 12-year-old first-year secondary students. I was in my 20s, a new teacher, and I thought I knew everything. I came with a trunkful of blank journals and reams of paper upon which I intended to write the story of a new life.

I came to a nation of migrants and transients. Half of the teachers at our school were expatriates, mainly British. Bermuda is the end of the world, an isolated outpost, a tiny island of only about 20 square miles in area, 640 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the closest point of land, near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea. For tourists, it is a secluded and exclusive getaway, but for those who come to live there, the island is a perfect metaphor for isolation and escape. We came to hide out for a while, as if to put ourselves on pause, have a short hiatus on the way to our real lives. We were all fleeing something, but mostly ourselves. (more…)