When the Bully ISN’T the Student

When-the-Bully-ISN'T-the-StudentThere’s 2 weeks left of school and it’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I am sitting in the middle of a group of 7 years olds laughing and making geometric patterns with blocks on desks. A stern body walks into my room and positions itself at the front of my desk.

As I look up, a cold and expressionless face looks down on me and cancels my laughter. “Miss Kelly, I need to speak with you as soon as possible.” I respond, “No problem. I’m about to line the kids up for gym. I will stop by on the way back.”

As the stern body leaves my room, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body. I already know what the news will be.

I look at the clock and it’s time to clean up.

I’m on the verge of tears as I line up my little 7-year-old angels. I keep it together for them, but I don’t know if I can keep it together for myself. As I release them into the gym, I become instantly sick to my stomach.

I gradually walk down the hall. My shoulders are tense and I’m about to fall apart.

I’m here. I look down at the floor as I open the door. I glance up at a vacant face. I extend a hello with a meek smile. It’s a broken smile. “Have a seat, Miss Kelly.”

The vacant face isn’t even looking at me as I take a seat beside the desk. “Miss Kelly, I am reassigning you next year. You will be 3rd Grade Intervention.”

My throat fills with pain as I lean back in the chair. I feel frozen. I feel hopeless. I finally speak up, “Do you realize this is my 9th assignment change in the last 2 years? Why?”

She rubs her neck with her right hand, looks out the window, and replies, “I know you don’t like this change, but that’s too bad. You’re going back to 3rd grade intervention whether you like it or not.”

All I can do is shake my head, let out a deep sigh, and get up from the chair.

I walk quickly and hastily across the hall. I enter the bathroom, lock the door, and collapse. I spend the next 30 minutes sobbing and shaking. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

I look at my watch and realize there’s only 5 minutes left. I have to get myself back together for the kids.

I stand up, take 3 deep breaths, and slowly make my way to the gym.

(Two weeks later..)
My mind quickly races as I look around to make sure I have taken all of my belongings out of my 1st grade classroom. The only things left on my desk are a Snapple iced tea and a school laptop. I walk over to my desk, double check all of the drawers, and turn my laptop off. As I lean down to pick up my laptop bag, I can’t help but wonder how, after 3 years, I could be this exhausted. I put the laptop in the carry bag and quietly exit the room.

As I make my way down the hallway, I pass by a colleague who recently put in her 2 weeks for a lower paying position at another school. She whispers, “Good luck. Keep in touch.” I reply with a quiet nod.

As I approach the door, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body.

I’m numb. I’m calm. I’m now at her door. It’s closed, and there’s nobody in there except her.

I breathe in and grasp the doorknob. I open her door and take my first step in. I breathe out and position myself in the front and center of her desk. I look directly into her eyes and I’m silent. I can’t speak and I can’t look away.

Every emotion I’ve ever felt in this office is now in front of me. It’s shame. It’s fear. It’s humiliation. Then it’s pain, disgust, and anger.

I take a couple more steps around her desk.

I’m closer to her now and I still can’t look away.

With my head held high, I slowly place the laptop bag down by her feet. “I’ve had enough.”

———–

This post is an actual representation of my first years as an elementary teacher within the Springfield, MA Public Schools system. The experience I faced allowed me to realize that students are not the only victims of bullying. Every day, teachers (and other members of school faculty) fall victim to this type of behavior from other adults within the school system.

Good teachers are leaving the profession due to the lack of action taken on this issue. My own experience caused me to take a break from teaching.

This type of atmosphere is detrimental to the classroom environment. Not only does the adult suffer, but it also affects and influences the students.

When we discuss eliminating bullying among our students, we also need to address its existence among the adults in our schools. Adults need allies and support just as much as our students.

If kids can stick up for each other, it’s time that adults stand up, speak out, and take action.

———–

What is the Deal with Panel Interviews?

I show up at 8:35am, 5 minutes early, because I’m slick like that. The secretary extends a big welcome and tells me it will be a couple minutes. As I take a seat and put my 26 pound portfolio on my lap, I notice an air conditioner in the window on full blast. This thoroughly impresses me, because I didn’t realize schools had funding for these things.

Guess I’m in the big leagues now.

As I sit in this cozy air conditioned office, a parent is signing her child up for Kindergarten. I pass the time by starting a nice little conversation with the Kindergartner-to-be. She is using blocks to build a house on the seat next to me. I convince her to build a cool playground instead.

The principal walks in as I am teaching a lesson on shapes to a 5 year old. Jackpot. I am stoked that she observes me teaching, smiling, and connecting with a 5 year old.

Perfect timing. Just beautiful.

We greet each other and walk down the hall to another room, which will presumably be her office. As we are walking, I express a great enthusiasm for the size of the school and tell her how great it looks. She responds with a small smile, “Yeah, it does feel like a maze at times.”

It is at this point that I am thinking we are off to a REALLY great start. I mean, gosh, our rapport is already fantastic and we haven’t even reached her office door yet. I can’t wait for the Triscuits and warm milk that are probably awaiting me on her desk.

As she opens the door in front of me, I look down and notice a little cat hair on my dress pants. I remove it stealthily and proceed. When I look up, I take in a sight that I am NOT prepared for:
Panel-Interview

An emotionless panel of 10 stone cold faced women.

These aren’t just any women though. Many of them look at me as if I were their husbands’ last mistress.

So I do what I would do in any other uncomfortable situation. I switch into complete jackass mode. I smile at everyone and say, “WOW! A 10 person panel? Yiiikes!”

I also manage to let out another “WoW!” before taking a seat.

Since I know that I am already screwed at this point, my priorities shift into looking for my Triscuits and warm milk. Unfortunately all I am seeing on this obnoxious rectangle table is a cute little 8oz. Poland Spring bottle that is just for me. You know what though? You can keep this one.
Panel-InterviewsThe interview starts with the principal telling me that I will receive a call that night if I am chosen for a 2nd interview. She also talks about some other important things that I am not quite sure of, because I am too concerned about the ridiculous situation I am currently in.

After that, every woman on the panel introduces themselves.

“Nancy Jones: Math and Numeracy Leadership Specialist, Linda Smith: Kindergarten Teacher, Deborah Jenkins: 1st Grade Teacher” (To be honest, I couldn’t really tell you their names if I wanted to. I am still too concerned with the ridiculous situation I am currently in.)

After everyone on the panel introduces themselves and it gets back around to me, I take it upon myself to give an introduction, “Beth Ann: Interviewee”.

I get a couple sneers and snickers for that one.

Now it is time for the interrogation from hell.

(If you aren’t familiar with the panel interview, you’re lucky. You sit at the head of a rectangular shaped table and each person on the panel asks at least 1 question. The great part about a panel interview is once you finish answering a question, you don’t get a moment to breathe because the next interrogator is way too eager to ask her question. In my case, it was done at a rapid fast pace, similar to this:

The process begins with all of the ladies clicking on their finest $10.00 Bic pens. Question #1 comes from the woman to my immediate left. We will call her “Blondie on My Left”.

Blondie on My Left: “In terms of the elementary classroom, how do you approach the balanced workshop model in the teaching of literacy, writing, and math throughout the course of a day?”

Oh great, it’s going to be one of those interviews where a bunch of unnecessary educational jargon is tacked onto simple, straight forward questions.

Me: “Are you asking how I run a reading block?”

Blondie on My Left: “Yes.”
Panel-InterviewSo after I hit that question out of the park, I observe all 10 women writing furiously on their interview question sheets. Meanwhile, the second woman to my left, Curly Q, has already started asking her question about my classroom management style.

At this point, I decide to whip open my professional portfolio and let the pictures do the talking.

No one is impressed by my amazing graphics or my flawless classroom management techniques.

Whatever. No one here even knows what a clip chart is. I’m over it.

This cycle of question/answer/furious writing continues on for what seems like an eternity, so I will cease the play by play.
Panel-Interview
If I had to do it again, I would answer all of these generic questions the same way. So without further adieu, I leave you with the phone call I received later that day:

Principal: “We have decided to move you forward to the next round.”
Me: “That’s great! Thanks!”
Principal: “No, I’m sorry. We decided to NOT move you forward…and see this is what I don’t understand. You seem more enthusiastic now than you were this morning. Were you feeling okay?”
Me: “Gee, bummer. My lack of enthusiasm could be due to the fact that I was caught off guard when I walked into a panel of 10 women.”
Principal: “Well, now you will be better prepared when the same situation happens again in the future.”
Me: “You’re right. If I walk into that same situation again, I will know to leave IMMEDIATELY.”
Panel-Interview

I Hate Desk Pods

It’s 1995. I’m in 4th grade. I sit in row 2, seat 3. My behavior is pretty good, not Student of the Year good, but top 10% good. The nuns only reprimand me once or twice a week for whispering to a neighbor.

The most exciting part of my day involves the interaction I have with John. He is the boy in front of me with the perfect, brown mushroom haircut. He sits in row 2, seat 2.

When I see Mrs. Booker grab a set of worksheets off of her desk, it’s show-time. In just moments, she will be releasing 6 worksheets to the first person in each row. This means John will be turning around to pass me those worksheets. The potential for eye contact here is huge.

Ohp, here we go. Mrs. Booker is currently licking her thumbs as she counts off 6 papers to the first person in each row.

I wait eagerly and patiently for our row to receive our set of papers.

Kevin, who sits in row 2, seat 1, just turned around to pass John the papers. Smooth transaction.

John then turns his body around and I flash my pearly whites. We engage in 3 seconds of solid eye-contact as he hands the papers off to me.

Butterflies awaken in my esophagus. A beautiful transfer was made and I think our pinkies just touched. Oh My God, our pinkies touched.

———-
Why did I share this nostalgic flashback? I thought it would be a nice segue into a topic in education that baffles me more than Kim Kardashian’s everlasting and unexplainable fame status.

Ladies and gentleman, what am I talking about? It’s Classroom Desk Arrangement.
Desk-Pods
Not familiar with desk pods? They can be seen in most elementary classrooms across America. It is that ugly clump of 4-6 desks squished together to form a group. As you can see from above, this desk arrangement has no flaws. It promotes cooperative and collaborative learning at its finest!

I find myself completely fascinated by this setup, because traditional rows are all I ever knew growing up.

Ah, Heck. I guess I’ll just put on my big girl sneakers and share a little secret with you:

I hate the glorification of desk pods almost as much as I Hate Centers.
Desk-Pods
Unfortunately, I am completely guilty of having the clumpy dumpy pod setup in my classroom. My excuse? I teach in a closet and couldn’t arrange them any other way.

Some days I teach a new concept when the students are sitting in their clumpy dumpy pods. Some of those days I see attention wander quickly, and some of those days I get frustrated with how distracted some of them seem.

Then I take a step back to reflect. I gotta put myself in their shoes. How can I possibly get upset at my students for being distracted? If desks were arranged in groups when I was their age, I would probably have a heart attack sitting across from John.
Desk-Pods
If it’s 1995 and the desks are in groups, my complete and undivided attention is on a getting a glance from Johnny. Sorry, Mrs. Booker. I could care less about what you have to say about changing a fraction to a percent. There are bigger concerns when I have this fine specimen sitting across of me.

To solve the situation, I think you should put Justin Timberlake’s assigned seat across from me too. Oh, and while we are at it, make sure Leonardo Dicaprio is assigned to my right, so we can play footsies. I think that might make me less distracted.
Desks-in-Rows
When I took over a chatty 3rd grade classroom last year, I wanted to switch up the desk arrangement. When I expressed my grand plan of putting the desks in rows to a veteran teacher, she laughed at me.

Yep. Laughed at me.

Have I gone completely off the deep end for wanting to spice it up with a traditional setup? Are traditional rows so bad that we can’t even talk about the option, let alone actually have that setup in our classrooms?

Do I think traditional rows are perfect? No. Does it annoy me how much people praise the clumpy dumpy pod? Yes. I don’t understand how we praise cooperative learning all day, then turn around in the same blink to complain about students not becoming independent enough. Uhm, Hello? Am I the only one seeing a correlation here?

If my class was big enough, you would probably see rows of desks. They wouldn’t be traditional desks though. These desks would be based off of grandma’s old extendable dinner table. When it’s time for group work, the middle desk will extend and only chairs will be moved!
Desk-Flaps

————————————–

(If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy some of my other rants. Just click on the “Rants and Funnies” tab at the top of this page.)

Three Kinds of Fridays That All Teachers Experience

There are three types of Fridays that all teachers experience in their careers. If you aren’t already familiar with them, I will enlighten you:

#1 – Fabulous Fridays
This is the usual Friday. You wake up feeling fresh and accomplished. You’ve got that pep in your step that lasts all day. Your coffee even tastes a little brighter. 

At work, your discipline skills tend to be fierce and fantastic. Smiles are a’plenty and the exchanges with co-workers are phenomenal.

The general motions of the day are outstanding.

#2 – Fanatical Fridays
Fanatical-FridayThis is the Friday that occurs at the onset of a week long vacation. These Fridays produce extreme euphoria. You feel out-of-this-world incredible. All 30 lights on the way to work are green and your coffee tastes like it was drenched in chocolate chips made of gold. Elaine-Dancing
Absolutely NOTHING will bring you down today.  On Fanatical Fridays, random co-workers become your best friends.  You might even find yourself exchanging a joke or 2 in the hall with a couple of them. “Hey there Mrs. Jenkins, only 6 hours left to freedom, huh?!” What a knee-slapper!

Students are especially lucky on Fanatical Fridays. This is when you are the most likely to display some of your sweetest dance moves to the entire class.
Elaine-dancing
Somewhere in the midst of your stand-up comedy shows in the hall and those memorizing dance moves, your mind begins the descent into vacation mode. ONE WEEK OF FREEDOM, BABY!  You become so fanatic about having a week off that you reach the point of complete lunacy.
Austin

#3 – Fatal Fridays
This is the Friday at the end of a week long break.  While this day does not occur often during the year, it is not a day to be taken lightly.Depressed

I myself experienced a Fatal Friday 2 days ago.  Was I full of peaches and vinegar like any other Friday? No. Not This Friday.

When I woke up, I found myself slowly crawling into a deep, dark, empty abyss.  I became crippled with a sense of impending doom. What kind of doom, you ask?  The one experienced at the end of a week-long break.  In my case, I knew the end of February break was nearing closer and there’s nothing I could do to stop it.
James.sad
So what does a Fatal Friday look like?
Well, the symptoms of a Fatal Friday are similar to a popular epidemic that has swept the nation in recent years: The Sunday Night Blues (SNB). The notable difference between the two conditions is the intensity and duration.  

The affects of Fatal Friday are noticeably longer and much more intense. A case of Fatal Friday can start any time on Friday and last all the way into Monday.

Have you experienced symptoms of Fatal Friday? Side effects may include, but are not limited to:

  • feelings of extreme hopelessness
  • extreme irritability
  • crippling anxiety
  • racing thoughts
  • sadness
  • insomnia
  • frequent moping
  • feelings of doom
  • snapping at significant others whenever possible
  • extreme stress

How do you combat Fatal Fridays and/or the Sunday Night Blues?
—–
For more entertaining reads, click on the “Rants and Funnies” tab at the top of this page.

Common-Core-Galore-and-More

So Excited to Join the Blogging World!

I will be going into my 2nd year of teaching this fall and I’m loving it! I will be using this blog to share new organizational techniques that I want to try, tips for selling on TpT, classroom management strategies, and successes/failures during the school year.
During my first year of teaching, I taught academic intervention. I taught small groups of students in grades K-5 at some point or another in the year. It was a great experience as I learned so many different strategies from all of the teachers in the school.