My Classroom Library

It grows frequently, I add books as often as I can. My classroom was once upon a time an art room so I have LOTS of cabinets but not so many bookshelves, that’s ok the cabinets work. I just keep the doors open, someday maybe I’ll get approval to take the doors off, in the meantime I’ll just keep them open, it works. Funny thing is a temp custodian closed all of the cabinets the other day, my students commented the next morning that my room looked empty, that was when I realized the cabinet doors were all shut.

Most of the books in my library came from my last classroom library thought much pared down. I weeded out books I kept for my own sentimental sake, I also weeded out the third, fourth, and fifth copies I had of books. Over time my library dropped from around 1000 books to around 250. That’s ok though I’m building back up. First my fellow English teacher and I went through a list we were given and ordered several novels to add to our classroom libraries, I also spent a lot of time driving to all the local thrift stores picking up books for anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar. Then came the dollar store trips, and a trip to the book fair at my kiddo’s school where I scouted out and purchased several of the sale books. If I keep adding I might just have to figure out something else to do with the books as I’m running out of room.

Here are some pics, you can see I use the cabinets, counters, and the one bookshelf I have:


Magnetic Poetry

I had totally forgotten that I had magnetic poetry until I was having a discussion with my fellow English teacher who is also the gifted teacher in our building. We have some unused rooms in our building right now so he’s taken one over to allow the gifted kids to have a classroom of their own. He mentioned wanting to do magnetic poetry with them. The light went on and I remembered seeing mine as I was unpacking things when I moved into my room, so when I got back to my room I went hunting.

When I found it then it was a matter of finding a place to put it. Time to do a little rearranging of my white board. Once again no sooner do I introduce a new thing to class the kids jump all over it. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I already have some ideas to keep it going as interest fades.

Here’s the board after only a few students had tried it out:20161027_084823.jpg

some poems:


and the board after students had had some fun:



Daily Prompt: Irksome

via Daily Prompt: Irksome

Giving students several days of class time to complete a large assignment and they play on their Chromebooks or talk. I can take Chromebooks away, move them away from other students and they still don’t work.

Warning students that in class work not turned in will be a zero then hearing complaints about how they’re in trouble with their sports team because they have a D or an F in my class. Students asking for extra credit when they don’t do the regular classwork.

Parents asking me what a child is missing in class rather than checking the online gradebook when that is where the got the grade in the first place.

Youth Writing Festival

When I lived in Columbia, Missouri and taught at a small school my fellow English teacher introduced me to the Missouri Writer’s Project writer’s festival at Mizzou. We took students who then participated in three different little writing workshops.

So about a month ago when my fellow English teacher here told me there was a Gateway Writer’s Program that hosted a Youth Writing Festival here at UMSL and asked if I’d like to go and take students I jumped at the chance.

Even better this festival was for grade 3-8 so I was able to get permission to take my kiddo with me.

Off we went, students, fellow teacher and his younger child, as well as my kiddo. Up to UMSL where my kiddo joked it was his first day of college. Students were greeted and given name tags that included their schedule for the day, much like when I went with students to Mizzou, kids were given choices of sessions to attend when they registered.

They could go to a session on art and writing, political/persuasive writing, free verse poetry, character boot camp,

Students also received a notebook and pen, a snack, and water bottle in a bag.

Kiddo LOVED it, he took notes every session (if only he worked that hard in his actual classes LOL).

The motivation of responsibility

Ah there it is, one of the things I found while searching how to fight apathy was to give students responsibility. I know in the past it’s worked with students I have.

My second year teaching I had a student that I routinely had to speak to about her talking when she was supposed to be listening or working who complained she couldn’t read my handwriting on the agenda/homework on the board each week. So I showed her where my plan book was and said “Ok, you can write it.” Sure enough each day she came in, got her things together, then came to pick up my plan book and wrote the agenda/homework on the board. After that I had to speak to her much less in class about her behavior.

There are fewer responsibilities I can assign in a middle school classroom but this week is Red Ribbon week and we’re having a door decorating contest in our building. Several of my academic focus students, think homeroom, wanted to work on the door. One of those is a student who rarely if ever gets work done on time. This is a student who has gotten to experience lots of Mrs. Davis’ nagging to get said work done. Yesterday the student asked if during English class they could work on the door. I told them that when they finished the essay that is due today they could work on the door. The essay was done when the student arrived at class. I looked it over and it was done well too. Such is the motivation of having responsibility. Now to find another responsibility for that student and a few others.

Apathy: a Teacher’s bane

One of the things that I have the most trouble dealing with as a teacher is student apathy and unfortunately it seems to be high in my students this year. From discussions with other teachers it seems to be an issue across the board and not just in my class. For some reason this particular group of students seems to care less about their education and learning than any, that any of us have had in years.

Now bearing in mind that we have many students who have a really tough home life, it still seems abnormally high. I understand that my students dealing with lack of food or clothing or housing will not care as much about school as those who have all of their basic needs met. I’m familiar with Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. I know kids who are dealing with the illness or loss of a parent or grandparent will also often not care as much about school.

However what I’m seeing is students who may not have all these things but school is their haven, their safe place, where they are fed, and we make sure they are clean and clothed and they concentrate and do their absolute best on their school work, and even if their best isn’t great they’re trying.

Then we have the kiddos who do have all of their physical needs met at home, maybe it’s emotional they’re lacking. Maybe their apathy and lack of effort at school is a cry for help, so I try to connect with them. I try to build relationships, which is a whole other post. And yet there are still kids that don’t seem to care, no matter how much we care about them or how they do, they don’t seem to care.

I’ve been doing some research, that’s my thing according to the Kolbe index I took years ago. The first site I found listed some things I can do.

  1. Give students duties and responsibilities – I have done this in the past though not yet this year. I’m not sure this is appropriate for the students I’m most struggling with, but I can try so now I need to make a list of responsibilities or duties students could take over in my class.
  2. Take students seriously and celebrate successes – if you as a teacher don’t do this already I don’t want to work with you
  3. Teach what’s relevant – well I have a curriculum and I do my best to make it relevant to the students and to “real life” I try to always give them examples of why these things are important to know, sometimes that still isn’t enough. And let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t succeed in making it relevant.
  4. Be positive and a model of good behavior – I’m probably one of the most positive people I know, the glass is always half empty, in the past I’ve found that then when I do make a negative statement about students effort it has more effect, but not this year
  5. Be consistent and fair – again if this is not you as a teacher I don’t want to work with you
  6. Allow students to have a voice – I’m not sure what exactly this means here, but I try to allow my students some freedom of choice in their seating, in their choice of writing topics, and yet again there are those that this does nothing for
  7. Listen to your students – one more time if you don’t do this I don’t want to teach with you
  8. Accept the fact that you can’t connect with every student – nope sorry this one I just can’t do, I’m going to keep trying, that’s why I searched for this information in the first place

Another site gave me four things to try:

  • Make sure work is purposeful – Well yeah, otherwise what’s the point? I don’t want to do work that isn’t purposeful.
  • Make work more collaborative – I can do this but the problem comes when I don’t let students collaborate with the people they choose because no work gets done in those groups
  • Offer choices about how or what students learn – We do have our students complete an all year project, the I-Search paper. They pick the topic, they do research and interviews, and they write a paper. It’s all their choice. Other than that I let students choose their own reading books, and some of their journals are student choice, though not all as there are certain topics I want to cover.
  • Make sure learning is fun – I do my best

All in all, while I’m going to keep looking for resources, I think the idea for me is to just keep trying. Keep trying to find the one thing that will spark those apathetic students, keep trying to connect to them, keep trying to help them connect to their work, keep trying to help them see why learning is important to their lives. Just keep trying, yes now Dory is singing in my head but it’s a tune worth remembering.


Kids and Brutal Honesty

We all know that little kids can be and usually are brutally honest. They speak their minds without stopping to think what the consequences might be. This has naturally led to many an embarrassed parent; it also has resulted in many a bitten lip by nearby adults be they teachers, family members, or merely someone who happens to overhear what was said.

When does this go away? When is it that kids stop speaking so freely? I see people who seem to have no filter all over the internet. I know some adults who still have little to no filter and it seems that they’re friends love that. So why is it some people have a finely honed filter, some have little to none, and others lose theirs in the heat of the moment? At what point do we start thinking about what we say and what effect that might have on others?

It’s not in eighth grade I can tell you that much. Well at least not the eighth graders I have this year. The first journal I had my students complete this year was: What is one thing (or more) that I should know about you as a person or as a student? Why is it important for me to know this?

I was curious as to just what answers I’d get. I got some that I expected things like I hate English, I hate to read, I’m not a good writer. Then I got answers that had me in shock and some in tears. I got to a point while reading and grading them that I had to quit. I had to take a break.

Kids telling me they might not get homework done because they have to help take care of siblings, nieces or nephews, they are in multiple sports or dance. The sheer number of kids I have that have lost a parent or sibling, or grandparent that was raising them just hurts my heart. Several of the kids have someone in their life fighting cancer or some other disease. At least two shared with me that their mom’s just don’t care, one specifically said ‘mom cares more about drugs than me’, yes that lead to more tears. Another told me mom came home from work one day and just quit taking care of the student and their brother, finally the state sent them to live with their dad, and while things are better as someone cares they’re living in basically one room.

They’re so willing to share. I think that’s what leads some of them to use school projects as therapy. Still it always leaves me wondering when does this stop? Do high school kids share the same way with their teachers? I can’t claim that it’s anything I do, those journals were assigned in the first week of school. I barely knew the kids. We were just starting on our relationship building. So when does it end?