because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham

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Ermigal with some of her former students

Odds and Ends from Ermigal is a fabulous blog. A recently retired English as a Second Language teacher, Ermine Cunningham’s favorite years were teaching students from all over the world. (See them up there?)

One of the things that I love best about Erm’s blog is that she writes about everything and anything under the bed. You didn’t see that coming, did you? Well, that’s what it’s like at Ermine’s. One minute we are talking about salsa lessons and the next thing we know, she admits “Herman Cain Made a Pass At Me, Too.

If you like a good surprise, you will love Ermigal.

• • •

Click on the teacher lady's nose to see other writers who have posted about lessons learned as well as the schedule for who is coming up!

Dear Miss Brown: Thanks for Reaming Me Out

As a greenhorn seventh grader trying to maneuver my way around the unfamiliar world of Junior High School, I was introduced to the new concept of “Slam Books” in Miss Brown‘s homeroom one morning: a spiral notebook with names of kids written at the top that was passed around surreptitiously for anonymous comments — positive or negative — a prehistoric version of internet bullying or sucking up, take your pick.

Eagerly, I became the first taker on a brand new Slam Book in Miss Brown’s homeroom and tried to be clever and cool with my entries. My summer growth spurt made me taller than most of the boys in my class, and I’d been spotted wearing an undershirt in the locker room after gym, as my mother pooh-poohed wearing a bra until I “needed one”. Stationed at my vantage point on the fringes of acceptance, I took a stab at being popular; carefully dressed and wearing a bra I’d purchased at K-Mart, I wanted to fit in.

On the page with “Ginny Bloss” written at the top, I had written, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

I passed the book along and went to my locker before the bell rang to switch classes.

I was on my knees digging in my locker when my teacher faced me, her large green eyes blazing. “Did you write this?” she demanded, pointing to the page with Ginny’s name.

I remember this classmate as small and quiet in class–definitely not one of the “popular” kids. I’d figured out that some kids were cheerleaders or student council material, definitely the ones whose group I wanted to be in. Ginny was not anywhere near being a part of this select bunch; she even paid attention in Mr. Foster’s science class while a group of us fooled around and passed notes.

“Yes,” I whispered. My stomach churned with a feeling of impending doom.

Miss Brown proceeded to go up one side of me and down the other. I distinctly remember when she asked me furiously:

“Who do you think you are?”

That feeling of shame and regret, along with those words, have stuck with me. To this day, that moment in the hall influences how I view other people; on that long ago morning, I learned — in a most basic way — that we are all equal and worthy of respect.

It didn’t hurt that my parents reinforced this trait in me also, but Miss Brown brought it home in a way a thirteen year old could learn from if she chose to do so. My life has been, I hope, a reflection of what I learned that day.

Thanks, Miss Brown.

Have you ever had a “public shame” moment? What did you do? How was it handled? What did you learn?

The Way Mrs. Wheeler Rolled: Guest Post by Ricky Anderson

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Does it get cuter than that folks?

For a chance to enter to win a bracelet from cutey, click HERE for details!

I’m pretty sure I met Ricky Anderson right about the time I met Tyler Tarver and Knox McCoy. They came strung together like half a six-pack. Here’s what I’ve learned about Ricky since August 2011: Snickers really satisfy him, he works on computers, and he gets precious little sleep because of that little person over there. —>

I also learned that his first grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Wheeler. Which is weird because my first grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Wheeler, so I kind of wonder if he is that Ricky kid who came to my school briefly and then disappeared. Probably not.

Please, please, please read his article “I am a Diva”.

And follow him on Twitter at @Arthur2Sheds. Don’t ask.

He’s a little defensive about that whole lack of integration thing.

• • •

Click here for main schedule!

The Way Mrs. Wheeler Rolled

My first grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Wheeler. I found this especially fitting, seeing as how the old lady must have been ten years older than Methuselah. I was convinced if we were to give Mrs. Wheeler a sudden start, we’d have to ‘wheel her’ out on a gurney.

She was a delightful old relic, though. She was exactly twelve feet tall. She wore old lady’s perfume; the kind that made your nose wrinkle up into a prune.

I loved her.

She was the reason I went to school. The numerous bullies who traded my lunch money for a bloody nose or a black eye hardly bothered me. All my attention was focused on getting to Mrs. Wheeler’s class. It was one of my two main goals in life.

The other, of course, was to please Mrs. Wheeler. Any act that would make her happy was an accomplishment to me, no matter how minuscule. If her pencil tip were dull, I’d gladly whittle her a new one. When she needed the chalkboard erasers beat, I hastily volunteered. My hair may have resembled Ben Matlock’s when I was finished, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was the first time I can remember finding self-sacrifice enjoyable.

I did these things not only because I loved her, but also because I owed it to her. You see, some bullies were worse than others. There was a whole gang of the really mean ones that got their kicks from my posterior. I accurately nicknamed them ‘The Meanies’. They practiced judo on me every day at recess. I knew the routine well. They would surround me, and I would begin to feel the fear creep over me. The name calling and shoving would commence, and the tears and pocket change would disperse.

One day as this was taking place, yet again, something out of the ordinary happened. I was picking myself out of the dirt when a lone shadow blocked the sun. The proceedings halted like molasses in August. The onlookers scattered as Mrs. Wheeler towered over the malicious would-be thieves. I knew all would be fine when she began scolding them with those scalding words of retribution that still ring in my ears to this day, “Come now, let’s play nicely, girls.”

Do you remember any of your teachers saying or doing something that they probably couldn’t get away with now?

Why Teachers Need to Laugh by Leanne Shirtliffe

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Click here to see the main schedule!

I’ve only known Leanne for about 9 months, but it feels like I have known her forever. And I mean that in a good way. Not the way you would say that about some weird cousin or something, you know when you roll your eyes. She’s like one of my blogging besties. For reals.

I like to imagine that — one day — we will stop Skyping and sit side by side. I could listen to her Canadian accent for hours. That thought makes me feel funny inside. But in a good touch way. Because that’s the way we roll like thunder under our cyber-blankets. I have no idea what that means. Follow Leanne’s blog HERE or stalk her on Twitter at @Lshirtliffe, eh?

• • •

Like Renée, I love good wordplay. If it crosses the line of appropriateness, I love it all the more. I am constantly saying what I shouldn’t.

This started in high school. I remember sitting in twelfth grade chemistry class; I had handcuffed my lab partner to me because he wouldn’t sit still and do his share of the work.

Shane and Leanne, handcuffed

My teacher was my volleyball coach, a man who had a good sense of humor and knew me well. I sat at the desk with my Texas Instruments calculator and my partner, desperately trying to write up the lab before going out-of-town for a weekend tournament. Our Friday afternoon class, meanwhile, went sideways and launched into a spirited, circular discussion on the pronunciation of certain words.

Different students bandied options about. Even our teacher, whose first name was Richard, participated eagerly.

“Is it to-MAY-to or to-MAH-to?”

“How about of-FEN or of-TEN?”

“What about po-TAY-to or po-TAH-to?”

“Is it HER-bal or ER-bal?”

A loud debate ensued. I sat there, rubbing my wrist, trying to finish the lab. Shane, my partner, sat there too. He had little choice.

Frustrated, I decided to have the last word. I raised my hand and looked directly at my teacher.

“Is it Rick… or Dick?”

The class shifted in silence.

My teacher stood wide-eyed, staring back at one of his top students. He paused and said, “Get to work. Everyone.”

I had crossed the line.

• • •

Now that I teach eighth and ninth grade English, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of students who cross the line. I also know that I still cross the line, unwittingly in the classroom. My capacity to embarrass myself as a teacher is limitless.

Every class, I write an agenda on the board. Most days I do this hurriedly as students rush in and take their seats; in the interest of haste, I take shortcuts, scrawling abbreviations of the day’s tasks on the whiteboard.

On more than one occasion, I’ve written agendas like the following:

This agenda appears to belong to an edgy sexual education class, rather than to one doing literary analysis and oral assessments. Try explaining this to fourteen year olds who are in various hilarious stages of hyperventilation and full-out laughter.

Lately, I’ve found myself in as semi-serious discussion, explaining the terms wet-nurse, weaning, and “ho”.

Thank you, Shakespeare, for helping us to giggle through Romeo and Juliet.

My biggest bonehead move occurred a few years ago. I was trying to explain what a static character was to my ninth graders. I knew they had all studied S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders two years ago. Keep in mind that when I’m teaching, I tend to scoot across the room like Mary Poppins, enthusiastic, gesticulating, and full of self-importance caffeine.

Do you remember Dally from The Outsiders? Let’s examine him. He was a hard character. He remained hard throughout the whole novel. In every aspect, he was hard. He never changed. His hardness was evident from the first page to the end of the novel.

Indeed.

Evidently I too am a static character.

Thank God for laughter.

And thank God for the continual reminders that it is healthy to laugh at ourselves.

What do you remember laughing about in the classroom?

End of the Semester Evaluations – of Me!

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At the end of the semester, I always ask students to give me feedback about my course, my syllabus, and the skills of the freakishly attractive woman they have been made to stare at for nearly 400 hours.

I ask them to type their answers so there is no chance of being identified by their handwriting.

That way I feel like they really do have a chance to give me honest feedback.

No marshmallowy-delicious coating necessary.

Basically, it is their opportunity to let me have it.

This semester, I started out with 27 students sitting at 27 desks.

In the end, I wound up with 13 warriors.

Not everyone earned A’s or B’s.

Some people failed.

But everyone who stayed until the end, showed a kind of tenaciousness that I feel certain will help them succeed in the future.

These people were not quitters.

• • •

Here is a sampling of the answers to the questions I asked.

Question 1: What were some of Professor Jacobson’s strengths?

  • Professor Jacobson is exciting, energetic and up-beat. 

So they liked my singing after all!

  • She’s fun, nice to talk to, understanding, funny and helpful.
  • Her personality makes class much more bearable.

Clearly there are many unbearable aspects to my class.

  • She provides constructive criticism during essay writing and praise when appropriate.
  • She always lets students know what’s going on and makes sure everyone is clear on everything.

I’m not positive, but I think this might have been a little snarky. One of the things I was worst at was sticking to my proposed syllabus. And I constantly revised it.

Question 2: What were some of Professor Jacobson’s weaknesses?

  • She didn’t have any.

Oh come on? Really?

  • I didn’t notice any.

Whaaat? This person must have been spell-bound by my dancing.

  • She doesn’t know how to work the projector. At all.

There we go. Sad, but true. Technology is my enemy.

  • She kept changing the syllabus around.

Again, true.

  • I didn’t like her emphasis on citation.

Sorry. I’m trying to make it so you don’t get busted for stealing in the future.

  • I thought the class was thought out well and the assignments were interesting.
  • Few and far-between. Maybe a little favoritism. Clearly, X was her favorite student above anyone else, thought she did seem to like us all.

X was actually not my favorite student.

Question 3. Do you feel the expectations were appropriate for a Composition-101 class?

  • Absolutely.

Woot! Got 9 of these. But maybe it’s easier to just write “absolutely” than have to elaborate. Hmmm.

  • I thought she had high expectations for her students to become better writers and that’s what she got.
  • At times, it felt like a lot because other teachers hand out a lot of work as well.
  • I was expecting a more relaxed work load, but I won’t complain because writing this much made us stronger and weeded out the slackers.

Question 4: Did Professor Jacobson create an atmosphere of respect and cooperation? If so, where was this demonstrated? If no, how can she improve?

  • Yes.
  • The classroom setting was super comfortable.
  • She promoted a lot of cooperation during peer review where we read each others’ papers. This was scary at first, but I eventually realized that we were all helping each other and realized no one would ever be cruel.
  • She was a friend to all of us, but strict enough to command respect.
  • She was respectful to us and expected us to be the same to her – and each other. Sometimes I have problems reading aloud, but I didn’t in this class because I knew no one would make a snide remark.
  • Professor Jacobson’s attitude is what made this section of English-101 a successful class. She displayed respect when she asked people to share their writing without pressuring anyone who didn’t want to.
  • There was a lot of mutual respect.

I’m kind of big on respect.

Question 5: Do you feel your writing skills improved over the semester?

  • Before this class I had never heard of MLA citation. I had never generated my own thesis statement. Now I know how to do both.

This. Is. A. Sin.

  • My analysis defiantly (sic) became stronger. And my sentence structure has improved and become more varied.
  • We were writing all the time, and the constant practice helped me improve.
  • I actually know where to put my commas now.
  • I learned to weed out unnecessary words.
  • When I looked back at my first paper, there was so much purple all over the place. Now I am making fewer mistakes, and I am enjoying writing more.

I asked a few other questions, too. But you get the gist.

One comment has to be read in isolation. It was not written in paragraphs. It is what it is. It keeps me humble and reminds me that no matter how hard I try, I can’t reach everyone.

1. I have no idea what your strengths are as a teacher.
2. I have no idea what your weaknesses are as a teacher.
3. I guess your expectations were appropriate.
4. No comment.
5. My writing remains the same.

{Ouch.}

Have you ever been evaluated? What have people said about you? Or what do you think folks might say is your greatest strength and your biggest weakness?

11 out of 13 Comp-101 Warriors 2011 • I'm in the middle

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Mrs. Schmidt's Wonderful World: Guest Post by Kathy English

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Kathy English

My guest blogger today is Kathy English, one of the very first people I met in the Blogosphere. Or, I guess I was directed to her. Her blog, The Mom Crusades, is filled with funny peeves and basically daily, snarky observations about parenting. Kathy has had a tough year. Last November, her then 9-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy and endless doctor’s appointments, some semblance of normalcy has been restored. Kinda. I was surprised and  appreciative when Kathy volunteered to write a teacher memory. She has such an open heart. 

 • • •

Mrs. Schmidt’s Wonderful World

In sixth grade, I attended a school with three middle school grades sharing the high school building. As a new kid, I quickly learned to avoid the seniors’ hallway, to avoid the principal as he was quick to paddle students for wrong-doings (yes, principals were equipped with wooden paddles back in the day, and they used them). It was the first year I would rotate classrooms, and I had to memorize where all my classes would be and in what order.

I wasn’t ready.

By sheer rotten luck, I was placed in the class of a teacher who’d had one of my sisters a few years earlier. He was one of those people you look at and wonder, “How the heck did THAT guy ever get to be a teacher?” A toothpick grew permanently out of the corner of his mouth, he was sarcastic, and he talked to us with the vocal inflection that automatically let us know he thought we were “duh-mb.”

By sheer blessed luck, a counselor entered my room on the second day of school and asked for volunteers to switch into a self-contained sixth grade classroom in order to even out class sizes. My hand shot up in the air so fast, I felt like I could have touched the ceiling. I had chosen to sit in the back of the room, hoping to avoid the attention of the teacher, but there I was, practically jumping up and down in my seat, Arnold Horseshack style. (Young’uns can google that reference. He’s from the old TV show Welcome Back, Kotter!)

The counselor selected a handful of us, and we grabbed our books and headed down the hall to the wonderful world of Mrs. Schmidt, sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Schmidt was tall and slender, with wild red curly hair, and a commanding presence. She was ready for business from day one, and guided all of us with a firm hand, a sense of humor, and sternness when necessary.

While other kids might have thought it strange that we didn’t change classes or have different teachers, we were in our own little world with Mrs. Schmidt: caught in a happy cocoon of elementary school-like security and sixth grade learning.

I couldn't find any images that said: "Royal Highness of Reading"!

During the last week of sixth grade, the school was prepared to hand out various awards at a school-wide assembly. The ever-perceptive Mrs. Schmidt knew that there would be many of us who – literally – didn’t make the grade and would not receive any of those awards. In my scrapbook, I still have four, faded-purple dittoed awards – outlined in crayon and glued onto construction paper, all made by hand and personally signed by Mrs. Schmidt. What are they for? “Scientific Achievement” and “Social Studies Skills”; another stated I was the “Royal Highness of Reading” and declared that I possessed the “Imagination to Travel anywhere and everywhere in the Kingdom of Infinity.” I also earned the award for “Clever Wit.”

Each of the 30 or so students in the class was given at least as many personal awards from Mrs. Schmidt, each read aloud joyfully before being presented, as if it were the first time our teacher had ever given such awards to anyone.

Mrs. Schmidt had a knack for making everyone feel special, for recognizing the individuality in each student and finding a way to nurture it. She was certainly a tough act to follow.

Every time end-of-the-year school award ceremonies roll around, I remember Mrs. Schmidt and how she found something personal about each of her students – to let them know they were recognized and appreciated.

Did you ever win any goofy awards at school? What did you win?

A Letter To The Student Who Withdrew Himself

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Back before the semester started, I lightheartedly joked that I would never be able to learn my new students’ names because there were so many duplicates on my roster. I quickly figured out who was who. While many of their names were the same, they were all so very unique. And it was good.

Not too long ago, a student who had been doing very well withdrew himself from my class.

I kind of freaked out.

One year, I had a student commit suicide while I taught him. I missed the signals. And I was among the last people he’d talked to before he very intentionally decided to wrap his car around a pole.

Nervous, I called Student Services to let them know I was concerned about this student’s sudden disappearance. A woman assured me someone would contact him.

In the meantime, I sent him an email:

Dear Student X:

I noticed that you have been out a few days, but I assumed you were just sick.

I intended to call you today if you weren’t in class — and then I was poking around for your phone number when I saw that you had withdrawn yourself from class.

Are you okay?

I’m worried about you.

Oddly, that day in the hall, when I saw you expertly rolling a cigarette, licking the paper, and sliding it behind your ear, I wondered if something was going on.

I had a weird feeling.

And then you never came back.

You were doing really well.

Was it the research paper that spooked you?

I wish you had come to talk to me. Or emailed. Or called.

Because you are a very good writer, so I hope you left because you didn’t like my teaching style or something.

Because that I can handle.

But I’d hate to think you dropped the course because you thought you weren’t succeeding when you were.

Or that you are in a dark place not feeling good about yourself.

Can you let me know you are okay?

Sincerely,

RASJ

At week 12, the leaves have fallen off the trees. My class roster is down over 50%. Maybe more. I have lost all my Ashleighs, and I am down to one Ashley. My remaining students don’t seem to notice. Or, if they do, they don’t say anything. But they must see that there are more available seats around them, that there are fewer backpacks over which to trip, that there are fewer heads obstructing their view. They must recognize there is more room to move, more air to breathe. But maybe they don’t.

When I was in college, I don’t think I noticed when people disappeared.

Sometimes I blink back tears. Because I wonder about the disappeared ones. I wonder if they are okay. I wonder if they have landed in soft places where people are helpful and offering hands with palms up. People tell me not to worry so much, that I can’t possibly save them all.

I know that. But I don’t have to like it. Right?

What would you do if someone in your life suddenly dropped out of it? What if Student X were your child, away at college for the first time? What would you want a college professor to do?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

The Gift of Off-Center

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It was my third week at Metairie Park Country Day School, and I could barely distinguish the administration building from the science building. I didn’t know where the nearest bathroom was, who to call about the broken desk in my classroom, or how to make the copier stop jamming.

For the first two weeks I called him Jeff. By the time I got it straight, I realized that Mark Kelly was not the technology guy; neither was he the Athletic Director. He was the Middle School Principal, and he’d come to the English office to pay me a visit, to see how I was doing, if I needed anything. How nice, I thought, how friendly the folks are around these parts. Little did I know that he was out to get me. Little did I know that I’d come face to face with the meanest practical joker east of the Mississippi. I made the mistake of sounding secure.

Mark Kelly

“Everything is great,” I said, trying to sound confident.

“Have you been to the Lower School?” he asked.

“Been there.” I said, feigning a yawn.

“What about the library?”

“Pu-leeze,” I lied.

“So you know what you’re doing?” he said, raising his eyebrow. “You have it all together?”

I nodded my head, snapped my fingers two times for effect, and headed off to class. Later, after school ended and I had erased the blackboard, reorganized the desks in a circle, and collected my mail, I returned to the English office. I saw it from all the way across the room; my desk had been cleared.

Everything was gone.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, I gasped aloud: “My grade book!” It held all my students’ grades, all my attendance records. I think I vomited a little in my mouth.

Sitting behind me, looking calm, was Mark Kelly. He smiled, arms crossed over his chest.

“Where is it? What have you done with it?!” I squeaked.

“It’s around,” he said coolly.

Suffice it to say that Mr. Kelly sent me on quite a scavenger hunt. During my journey, I located the Lower School atrium, the Upper School attendance office, the library – and I met fabulous folks all along the way. In the end, it turned out that Mr. Kelly had stashed all my goods in an empty file cabinet drawer right there in the English office, about two steps away from my desk. I pulled all my belongings out of the drawer, unharmed, and set about reorganizing.

Mr. Kelly gurgled and chortled behind me.

Truth be told, I miss the way Mark Kelly batted me around the way some giant cat might play with a mouse or a bird. I miss hearing his booming laugh behind me at school plays; I miss his multi-colored Tabasco ties; I miss his wit, his charm, his teasing, and his teaching. Mark put a little bounce in my step. He taught me to stay on my toes.

Mr. Kelly taught me never to brag about being done with something early. He taught me how order in the world is artificial and how easy it is to lose control. He made me explore, go out and meet people, go into unfamiliar territory, and find answers. It is so easy to get stuck in our own little comfort zones.

I like to think that this little Grasshopper has become like her master and that I instill in my students the same thrill for exploration and the same joy at being slightly off-center.

When is the last time someone made you feel a little off-balance – in a good way? What’s the best practical joke someone ever pulled on you? Or you pulled on someone else?

Yo tengo el gato los pantelones! Guest Post by Tyler Tarver

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Hola! Tyler Tarver is my guest blogger today!

I am so lucky to have Tyler Tarver as a guest blogger today. Tyler’s awesome blog is called chaos meets capitalization. I wish I thought of that, but that would imply my brain would work like Tyler’s and Tyler’s brain does not work like mine. In fact, Tyler Tarver’s brain does not work like anyone else’s brain. Which might be why I like him so much. He thinks in metaphors. And colors. And he raps. And he teaches. And he has published books! These are all qualities that I admire. Plus, did I mention he is wicked funny. Wait, do I sound like I have a little crush on Tyler Tarver? It might sound like that, but really I just wish my brain worked like his. Like a little bit. Like on weekends. Or even once a month would be fine. It would be cool to see an MRI of what is going on in Tyler’s head. Because his synapses fire. Seriously. Can we make that happen, T?  Enjoy Tyler’s memory of his Spanish teacher then follow him at @TylerTarver. (He digs stalkers.) Also he wrote an awesome book that he is selling here.

• • •

Yo tengo el gato los pantelones.

That’s literally all I know after two years of high school Spanish. I’m not even certain it’s correct and I learned it from Blue Streak starring Martin Lawrence. I’m fairly certain it means “I have a cat in my pants.”

So you know where I stand, this is not a story about how much I learned in Mrs. Harris’ class, but how much freaking fun it was and the kinda crap we got away with like DB Cooper (huge crap stealer).

First, how’d I get a Hall Pass to Mrs. Harris’ heart? Easy, I took up for her when the class tool was bashing her about grading something wrong. My spider-senses started tingling and I knew she was about to cry, so I tell the kid to shut his face, she said she’d fix it. Boom, I’m more her favorite than The Notebook.

I think Professor Jacobson wanted me to talk about someone that made a difference or made me who I am, but I was forged in the fires of Mt. Doom, so no credit due to anyone.*

*mostly bull crap, except for parts based in fact.

So, here’s some stuff we did to make Mrs. Harris laugh, make some memories, and mostly make her distracted so I didn’t have to learn a useful subject like la Espanola.

  • Scotch taped my binder, pencils, and book to my desk. Along with her stapler, tape dispenser, picture frame, and flower vase with flower. Why? Just in case we lost gravity but I still wanted to el learna the wordsa of la Spanishas.
  • Made her authentic Spanish puppet dirty dance with her sweet tea (one hand on da butt and one in da drink, like da playas do).
  • Make that authentic Spanish puppet do the same with the side of Mrs. Harris’ head.
  • When she left the room, we turned off the lights and adjusted the overhead light with a sidewalk outline of a person wearing a crown. So when she walked in, we flipped the light on her and blasted the radio up and everyone in the class started singing “HERE SHE COMES MISS AMERICA…”
  • Reenacted a story about a momma dinosaur who wanted to make in on her own in New York city via shadow puppets.
  • Squirted Arby Sauce in a compartment of her desk and drank it out with a straw.
  • Proceed to throw up the aforementioned Arby sauce plus previously consumed school biscuits and gravy into the trash can in front of the class.

My personal favorite prank I got to perform needs some setup.

Our school burnt down my 10th grade year, so classrooms took place in these real classy trailers that smelled like moist feet with hair. Hobbit feet I guess would be a visual, moist Hobbit feet in an older buttered croissant roll. So, we would have to walk outside from class to class. Okay, that’s all the setup I got, I might have been wearing blue. No, it was yellow. Classy yellow.

Regardless of shirt pigment (maybe black, it brings out my eyes, the center part), I leave from my class and head straight to Harris’ and place an official looking piece of paper on her door stating, “Mrs. Harris’ class needs to go to the library.”

(We didn’t.)

After sitting in her class by herself for about 10 minutes, she walks outside to see what’s up.

Let’s just say our class enjoyed our 10 minutes of free-time playing Minesweeper in the library.

Sorry, no big punch line or hook. Except that after I graduated, Mrs. Harris because Miss Harris and now she’s Mrs. Tarver.

I made that very last part up.

But I’m sure she’s still cool.

The End.

So what teacher did you crush over and what did he/she do to make you love him/her?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!

Buzz Champion: Guest Post by Kelly K.

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Kelly K.

My guest blogger today is Kelly K. Kelly has a zillion blogs. Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, she writes a lot.

Dances with Chaos is where she shares the good, bad, and chaotic about her life. There’s Writing with Chaos where she responds to prompts from Write on Edge.

Kelly’s other blog, I Survived the Mean Girls, is a site for individuals who feel bullied and alone to see many have been there, survived it, and that it is possible to be stronger because of it. Guest submissions make that site work, so if you are interested in writing something for Kelly K. please contact her. You can also follow that blog at @OstracizedTeens.

In real life, Kelly K. has been beyond helpful to me. When I had my meltdown, Kelly K. was there. She is an amazing “fryber” (my made-up word for a cyber-friend) and a fearless writer devoted to expressing herself in as many ways as possible. Her twitter handle is @danceswithchaos. Feel free to subscribe to all her blogs and follow her. I know I do.

• • •
Buzz Champion

Knots twisted my stomach as I stood in front of the class. All eyes focused forward.

On me.

On our teacher.

“Start whenever you’re ready, Kelly,” Mr. Wicks told me, patiently waiting.

“One,” I said, confident. The beginning was easy.

“Two.” He answered quickly.

“Three.”

“Four.”

“Five.” I stared at him, blocking out the rest of my fourth grade class.

“Six.”

“Buzz.” I grinned. I knew better than to fail this early.

He smiled back. “Eight.”

“Nine.”

“Ten.”

“Buzz.” I smiled again.

“Twelve.”

“Thirteen.”

“Buzz.”

Of course, he wouldn’t freeze on the first one. “Fifteen.”

“Sixteen.”

“Buzz.” Would today be the day I finally triumphed?

“Eighteen.”

My palms grew sweaty again, just like several minutes earlier when I’d faced the last classmate standing – finally taking him down to win the title for our class: Buzz Champion.

The numbers climbed and our pace slowed. On each turn, I frantically ran through the lists of Buzz numbers: multiples of seven, numbers with seven in it, matching double digits like fifty-five.

“Eighty-five?” My answers became hesitant, my knowledge of anything past seven times twelve no longer committed to memory.

“Eighty-six.”

“Buzz.” What was the next multiple of seven?

“Buzz.”

What number were we on now? “Eighty-nine?”

“Ninety.”

“Ninety-one…”

He smiled but didn’t speak and I knew.

I had failed. Again.

Mr. Wicks turned and shook my hand. “Congratulations, Kelly.”

He clapped his hands, directing his applause at me.

The class joined in.

I turned to face them, spying looks of awe for battling so high.

I smiled.

I’d get him next time.

• • •

I never beat Mr. Wicks in Buzz, but I did manage to last past one hundred a few times.

I was undefeated in my class for the year.

Mr. Wicks was unique. He was fun and engaging.

He played games like Buzz to make multiplication interesting.

He made you want to please him.

Mr. Wicks saw I thrived on a challenge, and he gave it to me. He never let me win. He wore his pride in my attempts as though I had won.

I was only ten years old, but mourned for the class behind me, because he left our school to become vice-principal at another.

I mourned for all students, because he wouldn’t teach anymore.

As I learned his fate and we turned in our textbooks, he pulled the piece of paper off the wall where it had hung all year long, accumulating names.

“You won more than anyone else. Would you like to keep this, Kelly?”

I reached for the paper, donning a proud smile at how often my name appeared. “Yes.”

I still have it today.

And every time I look at it I grin, remembering the little girl who believed she could defeat her teacher at Buzz.

And I want to thank him.

Buzz Champion -- 1987

In which subject did you kick butt while you were in school? Do you have any weird old elementary school mementos that you keep around?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a teacher memory, write about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

Mrs. Clayton #twits

Posted on
Kelliefish!

I am excited to have Kelliefish13 as a guest blogger today. Kelliefish is an avid traveler. In fact, she went to Italy this summer and documented her many adventures and took many beautiful photos.

Kelliefish started her blog to work on her writing skills because she has some real challenges when in comes to writing; something she addresses in this post.

Kelliefish is one of the sweetest fishies in the sea. Thank you for being so honest, Kel, and for helping me with my project. When you are done reading her teacher memory, check out her blog HERE.

• • •

Mrs. Clayton

Mrs. Clayton was my favourite teacher. I had her when I was about 7. She allowed me the freedom to be myself and gently guided me and encouraged me to do my best. I remember being allowed to take my writing book outside under the tree just outside the classroom to write poems about the plants I saw there; somehow she got me to read one of my pieces in front of the entire school (of about 100 students) which, at the time, was a miracle given how shy I was.

She was also the teacher with whom I realised some of my weaknesses. While waiting for her to mark another child’s work, I watched her read their work easily and then send them off with only a few suggestions for improvement, and then I stood beside her as I handed her mine. She looked at my writing and asked me to read it aloud for her. I noticed the difference, but once we finished with the exercise, she didn’t treat me any differently and gave me some suggestions to help to fix my spelling. What neither she nor I knew at the time was that I am dyslexic and, unlike some of the other teachers I have had since, she never made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough. She just accepted me as I was.

I remember how she let us put the daffodils we brought for her into dye pots so we could watch them change colour. I remember how she stood on a desk screaming while some boys with brooms chased an enormous rat out of our classroom. She taught us funny old songs that I still remember. Mrs. Clayton inspired me to become a teacher, and I hope that one day I can be as fabulous to my own students as she was to me.

What little moment can you remember from 2nd grade? Or any elementary grade?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.