ostracize

True story. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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Abby was a nice girl gone sort of mean. And uncaring. Not intentionally but because her best friend lied to her. Abby had money. Money she had been saving to use toward an investment in a new purse. But. Her best friend took it. Anna took the money. And ran. When Abby asked her friend about it. Did she know what happened to it? Anna just said no.

But, then along came another friend. Not the best one, but the Second Runner Up, and she said that Anna did indeed take the money. Second Runner Up friend saw her reach in and take it. Take it and shove it into her front pocket.

Anna cried. Said no I didn’t. But Abby didn’t believe her. She believed her best friend just lied. To her face. And that made her angry.

So she started to hang out with Second Runner Up. Spent time talking with her. Telling her how much she didn’t like Anna anymore. That she didn’t trust her.

Abby and Second Runner Up told everyone. And everyone told everyone. So now, everyone didn’t want to talk to Anna. Anymore. They didn’t trust her.

So, Anna sat alone. And as she pulled the stolen money from her pocket she wondered if she’d be someone’s best friend. Again. Some day. Soon.

The Turd

There’s this girl. A sixth grader to be exact. My former student. Her name is Cassandra. She has short wavy hair and wears glasses. She’s tall and thin. Quirky and confident. She’s awesome. The perfect description of a character in a book.

Anyway, she walked into my classroom – just as she alway does, every day after school, to say

Hello, how’re you doing?”

or

“How do you like my haircut?”

or

“Do you like your class this year?”

or

“Oh, the state report, I remember doing those!” 

Things like that.

So, like I said, she came into my classroom and plopped herself onto the floor, her face buried between her knees. She was next to my desk, which is next to my chair, in which I was sitting and said,

“Do I look like a turwal?

I didn’t understand what she said.

“What?” I asked.

“Do I look like a turwal?”

“Do you look like a turd?”

Cassandra’s lump of a body quivered with laughter. She laughed and laughed.

“Okay, yeah, you definitely look like a turd lying there on the carpeted floor.” I stated.

Still laughing, she unrolled herself and looked at me with a smirk on her face and said,

“I asked, do I look like a tur-tle? Turtle.” I cracked-up

The next day, she repeated her pose, positioning herself into a lump on the floor and said, “The turd is back.”

I’m a teacher because kids are so great. They roll with the punches and are simply looking for fun, pure and simple.

Get Your Glow On, with instructions

Instructions are important, yes they are. But, boy, are they oh-so boring. It’s so much more fun to just dig in, and learn as you go. But sometimes, instructions, if not followed specifically, can really mess with the final outcome. Seriously, leave you, and everyone else involved, puzzled.

Like when presenting a How-To project to a group of very enthusiastic audience participants. You explain each step, then demonstrate exactly what you mean. You wait while the audience members repeat the process, step-by-step with you, using the materials you provided them. I mean, seriously, you know what’s up, you followed the instructions to a tee.

Or, did you?

glow sodaWell, imagine your face settling into a frown when the Glowing Soda project that you worked so hard to put together doesn’t even glow. You know the Glowing Soda project. And to make matters worse, the audience begins to shout out ideas, what needs to happen to get the glow on. Then, a random person, the least expected person you’d guess to come up with an idea, pulls up a YouTube™ video, just to see, to let everyone watch, if it was possible that the instructions weren’t followed correctly, or at all.

They weren’t (followed correctly). Just in general.  Not only was an ingredient missing, but  a very specific step was overlooked. Therefore, the soda remained mute, it had no personality. No glow.

Instructions, as boring as they may be, might hold the key to what’s up and help you proceed successfully. No gist about it.

Confidence

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It’s interesting being a teacher of young kids. I tend to reflect on my own youth quite a bit, watching these 10 year old students interact. I don’t remember being so sure of myself. So confident. Waves of emotions roll through the classroom, sure, but I must say, overall, most kids are just that, kids. They cheer for each other, enjoy simple pleasures, and bounce back from problems just as quickly as they arise.

I love it. The innocence.

Today, a student stood in front of the classroom, presenting her How-To project. She was making a smoothie. She was so calm, so matter-of-fact, so ready. She measured out the milk, then added some more. She plopped in some yogurt, sliced bananas, and ice. She laughed, claiming she put in too much milk. “Oh well,” she stated, as she continued. She made a mess, spilled ingredients. She vigorously shook a canister full of her cold drink. When asked why she didn’t bring a blender, she answered, without much thought, in a casual, whatever tone, “Because.” is all she said. And just as cool everyone nodded in response.

When everything was mixed up, she took a big swig of her drink. No hesitation. No worries. No concern what others might have thought. “Pretty good,” she smiled.

Students clapped. She bowed. Gathered up her items, and headed out the door to wash up her dishes.

Sorry, #R.L.Stine, BUT I Had to Laugh

zombieOctober is the month of scary, and what better way to intrigue my fifth grade students than with a spooky thriller. Something about Zombies, something by the best-selling children’s author R.L.Stine. And based on past experiences, with other groups of students, kids love this stuff. They literally sit on the edge of their seats, wanting more, telling me, begging me to keep reading. “Please don’t stop, Mrs. Romero!”

So, there it was, mid-October, pre-Halloween.

I pulled out the Zombie book, held it up for them to observe the gruesome twosome on the front cover, building up excitement. “Wanna get freaked out!” I bellowed. “Oh, yeah!” everyone shouted back.

Several students raced to the light switch. “No lights?” they simultaneously crooned in low growling voices. “Yes!, Please?” their counterparts hollered, everyone looking to me for the final vote. “Of course,” I calmly said.

First and foremost, background knowledge necessitated a 10 and 11 year olds understanding of what they knew before I began the titillating tale. “Raise your hand if you know what a zombie is.” All hands shot straight into the air. “Okay then. How many of you are familiar with the TV show The Walking Dead?” All hands popped back up. “Cool beans. So….who actually watches the show?” Everyone. For a moment, I took a silent pause, thinking these fifth graders have the upper hand here. I have never watched the show. Never will. (Just doesn’t interest me, in case you were wondering.)

Alrighty then.

Many kids clung to each other, opened their eyes wide, dropped their jaws, and held their breath throughout each chapter, yelping for more when I left them hanging, stopping the story so that we could move on to more educational avenues. But, after about fifteen chapters several outspoken kids began to claim, “So predictable. Boring”, only because nothing ever really happened. Lots of buildup, sure, but it always turned out to be a skinny friend grabbing someone’s shoulder, not the boney hand of a monster, or the hot, bad breath of a dumbfounded character, not the foul stench of a dead person sneaking up, who was just about to chomp on the neck of the unsuspecting. I agreed with those students, but in silence, so as not to deter the kids who hadn’t quite grasp the concept of boring read.

So.

It was four days after Halloween. And I had had enough. I was so over the story, the supposed zombies, and nothing really happening – and plus I had Thanksgiving on the brain. You know, being thankful for what you have not preying on the fears of others. Scary was so last month!

Seriously.

So, that’s when I exclaimed I was going to simply breeze through the rest of Stine’s zombie story, and read only the quotes. And boy, unexpectedly, I cracked up!

As I was reading, I kept questioning the validity of the story line – “The zombie ran away from the guy? Come on. Class? You Walking Dead people? Really? Would a zombie run away?” I laughed, uncontrollably. Seriously, tears sprung from my eyes. The kids laughed because of my laughing.They caught on, grabbed hold of my antics and began having as much fun as I was, sadly at the expense of Mr. Stine. (Sorry, dude.) A spooky tale, told in a darkened classroom, with the sound of laughter. Who would have thought?

“Oh, geez!”, someone called out when I read the part about a girl who was finally freed from the basement, no longer human, but a full-on, grossed-out, ugly zombie who was mad that she had been locked away for so long. I just had to demonstrate what she looked like. I knitted my brows, squeezed my eyes, and pierced my lips. I threw my hands in the air, and walked away with a swivel of my hips, shouting ‘What-ever!’ The students busted out roll-on-the-floor laughter.

“What-ever!” they repeated.

“So fake!” someone added. The kids began comparing the book to the TV show, not realizing (or maybe just not thinking about it) that both were equally fake. Meaning, the show, though maybe more realistic, is just as silly (presumably). Which made me laugh even more!

In the end, when the final word, in the final (finally!!) chapter was read, the students cheered and clapped, just as the end-of-the-day bell blared.

the quiet room

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The kids sat, desks spread out throughout the classroom, concentrating on their work. Work they didn’t want to do. Didn’t have to do. If only they’d simply behaved. Work they were doing as a punishment for their uncooperative behavior.

The teacher also sat writing notes, ideas about upcoming lessons. Her back was aching from hunching over. Her eyes scanned the room, watching the kids. She wondered why a last ditch incentive didn’t curb their misconduct like it did with most of their peers. Peers who were in another room enjoying the reward of staying focused, putting in their best effort. Why does it seem to be a joke, a given right to misbehave with this group of kids?

She reflected on herself as a youth. A young girl who simply followed the rules, followed directions and was respectful to those around her, especially the adults. Especially her teacher. Not these kids. They defy everything, say they don’t need to listen, and Who cares! And she knows that is a big part of the problem. Who does care? Anyone? Is there an effort to teach them to be productive and valuable individuals? Or does it not matter? Just give these kids whatever they want and assume everything will turn out okay.

The teacher knows, though, that it won’t be okay unless someone besides herself, at this moment, during this year, and more importantly, throughout their life, sets boundaries and maintains some sort of structure in their lives. Everyone plays a role in the growth of each child. Everyone involved.

The kids are tired, she notices, just like she is. Some of them look up, look at her, but then quickly bow their heads, returning to their work, defeated. She wishes she can change everything, make them understand the importance of responsibility; but, they just roll their eyes at her, not accepting her explanation.

For the moment, they are quiet here in the quiet room. Working because she told them to, because they have no choice, because she has expectations. But, when the bell rings, alerting them that their day is done, the kids spring from their seats, and once outside, return to their shenanigans.

Tomorrow is another day she tells herself. A chance to try again.

zoom

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Moises zooms around the school’s field, passing all the other fifth graders. He checks behind him to see who is on his tail. There’s Jesse, neck-in-neck with Flavio, competing for the second place spot. And finally, right behind them, Leticia tags in, her face red with a light film of sweat covering her brow. All the other kids are either jogging a slow pace, or walking and chatting, not putting much effort into their morning routine before heading into the classroom.

There are only 27 days left of the school year, and just as some of the students zoom around the grassy ground every morning, another year of learning and expanding the sponge-like minds of such impressionable people has zoomed by oh-so quickly. It all began with hellos and soon the goodbyes will be heard as the final bell rings. One full year wrapped up, not with crisp streamed-lined edges, not perfect, or even the best presentation; but, one year, 180 zoom! zoom! days.