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.

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.

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.

liar

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“I didn’t take it!” Alex shouted, just as the pen he was accused of taking fell out of his notebook.

“Here we go again,” Marsel said, a little too loud.

The teacher stopped talking, irritated with Alex’s lies.

“What! Who put it in my folder?!” Alex continued ranting, looking around the classroom. Some of the kids laughed and some just stared, while a few simply rolled their eyes.

This wasn’t the first time Alex made claims, making up later to be discovered lies. Everyone, including Mr. Jones, figured once again that Alex was just trying to make waves. Looking for attention. It’d been a few months since the first time Alex stole something and lied about it. He was later outed by another student who was told by Alex himself that he did indeed steal the item in question. And regardless of the mess he was causing for himself, the lies just kept coming. Every day, nonstop.

Alex lied his way through another school in a neighboring district. He was transferred out because, well, his parents were hoping that a change of location might help him get a fresh start. A new beginning, with new friends. An opportunity to try again to apply himself.

Unfortunately, location had nothing to do with Alex’s lying. Small lies were getting bigger and bigger. And no one, especially not his teacher, believed anything he said. Not even the day Alex said “It wasn’t me! I didn’t take it!” when Mr. Jones told him to return his iPhone “Now!” But, no matter what he said, or did, to prove his innocence, Alex could not convince anyone that it was not him that took Mr. Jone’s cell phone.

Which worked perfectly for Marsel. She had been planning the theft for several weeks, and knew that it would be Alex who was blamed. Alex who wouldn’t be believed. Alex who would get in trouble. Alex who, this one time, really was innocent.

grades

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She talks. Alot. During class. During recess. In the library. While on the computer. At the lunch tables. Talk. Talk. Talk. She’s what you’d call a social butterfly. And a gossip. Someone who knows everything about everyone. I know because she tells me. Gives me the scoop about her life. Their life. Everyone’s social life.

As much as I understand the social aspect of growing up. Of life. Of being a student. I also know the importance of getting good grades. Grades that build upon each other. Year after year. Success after success.

Seriously, people, I tell the kids. You really need to understand how important the grades you receive are. They are a reflection of your determination.

As I was giving my speech, she was talking to the girl. To the boy. Both sitting behind her. I’d look at her. I would stare. And she’d quickly turn around. Until I began lecturing again. About how some day they’d all be going off to college. To educated themselves even further. Go to great colleges. Because they were getting great grades. Because they persevered.

And again, she talked. To the girl next to her. To the boy in front of her. She even passed a note to the girl diagonal from her. A note I had to intercept. A note that interrupted my train of thought. A note that had nothing to do with school. But everything to do with who was dating who, and who be stilled her heart.

On the day I handed out report cards, the grade reports of all my students. Many kids happily accepted the take-home-share-with-your-parents-news while others cringed at the thought of what lay inside the sealed envelope.

I watched her skip out the classroom door. Across the blacktop. And then she ripped opened her achievement marks. She tossed her head back. Wasn’t surprised by the comment I wrote. The comment stating she needed to focus more, talk less. She leaned her face down. Concentrating on the not-so-great marks she received. Then she looked at her friend’s report. Seeing how they compared. They laughed. As if everything was A-OK. That life was just grand.

Suddenly, she was at my classroom door. Having returned unexpectedly. And all she said to me was It’s your fault I didn’t get good grades.

Explain that to your mom, I responded. And she walked back out. Onto the blacktop. And sat with her bestest friend. Watching the cutest boys in school. Giggling about this and that. Him and her. About everything except the importance of good grades.

computer

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Carlos was told that his school’s annual test was going to be fun. Rewarding. Personal. A test that will help him, as an individual, grow to his highest potential. Carlos began to imagine it.

His teacher, Mr. Comp told him he’d be taking his state-mandated test on the computer, instead of bubbling in multiple-choice answers. “Carlos, imagine sitting in front of the computer and being presented with open-ended question after open-ended question, in all subjects.”

Carlos tweaked his head to the side, trying to picture it.

“And, rather than feeling pressured to perform, you are given time to think about, and plan your answers,” his teacher continued.

Carlos was seeing it. Liking the idea.

The questions would be scaffolded.”

Carlos needed the word defined.

“Meaning, questions would be based on your skill level; each question, after the first one, would be based on how you answered the previous question, layering it to your personal level of learning.”

“Nice,” Carlos gave a thumbs-up.

“Also, rather than lumping all of the kids in the class, or the state for that matter, into one category, giving everyone the same level of assessment, regardless of where they are on the learning curve, each would be able to show how they’ve progress over the year. Your scores would be based on you, and compared to your assessment from the previous year, showing your own personal growth. Imagine that, Carlos.”

“I think I would feel great! I think that kind of testing would really change the way I think about our annual assessment; and, also, really show my parents that I am learning. And not compare me with all the other kids in school. Plus, sometimes when questions are multiple choice, I just guess because I’m tired, don’t have a clue what the answer is, or I’m just not into it. So, this new kind of state test would be awesome!”

They were both silent for a moment, reflecting.

“Mr. Comp. Are you just wishing, or is this something you have been told about?”

“It’s on its way, Carlos, it’s on its way.”