Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for zzz's, which we probably all need right now

Dear Ask a Teacher,

Yesterday I went to my Spanish teacher’s room after school.  I had an appointment to meet with him so he could help me on conjugation.  When I went in, he was asleep, with his head on his desk - at least, I’m pretty sure he was asleep.  I said his name twice, but he didn’t wake up.  I didn’t know what to do, and I felt weird about shaking him, so I left. 

What should I have done?  Should I say something to him about it?  He never asked if I came by.  Should I tell someone?

Signed,
Confused in Colbyville


Dear Confused,
To be completely frank, every teacher I know has looked for a place in the school to hide so he or she could sleep, or wished that he or she could find one.  Teachers are exhausted.  We don’t sleep much, and when we do, we don’t sleep well. 

I think you did the right thing, Confused.  Don’t mention you saw him, because he’ll be extremely embarrassed.  Just make another appointment with him, maybe this time before school starts.  Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone in the office, because he’ll get in trouble, even though he didn’t do anything wrong.  They won’t be kind. 

I hope this helps, Confused, especially since this is the last post in our A to Z blog challenge.

Signed,
Ms. Michaels


P.S. If you ever see Ms. Waterhouse slumped over her desk, call the office AND 911.  We think she has a prescription drug problem.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for yearbooks, if one wants them

Dear Ask a Teacher,

My school is trying to get everyone to order a yearbook, but I don’t want to.  Even my mom is pushing me to get one!  I hate this school, and I hate pictures of myself, and besides my friends and the band, I’m not really interested in all the other stuff at the school.  But my mom and teachers keep saying I’m wrong, that I’ll wish I had a yearbook later.  Personally, I just don’t want to spend the money.  I know you’ll probably agree with them, but my mom said I had to write this letter anyway.

Signed,
Being pushed in Brentwood

Dear Brentwood,
I’m glad you did what your mother asked and wrote to me.  That shows respect for authority and will help your mother trust you and lead to less conflict between the two of you.

If your mother insists on you buying a yearbook, then do it.  Obviously, it means more to her than it does to you, so if she’s paying for it, then make her happy.  It doesn’t matter if you never look at it.

But if you’re paying for it?  Well, Brentwood, then it’s up to you.  Personally, and this may shock you coming from me, I don’t see the need for yearbooks anymore.  Schools are too large to document adequately all the events and activities that happen, and students today have more ways than ever to retain those memories of friendships and events.  The older generation, of which I’m a member, thinks back fondly on yearbooks, as they were the only means we had of remembering our school years.  But your generation has more options, and may choose to use its funds in a different manner.  Plus, students constantly disrupt class by trying to pass around the books for signatures from other students, or even teachers.

I hope that helps.  And check out the other letters in this month’s A to Z blog post challenge.

Signed,

Mrs. Simons, who better not have to confiscate phones OR books in class next week

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for...uh, something

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I saw in the grade book that I have an X for the Civil War assignment.  What does that mean?  I'm sure I turned it in.  Can I make it up?  I really need to keep my grades up.

Signed,

Anxious in Arlington

Dear Anxious,

Danielle, is this you?  We talked about this already.  X means exempt, and it's because you did the extra Lincoln questions that you were exempt from the Civil War Assignment.  What are you so worried about?  You already hit the three!

So stop asking me for extra credit all the time.  I really can't come up with more assignments for you, because I'm trying to start early practice and pick team captains for next year so we'll DEFINITELY make it to state.  That last game was a heartbreaker, especially since Corey was ineligible to play.  Maybe you should talk to him about grades.

Here's an assignment - go read the A to Z blog challenge and leave me alone.

Signed,

Coach Taylor, who's got his head in the game

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Why? Why indeed...

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I want to know why we have to start school so early.  Why?  It’s stupid!  We can’t even get a decent night’s sleep.

Signed,
Tired in Toledo


Dear Tired,

You think you’re tired?  Imagine having to teach six classes, grade 80 research projects, and contact 15 parents to let them know that their child is failing, not to mention making lesson plans and finishing professional development training.

So Tired, I sympathize, but really, not that much, because I get up earlier than you.  And if this is Shannon in 5th period, you told Tina you were up until 3 am Shapchatting with your boyfriend, right before you fell asleep during the quiz.  So, while I know teens could use a later start time biologically, don’t complain to me.  After this whole A to Z blog challenge, my patience is spent with whiny teens.

Signed,

Ms. Munoz, who may be a first-year teacher but she’s not an idiot

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Volume, as in, turn it down

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I’m so mad at my teacher right now.  He took my phone away.  I was in class, and I went to turn my phone off, and it accidentally went off.  The volume was up, I guess, and the Clash of Clans theme played.  My teacher got up and said, “Who’s playing on their phone?”  Everyone then turned and ratted me out.  It wasn’t my fault!  The volume was just up.  I wasn’t playing, and even if I was, we were just watching a video anyway. 

He won’t give it back.  What do I do?  He says my mom has to get it from the office, but I can’t tell my mom because she’s already mad at me for throwing away my school picture order form.

Signed,
Angry in Annapolis

Dear Angry,

Wait a minute, isn’t this Matthew in third period World History?  I heard about this from Mr. Diego.

Let me give you a rundown of what actually happened.  You weren’t turning off your phone; you were playing with it under your jacket, and you asked to go to the bathroom.  Mr. Diego heard you as you walked to the door.  Since I’ve taught 32 years, this isn’t an original way to get away with playing on your phone.

And by the way, who names their village Space Turtle anyway?  Why didn’t you call yourself something semi-original, like “Swagalicious” or “G-Money”? 

I don’t even think Mr. Diego still has your phone.  I saw the secretary screen-shot your clan’s war bases.  I guess she’s in a rival clan or something.  Why don’t you just read the A to Z blog challenge while you wait to get your phone back?  I’m sure your clan doesn’t need or want you now.

Signed,

Mr. Hancock, at T-minus 19 days 5 hours and 2 minutes, and who suggests renaming your village "Star Baby"

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Underage, WAY underage

Dear Ask a Teacher,

My friends are really jealous of me.  This older guy has been giving me rides home and taking me out to lunch, and he’s cool.  We Snapchat sometimes, and he tells me how mature I am for my age, even though I just turned 16.  But my friends say I’m being stupid and are always badmouthing him and saying he’s a creeper.  They say he makes them feel uncomfortable, and they make fun of me when I tell them how funny he is.  I mean, it’s not like he’s a teacher, he just helps with the team!  What can I do to get them to stop talking trash about him?  They’re being so rude! 

Signed,
Underage but Super-Mature Sophomore


Dear Sophomore,

Please, please, PLEASE tell me you’ve told your mom or dad or guardian or counselor about this.  PLEASE tell me you have. 

Ms. Munoz, who’s in shock

Who is this helper?  I need his name immediately.

Coach Taylor, who wants answers

If you wanted to freak me out in the little time I have left to teach, you succeeded.  Do NOT communicate with this man again.

Mr. Hancock, who can’t believe this is happening AGAIN.

Students and faculty are forbidden to communicate by methods like texting and Snapchat.  I’ll need to contact the dean of students.

Mrs. Simon, who needs to put a stop to this immediately

Oh wow, this isn’t even funny. 

Mr. Crooks, who really doesn’t know what to say

Do you want to come and talk to me about this?  I’m always here for you if you do.  No, really, come and talk to me as soon as you can!  I won’t judge you!

Ms. Mayberry, who only wants to help

Sophomore, you are too young to know what you’re dealing with.  I’m making calls right now.  You better plan on not playing in the next game, if there is a game.  Stay home and check out the A to Z blog challenge

Mrs. Michaels, who’s about to have a VERY long day


Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Term(inal)

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I tried to print out my term paper at home, but the printer wouldn’t work.  When I told my teacher why I didn’t have it, she said I should have emailed her, but I told her it was really late, and besides, I think it’s weird to email teachers.  Now I’m upset because she says I’ll get 20 points taken off, and I worked all Sunday afternoon on it.  The other kids say that you’re really nice and I was wondering if you could talk to Mrs. Simon to take my work.

Signed,
Desperate in Denver

Dear Desperate,

Well, I’ll see what I can do.  Mrs. Simon is very particular about certain things, and I wonder sometimes if her pedagogical approach is developmentally appropriate.  Maybe it’s because all of her children are grown that she’s forgotten what it’s like to be young, but I was surprised at her unwillingness to accommodate the needs of individual students.  I don’t know how receptive she’ll be.  Maybe instead of going to her, I’ll go to her department head and see if she can push Mrs. Simon to take it.  Mr. Gordon is pretty understanding.

4:18 pm update: Great news!  Mr. Gordon said that if we came in together, he could speak to both of us about our request!  Do you have time tomorrow morning at 7:30?  He did ask that you bring the term paper with you.  Is that okay?  You can email it to me if your printer is still broken.  I’ll read the A to Z blog challenge until I hear from you.

7:50 am the next day update: You didn’t come in for the meeting, even though I saw you in the hallway with Brian, and you never emailed me the paper.  Now I have to sign all this paperwork and return it by COB, thanks to you.  I suppose it was my mistake to try and help you out.  Some people just can’t be helped.

Signed,
Ms. Mayberry, who has no candy to give out to students for the rest of the week, who won’t be available during her conference period and who doesn't care if she isn't your favorite teacher anymore. 




Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for seriously??

Dear Ask a Teacher,

My school doesn’t offer a study hall, and it sucks.  I mean, when am I supposed to get my homework done?  Teachers say I should do it at home, but I have sports and then I just want to relax because school is stressful and we all need a break.  If they want us to get our work done, why don’t they give us a study hall?

Signed,
Steve, who wishes that teachers and principals were more understanding

Dear Steve,

I can totally sympathize because if you don’t have time to do your homework, your grades will be below C level.  Get it? 

Maybe we don’t have study hall because the teacher doesn’t want to take attendance – she’s absent-minded!  Get it? 

Truthfully, Steve, I’m not sure why we don’t have study hall.  Maybe it would be helpful for students, or maybe they would spend all their time goofing off and joking with the teacher about his car.  That’s what they’re saying to me when they point out my spare tire, right?  My students love to kid around with me. 

Well, Steve, try and get your homework done, because if you don’t do it, you’ll be punished for something you DIDN’T do!  Get it?  That’s a good one.

Signed,

Mr. Crooks, who wishes that the A to Z blog challenge could include more jokes

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Reflection - His, Hers and Ours

Dear Ask a Teacher,

What’s the deal with teachers asking us to write “reflections” when we’ve finished a test or a writing assignment?  What are we supposed to say?  I just do what I do, and there’s no need for anyone to go back and “reflect” on it.  Why are you making us do something that will be of no use to us in the real world?  It’s a total waste of time, and I think teachers do it just so we have busy work.

Signed,
Chad

Dear Chad,

The first thing I noticed is that you didn’t put your full name on your reflection, which is a requirement for any student turning in an assignment.  Perhaps you aren’t sure exactly who you are?

For your information, Chad, the purpose of reflection is to consider the mistakes you made and see how you can improve for the future.  Athletes watch videos of their performance in competition to see how they can improve their game.  That’s what we’re asking you to do – assess your performance to see where you can improve.  If you took the time to reflect on your work, perhaps your teachers wouldn’t continue to see the same mistakes from you, such as not writing your full name on your paper when you aren’t the only Chad in your class.  Perhaps when you see the zero in the grade book, it will give you pause for reflection.

I’m glad I took the time to reflect before I responded to your question.  Aren’t you?  If not, please look at the other blogs from the A to Z blog challenge and reflect on how the writers are doing what they’re told to do, and not complaining about it.

Signed,
Mrs. Simon, who also won’t accept questions written in red pen


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Quite Enough, Thanks

Dear Ask a Teacher,

Why do you always have to give us quizzes over last night’s reading?  I mean, it was last night, so I might not remember it!  Why don’t you just review the reading in class instead?  It’s like you want us to have bad grades, and I’m sick of my mom being mad at me and then getting grounded.

Signed,
Quentin, who wants to be quiz-free

Dear Quentin,

You know what Quentin?  My reading quizzes are a gift because they are the easiest hundred you’ll ever earn.  Not that you would know since you don’t do the reading.

In my 32 years of teaching, I know when someone doesn’t do the reading, and that’s you.  Ask your friend Doug.  He came to me to ask for extra credit, and instead, I told him just to do the reading at night, and his grade will improve.  He went from a D to a B minus, so you could learn something from him. 

Why should I review the reading in class?  I already come prepared to teach, just as I will right up until I retire next month.  Reading means you’re prepared to learn.  So do your part for a change.  And by the way, quit telling your mother I made a “mistake” when I entered your grade.  It’s a waste of her time to check with me, and I’ve started sending emails immediately when I put one of your quiz grades in to reassure her that you did EARN that 34.

Signed,
Mr. Hancock, who just wants to read the A to Z blog challenge at T-minus 26 days, 1 hour and 44 minutes.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for pretty pathetic

Dear Ask a Teacher,

What’s the deal with teachers saying you can only use a pen or a pencil in their class?  My English teacher won’t grade anything written in pencil, and my math teacher gives us a zero if we do problems in pen.  It’s no big deal, seriously!  I mean, sometimes you just don’t have a pen or pencil on you.  Why are teachers so uptight about this anyway?  Besides, in a few years, everything will be done on computers anyways.

Signed,
There’s no Pen in Pennsylvania


Dear Pen,

Life is a game, Pen.  If you don’t come prepared to play, you don’t play.  I expect my players to show up to the court with their uniform and shoes on, warmed up and ready to go.  If they don’t do that, they can’t play.  You’re showing up without the gear, Pen, so you won’t get on the court.  In fact, I seriously doubt you’ll ever get off the bench. 

The teacher is the coach, and he or she is telling you what you need to play.  You’re no Michael Jordan, Pen, so don’t think anyone should make an exception for you.  Even Jordan came prepared. 
This was a pretty dumb question anyway.  Maybe you should read the other answers I gave in the A to Z blog challenge and then you’d have the right mentality before you hit the court.

Signed,

Coach Taylor, who has to schedule extra practice sessions and doesn’t like whiners anyway

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for observation - mine, that is...

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I’m about to have my observation, and I’m freaking out!  I’m scared to death that the principal will find something wrong with my lessons, or think I’m ineffective.  I get very flustered when I know people are watching and judging me, so I’m afraid I’ll mess up, and it will reflect poorly on me.  What can I do to be calm, so I don’t ruin it?

Signed,
Nervous in Northwood


Dear Nervous,
You have nothing to worry about!  It’ll be fine!  The principal will - well, actually, I haven’t had my formal observation either.  So I really don’t know how to advise you.  What if she stays a long time?  What if she asks the students if they like the lesson?  And what if they say NO?

So many things could go wrong.  This is not good.  My observation is in two weeks, and now I’m freaking out too!

Signed,
Ms. Munoz who needs to put her head down for a few minutes


Dear Nervous and Ms. Munoz,

Both of you just calm down.  You're being ridiculous.  All the principal is doing is making sure you’re following the curriculum and that you have decent classroom management skills.  She’ll probably stay for 5-10 minutes and then leave.  She won’t ask the kids ANY questions; in fact, the longer she stays, the more you can be sure she’s not paying attention to you and is just looking for a place to hide out and play Candy Crush on her computer, or maybe check out the A to Z blog challenge.

Quit hyperventilating and get back to work.  If you’re a first-year teacher, all she wants to see is that you’re trying.  If you’re not, then God help you.

Signed,

Ms. Michaels

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for nosing around...?

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I’m a first-year teacher, and I have a job, so why do other teachers keep telling me I need to network?  I figure I’ll meet other teachers and administrators during the year, and that will fill my networking quota.  Plus, I go to plenty of professional development, so I’m sure I know enough people in education.  What’s the deal with everyone pushing “networking?”  I’m already doing it!  Am I missing the point somehow?

Signed,
Tired of casting my net, because it’s full

Dear Tired,

Yes, you’re missing the point.  However, depending on your goal, it’s a point that may not need to be made.

Do you want to move up into administration?  Do you have visions of being principal, or running your own district?  Then keep working that network, baby.  Most administrators aren’t good teachers, but they all have the desire to move UP, and the way to do that, besides principal certification and an advanced degree, is to know people.  In public schools, it’s not how good you are at your job, it’s how many people you know and how quickly you can scramble over them to get that great assistant principalship, because only suckers want to actually keep teaching.  Most people encouraging you to network want to see what YOU can do for THEM.

Do want to stay in the classroom?  Then don’t worry about it.  You’ll meet enough people, and you need to keep those contacts close.  Trust me, pretty soon you’ll want to leave your school, and you’ll want to check in with your network to find schools where you should or shouldn’t apply.  For teachers, this is the entire point of the network.  Otherwise you might get starry-eyed when a district announces that they’ll pay a “hiring bonus” and you’ll end up working in a minefield.

Hope this is helpful, Tired.  I’m still looking for a decent school to escape to, so I’m networking like crazy.  In the meantime, enjoy the A to Z blog challenge.  That’s another good place to cast your net.

Signed,
Ms. Michaels, who’s currently trying to dodge the mines

  

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for multiple choice... just so many choices

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I got this test back, and on number eight, you counted it wrong when I marked B on the multiple choice.  I actually meant to mark D.  Can I get credit for that?  That way maybe it’d bring my grade up to passing.

Signed,
Jimmy, who knows you know what he meant


Dear Jimmy,

I can understand how you might be in a hurry and accidentally mark the wrong answer.  The question asks what type of figurative language is being used in the line from the poem.  You marked B, which was “color,” an obviously wrong answer.  But D is wrong too because it says “meter,” which isn’t figurative language.  The answer is A, “simile.”  Did you mean A, or did you want me to mark it D?  I can do either because it’s up to you.  But did you really meant A on the multiple choice?

I know you want to pass this test.  I overheard you telling Andrew that if you finally passed a test this semester, your mom said she’d buy you a new iPhone, and I’m sure you don’t want to miss out on that! Plus the principal will be so happy all my students passed!  Although, I’m not sure if you’ll pass, because you got a 36 on this open note, multiple choice quiz… Don’t worry, your grade will be fine.

Just remember, I’m always glad to help you out, because it’s cool.  Check out my last answer on the A to Z blog challenge if you’re not sure!

Signed,

Ms. Mayberry, who’s not uptight like the other teachers

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for library, loud, lazy and leery

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I hate going into the school library.  We have to pick out a book, and I never know where to go or what to look for.  Books are boring!  Besides, the librarian gets mad if you try to eat a snack or bring in a water bottle.  It's so unfair because we're students, and we're growing, and we get hungry!  The last time I went in the librarian kicked me out for being too loud and "disturbing the students who were testing." I hate it there, but the school and my teacher are always trying to get us to go to the library.  What's the deal with that, if we're just going to get kicked out?

Signed,
Lyle, who got a zero for not having a library book even though I told the teacher it wasn't my fault but she didn't believe me

Dear Lyle,

I'm sure you're aware of the library rules, which clearly state that no food or drinks are allowed in there.  Would you want to sit at a computer covered with crumbs, or check out a book that's had Gatorade spilled all over it? 

Furthermore, Lyle, you're supposed to go to the library in order to get a book to read.  Reading is a nonnegotiable part of learning.  I'm sure that if you go in politely and ask the librarian for help, she'd be happy to help you find a book you enjoy.  She helped your friend Chad, who also said he didn't like to read, but who's been secretly enjoying the Uglies series for the past two months.  The key is to be POLITE, and keep your voice down.  The library is for people to READ, and no one can read if someone is yelling at his friend Sheldon across the room. 

If you're not sure what to read, or you don't want to ask the librarian for help, I suggest the A to Z blog challenge.  You'll be entertained and informed.  But it won't replace that zero for not having a book, because yes, Lyle, that WAS your fault.

Signed,

Mrs. Simon, who believes students should take responsibility for their actions

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for Knickknacks that Krowd the room

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I share a room with another teacher, and the mount of knickknacks he has in the room drives me crazy!  He’s only been here two years, so it’s not like he’s had decades to collect items from students.  Posters cover all the walls, and he has these stupid doo-dads all over his desk and shelves.  They collect dust and get in the way when I’m trying to teach in there.  I’ve told him that his junk makes it hard for me to pull workbooks off the shelves and that students sometimes steal his stuff, but he blows me off – until he finally realizes something is missing, and then he accuses me of taking it or throwing it away!

This is driving me nuts.  Can I do anything?  It’s my first year at this school.  I have to share another room with another teacher as well, but she doesn’t have this problem.

Signed,
In a Funk over the Junk

Dear Funk,
First of all, let’s not make a mountain out of a dust bunny!  That’s a good one.
I think you may just have to live with it.  If he uses the room most of the time, then he gets to decide what goes up on the walls, desks, and whatnot.  If his stuff goes missing, isn’t that a good thing?  Less for you to worry about!  Plus the dust will cause the posters and knickknacks to fade, and then everything will be fifty shades of gray!  Writers love that joke.  

Maybe you could knock some of his stuff onto the floor.  When he asks if you’ve taken them, point to the floor and say, “Bill, I’m FLOORED by your accusation!”  Get it?  Try that one out in the A to Z blog challenge!

Signed,

Mr. Crooks, who still isn’t a crook!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for Just... uh, just, something

Dear Ask a Teacher,

What does “juvenile” mean?  There’s this girl that sits next to me in my geometry class and whenever I do something she always calls me juvenile.  It’s like rude or nasty, right?

Signed,
Jeremy, but I don’t think I’m juvenile if it means what I think it does


Dear Jeremy,

No, Jeremy, it doesn’t mean rude or nasty.  It means you don’t have the hustle you need to get in the game.  She says you’re like the second string players goofing off on the bench, who aren’t watching the game and getting ready to go in and take it down the field.  If that’s your attitude, you’ll never be college ball material, like the Wildcats.  You should plan on coming to our game on Saturday.

Or it could be that she just doesn’t like you, but either way… Hope you’re enjoying the A to Z blog challenge. 

Signed,

Coach Taylor, of the district champion Wildcats, who WILL go to state this year

Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for Immature

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I don’t get why freshmen have to be SO immature!  I mean, I know I didn’t act like that when I was in ninth grade.  They do such stupid things, like shoving in line in the cafeteria when it’s pizza day, or being loud in the bathrooms with their friends, or going on and on about their boyfriend who’s also a freshman (so who cares, right?) or complaining about how hard their classes are.  Seriously??? I’m a SOPHOMORE, so my classes are way harder.  When I ask them to move out of my way in the hallways because I’m an upperclassman, they have to whine about it.  If my friends and I tell them to shut up about their boyfriends in the bathroom, they’re so rude.  They say we’re jealous because we don’t have boyfriends.

What’s the deal with freshmen and their immaturity?  It sucks! 

Signed,
Irritated in Indianapolis


Dear Irritated,

Questions like these make the 38 days, 3 hours and 49 minutes I have left to teach seem even longer. 

I’m sure, Irritated, that you are radically different than you were last year.  In fact, I’m also sure that you NEVER annoy the juniors with any immature behaviors, and that you quietly and politely stay out of their way in the halls.  You are probably so mature that your teachers have NEVER had to tell you to sit down, be quiet, turn in homework or put your phone away, correct?  Of course not!  Because having to be reminded to display basic respect, courtesy, and a responsible work ethic would mean that you are IMMATURE.   

I have a test to grade, homework to hand back and the A-Z blog challenge to check out.  And I also have a backpacking trip, golfing and wine tastings to plan for once I'm free of teaching.  So I’ll wrap this up by saying that honestly, I feel your pain.

Signed,

Mr. Hancock, who is 32 years past caring what you think

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for HELP ME! HELP ME NOW!!

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I really, really, REALLY need some help with my History essay.  It’s on the causes and effects of World War I, and it’s due tomorrow!  I just really don’t know what to say about it.  But I need a good grade, or else I might fail for the semester, and that means I won’t get to go to basketball camp because I’ll be in summer school.  I asked my History teacher for some help, but all he did was ask to see my first draft, so I left.  I don’t know what to say in it!  I attached my class notes to this letter.  I figure since there are plenty of teachers around where you are, someone can help me come up with something, right?

Signed,
Hurting for Help in Hartford


Dear Hurting,

I’d be happy to help you, but the attachment only had a smeary scan of the PowerPoint your teacher printed out for you.  If you could include some of your own notes, that would be great.  I’ll just wait to hear from you.  As a first year teacher, I always go out of my way to help students.

4:50 pm: I still haven’t heard back from you, so let me give you some suggestions. What you need to do first is make a list.  Put the causes of the war on one side of the paper, and then put the effects on the right side.  Once you put those down, it’ll be easy to come up with a thesis.  I’ll just read some of these A to Z blog posts while I wait.

6:13: You only have “guy shot” on the right side, and that’s supposed to be for the effects.  Please look at my last note, and list ALL causes (what started the war) and effects (what happened because of the war.)  I’m getting hungry and want to leave to get dinner.

7:21: Okay, Hurting, I’m going home now.  I gave you a sample thesis so it’s up to you.  Next time please prepare sooner and go in to your teacher for help IMMEDIATELY, rather than waiting until the last minute.  It looks like you’re going to have a late night.  And please don’t address me as “Sandy” in your communications anymore.

Signed,

Ms. Munoz, not Sandra or Sandy

Thursday, April 7, 2016

G is for the game we're playing

Dear Ask a Teacher,

Our school has a baseball game coming up next weekend, and all school staff are being "strongly encouraged" to go.  I'm the art teacher, and my students have to present at an art show the night before, so I really don't want to attend the game.  It'll be a late night and I'll already be dragging through my classes, plus to stay and watch a game that I find boring?  I realize that our baseball team is new, and the principal is trying to encourage school spirit, but I'm a bit annoyed that the art show didn't get much notice from the staff.  My students worked just as hard!

I told an assistant principal that I didn't think I'd be able to attend, and he heavily implied that the administration will be taking note of who's there and who isn't, and that I’d better be there.  What should I do?  I don’t want to attend this stupid game!

Signed,
Stuck in Stanton and Stewing


Dear Stewing,

Stay home.  No one cares.

Look, I get that you feel pressured and tense over it.  You probably think your job is on the line, but it's not.  If you’re a good teacher who generally doesn’t butt heads with the administration, you have nothing to worry about.  And even if you do, to get rid of a teacher over something like this would have to require documentation, warnings and the like.

Administrators, particularly in public schools, usually don’t have much management experience. They think heavily implied threats will work, because making overt threats would be illegal, and they don’t know how to back those threats up.  That’s why you have to blithely look past it.  “Encouraged” doesn’t mean “required,” and that’s the defense you should use if they want to call you on it.  If it’s required, then that “requires” certain language.  You just took it at face value.

So skip the game.  You’re playing a game here with them already, am I right?  Stay home and read our next post in the A to Z blog challenge.

Signed,
Ms. Michaels, who doesn’t get paid enough to put up with the crap that administration shovels but needs an excuse to drink


F is for Friday Freakouts

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I hate Fridays.  Every time the weekend gets close, the students in my classes seem to go nuts.  They either sleep, or they’re hard to control and keep asking to watch videos because “It’s Friday, miss!”  I’m sick of it.  I feel like I spend each class period trying to get everyone back on track, and it throws us off for the rest of the week.  We can’t even have a relaxed class because we’re getting so far behind.  What can I do to make the students understand that Friday does NOT equal Free Day?

Signed,
Friday Fearing Ms. Francis

Dear Ms. Francis,

Fridays are tough for everyone, even teachers, because by the end of the week, we’re all spent.  But I’m glad to see you’re trying to keep it together, even though it feels like “Fry-Day.”  Get it??

I would do one of two things, and either will work.  You could schedule a test on Friday that will take the entire class period to complete.  That way, students feel as “tested” as you do!  Oh, that’s a real thigh-slapper.  I’ve used that on the kids and I think they like it, even though they never say much. The other thing you can do is plan to have a more “fun” activity on Friday that can only happen if certain things are accomplished that week.  You show them the plan at the beginning of the week, and they can work towards it.  Otherwise, they get a quiz or something.  Or you can put up a PowerPoint and lecture, requiring them to take notes, maybe on the AtoZ blog challenge!  This keeps my class quiet, and sometimes I walk around the room during the lecture to check on them and see that they’re still breathing.  I know they are if they complain that I smell like earwax.  They like to kid.

I hope this helps.  You don’t want to be like the cross-eyed teacher who couldn’t control his pupils!  Get it??

Signed,

Mr. Crooks, who really isn’t a crook.  Get it??

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

IWSG - When life starts to suck

Here we are, once again, airing our dirty laundry (of sorts) for IWSG.  I'm not sure how dirty the laundry really is, but nevertheless, it needs a good cleaning.

This month I'm reassessing my employment situation, again.  Not that I'm not happy at Debut Academy, because for the most part, I am.  But I had an opportunity to get a promotion at work, one that my entire department was sure I'd get, and I was turned down for the stupidest reason imaginable.  It's one of those reasons that makes you laugh at first, thinking that the principal is kidding, and then the laughter sort of trails off and then you cough, and then you say, "Seriously?"  This is while you're reading his email to you, because you know the principal knows the reason was stupid or else he would have told you to your face.  The fact that he's now avoiding you in the hallways is a giveaway as well.

I like teaching, and I like working with students, but I'm beginning to wonder if expecting people to be reasonable and to reward based on merit and hard work rather than cronyism is ridiculous.  Perhaps I'm just naive.  Regardless, it's seriously shaken my faith in what I thought I knew about DA.  All workplaces have problems, and I don't expect things to run perfectly, but when you're denied a promotion based on something that would actually be an asset anywhere else, you start to wonder.

Time for some serious soul-searching. I'll let you know when I find it.

E is for Easy...

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I lost my eraser during biology.  Can I have the one I found on your desk? It looks kind of cool, because it’s in the shape of the Death Star and I don’t have one like it.  Also can I have some of these jelly beans I found in your top drawer?

Signed,
Eddie


Dear Eddie,

Well, you know the Death Star eraser is pretty special to me, and I’ve never used it before.  It was a gift from my ex-fiance, who was also a Star Wars fan before he decided that he’d rather date the girl down the hall instead of me.  I don’t mind if you use it, okay?  You’ll give it back to me tomorrow, right?  I’ll look for you in the hallway before school, but sure, you can use it.

Oh, and the jelly beans are okay, because I know students get hungry.  The school day is pretty long, and at least you can say you got them from your favorite teacher!  I don’t get really “uptight” about stuff like that, so, you know, it’s cool.  Some teachers might, but not me.  Although I am missing other things from my top drawer, but… never mind.  It’s cool.

And don’t forget to read my latest entry in the A to Z blog challenge!  I’m sure you and your friends will find it interesting.  We can talk about it in class tomorrow while we take a break in the lesson to listen to the new Jay-Z album.

Signed,
Ms. Mayberry, your favorite teacher in the world!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for the Desk that Defines you

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I really don’t like the desk that I sit in during math.  It’s way up by the front, and I can’t really see the rest of the classroom.  But the teacher says I can’t move.  I don’t see why she says I have to sit up front.  I can concentrate just fine in any part of the room, and worse, my friend Jordan doesn’t sit near me, so I have no one to talk to except Tor, the exchange student.  How can I get her to let me switch desks?

Signed,
Devon, who’s dying at my desk


Dear Devon,

First of all, sit up straight.  You can’t concentrate when you’re slouched over or lying your head down.  In my class, there is no lying your head on your desk.  Second, if the teacher assigned you that seat, then that is your seat.  She probably has good reasons for it.  The front of the room is priority seating, especially for kids who need extra help or have attention issues.  Most parents request it, so you shouldn’t complain when you get to sit where most parents WANT their kids to sit. 

I imagine that you’re not getting a lot accomplished by sitting near Jordan.  Is your work complete?  Is it sloppy or hard to read?  Are you spending too much time trying to talk with your friends?  She has a good reason for your seating arrangement.  You could probably learn a lot from Tor, who came from Finland and who has excellent math skills.

Class isn’t time for you to fool around.  It’s time to WORK and LEARN.  Rather than trying to get her to change her mind, pay attention, turn in your assignments and stay seated and working until the bell rings.  You won’t get to move, but your teacher will have less reason to hover over you.

Signed,

Mrs. Simon, who isn’t going to put up with slacking off in this part of the A to Z blog challenge

Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Conference, or Can't, really

Dear Ask a Teacher,

I just got an email asking if I can come to a conference with my daughter’s teacher to talk about how my daughter is doing in her class.  I already know what she’s going to say because I’ve been to these before.  My daughter is a good girl who is really smart, and I guess she just gets bored in class.  Teachers just say she knows the material, but she doesn’t apply herself.  I don’t see why I should have to attend because this isn’t really my problem.  I don’t have these problems with my daughter, so I don’t see why I should be blamed for the fact that this teacher can’t control her classroom or the fact that the work is probably unreasonable anyway.  I’ve ignored her emails, but now I’m getting calls, too.  What can I say or do to get her to leave me alone?  These conferences are a waste of my time and accomplish nothing.

Signed,
Hassled in Hampton

Dear Hassled,

Speaking frankly, most teachers would prefer not to meet with parents like you anyway; they’d rather go home after school.  She’s probably getting heat from the administration to fix the problem, which is your daughter, and this way no one can say they didn’t warn you when she fails the class.  So, mom, it sounds to me like you’re sending your daughter into the game with no warmup, no strategy and no idea of defense, and then blaming the ref when she keeps fouling out.  What your kid needs is DISCIPLINE, and she’s not getting it at home.  But if you don’t care, neither do I.

Look, I coach basketball, so I’m not really that interested in her problems.  My school won’t let me coach full-time, so I have to teach two sections of World History and then take my shift answering questions at this advice column.  My job is to get my team to the district finals, and we finally have a solid team of ballers that can do it.  I hope your kid is a benchwarmer, not one of my point guards, so it won’t make a difference in our starting lineup.  So anyway, maybe have your kid do some reading, like the blogs at the A-Z Challenge.  I've got a practice to run. 

Signed,

Coach Taylor, of the soon to be going to state Wildcats

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for BOOOORRRRINNNNGGGG!

Dear Ask a Teacher,

My chemistry class is sooooooooooo boring.  I told the teacher that his class is never fun, and he should make it more fun.  But he never does.  Once, my friend and I asked if we could ever watch a movie in class, and he said sure, and showed us a lame video about the periodic table!  I don’t get why teachers have to make everything so dull.  I mean, we’re the ones who have to sit through this crap, and then he tells us we don’t try hard and that our grades are terrible, but it’s his fault that his class is boring.  If he let us do more cool stuff, then maybe we’d actually learn.

Signed,
Bored Brandon, who wants to be less bored


Dear Brandon,

I’m sorry you don’t find the class interesting.  Maybe the problem is that YOU’RE boring.  I mean honestly, after 32 years of teaching, with less than two months until retirement, there’s not much that a student can even say to me anymore that I find original or thought-provoking.  Seriously, Brandon, think about it – do you ever talk about anything that an ADULT might find interesting, like the A to Z blog challenge?  Or is it all just Call of Duty, Drake and your fantasy sports league to you? 

Furthermore, why are you so sure that you can't learn unless it's fun?  Maybe it is enjoyable, but you don’t know that because you have to work actively, not be passively entertained.  I bet other students are enjoying the subject and making good grades.  It sounds like you’re not learning anything anyway because you spend all your time complaining, instead of listening and seeing what you can get out of the lessons.  You may think the teacher is wasting your time, but you’re wasting his.  The subjects you take are subjects you NEED for life and college.  But I guess after 32 years of teaching I don’t know what I’m talking about as much as a 16-year-old who’s sagging his pants and making fart noises in the back of the room.

Sincerely,

Mr. Hancock, at t-minus 43 days, 6 hours and 28 minutes

Friday, April 1, 2016

A for Absence, and I do mean complete absence of mind

Dear Ask A Teacher,

I want to know why my teacher just can’t drop the grades for the assignments on the day I was absent.  I had to go to the orthodontist and get my headgear tightened on Thursday a couple of weeks ago, so I missed class.  My friend Shari said we had a worksheet we were supposed to do, but I didn’t get it because I wasn’t there, you know?  But my teacher gave me a zero!  When I went to talk to her about it, she said that my absence was two weeks ago and “it’s my responsibility to follow up and check the weekly folders with the extra assignment sheets.”  Maybe I didn’t, but I mean, come on, I’m a sophomore in high school, and she has no idea how busy I am with band and lacrosse.  I said I forgot, so could she please just drop the grade, but she said no.  I think this is completely unfair, because what am I supposed to do?  I was ABSENT!  Stuff happens!  Should I email her and ask again to drop the grade?  I really don’t have time to do it now.  And don’t ask me to have my mom talk to her because my mom’s already mad at me about my grades in Algebra.

Absent-minded Annie


Dear Annie,


I’m sure it can be frustrating to think that you missed the opportunity to do valuable class work!  As a first year teacher, I know how important it is to students to feel like they’re staying on top of their work and learning along with their classmates!  And I’m sure you didn’t mean to forget about the worksheet because you understand how important it is, right?  Maybe next time you can make a list of teachers you need to see to pick up the work or put a reminder on your phone?  Or did you check the syllabus to find out what the policies were for when a student is absent?  I’m sure you’ll learn a valuable lesson from this experience, and it won’t happen again in the future.  Remember, teachers want to help you do your best, and we’re all in this together!  Let me know how it goes, and I hope I’ve inspired you in this A to Z Blog Challenge!  Because, you know, that's why I went into teaching, to inspire students.  

Sincerely,
First-year teacher Ms. Munoz, but you can call me Sandra if you want