Tag Archives: school

Parents, Stay “In Touch”

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A few weeks ago my school held Parents-in-Touch night.  I have a 150 students.  I only met with 22 parents.  In my seven years of teaching, I’ve come to find that many parents are really not “in touch” with their children.  They are quite clueless as to who their children are.  Anything revealed at a conference should not be news to the parent.

Some of the parents I conferenced with had no idea that their child was failing one or more classes.  One memorable parent staunchly defended her son’s poor work and study habits.  She informed me that it was my job to call her when he missed an assignment.  “He know I’m crazy!” (I didn’t disagree with her on that self-assessment), she passionately cried to explain why his low grade had to be my fault.

I attempted to show her his many zeros, but she was not very interested.  Apparently I was more to blame than he.  She never mentioned the fact that I had contacted her earlier in the school year to warn her that he was not doing any work.  Or that midterms serve as a warning as well.  Nevermind the talking to your child part.

Part of our job as parents is to know the kids we are raising.  By knowing them, we are staying in touch with them.  When you know them, you don’t waste valuable time playing the blame game because you already know the score.

I even wonder from time to time if the parent and I are referencing the same child.  Teachers often see a side to children that the parents might not necessarily see.  Not because of bad parenting per say because it could be a myraid of things.

Last year Nicholas gave me a note from his teacher that said he was playing in the bathroom with another student.  After reading it, I asked him why he was playing around.  Intially he attempted to say that he was not.  But because I know my child, I knew well enough that he was.  Nicholas can be too playful at times.  And sometimes that’s just what nine-year-olds do.  Had I had the attitude “my child can do no wrong” I would have lost a valuable teaching moment to remind him about how he is to behave at school.

Teachers do not enjoy being the bearer of bad news, trust me.  If we could report only good news about your child, we would!

Here are a few ways that parents can stay in touch with their children and have a productive parent/teacher conference:

Spend real time with your kids: This might sound like a no brainer, but it isn’t always easy to do.  I am often with Nicholas, but not really spending time with him for various reasons.  Therefore I try to incorporate him into things such as helping me cook.  In this time I am able to kill two birds with one stone by doing something I have to do (cooking) with something that I love to do (spending time with Nicholas).  Sometimes I will even have him read the newspaper to me while I fold laundry or load the dishwasher.  These times make for interesting conversation.

Get to know their friends:  Nicholas loves to see me interact with his friends and their parents.  It might not be for an extended period of time, but it shows him that I care about who is interested in.  I think this also helps him choose freinds wisely because he knows that we are paying attention.

Realize that all kids have strengths and weaknesses:  As much as we love our little ones, they are still human.  I know that Nicholas can be very talkative, is a bit immature at times, and will rush through his work if not monitored.  On the otherhand, he is extremely articulate, fun-loving, and always in pursuit of adventure.  Notice that these are the same traits just worded differently.  I never tell him that he talks too much because I want him to use that skill in a more positive light.  But nevertheless, I am aware of his limitations.

Volunteer at their school:  Almost everyone at Nicholas’ school knows me as “Nicholas’ mom or Mrs. Morocco.”  When I have time off of work I make sure to pop in for a visit or to volunteer for a few hours.   I try to do most of my “volunteering” at home because of my work hours.  I collect box tops, donate for school events, and help organize field trips.  When Ethan’s science class conducted an experiment using Diet Coke, I happily contributed.  I am currently saving paper towel rolls for a future project for that particular class.

Show support: One simple way to do this is by attending school functions.  Even if your children are not involved in a particular sport or activity, you can still attend school events to express your school spirit as a parent and help foster your child’s.  Next week we have a Math Family Night that we are all looking forward to attending at Nicholas’ school.

Be aware of academic ability:  It’s important for you to know your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses.  I have always been very strong in English and very weak in math.  Fortunately Nicholas is balanced in all areas.  However, if you know this ahead of time, you can suppplement the weak areas with tutoring, extra practice, or monitoring the progress being made in that particular subject area.  It’s true, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Teach Good Study Habits:  Because Nicholas makes excellent grades he feels that this exempts him from studying.  Therefore, I have spent a lot of time teaching him the importance of having good study skills.  I try to point out that he won’t know everything all of the time.  I have also taught him how to break studying down into more digestable parts.  Cramming is such a bad, bad practice!

Work with, not against: In most cases issues with the teacher can be resolved.  If you receive bad news about your child, don’t immediatedly get defensive.  I like when parents are proactive and ask what we (student, parent, teacher) can do to remedy the situation.  It makes no sense to report a problem without brainstorming a soluton.  We are not the enemy or out to “get” your child.  Working together works.

Teach Self-advocacy:  Many students are afraid to ask questions when they are confused about the material and they shouldn’t be!  Encourage your children to speak up for themselves.  I like to tell my kids that I have many talents but mind reading is not one of them!  I can’t always look at a child and immediatedly know if they need help–especially so when you ask and they decline.  Let your children know that it is perfectly okay to need assistance!

Obama Mama

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When Nicholas was in the third grade he had to select a famous Black American to represent in a “living history museum” for Black History month.  He wanted to do Colin Powell…again. 

I had just finished reading Dreams From My Father by Senator Barack Obama and was really impressed with his candor and eloquence.   I suggested him. 

After doing the research Nicholas was impressed as well.  His presentation was a big hit.  Later his teacher pulled me aside and expressed her curiousity about how Nicholas came to present him.  I told her that I recommended him after reading his autobiography.

I am excited about Obama coming to office.  I believe he is truly dedicated to the job of making America better for us all.  This simple act of Americans joining together to vote him as president shows that anything is possible.  I know that he will be under a lot of scutiny, but I believe he can handle the pressure.  He deserves the same opportunity as anyone else to do the job.

My focus is not so much on him being the first Black president.  That fact is the cherry on top and it makes his victory much more sweeter.  However, I am more buoyed by his poise, plans for America, intelligence, and great potential to lead the country.

Nicholas attends a school in which there is not a single person of color on the teaching or administrative staff.  In fact, there are only two Black women in non-licensed positions that work there.  The student body is very diverse, so it seems that the staff would mirror this.  It seems strange to me that in this day and age that places/schools/attitudes like this still exist.  I often wonder what message this sends to my son and the rest of the kids? 

I feel fortunate that my son has the opportunity to witness someone such as Barack having the opportunity to be president.  I have always told Nicholas that he could be anything he wanted to be.  Now I know he can!  This morning his was elated by the knowledge of Barack’s win.  So was I.

Who’s the Boss?

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Imani and I had an interesting but funny conversation the other day. 

I heard her singing extremely loud (I wonder where she got that from) in the bathroom while washing her hands.  She was singing the ABC song really slow.  I told her to hurry up and come out.  Instead of turning the water off when I told her to come out she had to finish the song.

I asked her what she was doing.  She told me that her teacher said that she had to sing the ABC song when she washes her hands.  That’s fine except Imani likes to play in water.  So of course she is taking full advantage of her teacher’s instructions.

I told her that it was ok to sing the song while washing her hands, maybe only at school.  I did not want to tell her not to sing the song at all but I do not want her playing in water all day.  She will use any excuse to play in water.

We discussed who is in charge at school and at home.  She told me that her teacher was the boss at school.  And that Mommy and Daddy are the bosses at home. 

Then she says, “Mommy you’re the biggest boss!”

I couldn’t do anything but laugh.  I’m the drill sergeant in my house.  Maybe I need to lighten up a bit!  LOL!

Welcome Back!

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Day 1: What a day it has been! Today was my first day of school.  It was a day of mass confusion and overall craziness.  A fight took place as soon as the doors opened.  Many of the kids were resentful to be back at school already.  I could hear Pink Floyd singing:

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

Day 5:  Not much has changed from day one.  I have a class of 67 with a room that contains 30 desks!  We have masses of students who do not have a schedule, therefore it is safe to conclude that my other classes will swell as well. 

The majority of the students do not have lockers or ID’s.  Only a handful have text books.

We have a new ridiculously long lesson plan template that has already garnered over 300 complaints with the union.

We have a new principal who has his hands full.

We have added grades 7-8.  We also have a group of “under/over” students in grades 5 and 6.  They are ages 15-16 years old.

My back is strained terribly from lifting boxes, hauling the 70 literature and grammar tomes for my classroom set, and removing desks that were stacked on top of each other.  I mean seriously, I had to stay reclined over the weekend because my back felt so terrible.

Information and communication is not flowing very well between administration and teachers.  We are often told about things the morning of.  Case in point, I was told the day before school started that I was scheduled to teach a section of etymology. Had I known about this in advance, I could have spent time in the summer creating lessons for this provocative subject.  But no, that would have been too convenient for me!

I feel exhausted already!

But I still can see silver linings:

  • I have a helpful resource teacher for period 1
  • I have a job that I am healthy enough to attend daily
  • I have a fair amount of students who seem eager to learn
  • Yesterday a student gifted me with a composition notebook that she picked up specifically for me!
  • I am in a remodeled classroom
Welcome!

Welcome!

My bulletin boards, I reserved one for student work

My bulletin boards, I reserved one for student work

I love my dry erase boards!

I love my dry erase boards!

Reading, my favorite sport!

Reading, my favorite sport!

The Little Things

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I need to go back into my past so everyone will understand this post, (by the way this is still a touchy subject for me) but none the less, here goes anyway…

After I married my husband we started trying to get pregnant.  However, we were not having any luck.  I made an appointment to see my doctor after six months of trying.  I figured it may have something to do with my horrible cycles.  I have always had really bad cycles.  My then doctor never ran any tests to see if there was a problem.  It wasn’t until I changed doctors and insisted that my new doctor get to the bottom of my painful menstral cycles that they started taking my issues seriously.  Luckily for me she did and sent me to a specialist.

The specialist ran so many tests it seemed like I was at her office three times a month.  Finally I got the answers I had been searching for.  She found Endometriosis, cysts, and fibroids.  I had to go see the specialist every 3 months to get an ultrasound to check the status of the cysts and the fibroids.

The first surgery I had was to remove a cyst the size of a grapefruit.  That’s when she found the Endometriosis.  I was given medicine for the pain.  (Years later) The second surgery I had was to remove another cyst and both tubes because of scar tissue.  That’s when she found the fibroids.  A year later my fibroids had tripled in size.  My doctor gave me a few options but none of those seemed right for me.  My whole objection was to stop the pain and the growth of the cysts, fibroids, and the Endometriosis. 

 

 The only way to get rid of everything was to have a hysterectomy.  So I requested to have one.  My doctor did not want me to have the surgery because I was childless.  I had already given up on that dream a few years back when my tubes were removed.  She wanted to do Invetro.  I didn’t want to, too may complications.  My husband was very understanding and not at all selfish when I said I couldn’t take it anymore.

I had a partial last June and I have to say that I am so relieved I went ahead with the surgery.  No more painful cycles.  No more taking two days off work every month because I could not get out of bed.

My only sorrow was the fact that I did not have any biological children.

Oh, but isn’t God a great God?  He blessed me and my husband with Ian and Imani!

Today was Imani’s first day of school.  Ian goes in two days.  I was so emotional this morning when we dropped her off at preschool.

For the first time since being with my husband, I get to be and do what I want.  I don’t have that privilege with Kierra.  I took the kids to the doctor.  I registered them for school.  I took them school shopping.  I picked out Imani’s outfit for her first day of school.  I wrote Imani’s name on her green folder that goes in her book bag.  I picked out her blanket and pillow for nap-time. I get to set up parent/teacher conferences.  I get to go on their field trips.  I just get to be mom to two children that do not have a mom.  And in return they get to have a mom that does not have any children.

This may not seem like a big deal but it sure is to me.  It’s the little things that make all the difference to me.

In Her Shoes

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When my stepson Evan was 8 years-old, he was having a lot of problems in school.  This wasn’t really anything new–he has always had self-control issues.  But because Eliza kept them away from us, we knew little about how severe his problems in school really were. 

We suspected that he had a mental illness one random weekend when Eliza allowed the boys to spend the night.  Evan arrived with a tiny blue pill in his hand.  She had instructed Ethan to make sure he took it with dinner.  When I noticed it I inquired about it.  Ethan only ten at the time, couldn’t accurately articulate why he had to take the pill.  He basically stated that it was because Evan “was acting bad in school and getting suspended a whole lot.”  We were both alarmed.  We had to wait for Eliza to pick the boys up before inquiring about the pill.  At this time she did not allow us to have her phone number and only contacted us when it benefited her.  When my husband attempted to ask her about it she told him that she would call him about it but never did.

Evan started second grade with us on a good note.  However, three days into the school year, Evan was suspended for biting a classmate.  A few weeks later we attended a skating party hosted by his school.  None of Evan’s classmates would interact with him.  Ethan confided in me later that several of the kids had approached him saying how scared of Evan they were! That was only the beginning.

My husband works over 45 minutes away from Evan’s school.  And because my job is a lot closer, it was me who had to pick him up from school when he was suspended.  Kid you not I left work at the minimum of three times per week to get him.  Sometimes I would be fortunate enough that the call or email came at the tail end of the day.  Evan’s school is dismissed at 2:00pm and ours at 2:45pm.  I was saved by the bell many times by generous co-workers who knew of our situation.  Often someone would cover my seventh period class so that I could leave.

 I used to dread when my classroom phone rang beacuse it was usually the secretary informing me that my son’s school was on the line.  The first time it happened it I felt a surge of fear.  I thought something had happened to Nicholas.  Afterall, I only had one “son.”  After that I received so many calls from his school that I became embarassed.  Surely the office staff would start to gossip about my “bad”child. 

The majority of the time the calls came right before my lunch time.  I would make a mad dash to grab him and drop him off at the sitter’s, sometimes sliding through my classroom door right before the minute bell rang.  This went on for months.  We had tried paying a child care service to pick him up when he was sent home for the day.  This worked for a few weeks before the daycare provider grew tired of picking him up so frequently.  She felt that it was taking away from her other clients.    I was livid about what Evan was putting us through.  I even secretly gave him a nickname: Crazy 8’s.  Evan was obviously acting very “crazy,” he was 8 years-old, and he was a game aficionado.  In fact, one time he was sent home for hitting the teacher because he could not finish playing the game. 

Once while presenting at a writing conference I received “the call.”  Unable to leave my husband had to pick him up.  Eventually my husband learned that he was eligible for FMLA and his job would be protected when he needed to leave.  However, this was a drain on our finances.  My sister and aunt would pick Evan up when neither him or I could leave work.   But at least we were fortunate enough that we had family who was willing to help us.   I knew a woman who wasn’t so lucky.

I worked with Lisa my first year of teaching.  I really didn’t know much about her other than that she was divorced and had a son.  Shortly I discovered more about her when she started being absent 3-4 times a week.  At first, we all thought she was ill and had no problems following the contingency plan that Ms. Johnson had established.  The plan was that each English teacher had to take 5-8 of Lisa’s students each day that she was absent.  Remember, this is high school, so that meant  we would see an extra 25-40 students per day.  And because her absences were not planned, there were no lesson plans that came along with her unruly bunch.  It got old really fast.  We were all annoyed about having to take on her responsibility in addition to our own.

One day we were all sitting around in the English office discussing Lisa and her absences.    By then it had already leaked out that she was absent so frequently due to her young son, Austin who suffered from bipolar disorder, ADHD, and ODD.  We were all beyond feeling empathy for her even though we knew that she was a single parent and that her extended family lived in Florida.  Lisa was carrying the load all by herself.  A few times she had even brought Austin to school as a last resort.  I saw him a couple of times in the English office playing quietly.  He was a cute little boy and seemed to have a sweet personality.  In other words, he didn’t “look” like anything was wrong with him.

Honestly then I was ignorant about mental illness.  I knew that bipolar disorder was a type of mental illness and what the other acronyms stood for but that was the sum of my knowledge.  Everyone had opinions about what she should do, myself included.  I made a comment wondering if Austin was truly bipolar and the room got quiet.  Lisa had entered the area.  If a hole would have opened up in the floor I would have hurled myself into it.  I felt soooo bad.

To her credit, she did not indicate that she knew what we were discussing her life.  But I am sure that she knew.  At the end of the year she was let go due to her poor attendance.  Shortly after that she moved back to her home state in order to get the support she needed.

Today I think about Lisa a lot because I am now walking in her shoes.  Now I see what a journey it is.   She would have a been a good resource for me to brainstorm with.  I see Austin in Evan.  On the surface, he looks peaceful, too.  But what lies underneath is a very troubled child.  I used to wonder if God was punishing me for my lack of understanding.  But now I know that He is using Evan to  teach me endurance, faith, and true compassion. 

Evan’s behavior became so volatile and unpredictable that he was eventually placed in an alternative school for students with behavior problems.  His behavior did not improve there, it actually worsened to the point that we finally relented to our last resort, residential treatment. 

I have learned many things since Evan has been in our home.  I have learned about the devastating toll that mental illness can take on a family.  I learned what it really means to love unconditionally when you are pushed to the limit.  I’ve learned to leave the judging up to God.  Sometimes we don’t know what others are going through based solely on our superficial observances that we deem to be the gospel.

Brown Bag Blues

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*Set to the tune of ZZ Hill’s Down Home Blues

My little boy is growing up in every way imaginable.  And it feels so bittersweet!  Last year Nicholas announced that he did not want me to pack lunch for him any more.  He wanted to eat the school lunch.  I really didn’t know what to think.  I wasn’t necessarily offended, I just felt sad.  I like packing Nicholas’ lunch.  I take great care to make it nutritious and appetizing.  I look through cookbooks and surf the web to find creative ideas so that he does not have to eat sandwiches everyday.  I also like to bake treats specifically for his lunch.  Plus,  a couple of times a week I include a note, stickers, or a small toy.   Nicholas has told me several times that he is the envy of the lunchroom.  The kids can’t wait to see what I have packed for him.  Although it is a bit time consuming I enjoy doing it.  It makes me feel  good and it gives me the opportunity to do something expressly for him.  Wanting to hold on to my little one for a wee bit longer; I convinced him to hold off on school lunch. 

While cruising down the aisles at Target yesterday we saw a display of lunch boxes.  I planned to buy him a new one for the upcoming school year.  Nicholas, however, only looked at them half-heartedly.  I knew what was wrong.  I casually asked him if he would like to eat school lunch.  His face lit up.  “I’d at least like to try it Mom, if it’s okay with you,” Nicholas replied.  He was so sincere in his response that it made me smile.  We continued on with our shopping sans lunchbox. 

This year Nicholas, my tween, will be eating school lunch!  We agreed that if he did not like it that I could always start packing his lunch again.  Better yet, if he does go back to taking his lunch to school, I plan to teach him how to pack it himself.  This is a most vital skill in the working world of 30 minute lunches!  I’m getting used to the idea and it just might be okay.  I’m going to continue my practice of notes and small surprises.  I’ll just have to put them in his backpack instead.

Getcha Head in the Game!

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Okay, I’m trying to get myself geared up and my boys pepped up for the upcoming school year.  In order to do so, I’ve started my homework a little early before the rat race begins.  Any additional tips would be appreciated greatly.  Here is what I already do:

  • I begin the year off by cooridinating all calendars.  We have three kids at three different schools so I create a master calendar with info from their schools along with my school schedule, activity dates, and personal dates.  I don’t like to be surprised by last minute events.
  • I iron all clothes for the week which saves time in the morning.  Nicholas is easy to dress because he wears uniforms.
  • Before starting homework the kids hang any notices pertaining to school events on the huge cork board in our garage.  Next to it is a tray for permissions slips and/or notes from the teacher that I quickly read and sign and give back to them to place in their homework folders.  If money is required I place it in a labeled envelope along with the permission slip. 
  • After the kids complete their homework they are expected to put all materials back in their packs.  Then Ethan places his on a wicker storage unit in our garage so that he can grab it on the way out.  Nicholas places his my car because I drive him to school, while Evan places his in my husband’s car because he has to be dropped off at the sitter’s to wait for the bus.  I also place Jazmine’s restocked diaperbag in the car as well.
  • Nicholas is responsible for emptying out his lunchbox and placing it on the counter for the next day.
  • I now pay for Ethan and Evan’s lunch online.  Last year Evan started getting “creative” with his lunch money and racked up quite a debt before we were made aware.
  • I get physicals for any sport they are interested in playing before school begins.
  • I start purchasing school supplies the first week of July.  I am thankful that Nicholas’ school sends home their list at the end of the school year for the upcoming year.
  • We have a bedtime ritual for the younger ones.  About an hour before bed I fix Sleepytime tea, then they shower, I read a devotional, pray, and then I turn on a CD of relaxing music.  This works like a charm for Nicholas.
  • To encourage the children to get out of bed at the first prompting, we do not pay for them to eat breakfast at school.  They know if they want to sleep in that they risk missing breakfast.  I try to keep the selection appetizing by offering  a variety of choices such as: toaster streudels, fresh fruit, bagels, cereal, granola bars, yogurt, or breakfast sandwiches and wraps in any combination that they like.  And because they are typically hungry in the morning they get right up.  Surprisingly enough they don’t gripe about this.  For an occasional treat I will get up earlier than usual and bake cinnamon buns.

Get a Leg Up

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I am a to-do list Queen.  It’s apart of my anal nature.  I was inspired to post my list after reading Just a Glimpse,  thanks for the idea!  My list contains what I would like to have done before school begins for me on August 8th.  Some are more practical in nature while others more personal.  I try to do any and everything I can to make the school year go a little more smoother.  Rarely do I use summer for vacation purposes.  Here is my beginning of summer to-do list and the progess I have made:

1.  Take the kids to dentist and well child appointments. 

I’ve taken Jazmine for her immunizations and both Nicholas and Evan to the dentist.  The well child visits will come toward the end of the summer. 

2.  Work on scrapbbooks

I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like scrapping.

3.  Have fun with the kids

I think I have managed to do this.  Of course, I’ve used Cheap Summer Thrills as my guide.

4. Read what I want that is not related to a 12th grade English curriculum!

I’ve read several books that I have enjoyed this summer.  I am currently reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt.

5.  Organize Evan’s Academic Binder

I have managed to get it sorted.  It is just stuffed with his educational papers and my notes.  I am still afraid to tackle this head-on!

6.  Organize the kitchen cabinets

Last week I had Nicholas and Ethan do it for me while I did the laundry.  I had them create an alphabetized spice list on the computer that I am going to hang inside the cabinet, get rid of mismatched dishes and containers with missing tops and vice versa, and organizedthe pots and pans by size and usage.

7.  Clean out the garage!

Done! I did it as soon as school was out!

8. Gather and donate all used/unwanted items

Done!

9.  Schedule a diabetes test

Done!

10.  Finish and press poetry book

Done!

11.  Do touch-up painting where necessary

Not yet

12.  Potty train Jazmine

In progress!

13.  Have lunch dates with adults

Sadly, I haven’t had a single one!  It is very hard to find “me” time.

14.  Give my car a deep detailing and take care of any other pressing automative needs

Done! I even took it to the dealership to get the handle repainted after they failed to do so when it was in last time for a repair.  After getting painted, they sent it over to the service department to address a recall need.  I love killing two birds with one stone.

15.  Clean the carpet

No…but it really needs it!

16.  Map out curriculum for the upcoming year

No…but I really should!

17.  Attend an advanced writing workshop

Yes, and it was wonderful!  We got paid to write whatever we wanted for a whole week!  This experience was too delicious for words.

18.  Organize loose photos

Not yet.  I have sooo many that it is overwhelming.  I don’t know whether to use albums or boxes…decisions, decisions

19. Go Green!

Yep!

20.  Mend fences where they are broken

In progress.  This one is really important to me because life is too short to hold grudges.  I don’t  want any more enemies; Satan is enough!!!

21.  Prepare things for Evan’s homecoming

I’ve been reading a lot of literature, setting up counseling, researching schools, holding his current school accountable, and I’ve even redocrated his room!

22.  Frame and mat Nicholas’ artwork

No…summer isn’t over yet!

23.  Continue exploring the Word

Actually, I’ve been pretty steadfast about this!

24.  Drink more water

I’ve progressed moderately with this one

It Gets Greater Later

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I often spend my Saturday mornings grocery shopping. The local shopping district that I utilize is routinely populated by students who attend the school where I teach. So it’s not unusual for me to run into students, both past and present during this time. The trip I made to the grocery store last weekend was no different. I was spotted by several former students. For the most part, I am always happy to see them. I love to see how they have grown and hear about the progress that they have made in life. Then other times I liken myself to a celebrity being chased by the paparazzi. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I dodge, hide, or dart down the aisles in order to avoid my current students. Because even the students who don’t like you as a teacher at school, love you when they see you in public and always want to talk to you. Of course, this makes me feel weird, but rest assured, I know that by Monday morning, they will be back to their old fickle selves. How comforting!

I was standing at the cold cuts case trying to find a suitable Lunchable for Nicholas’ lunch when I felt a slight touch to my lower back. I turned and faced Nina, a former student. Nina was a student from the beginning of my teaching career. She had a great personality, but was not really into school. I think she was there largely for the social aspect and eventually quit school altogether.  Over the years I saw her a couple of times at Skyline Chili where she worked.

We were both pleasantly surprised to see each other considering three years had passed since she had served Cincinnati’s famous chili. Nina shyly told me that she was working on getting her GED and that she had hopes of attending college. I told her about the new changes within our school system, like how all the teachers at our school had to re-interview for our jobs. I was among the first to be interviewed and had already received my position back. Nina gave me a quick smile before saying “I knew that they wouldn’t let you go because you are the best English teacher at AHS.” Having finally learned the art of replying to compliments with grace, I simply said thank you. However, I was somewhat surprised by her commendation. As I mentioned, she was not particularly studious and rarely did the assignments I gave. I had no idea that she held this view of me. But it did make me feel good.

After a little more small talk, we parted ways and continued our shopping. A little later in the day it dawned on me—being a stepparent is a lot like being a teacher. Oftentimes you don’t know the impact that you are having on your students until years later. Just when you think you have bombed and didn’t make a dent of difference in their lives, the exact opposite is true. I receive many letters, emails, and visits from former students who express their gratitude over lessons learned. I love this. This fuels my passion to perform better each year since I rarely get to see the immediate fruits of my Herculean effort that I put forth. I have no problem accepting this fact of life as a teacher. This is a hard concept for me to master as a stepmom. But listening to Nina gave me hope. And it’s not that I expect something in return from my stepsons for being a positive influence in their lives, however, just hearing that you somehow made a difference does feel mighty good.