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I understand when strangers, upon finding out I’m a middle school teacher, have some kind of reaction; usually, it’s one of two. First, it’s a gasp, followed by “That’s a tough age, I could never do that!” or second, “oh, God bless you!”

Eighth grade students are sweet and sour: I often think I’m just teaching kindergartners who are less sweet and more sour. This afternoon is a perfect example: young lad, highly distract-able, meandering, and willful, has an object in his hands. He glances at the ceiling, then to me, jiggling this goop, looking for the opportunity to toss it to the ceiling. I needed to intervene, and throw the goop myself. This substance has only one purpose: to stick to walls, windows, and ceilings. My own home has greasy-ghost imprints of goop past. How much planning does it take to make sure the goop is in one’s hands at the beginning of class, instead of something to write with? How much intentionality in choices and the cost/benefit analysis goes on when one actively decides, “Today, I shall toss goop at Mrs. L’s ceiling, make everyone laugh, ha ha ha, and that old cow will never know the difference! Tra-la-la!”

Well, the goop is on the ceiling. And the young lad will earn a lunch detention every day until the goop falls down. I like to have fun, too.

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Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Reading Logs:

log rolling


  1. Cheating: In order to get the grade for the “reading,” kids cheat.
  2. Inauthenticity: Is a student really reading something they love? Does counting pages read mean there’s a true connection?
  3. Competition: Measuring students’ success by minutes read=factory-made, robotic readers
  4. Parent accountability: Reading logs put a lot of the responsibility on parents’ shoulders. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a hundred times: My mom never had to sign math homework sheets or reading logs, and she was STILL an excellent mother. I sure would hate to see how she would have coped raising three little girls while her husband traveled 5 days/week on business AND helped her daughters remember to have her sign a reading log.
  5. Student accountability: Oh, so it’s the kids’ complete responsibility? So, what if the parent isn’t available? That’s teaching responsibility, or just a reminder that your parent is working 3 jobs to put food on the table. More reinforcement of “you’re unworthy, irresponsible” labeling.
  6. Distracting: Why does a book need all of these “flags” to make it more enjoyable?
  7. Epic fail: You don’t do your reading log, even if you read all the time, you fail.
  8. Resistance: Puts a damper on the whole “love of literature” thing
  9. Time waster: See number 6.
  10. Annoying: For everyone involved.

Talk to me about the books you’re reading; tell me why you love them. Write me a note in your composition book, or send me an e-mail. I’ll teach you about plot, irony, paradox, and punctuation in class, okay? And why I love books, too.

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Every time, without fail or exception, if I need a guest teacher, I inevitably get a note about my 7th period students.

The quotes range from ‘WORST CLASS EVER!!!!!’ to “chaos,” “challenging,” “chatty,” “disruptive,” and the ubiquitous, “not on task.” Yeah.

I was watching some teacher videos demonstrating classroom management the other week. The pretty, young teacher had small groups of elementary students who watched and listened to her every word. If a child as much put his head down on the book, she would stop, and with the commanding presence of an English dog trainer, wait stone still until the child resumed his attention. I’m very good at wait time, too, but I admit, even my 7th period class has realized it’s a war of attrition. We wear each other down, until no one “wins.” I don’t get to do my job, which I love, and they don’t get half of the education that the other classes gain.

I told them today the best analogy I could think of: As individuals, I really like each of them. However, if they were a country, I would turn in my passport. There is nothing I want to visit, no activities I want to do, and no sights I want to see in their “country.” On the voyage of my day, I swim through the rarified air of honors, then through the rustic lands of other languages, reading instrution land and then…the blown-out shards of 7th period. There are a few ambassadors of the group who try, who are attentive–but most have checked out.

I’d like to think I’m a creative, problem-solver, but I’m at a loss. What can I do so we can turn this nation around? Perhaps give them more of a stake in their nation-building: more votes, more persuasion, more debates and consensus.

And, if you do guest teach for me, one word of advice: get vaccinated. They bite.

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Box of Destiny…

PostmanSometimes messages and meaning aren’t received well. Have you ever experienced when you’ve sent an e-mail or message, and it wasn’t received with your intent? What did you do to remedy the situation?

I shipped an important package today. It will take about 8 months before I know the result of its contents. But I want to remind myself, here and now, I know the results already. I love to teach, I am always thinking of new ways to reach and help students, try to support my colleagues, and keep my sanity in the process. Sometimes I don’t do a very good job at any of those pursuits, but I earnestly do try. So, I’m going to send myself a message, a telegram, a signal, a flare: Job well done, my dear. It’s going to be all right.

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Facts and Truth.

EinsteinA few weeks ago, one of my favorite cousins posted something on Facebook that had questionable origins at best. The Internet has become a huge echo chamber for misinformation, maudlin parables, and a whole lot of cat videos. This particular story was an anecdote about Einstein and religion. It has no basis in fact. I put my husband on the case, a natural skeptic, fact finder and truth seeker. This is what he found:

First, this is obviously a fictional story written to support an opinion with junk logic. Modified versions of this same story are all over the web. Here’s a version featuring a Muslim student instead of a Christian:

It’s interesting to note that for each of the 10 different versions I found, none had a byline by a reporter, an author, or credited to a source of any kind.

 Second, the logic put forward by this fictional piece is outrageously flawed and it doesn’t require a big brain like Einstein to see through it. For example, to say that there is no such thing as cold, is absurd. Yes, we might conclude that cold is the word we use to describe the lack of heat, but that’s just splitting hairs over how the word ‘cold’ is defined! Let’s remember, the word ‘cold’ has uses beyond physics. It’s easier to say ‘it’s cold outside’ than to say ‘today’s atmosphere lacks heat at this altitude ‘. Further, we commonly use the word ‘cold’ as the opposite of heat because temperatures we consider cold or hot are on opposite ends of a continuous scale.

Third, this story posits that evolution has not been observed when, in fact, it has:

Fourth, this is a well known hoax, documented here:

Note: no biographical writing of Einstein mentions this event. Something as dramatic as this is intended to be would have made the pages of at least one of the thousands of Einstein biographical works made to date.

 Ultimately, this was written by someone who has no understanding of how science works. It’s really just a poorly conceived philosophical story without merit.

Okay then. The story is a manipulative pile of horse apples. However, please do not misunderstand me or vilify me: I am not just about exposing questionable parables for its own sake. Something can FEEL true, even when it’s not. My hope is that if one is seeking spiritual guidance, trying to answer the BIG questions in life, or needs some healing for the spirit, remember that tolerance for ambiguity is a good thing.

Scientists are not this “other” species who are seeking to destroy faith and belief systems. In fact, many of the most ingenious scientists have been those who are passionate in their quests for both facts and truth, such as Carl Sagan, Marie Curie, William Herschel, John Dalton, and Gregor Mendel, just to name a few. There is no real debate or argument between science and religion. It’s like a celebrity death-match; completely fabricated to keep our minds off of the real questions, to distract us from our own journeys. Humanity is too good and big for these petty tussles, and the universe can shoulder it, too.

Next time, find a real anecdote, quote, or fact to speak your truth.

I have always liked this one:

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

–Carl Sagan