Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journals

Monday, April 19, 2010


More Journals

Oh, please read them all.  They are fantastic.
  • The best April fools day thing I can think of is im going to call my mom after school and tell her i got arested.  I think She might have a heart attack.  Thats my fools and all I got.
  • If my parents came to school with me I would be so embarrased.  Because they might say to run faster in P.E. and in history say Oooo Ooo pick Carl.  And for lunch they will say get fruit and something to drink and that would be really embarrasing.  At science It would be like torture because they would always ask questions.  At math I would hate because my parents would make me pay attention to the math teaacher.  I would be having bad dreams for the rest of my life.  But if I had to go to school with my parents when they were little kids that would be a hole diffrent story.
  • If my parents came to school everyday it wouldn't be good.  I would probably be more good, and be a better student.  I would be a better student because my parents would be watching my every move that I make in school.  It would also be a good thing because I wouldn't have to pay my own lunch.
  • I f I could go on any field trip I would go on the music field trip because they go to Disneyland and Boomers and they go swimming and they meet Micky Mouse and Goofy.  They play music at fancy hotels, they have concerts.  But there is one bump in the road $400 dollars!!!! No! No! No!
  • My mom and dad embarassed me a lot of times.  My mom came with me to my friends house and she was laughing the whole way for no reason.  And when we got there she stop and when we were about to go she started laugh again.
  • I would like to get "Mexico" tattooed on my abs.  And I will get te amo it means I love you.  I think my mom will say what the Hell did you do and she will ground me for a long time.  Then when I'm not on punishment I will try to get another.

One year ago: More Journals

Three years ago: Forgetting to Substitute

Five years ago: No News is Good News

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Methane

Or: How to Make a Teenage Boy Like Chemistry

Me: OK, so you nee to draw CH4.

Him: I hate this. This is boring. Why do I have to do this?

Me: Well, you know what CH4 is, right?

Him: No. Why would I know?

Me: Well, it's in something you think is funny.

Him: [puzzled look]

Me: Farts.

Him: Farts? [laughs] Farts.

Repeat last line for the next 20 minutes.


Five years ago: Subject/Verb Agreement
                        Car Thieves and Bad Neighborhoods

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making Connections

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sad.

As if we needed reminding that we're in the ghetto:

My student's uncle was killed this Saturday. In broad daylight, as they say. Right by his house, less than a mile from our school. Apparently he owed someone money. This is the 33rd homicide this year in Oakland, when last year at this time, there were 14. Great. We're on a record-breaking pace. Oakland's not a very big city - 33 homicides by now is a LOT. Or maybe it just feels like more when I know the kids affected.

The story we're reading right now in our reading curriculum is called Four Dollars and Fifty Cents. It is the story of a cowboy who, in an attempt to evade the debt collectors, plays dead, gets taken to the graveyard, gets caught, scares a bunch of robbers away and gets an reward. The reading program is big on "making connections" - finding bits of the stories that are like events in their own lives, characters that are like people they know, etc. So this kid busts out with, "This is just like what happened to my uncle, except they really did kill my uncle when he owed money.

What do you say to that?
Four years ago: The Photos

Five years ago: I Love To Read
                        Sad.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Teacher's Rambling: Why the Tests Matter

This is a guest blog graciously written by Nealey, who is a secondary school teacher.  She brings up some excellent points.  None of us want the standardized tests to matter, but the fact is that they do in many ways. I hope she'll write more posts in the future!


Parents: Don’t tell your children that the standardized tests don’t matter.

Standardized tests do matter, but unfortunately the system is flawed.  One of the problems with the tests is that students are not held accountable for their test scores.   In an ideal world, all students would do their best because of the intrinsic value in doing one’s best.  If every student actually did their best then the tests might be a valuable way to judge teachers, schools, and educational programs.  However, we don't live in an ideal world. During testing, some student try their best, other students half-heartedly try, and some students don't try at all.  I have seen students bubble in patterns, bubble in all one letter and even once a student that didn't bubble anything, put his head down and took a nap for the entire time he was required to be in the room for testing.

While students are not held accountable for their test scores, their teachers, schools and school districts are. What I am seeing more and more are teachers that are teaching to the test; they teach only the facts that they will be tested on and skip everything else because it has been deemed by the state as not as important.  It has taken away teacher creativity and, in my opinion, has made the teaching process and learning process far less fun.  I have heard stories of elementary school teachers who don't even teach science or history anymore because the kids aren’t tested in science until 5th grade and history in 6th grade.  When I taught 8th grade science at a middle school in Northern California, I only had half a year to teach an entire year’s worth of curriculum.  The district had cut back science and social studies to 1 semester each and the students were taking 2 periods of math and 2 periods of English every day to bring up test scores.  So, when students tell me that the STAR tests don’t matter I get so furious because it DOES matter to those students who are taking twice as much math and English every day.

Standardized testing is not a perfect system, and unfortunately I don’t know what the solution is to fix it. But that doesn’t change that fact that I still think it’s important.  Low tests scores directly affect schools and students.  The tests are not going away.  Hopefully they are not here to stay, but for now, they are here and telling our children that the tests don’t matter is not going to make them go away.

One year ago: My Kids
Three years ago: Formaldehyde

Five years ago: Resiliency

 If your children do poorly on the STAR test and your school’s API (that means STAR test score) goes down, then your district will be considered a bad district and people will move out of the bad district and take their kids to other better districts with higher API's and the property value on your house will go down.  Conversely, if your students do their best on the STAR test and their test scores go up, then people will want to send their children to that school and the property values will go up. I am no economist but I'm pretty sure it's supply and demand.

If you’re a parent who  doesn’t like standardized testing and thinks that the system is flawed and wants to see a change, the worst thing you can do is tell you child that the tests don’t matter.  Write letter to your governor, call your congressman’s office, go to school board meetings and voice your concerns.  It is through these actions that we might be able to make a change in the system.
 
One year ago: My Kids

Three years ago: Yes, There is Still Racism in America

Five years ago: Resiliency

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Brothers Big Sisters Needs You

Especially if you are a man in the Bay Area.  They have hundreds (literally) of little boys on the waiting list and no one to match them with.  Most of these kids don't have dads in their lives and really could use a male mentor. 

Take a look here and see if you can help.  If you have any questions, ask me - I've been doing this for about 9 months now and I love it.

One year ago: My Kids

Four years ago: Principals: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Five years ago: Tired.
                        The Winter of Our Discontent

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heart Brooking

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


It Brook My Heart


"Amani" came to school today in an even more belligerent mood than normal. I asked what was wrong and she said that it was all my fault, I just hate her and there's nothing she can do right. I'm out to get her.

OK. Deep breath. "Amani, what's really the matter?"

"You never listen to me, you hate me, you like everyone else better than me."

One more time. "Sweetheart, what's bothering you?"

She comes back with a note: "My mom told me that most of the time she don't even wanna be here with me and it brook my heart."

It brook my heart too. Her mom's overwhelmed, she's taking it out on her, but Amani doesn't know that. She idolizes her mom. She doesn't know how hard it is to be a single mom and how her mom's reacting (badly) to stress. And there's nothing I can say to make it better. No wonder she acts crazy. Negative attention is better than none.
Two years ago: Words of Wisdom

Three years ago: Pay Raises?  Nope.
                          Um, Who's Teaching Our Teachers?

Four years ago: Beware the Ides of March
                        It Brook my Heart

Five years ago: What Time is it, Anyway?
                        Bits and Pieces

Friday, March 18, 2011

What Kids Need: To Be Wanted

This is a tiny bit cheating.  I realized that what I was about to write was already covered in two posts from five years ago, so I'm just going to copy and paste.  I hope you enjoy. I really, really, can't overemphasize how important this is, not just for individual kids but for (and this sounds dramatic) the future of our society.  Really.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Needing To Be Wanted


I was watching Law and Order SVU (or more accurately, I was in the room while Law and Order was being watched and trying to ignore it), and one of the characters was a brutal murderous member of some horrible prison gang who showed no remorse for anything he had done and continued to make threats to kill people. Anyway, I was trying to not watch that and the realization came to me suddenly: This man was a little kid once - innocent and lovable - and this is how he's turned out. (Yes, I realize Law and Order is fiction, but unfortunately there are an infinite number of real-life examples). I've had these kinds of realizations before, but this time it hit me so hard that I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

There was a quote I read once in my credential program by some educational behaviorist someone who said that as he was looking at the "Wanted" signs at the post office, it occurred to him that if these criminals had been wanted when they were children, they wouldn't be wanted now. Sounds trite, but it's true. It's hard for me to not take this all on and put the responsibility on myself for their entire future. But it's also frightening to realize that not feeling wanted/loved/approved drastically affects people for THEIR WHOLE LIVES.

I think the reason why the Law and Order episode hit me so hard is that one of my students from last year is trying (fairly successfully) to start a gang. He's only in 4th grade, so the gang right now consists of getting a bunch of kids who need to belong or be noticed and go around to other kids, saying things like "That's a nice coat. You want to keep that coat, you'll have to give me $3 every day." It is small now - although mean-spirited - but I can see exactly where this kid's going to end up and it terrifies me.

There are any number of reasons why this particular student is "at-risk": he was out of school for two years because his mom didn't have it together enough to enroll him, she's working as a prostitute, she's got substance abuse problems, she's in abusive relationships (every time I saw her, she'd have a new black eye or a tooth knocked out), he was being raised by his disabled grandmother who couldn't handle him, his dad is in and out of his life as he is on and off drugs, he was abused... and he has turned into a mean-spirited manipulative cynical bully. At age ten.

I got to see into this kid's heart a little last year on a field trip. We were at the Lawrence Hall of Science observing some animals, including a dove, a snake, a bearded dragon lizard, a chinchilla, some other stuff I don't remember, and a big rat. None of the kids wanted to go near the rat - we have rats aplenty in East Oakland and everyone agrees that they are NASTY - and this child, this big, mean, dirty child who no one likes and is mean to everyone... he worried that the rat would get his feelings hurt.

So he stood by the rat for an hour, talking to it, and telling me periodically that he thought the rat had probably taken a bath, so people should not say that it smelled, that it probably just needed attention. He cared for that rat like he was its mother. This kid was showing the rat the kind of love and security that he needed and he wasn't getting. It's not hard to see why he started him a gang. And he'll continue to go down that road until he's locked up or dead. I know that's hard to hear/read, and I appreciate that some people won't want to hear it. It hurts my heart to write it.

Forget prisons and rehab centers - everyone (especially men, please!) go find one kid who doesn't think anyone cares about him or her and mentor that kid. Tell him that you love him no matter what he does or doesn't do. And mean it, because they know when you're not genuine. Find the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or find a teacher or pastor in the inner-city and ask them where you can find one of these kids. Unfortunately, there's way way too many of them. No kidding, if we helped them all feel wanted, we really wouldn't need the Wanted lists any more.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

For the Love of Children


So, after writing the last post, I was thinking about if I actually help the kids. Sometimes I think I do more harm than good because I get so frustrated and overwhelmed. (and short-tempered and judgmental, and... these kids try my patience so much that most of my not-favorite qualities come out with them). So I've decided that what I can do is tell them, every day or even several times a day, that I love them. And even if I yell at them, I still love them. Sometimes I'll say, "You are driving me absolutely crazy and I am very very upset with your behavior but even if I'm sending you home, I still love you."

I think it's sinking in because one kid told another, "You know she still love you even when she mad." I hope it's sinking in. I don't know what else I can do - half the time I'm convinced that absolutely nothing I teach them will be retained for more than 30 seconds. But if they come away from this year knowing that one adult loves them unconditionally, that's something. And if there's any way - by God's grace and without me crossing legal separation of church and state lines - that they can understand that it is actually because Jesus loves me and them more than they can imagine (sounds crazy to many of you perhaps, but I'm convinced it's true), well, that's probably the greatest accomplishment I could have in my life - much better than success on the standardized tests.

Five years ago:  Needing to be Wanted
                         For the Love of Children

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

At Least I'm Not Dealing With This

I've had a fairly frustrating situation with one of my tutoring clients recently.  However, I came across this old post and had to be glad that I'm not dealing with THIS anymore:


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Suspension Form

I suspended a kid today - let's call her "Alexis" - and these are the reasons I gave on her suspension form:
  • Erasing the lesson on the board
  • Ripping up the list of who hadn't done their homework
  • Giving another kid a wet willy
  • Taking pencils away from kids and taunting them as the kids tried to get them back
  • Taking things off my desk
  • Putting Purell on kids' heads
  • Taking stickers off my desk, sticking them on her crotch, and dancing around thrusting her pelvis out
  • Screaming
  • Refusing to go to the office
  • Threatening to "slap the f--- out of" another kid
  • A lot of other threats that ended with "with your ugly old self"
I think there might have been more.  She wouldn't leave when the assistant principal came up and the rest of my class had to go to the computer lab to do their work because we're not allowed to pick up children and drag them to the office (stupid laws).  Also, she could beat up the assistant principal.

She also told her mom that I scream at her, that I'm lying, and that she "hates this old school."  The assistant principal pointed out that she has 7 teachers who all say the same thing and they can't all be lying, but logic was not working.''

The amazing thing was that the rest of the class ignored her pretty effectively.  There was the one kid who laughed in her face, but he always teases other kids (his new thing is to make fun of the boys for having "girly" names which is pretty funny because he actually has a unisex name so he's just asking for trouble).  The rest of the kids, including her usual posse, just ignored her.  They kind of rolled their eyes but they kept working. One of her usual friends started to join in and I asked him if he wanted Alexis to decide his grade or if he wanted to decide his own and he actually made the right decision!  (This is the kid who told me how much he hated me on the first two days I was there).

Also, I felt good because I didn't raise my voice once.  I didn't have to because it was only one kid going crazy and the rest kept working.  Also because the administration came when I called.

This girl really is not all right though.  This is one of our usual conversations:

Me: Hi, Alexis, how are you doing?
Alexis: Don't you scream at me!  You always be screaming at people with your ugly old self!

Me: You're doing a good job today.
Alexis: Ooh, I swear to God!  You always be screaming and lying!  I hate you with your ugly old self!

Something is very wrong.

One year ago: If Geckos Went to School

Three years ago: If I Were President, I Would Melt All of the Guns

Four years ago: NCLB Backlash

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One-Fifth of Their Teachers

The district I used to work for has issued layoff notices to over 20% of their full-time staff.  That is 538 full-time positions out of 2469.  A total of 657 people got notices, since not everyone is full-time.

My question: Don't they know they will have students next year?  I can understand budget cuts, but this leads to the same cycle every year.  A commenter on the blog linked above put it well:


Last year the lay off of teachers at Oakland Tech was excessive-without concern for projected enrollment.  When the school year began we were short a number of teachers, due to enrollment numbers. The consequence for the school staff-custodial, clerical, certificated, administrative-and students and their families was truly severe. Our administration had to struggle even as school was opening to find replacements for core courses such as English, Mathematics. Many classrooms exceeded 40+ students-waiting to be balanced by the refunding of positions cut just months before. People lost jobs and found them in other districts. Some classes could not initially get momentum due to having to utilize substitute teachers until our principal could find and hire a replacement for someone we had lost. A couple of hundred students who had established bonds with their classmates and teacher had to transfer to a different class, period teacher six weeks into the semester.Due to all of the efforts of the students and their families, and Oakland Tech’s staff, we came through an unnecessary and truly stressful experience. Time lost in education is never regained. The conditions imposed upon us by the Central Administration and School Board of OUSD led to the loss of students education, increased stress in the lives of the students-which is guaranteed to impede the cognitive and affective processes of learning.
The goal was the same then as now-scramble to find $ to replace all of the tens of millions of dollars paid out to for profit programs, consultants, oversized central administration salaries, oversized central administration staff- And do it, not by cleaning up the fiscal mismanagement of OUSD, rather do it by gutting necessary educational programs and staff. Sound a bit like Wall Street?

Four years ago: They Had to Commission a Report for This?
                         Playing Hooky

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Futures

Although the name of this school always makes me want to call the school next to it "Commodities," it has come very very very far since it started.  All but one teacher got a layoff notice.

There's a video here


Two years ago: More Education News

Four years ago: From Mystery to Medicine

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Like There Aren't Enough Problems in the District...

... on e of the schools was broken into and vandalized.  This is not a school where the PTA can jump in and help out, and they need help, badly.  If you feel like helping, there are currently two ways:

Donors Choose

Directly to the school


Four years ago: Over-Praising the Children
                         Stephanie's Opportunity!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Trouble with Unions

I've had several people ask me the same basic question about the previous post.  Some variation of this (which I just copied and pasted from the latest email from a friend):

I thought it was typically part of the agreements that school districts have with the teachers' unions that required the "last hired, first fired" approach to layoffs.  Is that true?  If so, is it not expected that the layoffs would hit a brand new school like Futures?  Why should I think something different should happen?  Is this not what the teachers have negotiated with the schools?

Excellent question.  I answered, but then I ran  my answer by an anonymous teacher friend who helped me edit.  Here is our answer:

this part mostly from me, augmented by anonymous friend:

You're correct that typically unions have policies of last hired, first fired. The union in this district is no different. In practice, because this is a highly segregated district, teachers with more tenure move to the hills schools that tend to have a better reputation and tend to serve middle- and upper-class, predominantly white and Asian students.  The result is that every time there are layoffs, the flat-land schools serving low-income, predominantly Latino and African American students are disproportionately affected while the hills schools lose far fewer.  As some layoffs happen almost every year, the problem compounds and flatland schools have really high teacher turnover.  Coupled with the difficult working conditions, there is even greater turnover in schools like Futures (sometimes over 50% per year EVERY YEAR).  The students who attend Futures have really chaotic lives, so having lots of teacher turnover makes it even more difficult for students, who arguably need the most support, to get what they need. That 100% of the Futures staff were committing to stay is remarkable, highly unusual, and really important for these students.
The big problem this year is the sheer number of layoffs.  They don't usually lay off such a high percentage of teachers.  I'm not sure why they're doing it - I know the budget is bad but they'll have to rehire most of those positions anyway because you really do need a minimum amount of teachers legally.  But because the number is so high, schools like Futures, instead of having half their staff laid off, is having basically the whole staff laid off.  They'll probably get rehired by the end of the summer, but who wants to wait until August to see if you can get your old position back? This is pretty much as the union has negotiated it, and it amounts to poor kids in bad schools getting new teachers every year (this year all but one at the whole school will be new) and better-off kids in nicer schools having very few teachers laid off.  So, it really annoys me because it amounts to the adults negotiating what's best for them (working in nicer schools) and not what's best for the kids who need the most help. It also means that people who actually WANT to work with kids at Futures can't rely on having a job each year, which de-incentivises the job even more.

(this next mostly from anonymous friend):
Unions do help with negotiating salaries and collective bargaining (if they aren't making crazy demands) and they're supposed to help defend against insane administrators (in theory), but they're also designed to protect their most senior members first. This is really problematic if you're a kid in a not-so-desirable school because as soon as (most) teachers get enough seniority, they leave. This isn't new for our district (or most districts with some schools that are comprised of large numbers of low income students and others that have few low income kids) and it really does hurt kids who attend schools like Futures. I kind of get the utility of unions for helping with collective bargaining, but they're really not helpful for supporting achievement or building consistent and positive climates for the neediest students. They're also not helpful for replenishing the teacher workforce. I don't have the statistics off-hand, but there's this article I saw that documents how many new people are becoming teachers each year. The number has dropped dramatically as schools have begun to layoff large numbers of new teachers because of the budget cuts. What happens in 10-20 years when all of these really senior union members all retire? Who will replace them? How inexperienced will they be?
I agree that people might have lots of questions about unions, particularly with what's been happening in Wisconsin with union busting. My stance is usually that unions are marginally helpful in some ways, but that in their current form, they really hurt the kids I worked with and care about that are most often forgotten about and most dis-served by public education. I don't think it's a good idea to get rid of unions, but I would like to see them create better incentives to teach in schools like Futures. What if unions negotiated a salary bonus for teaching in tough-to-staff schools? Maybe then more senior teachers would be interested in staying and future lay-offs would be distributed more uniformly. Or, what if there was a modified last hired-first fired rule that unions negotiated where the rule applied, but only up to some proportion of the total teaching staff at any one school (like not more than 30% of the teachers at any school could be laid off under the rule). I think unions could do a much better job protecting not only teachers, but also low-income black and Latino students. Do I think this union would go for it...yeah, probably not. But I can dream.
 Sound like excellent suggestions.  I wish they could be put into practice.  


One year ago: Suspension Form

Four years ago: More Evaluator Woes

Five years ago: One More Thing to Buy

Monday, March 07, 2011

Victims of the Budget: You Can Help

An email from a teacher at the school I used to work at:

I apologize for the mass e-mail, but I wanted to get in touch with you about something that is currently very close to my heart.  I have spoken with many of you about the situation that is unfolding at my school, but I'll just summarize for those of you who haven't had the full story.  Our school is in danger of being dismantled and all the gains we have made in the last four years are in danger of being lost as ALL but one of our classroom teachers will receive lay off notices on March 15th.  This is unfairly affecting communities like ours in traditionally 'hard to staff' schools serving low income communities of color.  We are making a video to document this struggle and advocate for our cause and we need YOUR help!  Please visit our site at 


make a donation and support us in raising awareness and telling our story.

Here is a shortened version of our story from our fundraising website:

Formerly one of the worst and lowest performing schools in Oakland, known as Lockwood elementary school, Futures was created when Lockwood split into two separate schools sharing one campus.  Not only have test scores improved dramatically in the four years that Futures has been in existence, (Futures had the highest test score gains in the district in 2009) but our teachers and staff have also initiated a wide variety of programs to support and enrich our students academic growth. 

While Lockwood lost over 100 teachers from 1999 to 2006 and had 8 principals in 8 years, this pattern of attrition has stopped with our current staff.  This is the first year in many that 100% of our teachers have made their commitment to return to Futures for the following school year.  However, despite our strong will and commitment to continue building the relationships in the community that have begun to create significant changes in academic outcomes for our students, Futures wil once again be subject to the chaos and disruption of losing up to 100% of its teachers if the current budget remedy employed by the district goes through.  

All but one of our classroom teachers will receive pink slips on March 15th!

Because Futures is a new school, and has drawn new teachers as well as experienced teachers from other districts who are new to Oakland Unified, it will be very disproportionately affected by the impending lay-offs.  We see this as a violation of our students right to equal access to a quality public education. We believe that it is unjust for these cuts to be so concentrated in any one school, particularly one whose intention is to correct decades of precisely this kind of instability and neglect. 

Last year when similar schools in Los Angeles were looking at the same potential lay-offs and reforms, the ACLU defended the students and sued the district with the claim that the disproportionate losses for students at schools like Futures Elementary is a civil rights issue.  Recently the ACLU won and the district settled.  However, it hasn’t yet set a legal precedent.  This is why we must take action!

Four years ago: More Evaluator Woes

Friday, March 04, 2011

Part-Time

People keep asking me if I want to go back to the classroom.  I do, in many ways.  I very much want to.  But not full-time.  I really like not being completely exhausted.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Part-Time Teaching

The things I like better about part-time teaching (over full-time)
  1. By the time I start to get frustrated with the kids, my time with them is over.
  2. I can put up with a lot more for 103 minutes than for 6 1/2 hours.
  3. I have less planning to do.
  4. I have less work to take home.
  5. I don't have to go to staff meetings.
  6. This way, I can stay out of school politics.
  7. Since I'm not at staff meetings, I can claim ignorance when convenient.  
  8. I spend less money on copies and supplies.
  9. I am less tired (although still tired).
  10. I am less stressed out.
  11. I am a better teacher because I am less tired and less stressed out.

The things I do not like better about part-time teaching.

  1. I get paid less.  Yeah, that's pretty much it.

One year ago: Part-time Teaching

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Layoffs

I have never been laid off from a school.  Apparently I am one of the only ones.  This year, this district is pink slipping over 500 teachers.  I'm going to have a guest post by a teacher soon who is getting one of these letters.

The pattern I've seen in this district, every single year has been this:

1. March: Panic about budget, lay off all the teachers they can.
2. March - August: refuse to answer questions about if jobs will be available
3. August: start complaining that there aren't any teachers and there are too many vacancies. 

You'd think someone would learn.

LayoffsMore layoffs.

Four years ago: School Closings
                        They Have a Dream

Four years ago: Loyalty and Authority, Part II.  And Attachment
                        Kids are Strange

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

He Smells Like Junk

That's a description of a student's dog.  Really.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


My Sister is Brown Like Me


"My sister is Brown like me. She is nice sometimes. She was in my teacher's class last year. She has short and kind of short hair. She smells like soap. She helps grandma clean up the house, because she likes cleaning up the house. I love my sister. My grandma loves my sister. I do too. My sister is the best. THE END"

No, I didn't write this, and my sister is not, in fact, brown. This is one girl's descriptive writing assignment. I was going to write more about the loyalty and authority but I'm kind of overwhelmed right now (I can't keep up with my own paperwork and mess, let alone the paperwork and mess of 20 children) so I thought I'd share the kids' descriptive writing. The assignment was to pick something and describe it, using as many senses as possible. The things the kids picked to describe ranged from people (by far the most popular: me, their mom, a sister, a baby, themselves), to flowers, dogs and cats, a Game Boy, and crackers. (Did you know crackers "sound like rocks when they break"? I'm going to pay more attention from now on!)

A few of the more memorable excerpts:

RL: I have a dog that is brown, cool, and hot with fleas. We give him food. We give him flea baths. We keep him away from cats and birds. He smells like junk. He feels like a hairball.

BE: My dog can bark very loud because he is 22 years old. He smells like mud and is as soft as a pillow

JS: My dog Fluffy has little legs and sharp teeth. He is the size of a toy. Fluffy is fluffy. [At this point, the student realized that he had made a play on words and started giggling - amused himself for about 30 minutes.]

And my personal favorite in its entirety:

AJ: My teacher smells like perfume. She is light skinned. She is skinny. She is the tallest woman in the school. She sounds loud and quiet. Her hair is light brown. My teacher hair is so soft. Her eyes are green and beautiful. Her bones in her hand feel bumpy. She wears glasses because she has bad vision. She sprained her ankle because she fell down the stairs and she had to use crutches. My teacher is the best teacher in the world.

A few notes: I neither wear perfume nor am the tallest woman in the school. I do not have brown hair or green eyes. However, I am flattered by the description! In the first draft, he said I was light skinded, with the extra syllable, but he also said that "She sprainded her ankle and wears crutches sometimes because sometimes she falls down the stairs." I almost left it just because I liked it, but I thought it was probably better to teach him how to write correctly.

I was also proud because we have been working very hard on descriptions and he definitely has some description going on there!

Four years ago: Slipping Through the Cracks

Five years ago: My Sister is Brown Like Me