Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Fair

Winter Fair is always scheduled on the last day of school before winter break, (formerly known as Christmas Break.) It gives the students a little party atmosphere at the end of finals and the clubs on campus the opportunity to sell something and raise funds for their various endeavors. These are some of my students selling mistletoe for the Alpine Club whose advisor is Mrs. Hennings. This is a great club that goes camping and hiking throughout the year. From left to right are: Maria S., Claudia M. and Salvador M. The other two I am not familiar with but they were all doing a great job. (I bought a package; a steal for $1.00!) 
     Other than the winter fair I am playing bingo in my classes today. The kids have the chance to win a prize that I have put in a little bag and stapled the top so they can't tell what it is. These prizes range from little stuffed animals, to a couple of army men to penny coin rollers, to little wind up toys, etc...Little packages of things I purchase from the dollar store and split up or buy in assortment bags when my sister and I go thrift store shopping twice a year. A lot of things I get in grab bags at yard sales and estate sales or in the discount bins at Michael's craft stores or Target. It's a lot of fun! Some kids are very competitive and get serious about the game. One kid was really getting into the game and I said, "Lighten up, it's just a game, for heaven's sake!" He just smiled and replied "Heaven's got nothing to do with it!" He just happened to win the next round and was rewarded with some army men. He was happy as long as he won! 
     So, today is the last day of the semester. Once classes are over, I will input grades and be done until January 13th. Wow! I can't believe it will be 2015 soon. I'm not planning on posting over winter break but I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas (or happy whatever holiday you celebrate, even if it is just a "me" day.) I'm hoping to get a lot of rest and get some reading done. I'm attending a quilt retreat with my daughter, Jennifer, and my daughter in law, Joscelyn. We three, and 18 other quilters, mostly women, get together, away from home, and laugh and sew and eat and talk and sew and talk and eat and get the idea. 
     Enjoy the holidays and I will be back, rested and ready to go (let's hope the students are!) in January. Thank you for following my blog. You may want to check out my other blog at  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Good Job!

The posters are done! I wish I could post all of them for you to see. I am so proud of all my students and the work they accomplished this semester. There will be some F's, granted, but for the most part they have worked really hard and I think they are getting the idea that this is not going to be a fluff year. I am hoping, with that idea in mind, that they will rise to the occasion in the spring and do even better. We have a couple of harder units ahead of us, (Yes, I can hear the groans now) including a very intensive one on essay writing. Whatever their skills in writing were when they entered this class will have to be brought up to beginning college level. They will go kicking and screaming into that good night, I know, but it is what it has to be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 2 Poetry Posters

     I thought you might to see some of the artwork from today's presentations. The students are doing a great job on these posters, even though some of them admit to doing them in the last two days. And some of the kids are borrowing my glue sticks to secure items to their posters up until the time they present. But, most of them get it done and the results are wonderful. I can tell as they present them that they have put a lot of thought into the poem (through their analysis) and their choice of song. I really enjoy having these presentations as a final. It is an almost stress-less day for my students and myself, and best of all: easy to grade!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Poetry Poster Artwork

     Well, the first day of finals and my students were presenting their poetry posters as their final in my class. I always have some really good artwork and this year was no exception. The poster on top was done all in pencil. To the left of the big Death word is the list of literary devices and below that the analysis of the poem. On the flip side was the Shel Silverstein poem a foreign exchange student chose because it was lighthearted and happy. Both students did an excellent job and the artwork is wonderful. Another class presents tomorrow and then the last two on Thursday. Friday is a regular minimum day with the Winter Fair during lunch. More on that Friday. I know I will have some more good artwork to show you tomorrow. My only regret is that, because I have so many more students now, (135+/- instead of 65+/-) I do not have the wall space in my class room to display them all. Maybe I will rotate them for the next couple of months so no one feels left out. Oh, and the good news, because the rubric to grade these is fairly forgiving, the lowest grade earned today was 87/100. Hoping that will increase the grade averages for the semester.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter at Last

      Winter is here at last. Took it long enough. Most of the kids are complaining of the cold today. We rarely get snow on the Central Cost of California. But the temperature is 51* right now and there is a blustery breeze with a threat of 2 days of rain.
      Today is the first day of Finals week. A regular day, (if you can call any day with teenagers a regular day.) But a regular schedule at least. Tomorrow we start actual finals. My classes are presenting poetry posters. As with any project I have many, many who have waited until the last minute to do them. So we will see what tomorrow brings. These posters will also be some of the students last opportunity to pass the class, even though it may only be with a low D. I have eternal hope that they will step up to the plate and get it done, even at the last minute. 

Friday, December 12, 2014


    Today I had a student inform me that the only reason he's going to stay in school is because he wants to have a quote in the yearbook when he's a senior. 
Here's what he wants to have under his senior picture:
"You can catch flies with honey but you can catch more honeys being fly." A.C. (I told him I would give him credit!)
Kind of corny but he is very proud of his quote.
I told him, "Whatever it takes!"
It's been a really long week. Next week is Finals week. Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smiley Face

I was met with this on my board today. It made me smile and it's not even Friday! I am amazed that these kids, for the most part, still actually like me. I rail at them and judge their work and encourage them endlessly to do better. They can be better. I know it and when I see something like this I know they know it too.
Oh, I'm sure I have the opposite effect on some of the kids. Two years into teaching I had a death threat on my board. There were 6 possible suspects. The young man that finally was accused of the incident, I believe, was not the guilty party. But I think his friends threw him under the bus, so to speak, and he took the rap because he was afraid of being shunned. When he confessed there were a lot of kids, his friends included, that gave him a hard time. I don't think Administration handled it too well and his parents eventually requested he be transferred to another high school in the district. 
I think, for the most part, that students like teachers that make rules and stick to them. All children like boundaries, even though they all insist they yearn to be free. I am constantly putting up boundaries for my students. Difficult assignments, defined due dates, no excuses. I am always telling them they are not living up to their potential. They can do better. They have to be better prepared. And even though I have not set out to be liked, it seems I still am.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Lesson

     Well, again today I learned something new from my students. I learned all about dabbing. According to Urban Dictionary: "Dabbing. To press a piece of cannabis extract known as Butane Hash Oil against a heated surface of an oil rig pipe and inhale the smoke." Of course they all knew about it, and I imagine some of them have tried it but I think more of them just like to talk about it so make their friends think they're cool, or whatever the vernacular is these days. So I decided to do a little research on the topic because you never know if what they tell you is true or not. It depends on where they get their information. In my research I even found that there were rules of etiquette for dabbing. Here are a few of the highlights:
1. Full Disclosure
Before smoking with a new dabber, ask them if they smoke weed every day. You want to make sure this is a pleasant experience for all parties involved, and you certainly don't want someone flipping out, passing out or vomiting all over the room.
2. Ladies First
We are stoners, not savages.
3. Keep It Clean
Wipe your dab tool clean every time you use it (alcohol wipes work great).
4. No Freeloading
Sharing is caring, but don’t be a mooch -- dabs are expensive.
5. No Manhandling
Don’t touch another person’s dabs with your hands unless you ask for permission -- this is how you transfer things like fingerprints and grease. Plus, if the concentrate is not stable, you’ll end up with it on your hands instead of in your rig. No bueno.
6. Know Your Limitations
Dab responsibly and remember, drooling is not sexy.
     I had to laugh, especially at #2 and #6. and #1; how considerate.
     Always something new to learn in high school.
Oh, by the way...all my students swore they had never tried it.
Yeah. Right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A New Look

Not me by the way...but close in style :)
     It's odd what my students talk to me about. This last weekend I decided it was time to get my hair re-permed. It had been about 4 months.
     So, Monday when I came into class quite a few students noticed that I had done something to my hair, many of them couldn't tell exactly what, (makes you wonder just how much they pay attention to anything...) and some of them didn't notice at all, or if they did they didn't say anything. And some said they liked it (mostly boys, some girls.)
     One young man was looking at me with a quizzical face.
Him: "What did you do to your hair?"
Me: "I got a perm in it."
Him: "Is that what makes it curly?"
Me: "Yes."
Him: "So. It's going to be like that all the time now?" (My thought: Is this a problem?)
Me: "Well, it may not be quite so curly after I wash it."
Him: "When are you going to do that?" (My thought: Does he want me to do it quickly?)
Me: "Well, once you have the perm it is recommended you not wash it for three days."
Me: "No. You can shower. You just can't get the hair wet."
Him: "How can you do that?"
At this point I decide he didn't have any women in his household, but I don't know if that's true.
Me: "I just wrap a towel around my head so my hair doesn't get wet."
Him: "Hey!" He said with a look of epiphany on his face, "The next time you go to a motel you can get one of those plastic things for your hair."
Me: "You mean a shower cap?"
Him: "Yeah, whatever they're called. And you wouldn't even have to steal it. They're free!"
He never said if he liked it or not.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Good Deeds

Starting last week the kids from the ASB have been at the gates of the school ringing the bell for the Salvation Army and collecting money in the red buckets. This is the first year they have done this and I think it is a great idea. I don't know how many kids donate but I think it is a worthwhile attempt. This year our school has had much more involvement in our community. I thought it was funny that the boys were more shy than the girls. I couldn't get the one to come out from behind the pole (like that was really going to hide him!)
     We are in the last week before finals. I am trying to get everything into the grade book. I finally got some kids, in the last class I graded, that earned an "A" on their Works Cited assignment. Three of them, actually! And funny thing, even though I offer help every lunch to every student (I announce it in class over and over again) these were the kids that actually CAME AND GOT HELP. Wow! Imagine that! And don't think I'm not going to point THAT out when I return the papers tomorrow!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Under Pressure

Normally Fridays are good days. I'm not quite sure why today was not a good day. All my kids were as quiet as my 2nd period class (which are quiet every day because I think their brains are not awake yet.) So, this was kind of strange. Even my rowdy 6th period was quiet. Some of them actually acted sullen. The only thing I can imagine this mood springing from is pressure. 
There is one week until finals week. In my class alone my students have four things going on that they are having to concentrate on: Reading logs are due the first of the week. The 5 most recent journals will be added to the grade book on Tuesday. They have a poem they are obligated to memorize and recite on Friday and then they have a poetry poster with analysis and artwork due for a final. All this in addition to anything else they have coming due in their other 5 classes. They will be fine if they prioritize their workload. But I wouldn't count on these teenage brains excelling at that. 
I finished grading their final Works Cited papers today. Even after many of them attempted the assignment 3 times the grades were less than stellar. The highest paper was an 89/100. But most of them ran in the 60's/100.
But I couldn't tell them that today.
I need to post grades to let them know where they stand.
Maybe it will light a spark in them to want to do better. 
Maybe Monday they will be in a better mood. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brain Trouble

     O.K. I'll admit it. I pushed the limits of the teenage brain today. The first thing I hit each of them with was a Shel Silverstein poem that they have to memorize by next Friday. Each student got a different poem. You should have heard the groans. Then, after I explained the reason why we memorize poems, I handed out my worksheet on Synesthesia. For those of you who aren't familiar with that term, it is the study of the crossing of the senses. The worksheet asks them 65 questions like "What color is noise?" "What bell sound does purple make?" " What does violence taste like?"
     They looked at me like I was crazy. But this worksheet gives them the experience of "thinking outside the box." And this all rolls back to analyzing poetry. I tell the kids they have to dig to get the meaning. They have to really think. They have to be willing to let go of their brains' default button. They have to be fearless and plunge over the cliff and risk the unknown. They must be brave and secure in the knowledge that there are no wrong answers, but they have to get an answer. "Trust your instincts!" I tell them. "You can do it!"
     Silence. Heads are down looking at their papers; pencils poised.
     And quietly from the second row, "Mrs. Nelson, my head hurts."
     "Good." I say. "Then I'm doing my job."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bob Marley Knows All

     I have been teaching high school for 8 years now. In all that time almost every teenager I know has had this fascination with marijuana. It permeates almost everything they do. Each year I let my students choose a topic for their persuasive essay. If I didn't limit the number to 2 on each subject I would end up with more than a dozen, from each class mind you, about the benefits of legalizing marijuana. Currently we are in the middle of a poetry unit. I give them the task of going out on the Internet and finding a poem that "speaks to them" and bring it to class in order to spend some time analyzing it. And there it is again. One of the students found a poem written by Bob Marley about how smoking pot is better than drinking alcohol. Silly me. I wanted to know why this poem spoke to this child.

Yesterday I offered the kids paper towels when they
came in from the rain. I found this tacked on my bulletin
board this morning.
Me: "So, what is Mr. Marley trying to say to you?" Him: "That weed is better than liquor."        Me: "What do you think about that?" Him: "Well it is, don't you know. I mean, you can get in a serious accident if you drive after you drink." Me: "Can't you get in an accident after you smoke weed?" Him: "Nah. When you smoke weed all you do is sit around at home and watch T.V. and eat a bunch of food; you know, the munchies. You can't get in an accident that way. You smoke weed at home. You stay home. Driving would ruin the buzz!"

After shooting the other kid a withering look I asked the original "him" if he thought that was an appropriate poem to use for this assignment. He said he liked it and thought it had a good universal theme. And again; I just had to ask, "And what would that universal theme be?" Him: "Weed makes more peace in the world."
At this point, I'm not sure he gets the concept.

Another him sitting near by: "Dude! You are my hero!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's Raining and Universal Theme

      It's finally raining! This is an exciting event in California because we are in the middle of a drought. As every teacher can tell you though, weather brings out the unusual in a child, especially teenagers.
     Today we were talking about Universal Themes in literature and especially poetry. Once we defined the word universal we got into the "themes" end of it. Most students don't have trouble coming up with the normal themes about experiences everyone in the world has: Love, hate, death, music, food/eating, communication. We were in a discussion as I stood at the board and wrote the thoughts the students threw out and I kept tossing out experiences to get them to think of more and more examples.
So, I asked the question: "What does everybody have two of?"
From the side of the room, out of the blue, one guy yells:"Nipples!"
And that, folks, was when I lost the room. Doesn't happen very often and when it does there's just no getting it back, at least for a time. 
Just to let you know, the answer I was going for was "parents."

Monday, December 1, 2014

There's Always One

     Welcome back from Thanksgiving vacation! I had a nice relaxing week off and now I am ready to really focus on getting this unit finished and grading done for the end of the semester. With that end in mind, I decide to assign the next big project today so that my students would have plenty of time to work on it. I do not give tests but for this unit this project will count as their final test grade so it is important. In the next two weeks they will have to create a Poetry Poster and then during the final period they will present their poem and poster to the class. The requirements for this poster are as follows: It must include artwork, the poem chosen, notation of literary devices and universal theme. It must be presented to the class and the student must choose a piece of music they think fits the poem's theme or mood. I pointed to the date of the final on the board.
     It's really not a difficult assignment. I let the lids choose their own poem. I show them examples of previous years' posters. The art work can be original or they can collage or have someone else do the artwork.
     And I go over in detail the final schedule and how they will present their poem. Then I go over the effect this final poster project will have on their final grades, and how we should be able to get through all of them the day of the final because the periods are going to be 110 minutes. 
There is a theme going here...
After about a half hour of discussion, (loosely referred to, actually more me just talking) I ask, "Any questions?"
For the most part I got questions asking me if they could take a snapshot of the board so they had all the instructions.
"So," I said, "Is everybody clear on the assignment?" (Because if you don't ask in a couple of different ways some kids won't ask questions.)
And then I wait...
Hand goes up at the back of the class.
"Yes? You have a question?"
A young man asks, "Are we going to do anything the day of the final?"
I give him my you've-got-to-be-kidding look.
I point to the board, (again!) but was saved the explanation when much of the rest of the class piped up and clued him in.
"Oh. Sorry." he said. (Although he didn't look sorry; more annoyed that the other kids were giving him a bad time.)
Be afraid...they have now learned to sleep with their eyes open.