Thursday, November 5, 2015

And the Question is...

 Me: "Alex, I'll take 'Essays' for $2000."
Alex: "And the answer is '10' ."
Me: "What is the number of essays I will be grading today, Alex?"
Alex: "That's correct!"

Here's the numbers:
157 students in my World Literature classes.
82 of those 157 actually handed in an essay, that we have been working on for 2 months.
10 of those 82 will be graded because they produced a paper with a perfect MLA formatted Works Cited page. Which, btw, I have taught them how to do, even given them a typed example with all the information on it they needed. All they had to do was change the author's name and the title of their short story and put in their page numbers. It couldn't have been any easier if I had done it for them. Oh, wait...I DID do it for them!

10 :{

Friday, October 30, 2015

Freddy Krueger

Happy Halloween!
Well, who knew? I bought a long-sleeved top at Costco about 2 months ago and it has been so warm I have not had a chance to wear it, until today. It looks exactly like the tee shirt Freddy Krueger wears. It has smaller stripes but it looks enough like it that all the kids ask me if I'm dressed as him. Maybe I won't wear this again...Darn! It was a good price, too.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Truth Hurts

     Here we are again...talking about weed. The funny thing is, is that we weren't really talking about weed. We were making a list of our class room objectives. I was telling the kids, showing them actually, by letting them chart it out, how, in everything we study, all the research tells us that the more we read the smarter we become.
     And so we began talking about books. I related the book challenge I entered on Goodreads at the beginning of the year, to read 24 books. I told the kids I am now in the 30's; surpassing my challenge goal. And the year isn't over yet. I was trying to make the point that a book can be a form of escapism: the easiest, and safest type of drug you can get.
Wait for it...
     A kid from the second row: "Marijuana makes you smarter."
     Me: "And how do you know that?"
     Him, acting the smart ass role: " I know because I'm a marijuanaologist."
     Him: "Yeah, ask me anything."
     Me, walking over to stand by him, " think smoking grass makes you smarter?"
     Him: "yeah."
     Me: "What grade do you have in this class?"
     Him proudly, "F."
I just smiled and walked away, while the rest of the class laughed.
Obviously he's studying hard.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


     A couple of weeks ago I noticed two of my students using hand signals to talk to each other across the room. My first thought was, "How do these two kids know sign language?" But then I realized that they were using gang signs to communicate. This is called "stacking." While most of the signs are common among all gangs, each individual gang has their own "dialect" so to speak.
     I have no doubt that many of my students are, if not full on members of gangs, initiates. Which means that it will only be a matter of time before they have to prove their worth and either be jumped in (beat up by other gang members) or commit a crime to prove their loyalty.
     I didn't say anything to the two young men the first time I saw it, but today they started in again. For one thing it's distracting, for me and the other students. I sent one kid outside and continued with the lesson. When we were at a stopping point I went outside to speak with him. He complained that I was picking on him, that everybody did it. I told him not in my classroom, and I wanted him to stop. He said it didn't mean anything. I looked at him and told him I knew stacking when I saw it. He seemed surprised I knew what it was.
     I may be old, but in this job; I have to keep up!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nice Shirt!

     I have decided to be more proactive in enforcing the dress code this year. I'm not sure who buys the clothes that many of our students wear, but there seems to be a big lack of appropriateness going on.
     Earlier this week I noticed a young man in my 5th period class wearing a tee shirt that was appropriate, not to mention totally inappropriate for school. I had warned him the last time he wore it that I didn't want to see him wear it again. At that time I had him take it off and put it in his back pack, and I am sure he put it back on once he got out my door.
     This time I asked him to go outside. When I got out there to talk to him, I had him take the shirt off and I would take it and hand deliver it to the AP in charge of discipline. The student refused.

Him: "I don't want to take my tee shirt off."
Me: "I warned you last time you wore it. I want the tee shirt. You have another tee shirt on underneath."
Him: "But that shirts not clean."
Me: "Not my problem. Shirt, please."
Him: "No. you can't have my shirt."
Me: "Done arguing. Shirt." With my hand out.
Him: "No."
Me: "Ok. wait here for the referral. You can go talk to the AP about it."
He left with the referral in hand.
     By the end of that period I had confiscated a phone and the first thing I did at lunch was take it to the security office to be picked up by a parent at the end of the day. As I was walking into the administration office the kid with the tee shirt came walking out. He had on a red SMHS tee shirt over his white one. Obviously the AP also thought his tee shirt was inappropriate and confiscated it, giving him another shirt to wear.
As I passed him I said with a smile, "Nice shirt!"
Man, if looks could kill.
Teacher: 1
Student: 0

Friday, October 9, 2015


     This is me (not really) being disgusted. I mean I AM disgusted but this is really not a picture of me. Anyway...back to the disgusted part.
     I've been feeling this way for a while now. Mostly I am disgusted with my students. Not mostly...they are the total root to this problem. Everyday, I come into work, ready to teach. I don't know what's going on but the group of students I'm teaching this year are totally disinterested in EVERYTHING! They are not doing their homework. They are falling asleep in class or making routine trips to the bathroom. They lie to me about having cell phones (because I collect them at the beginning of the period) and then they interrupt my class by checking for messages. I had one kid open up his tablet the other day and do something (he wouldn't tell me what) right while I was trying to get them to analyze a book we are reading. Which, by the way, is another thing I'm running into: the kids are not participating in the discussions. I ask questions. Silence. I call on individual students. I get blank stares or the ever popular "I don't know." I had a rough draft of an essay due today. 6 kids in my first period class had theirs and 7 kids in my second period class had them. Yikes! F's all around! I imagine the rest of my periods today will have the same results.
     Now, before you go there...I want to say that I am not the only teacher experiencing this chaos. Others are having similar problems in varying degrees. But it seems to be centered in the sophomore class. I don't understand. Two years ago, when I taught sophomores, they were not like this, so I'm not quite sure what's going on. I can only carry on, trying to get their attention. Trying to keep them awake (thought of getting a squirt gun.) Trying to get them to do their work. Trying to get them to read the board and get ready for class every day when they come in. It's no wonder that I am exhausted every day when the final bells rings at 2:55. Maybe as the year progresses, they will come up to the bar I have set for them. I hope so.

Friday, September 18, 2015


 It's an exciting day on campus! There have been two deep holes in the patio area since school began. I think there used to be trees there but they were removed...I don't know why. And now we will have trees again! Yay! I wish they would put in trees that provide more shade but they also have to think of the cement areas and root structure. So, any green tree is a good one, I say! Right now they are only 5 feet tall but the other ones like them, on campus, max out at the roofline of the other buildings, so there is high hope. I just hope they grow quickly!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Power Shift

     I saw this tee shirt on a student yesterday. It gave me a chuckle. I love how it sounds out about girls getting more powerful. So often young girls, especially in the Hispanic communities, are treated as lesser people. Many of them are still brought up to be shy, quiet and subservient. So when something like this crops up on campus, I love it. You go girls!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Shove it! Sex Change"

     For those of you that don't know the lingo, a "sex change" is a name for a type of jump turn on a skateboard. The "shove it" part seems to be local addition.
     Skateboarding seems to be the "in" thing this year with my sophomores. Any given time of the day I have at least 2 skateboards in my room while I conduct class. Sometimes the kids come and leave them when they have PE or a class where the teacher does not want them around.
     You would think that the users of these boards would be mostly male, and they are, but more and more girls are riding them. One can tell by how they are decorated. Girls mostly use flowers and guys, well, guys...they try to get away with pictures of naked women on the bottom of the board but the security people on campus check them, especially if they are holding them with the wheels poised toward their body. So we see more of a variety of pictures and band's logos and other stickers; everything from Sponge Bob Square Pants to marijuana leaves (which security makes them cover also, but they try!) Internet gaming symbols and logos are popular.
     It's funny. When I was growing up in Southern California, in the early 60's, my cousins probably had some of the first boards created. I remember my mom and aunt talking about how dangerous they were. I think that was because people just weren't expecting a teenager to be gliding down the street in traffic. Now we wouldn't give it a second thought. My students say it is a quick and easy way to get around. With the cost of cars and gas and insurance...I'm surprised we don't see more adults on them!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Plain Spoken

          The first year I started teaching I taught 5 periods of Introduction to Literature which, in our district, is the 9th grade basic English class. On the curriculum calendar was Romeo and Juliet. Going to the book I found the original text in Shakespeare "speak." Oh, no! How are the kids going to understand what they're reading? I took a class that included Shakespeare, among other authors, but I was not very good as deciphering the Great Bard. And many of my students were not good at speaking English, no less Shakespearian English. But, when I asked my grade level teacher mentor about teaching it, she informed me that our school had it in "Plain Spoken" which means that the books had the original text on the left hand side of the pages and more common English on the right hand side of the page. Whew! I was relieved! With a little background investigation about the author and the play, and my construction of a study guide, we made it through.
     The second year I taught I got classes of American Literature for 11th graders. I didn't have to worry about Shakespeare. And for the years after that when I got 10th graders, which hasn't been often, I just skipped over Shakespeare. According to the curriculum calendar Julius Caesar is supposed to be taught in 10th grade. This year I have 5 period of World Literature and I figure it's about time I throw Shakespeare into the mix. I am not thrilled. When checking with our library, did we, at least, have a "plain spoken" version of anything other than Romeo & Juliet? No.
     But luckily, there's Google! I found a PDF version of the play with both original text and common English. Yay! Of course then I had to hunt down the Assistant Principal in charge of textbooks and ask him if I printed it out, could I have a class set Xeroxed? He said that would be the way to go, as the budget for textbook is zero right now. (I ask you, how can a district function without a budget for textbooks? I'll leave my sarcastic response to your imagination.) So, the next unit is set. We'll go through the play and then see the movie. In plain English: done.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brain Workout

     It didn't take too long for him to surface. The student that has intelligence and tries to push my buttons. I love these students. They give my brain a workout!
     If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that every year I have my students format a Common Notebook. It takes them three days and is something they will use the entire year for reading logs, vocabulary, class notes and journals. This year we got a late start and so I was very pleased that the kids were working diligently and actually getting it done correctly! As they finished they were supposed to bring it to me to check before they put it away. At the end of 5th period last Monday a student by the name of Mario came up to my desk with his Common Notebook in his hand.
     Me: "Hi. Are you done?"
     Mario: "Um. Mrs. Nelson. You couldn't find fault Leonardo Da Vinci, could you?"
     Me thinking: This should be good.
     Me: "Well, no. Why do you ask?"
     Mario: "He had a very distinctive style."
     Me: "If you are talking about him writing everything backwards; yes. Did you have an issue with your notebook?"
     Mario: "Well, I have the page numbers reversed."
     Me: "Let me see." I reached for his notebook and sure enough he had the pages numbered incorrectly. Not just the numbers reversed but the odd numbered pages were on the even pages and visa-versa. And then before he fixed it, he decided to go with the flow and titled all the pages incorrectly. So, all the reading logs and everything else started on the wrong pages.
     Me: "This is wrong. You're going to have to fix it."
     Mario: "But all you'd have to do is flip the book over and there would be the assignment."
     Me: "This won't work. You're going to have to redo the book. What color of new notebook would you like?"
     Mario: "Sure it will work. Let me show you."
     Me: "I can see how it would work but this is foremost an exercise in following directions. I want it done correctly. What color notebook would you like?"
     Mario: "This is boring and an exercise in redundancy!"
     Me: "Do you know what that word means?" I don't think I've ever heard that word out of a students' mouth.
     Mario: "Yeah. It means stupid repetition."
     Me: "Well, if you had followed directions the first time you wouldn't have to redo it. Pick your new colored notebook."
     Mario: "I can see you're not going to back down from this..."
     Me: "Nope."
     Mario: "But this is going to take a long time!"
     Me: "Again...if you had followed directions...What color?
     Mario with a heavy sigh and look of abject rejection: "Green."
     Me: "Thanks! You have until Friday to finish."
Score one for me, but I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next! Stay tuned!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Names, Names and Names

One of the hardest things I have to do, at the beginning of every school year, is learn the names of all my students. Some of the kids stick our right away, (like Ivan who has already, in the first two weeks, served 3 lunch detentions.) I tell the kids this; that I am not good at remembering names and that eventually I will get to know them. Thank goodness for seating charts!
It used to be easier when I only had 21 kids in a class and we were on the block schedule, (seems like a fading dream now.) That meant I only had to learn 63 names a semester. Even that took me several months. Now I have 165+/- names to try and put with faces.
I think one of the hardest thing to conquer is the unusual names. Here's some from my current roles:
Leodegario (all one word) ~ boy, Daniarely ~ girl, Yamile (goes by Yami) ~ girl, Apolizar ~ boy
Emigdia ~ girl, Niceforo ~ boy, Leobardo ~ boy, Cleopatra ~ girl
Carmelo ~ boy
I'm sure I've missed some...but it is heartening to me that some of the older names are coming back into vogue like: Charlie, Virginia, Norma, Patricia, Edith and Ofelia, (even though it is spelled differently.) And every year I am getting more and more of the old standards: Davids and Michaels. I have yet to have a Jody, or any variation of my name, in a class.
I will probably know almost all of their names by Christmas; we'll get along great until June. But then when I see them next year, I will only be able to wave and say, "Hi! How are you doing?" and not be able to call up their names. I'll have 165+/- more names and faces to put together :( 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Break Out the Painter's Tape!

     This roll of tape is going to be my best friend today. Last year I bought a roll to make marks on the carpet of my class room so the kids would know where their desks should be. All in an effort to stop the "desk creep" that was pushing me against the front wall of my class room. It worked really well. I haven't had to do that in this room, yet.
     But today I will be using my roll of tape in little snippets to cover the cameras on my students' tablets. Yesterday I had one of my students turn on his tablet, currently prohibited in my class room, and show me what the camera looked liked when turned on: both focused toward the viewer and the viewee (which would be anyone in front of the student, like me.) I discovered that you cannot tell when the camera is recording. The person holding the tablet has a tiny (I'm talking t-i-n-y here, folks) purple dot that tells them the camera is on. But nothing from the outside.
     So, I am taking the road less traveled and masking out the camera lens.
     No. I don't have anything to hide. It is just kind of nerve-racking being filmed, especially without my permission.
     Yes. I will get grumbles and complaints.
     Yes. I will get the inevitable questions of "Why?"
     No. Their arguments will not sway me.
     Yes. I expect them to remove the tape. I don't plan on using the tablets that much in class and if they remove it between uses, I have more tape.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New Digs

My new room as I walk in the door

     Well, I'm back! It was a fast and crazy summer: a trip to AZ, a quilt show, packing my old room, a trip to San Francisco, remodeling my utility room (new floor, paint, ceiling tiles etc...) and finally a trip to Oregon. And then in the last two weeks I created (with help from my husband and daughter) a web site for my students. Whew! I'm tired! Thank goodness school started again, (although you may not hear me say that in a couple of weeks!)
     I had a lot of people concerned that I was not going to post again this year. Last year was pretty successful and for those of you who followed me, thanks so much! You learned a lot about the day-to-day life of a high school teacher and our campus life. So, by popular demand, I am back. I don't know if I will get to post every day but you'll see the highlights. Much of it will depend on my students. I have 5 classes of Sophomores this year. Our class size has jumped from 27 last year to 36 this year. I'm hoping for some good personalities, but in my past experience 10th graders are not as relaxed in a class as 11th graders. I guess you and I will just have to wait and see.
     My new class room is situated in the middle of the school. I'm not quite sure if that is an improvement but I do know that it is closer to EVERYTHING, that is, except the parking lot. It takes me 8 minutes to walk to my car. Not a bad morning walk but seems like miles by the end of the day. Not complaining. My new room used to be a computer lab so it is much bigger than my old portable. Nice to have room to move around, especially with the added student count. 
     Today is the second day of school (too early!) I hope you will enjoy my writing this year. If you are new to my blog please feel free to look over the past year. It gives a lot of history of the school and great insights into teenagers; the best people on earth! 

Friday, July 3, 2015


       Well, it seems like I just can't stay away! Here I sit today, in the middle of summer, at my desk in my class room. I have been finishing packing up my room because I am moving across campus. I originally requested 25 boxes...hmmm, that should have been enough, one would think. But, now that I have packed every cabinet and book case and every filing cabinet in my room, I have had to reorder twice. I think I am up to 48 boxes. Of course, in my defense, they are smaller than normal office boxes; I suppose to limit the weight for the people who will actually carry and move them. (God love the Maintenance people on this campus!)
     As I sit here and look around my barren room, I feel kind of sad. I have been in this room for 7 years of teaching here at SMHS; I've gotten quite attached.  I moved in 7 years ago and made myself at home; after all, I do spend quite a bit of time in this room. I had it just the way I wanted it.
     I will miss the proximity to the parking lot. (It's amazing how many times I have left stuff in my car!)
     I will miss the people in the class rooms that surround me. (I will see them, of course, just not every day.)
     I will miss the view out the big window by my desk. I can see the practice field (green) and the other side of the campus and the hills beyond. It's even better when it rains or is cloudy, as I have a view of a big chunk of sky.
     The room I am moving into only has high windows and a door that looks out on to a small quad with science rooms on the other side. There is a tree on the back side of the room so if I open the blinds in the high windows I can have some green.
     But, on the plus side: my room is centrally located. Closer to the office and library and copy room. And I will have more square footage and tons of built-in storage. And my new neighbors are great people.
     So, today will probably be the last time I will sit at this desk.
     Goodbye room 616. Hello room 234.
P.S. I will be back blogging in August. I am scheduled to have 5 classes of sophomores. We'll see how funny they are! Tune in!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Day

This is one of my students this year that is ready to graduate. His name is Felipe Lagunas. He was behind a year in his English classes because he had to take a year of ELD (English Language Development) when he moved here from Mexico. Such a nice young man; headed for Hancock Community College. When I spoke with him this morning he said he was so excited that he didn't sleep last night! 
So, today was the last day of the school year. We have exactly 2 months off and return to school on August 11th. I have so many things to do! I am taking a week and traveling, with my sister, to visit some relatives in Kingman, AZ. Yes, I will be hot. Good news...all my summery, cool clothes were big on me this year and I had to take some in. Not much but enough for me to get excited about. After I return, the 7 local quilt guilds are putting on their annual quilt show at the Madonna Expo Center June 27 & 28. It's quite the event with 45 vendors, from all over the world, and quilt judging, classes from famous quilt teachers and in the show we hang 300 +/- quilts for the general public to see. It's well worth the $10 to see the beauty. Then I have to finish packing my class room and be ready for the maintenance men to move me by the middle of July. I have spent all my free time (when I wasn't grading) this last week packing and taking down bulletin boards, etc...  The room looks so barren. but I am excited to be moving and get a fresh start in another room closer to the middle of campus with some really nice neighbors, (not that my old neighbors weren't nice. This is just a better place for me!) Hopefully, once I get all my things packed I will be able to relax and do some traveling with my husband. We do love road trips!
It's been a long, and difficult year for teachers and students on our campus. We came into the year last August kicking and screaming because of the new schedule imposed on us by our district office. We didn't know if we would survive. Well, we're all pretty tired but we did survive! And now we will have an easier time of it next year, I hope. We have the summer to rest and revive ourselves.
I'm not going to post over the summer, and was not sure I would do this again next year.  But I will have all new students next year, sophomores, and even though it is an effort some days to get this done, teenagers are still weird and funny! So I'm going to give it a go, for another year at least. 
See you in August! Rest, visit with family and friends, get all those chores done that we teachers always put off until now, and just generally have a great summer. Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate each and every one of you and your comments!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tomorrow's the Last Day

One of my former students asked me what I would like for a picture for my room. I told her I was into birds this year. I don't know why, but I am. This is the picture she delivered to me this morning. I can't wait to put it up in my new room next year!
     So, here it is the second to the last day of school. All my grading is done and I have posted it to let the kids see their grades and catch any mistakes I've made. Pretty good so far, I've only messed up three times (hence posting the grades early.) Overall grades are not as bad as I expected. Students always rally at the end and pull themselves out of the ditch. I will officially put them into the system tomorrow morning and the year is done!
     But I still have a lot to do. I mentioned above that I will be having a new room next year. The last time I moved classrooms I had only been teaching a year. Now, after 7 additional years, I've accumulated a lot of crap. Four trips to the recycle container so far. It is probably good to move once in a while; it makes one get rid of junk and all the stuff you keep because it may just come in handy someday or it's so creative or it's just such a waste of paper to throw it away.
     Regardless of the waste, I am purging. I ordered 25 boxes from maintenance. I really don't want to have to pack any more than that. And I have a number of things in their own boxes. The room I'm moving to is resplendent with storage! Everything will be behind closed or sliding doors. I'm excited!!!! But it would be nice not to fill it all up right away. I still have several years before I retire you know! :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Almost There

     We are down to the last 5 1/2 days until the end of the school year. The kids are either #1 starting to panic or #2 serenely skating through to the end. There seems to be no in-between. In my classes their final projects were due last Thursday and Friday. They were PowerPoints, so I had them due early so I would have time to grade them. Then their Common Notebooks are due tomorrow, no exceptions, unless of course they have an excused re-admit. Then I have to take the work late :{. These notebooks have been their constant companions all year. They include 34 weeks of reading logs, Extra Credit reading logs, 18 journals, 6 outlines, class notes, and chapter summaries for Catcher in the Rye (which we will finish reading tomorrow.) I have all next week to get those graded and in the grade book, so that I can post final grades, hopefully, next Wednesday.
     And while doing all this I have trying to pack, as I will be moving to another room next year. So much stuff! And yet I don't think I have amassed as much as some teachers do. I am going into a class room that has TONS of storage. And I know some of it will remain empty. But that's ok with me. I have been in my current class room 7 years now. I like it out here on the edge of the campus and have one of the few rooms that has a view of the practice field and the mountains beyond. I will miss that view. My new room is off a small patio of sorts and only has the door and some high windows for sun light. It was originally built as a computer lab but will become a regular class room now. Needless to say, because it doesn't have any windows down at normal height, it has a lot of wall space to cover. I will try to not junk them up. I need a peaceful ambience.
     So here's hoping the kids see the light and get their work in. At least if they fail, I told them they won't have to go through the American Lit, (juniors) class with me again. I'll be teaching all sophomores next year. There was an audible sigh of relief!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


If you look close you can see that this building is getting ready to be painted. You can see where some of the old paint is chipping off. Kind of like the Golden Gate Bridge, which is so big that it is continually in the process of being painted, a school is continually in the process of being repaired. Last year the portables were painted and the roofs were checked. At some point in the fall we had large room numbers stenciled onto the buildings with a Sammy the Saint logo next to them. Also, this year there was a cleaning of the gum residue from some of the sidewalks over by the business classes. We got new paint around the Administration building and now the painters are moving out toward the rest of the campus. Continual maintenance also includes the up keep on the practice fields; some of them grass, (like the soccer field), some of them dirt, (like the infield of the softball diamond), the daily cleaning of the bathrooms, and the disposal of trash in every room.
During the summer all the rooms are cleaned: the desks are washed, the carpet shampooed.
So, I would just like to say thank you to the maintenance people that take care of where we spend our days. This school is old, and from previous pictures you can tell it has its issues, but they try and make it as neat and clean as they can, and the staff appreciates it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Congrats!

This is one of my Seniors, Saul Lopez, and the notice that he's been invited to Senior Award Night!
It's the end of the year and so much is happening on campus. Seniors are especially busy with graduation announcements, ditch day, yearbooks coming out, Grad Night at Disneyland, prom, etc...
The rest of the campus is also busy: ASB and club elections for next year, juniors planning for summer school, students getting their tablets, everybody finishing up final projects, studying for finals. Teachers walking around in deep thought trying to figure out just how long we can hold our students' attention and get as much stuff in their heads as possible. I saw teachers getting boxes delivered today. Some of them are moving rooms and some are transferring to a different school in the district. It just seems like overnight the campus is ready to shut down for the summer.
13 1/2 days left!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Some of my 5* class with their new tablets!
The students got their tablets today. Brand new, Dell tablets. I have already had to threaten to take one away. Now that I am confiscating their phones, one of my kids had his headphones plugged into his tablet on his desk! I didn't realize that they came fully charged. ACK!!! I told them all that I didn't want the tablets on their desks and to keep them in their backpack. It should be ok for the rest of the year, but I am going to have to make a class policy for the tablets now, too, for next year. Oh, my. One more distraction. One more thing to monitor :{

Monday, May 18, 2015


Ms. Klein hugging a student :)
Many teachers go on to get their Masters Degree and some of them even go the step further and get their PHD. We have a teacher on campus that has done just that! What an accomplishment! I know Ms. Klein has been working on this wonderful achievement for a couple of years now. The ASB students decided to congratulate her, so they grabbed a bunch of friends and posters (you know the ASB...they always have posters!) and balloons and went to her room to surprise her yesterday.



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Need Help!

     One of the bad things about teaching in an old school, (remember, parts of this school were built in the 1800's although I'm sure many places have been updated and added. It's kind of hard to tell where the older places end and the new begin) is every once in awhile you run into things falling apart. We got, maybe, 1/10 of a rain total the other day. Obviously it was just enough to puddle on this section of walkway and break out the rotten wood underneath. These wooded awnings, that are in the center of the school, were repainted several years ago. But paint will not keep rotted wood together. This area finally broke through to clear sky.  And here are a couple of other places around campus that need serious help. There are dozens of others I haven't taken a picture of. The State of California consistently ignores the repairs of our infrastructure, including the buildings that house our schools. The last time it rain a 6" piece of my metal rain gutter, (that was corroded and full of holes to begin with) that hangs over my ramp, broke and came swinging down. Luckily it was after the bell rang and there were no students out there to get hurt. We need some help! It's not just that teachers are underpaid but our work places are neglected. How are we supposed to convince children, year after year, that they are the most important part of our society, and to have school pride, when we allow them to come to schools looking like this?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Experiment

Are you all getting tired of hearing about the cell phones? Well, if my experiment of collecting the cell phones from my students, at the beginning of every class, wasn't working so well, I probably would just let the topic drop. But I have had wonderful success! I am going to continue to do this every year! And I am going to encourage all my other colleagues to try it also. The kids are more social with me and each other. They are less distracted. Even though not all kids use their phones in class, it still seems like everybody is less distracted. And it has been wonderful, as a teacher, not to have to patrol and monitor and interrupt class. Just lovely. Heavy sigh of relief!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Power to the People!

     Every year I teach my students how to do PowerPoint Presentations. There are rules, just like in essay writing, they need to know. I always loved creating PP's. And I do this unit at the end of the year because it is their last big chance to get a good grade; many of them do. For my Freshmen I have them pick a topic from Shakespeare's time; the 1600's, because the last unit we do is Romeo and Juliet. They choose castles, Queens and Kings, explorers, weaponry, etc... My Sophomores do countries of the world because the class is World Literature. That's self-explanatory. My Juniors do American icons and topics from the 40's, 50's and 60's. People like Lucille Ball, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, . Topics like cartoons, the space race, television, toys and games, fashion, cars, etc... Happenings like the Harlem Renaissance, the bombing of Hiroshima or the invention of the Polio vaccine. They get to pick their topics and most of them have fun with it.
     Today I showed them former students' PowerPoints. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." I want them to visualize perfect presentations and have the opportunity to pick out "what's wrong with this picture?" on the ugly ones. By the end of the period they are having a grand time pointing out all the mistakes in the ones that I'm showing them. But along the way they are learning the rules, by pointing them out and learning about Copyrights. This Thursday we begin three days worth of computer lab time for them to work on their own presentations.
     The year is winding down but I can't slack up on the pace. I have to keep them busy and engaged for at least another 2 weeks. Then we can start the "ending" of it all.    

Monday, May 11, 2015

Don't Rush Me

     Every Monday I check the previous week's reading logs. Funny thing. Today I saw reading logs from people who haven't done a consistent job of doing their reading logs since the beginning of the school year. They all know that the reading logs compose 25% of their overall grade and still wonder why they have such low grades when they don't do them. Hmmm... Oh, yeah. Must be the end of the year. They are feeling the pressure to pass, for any number of reasons, and are just now getting serious about their grades. We have 21 1/2 days left.
     I'm sad to say that the best effort in doing reading logs, now, is not going to save a lot of them who didn't do a couple of the other major projects along the way. It will help but if they are sitting at a very low F, the reading logs, these last two weeks, won't cut it. But I'm not telling them that. I want them to strive to pass. And if I tell them that now, they will just give up, and I don't want that to happen. I would love to have these kids pass my class.
     They get a stricken look on their face when I mention that if they don't pass they will have to do this whole class over again and...they might get me again. I am not usually a sadistic person, but that face makes me happy!


Friday, May 8, 2015


These two items I found in my box this morning, along with several thank you notes from students. It's always fun to find a little something in your box. And I can even eat the apple! The candy and donut: I'm sure I can get someone interested in those. We also got coupons from McDonald's, which I'm sure I'll be able to share with someone. Overall, it has been a nice week. No cell phones in the class. Goodies in my box. It's Friday! Life is good!  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cell Phones Revisited

     On April 29th I posted a blog about cell phones. It was about how rude the kids are and how tragically connected they have become to this little piece of technology.
     As it so often happens, just when you are thinking about doing something about all this, an incident occurs and pushes you over the edge.
     Two days ago, on Monday, I had yet another student misusing his phone and I had to take it away from him and hold it until the end of the day. When he came to pick it up he apologized, but only with his girlfriend's urging. He seemed to think it was all fun and games. As he walked away, something in my brain clicked. Enough. I'm done with this nonsense.
     Yesterday, in the morning I locked my door and wouldn't let any of my kids enter the class until they had surrendered their cell phones. I collected them in a plastic bag, (in plain sight) put them in my filing cabinet by the door and locked it, (also in plain sight of all. As a matter of fact I made them watch me do it) putting the keys in my pocket. I did that with every class, all day long. I think only one got past me...he and I will be talking today.
     The kids were shocked, incredulous that I would actually take their phones away from them for the duration of the class. I told them, "It's only for 50 minutes, and you're not supposed to be using them anyway, so get over it." When they asked why I was taking the phones I said, "You know in kindergarten, when a child is not using a toy responsibly? We have to take that toy away from them. Same thing here. I have asked, cajoled, name it. I am sick to death of the disrespect and intrusion that these phones have created in my class room. And I don't feel you have the right to waste my time by making me deal with collecting, tagging and running the phones to the office because you can't be responsible enough to put them away."
     We will have a phone collection every day until the end of the year. And I will continue the procedure next year. I guess if they will not monitor themselves and their inappropriate behavior, I'll have to. I urge all the other teachers on my campus to take a stand. We must make a clear statement or nothing will change.
     Oh, by the way...on the up side: My students were actually talking and laughing with each other before and after class. Actually TALKING to each other! Maybe it was my wishful thinking, but as the kids didn't have the temptation of distraction, they were more focused on the book we were reading. And I got to have an entire day not having to be on the alert all the time. It was nice!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I Teach

It is Teacher Appreciation Week. I received this in my mail box this morning along with a card thanking me for being such a good teacher. It was signed but I couldn't read the signature, so I imagine random kids filled out the cards and put them in our boxes. But I like the little card. Some days I do feel like I have a super power; that day where the lesson clicks and the kids enjoy themselves and actually learn something. It's a great feeling!
The ASB put up signs all around campus. This one below is my favorite:
I did an experiment today...Stay tuned tomorrow for the results!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars Day

     Today is International Star Wars Day. My students said that there is a teacher on the other side of campus that dressed up as Darth Vader. I'll get a pic if I can... And it is an Early-Out day, basically a minimum day, where the teachers get the afternoon to meet and collaborate. By this time in the year, most of us are pretty burned out so we will get together and discuss...I really don't know at this point. But we also celebrate birthdays and accomplishments of individual teachers since last month; our last meeting.
It is also the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week. The Administration is cooking a light breakfast, for any one who wants to eat it, in the staff lounge tomorrow. I probably won't partake because of my strict eating schedule, (I eat breakfast between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning) but it is a nice gesture. And in the past the ASB has done something cute to put in our mail boxes. So, if you are a teacher, be strong in the fact that there are only 26 1/2 more days of this school year. May the Force be with us all!

Friday, May 1, 2015


We needed some fun today, as it is the last day of junior testing. We have been doing vocabulary packets off and on these last two weeks, and I showed a movie a couple of days, just to get us through the two weeks when attendance was scattered. I didn't want to do anything of major importance because I never knew who was testing when, so today we played Bingo.
I have been playing bingo with my classes since I started teaching. I still have the same bag of pinto beans, (that I warn the kids not to put anywhere near their mouths!) that I bought my first year teaching. I put 30 or so vocabulary words up on the projector and they fold a scratch piece of paper into 16 squares. then, with a "FREE" square they pick 15 of the 30 words to make their "card." Bingos are rewarded with a prize from my huge Ikea shopping bag full of smaller paper bags with prizes inside. The kids never know what they're going to get. Gaby (on the right) got 2 pairs of party glasses, which she promptly shared with her friend Cynthia. Prizes range from school supplies to old paintbrushes, small stuffed animals, Tootsie Roll Pops, to Happy Meal toys. I get them in big grab bags at thrift stores and the dollar store. Anything can be a prize: old socks (washed), hair curlers, penny rolls, army men, pencils, door stops, plastic fruit, stickers, baby toys, barrettes, shower curtain get the picture. The kids trade with each other and I even had a pair of toy horses auctioned off once, (the baby went for $5 to the owner of the mother horse!)'s Friday. 27 1/2 days left. Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Count Down

     This is a shot of my front white board. As of this morning we have 28 1/2 days of school left. (Not counting the weekends and any holidays, of course.) A lot of the kids say that I enjoy counting down because it's when I get rid of them. (Not true, for the most part anyway...) Students don't realize that we teachers work all year. We come to our class rooms, we clean, sort, organize. We think about revamping our lesson plans and then spend time doing so. We think about what worked and what didn't. We change our class policies. Many time we go to seminars or work shops, conferences and other kinds of professional development. But our life is easier when we don't have to get up at 5:00 in the morning, don't have to go to staff and department meetings and don't have to lecture and pace our lessons or monitor teenagers, give pep talks, confiscate phones or have parent meetings. We work but it is a much easier task in the summer.
     All my students from this year will be seniors at the beginning of the next school year. According to the Master Board I will be teaching 3 classes of World Literature in addition to 2 classes of American Literature again. Last summer I had to adjust all my American Lit. units because of the new schedule. This summer I will need to work on my World Lit. units to fit the new schedule. But this work is done on my time, not stuck between prep periods and periods full of students. So, heck yeah! I'm ready for summer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Phone Zone!

     This is exactly what teachers need from our students: Respect. As I am out and about walking the campus at lunch or break I have to swerve from my path several times to avoid walking straight into a student who has their head down because they are on their phone; texting, looking at Facebook or some other App of social media. It can get downright dangerous, not to mention rude.
     And once they get into the classroom, where they can see their screen easier, they all sit at their desks and are engrossed in their phones. They don't even say hi to each other, no less me. And at least once a day I have to tell someone to put their phone away, we need to get to work.
We teachers have tried to come up with a way to restrict phones in our rooms. I have tried taking the phones away and turning them into security, but that puts an extra burden on me to get it to the office by the end of the day. I have tried having everybody put their phones in their purses or backpacks ON THE FLOOR. That works pretty well. But there are always those kids who push the envelope.
     I have decided next year that I will have a hanging rack (or something) for all my students to deposit their phones, and ear buds, into when they come into class. I will have to work on the security of it all. My summer challenge!
 And I will hang a big sign on the door: "THIS CLASS ROOM IS A NO CELL PHONE ZONE!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Something Positive

I've been so buried by grading the last two weeks and concentrating on the bad grades my students are getting that today I wanted to bring in a positive note. What you see in the picture above is a 33 gallon trash can filled with bottles to be recycled. I have this trash can in my classroom and hang a sign that says, "Recycle for the band!" The band collects recycling each year, (as do many of the other clubs) and cashes in the bottles for trip expenses, instrument repairs, etc...
This year my students have filled three of these cans and we have donated them. When I look at things like this I remember how much I like teenagers, and what led me to teach high school. They are funny and lazy and uncommitted to their education, which I think comes from the fact that they don't realize how important it will be. But every once in a while they do something redeeming. Like filling a trash can with recyclable bottles to help out other students.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Good News/Bad News

Essays are graded and grades have been submitted. Whew! That's over. The worst thing about teaching English is grading the essays.
Here's the bad news... I have 68 D's and F's for this grading period. If you're into math, that's about 62%. The reason for most of the poor grades are incomplete or shoddy work. Believe me, I'm not proud of these figures. It kills me when my students fail. And a big percentage of them are failing. And like I said, it is because they aren't doing the work. They are more than capable of doing the work, they just choose not to; they're lazy.
For instance: The essays I just graded. I would say a good 1/3 of them got zero points because they neglected to: #1 hand in a Works Cited page, #2 do any parenthetical citations, or #3 had the parenthetical citations but didn't match them to the Works Cited or visa-versa. All of these create plagiarism, which is unacceptable. They were warned against doing this so often they were completing my sentences! And the rest of the papers were riddled with spelling errors and other incorrect mechanics.
Here's the good news: The papers, even the ones that got zero for plagiarism, had some really good things about them. Many of them were well written. Nice long paragraphs; 8-10 sentences. Good Thesis statements. They had good research sites and interesting takes on their topics. Overall I was pleased with the caliber of writing. And I made sure I told them all of this. That's what made it really hard to give those zeros! So I told them: "Take a deep breath, regroup and get ready for what's coming the rest of the year. You can pass this class, but you're going to have to pay attention and produce work like you give a crap!" Yep. Those were my words. Let's hope they were paying attention! 

Friday, April 24, 2015


Today is Friday. My juniors have been testing all week and they have another week of testing next week. Progress report grades are due today. Here's some of my favorite snippets of stuff for the week:

"Can I come back 7th period and watch the movie? Oh. Wait! Do you have any crazy kids in that class?"

"I had so much fun yesterday. But I didn't have so much fun I passed out!" (I told him I really didn't want to know.)

"I stayed home all day yesterday to do homework." (I don't know how but she said it with a straight face. It was Senior Ditch Day.)

"Mrs. Nelson, you're my favorite teacher to annoy."

Happy Friday! The countdown to the end will begin next week...

Thursday, April 23, 2015


     A couple of weeks ago one of my young ladies told me she was pregnant.
"So," I asked. "Are you happy about that?"
"I'm still getting used to the idea," she said.
"What about your parents?"
"My mom cried and my dad got mad."
"They aren't throwing you out, or anything, are they?" (Some of my single moms in past years have had their parents throw them out or send them back to family in Mexico.)
"And how about the baby's dad?" I asked. "What does he think of all this?"
"He's not interested. He's acting like it's not his problem."
"Hmmm... so how are you feeling?"
"Well, that's why I've been absent a lot the last two weeks. I've got morning sickness!"
"What are you doing for it?" I asked.
"Nothing. My mom says I just have to live with it." (What some women don't know about pregnancy could fill a book!)
"Well," I said, "There are things you can do that might make you feel better; that might make you not have so much of an upset stomach."
"Like what?" She was very interested.
"Peppermint, chamomile or ginger tea helps. If you can't get the teas those little peppermint stripe candies will help. When I was pregnant I found that regular saltines and regular pretzels helped a lot to absorb the extra acid." (Those were pre gluten-free days.)

A week went by before I asked her again how she was feeling.
"A lot better Mrs. Nelson!"
"What are you doing for the morning sickness?"
"I tried a couple of the tings you told me about but the best thing is the pretzels! I really like them!"
"Well, good." I said.

Two days ago she came to school and was eating dill pickles for breakfast. (I have her first thing in the morning.) She had the big jar on her desk.
Yesterday she was eating a huge piece of cold pizza, with another one in her backpack and had flaming hot chips. (A big bag! And she wasn't offering to share.)
This morning she had a gallon size bag of fish cheese crackers she munched on all period.

I have to assume that the morning sickness is over...