Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Essay Due

  Well, today's the day! Final essays are due. We have been working on these since before Christmas break. First I had to teach the kids how to outline. Then we had to go through an extensive MLA Works Cited assignment which I allowed them to have an opportunity to redo 3, count 'em, 3 times so they could get them right and learn how to do them properly. It is the most important part of doing any kind of paper, as without the Works Cited page, and the corresponding Parenthetical Citations, they commit plagiarism. We spent three days in the computer lab researching their topics and just last week we spent another three days in the computer lab, so they all would have access to a computer, to type up the essays. I have taught them how to format the essay, (spacing, margins, font, spell check and grammar check, putting a header and page numbering and how to do a proper heading) how to do research, how to use the Word templates to create a typed outline, and all the rules for a Works Cited page including how to use EasyBib to help in formatting the citations.
     And for most of the day I have had students come to me with various excuses (for they are excuses, not reasons) why they couldn't get their essay handed in on time. And my response to them has been something to the effect of, "If you had taken responsibility for your work, you wouldn't have been doing it at the last minute, and now you wouldn't be trying to make this my problem instead of yours."
     They want someone else to shoulder the blame. They want one more day. They want to be able to turn it in after school. They want me to print it out for them. They want me to figure out why their printer didn't work. They want me to figure out why they emailed it to me but I didn't get it. They want me to check it one more time, today.
     I want them to turn it in. Period.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ms. Bahena!

The following was written and sent out via school email:
     Students at SMHS showed their appreciation Friday for the service provided by the food service program. Students recognized the hard work and pressure situations the staff manages every day, but one staff member clearly stands out –Ms. Bahena!
     Students recognized her hard work but more importantly, the way she goes about it.  Students say, “She is sooo nice! Always smiling "(Sarah Galicinao).  “She is kind and welcoming, treats you like family” (Jerry Nevarez).
     So, with the help of ASB and our Saints Band students decided that Friday was the day to give back and show their appreciation. 
     It started with one student… then they lined up at her lunch cart!  ASB students gave her individual roses, that filled her vase.  Others lined up to give hugs and notes containing thank you messages.  As this was taking place, the band members circled around adding to the spectacular moment.
Teenagers can be the sweetest people!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Holding Hands

   Well, it looks like love is in the air. Must be Spring! All over campus I have been seeing couples walking in the bright sunshine, holding hands, maybe practicing a little kissy-facing, (although that is frowned upon on school grounds, but what are you gonna do?) You've probably noticed by now that I have posted a picture of two young guys holding hands, along with two young women (and the penguins for comic relief and because they are cute holding hands!) Yes, we have gay partners on campus, of both sexes. I used to think that was a scary, but brave, thing; for them to exhibit their friendship, their love for each other so openly. This show of affection would have never even been talked about when I went to high school, no less shown openly. But today is a different day. There is much more acceptance, and I must say I am happy for the change. Really. What difference does it make? If one is lucky enough to find love, what does it matter what shape it takes?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Good Breakfast Club

 I normally allow my students to eat in all my periods especially in the morning and after lunch since they don't always have time to stand in line for the food and also eat. I know a lot of teachers restrict eating and drinking in their class rooms but in the 8 years I have been teaching I have only ever had 1 student spill anything on the carpet. I don't have an issue with trash or litter in my room and I get notes from the maintenance staff thanking me for keeping my room so clean. This is all due to the kids being careful with this "eating-in" privilege I have given them. Of course, at the beginning of the year, I make it very clear that if they abuse this privileged they will lose it. But as we are still in the computer lab today the rule is "no eating at the computers." So they have come together to eat at a table in the middle of the room. They are a happy bunch for so early in the morning!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Computer Time

Here we are in one of our many computer labs on campus. This one is run by Lesley Riley, a wonderful techie! We are learning to format (per MLA rules) our essays and begin the work of typing our final copies. The student in the front of the picture, Raymond, heard the camera click and turned around noticing I had taken a picture of him. He got out his phone and took a picture of me taking another picture, posted it to Snap-Chat. We will be here again tomorrow finishing up our essays and working on our outlines and Works Cited pages. We have to get all this done before we go on Spring Break in the middle of next week. So much to learn, so little time...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Random II

     I know I have mentioned this before. I have a "Random" board in my class room. I put up cartoons, quotes and pictures that are out of the ordinary and strike my fancy. Every year I invite the kids to put up things they find are quirky or random, as long as they are school appropriate. and once in a while I check this bulletin board to make sure there is nothing on there that shouldn't be. 
     A couple of months ago my good friend, Nancy, sent me a clipping of an ad for a lost dog that was "wearing a collar with cell." On it she wrote the sticky note that said, "Honestly, if the missing dog had a cell, why didn't he just call and say 'I'm lost'?" I thought that was pretty funny and I stuck it up on my random board. 
     Today as I was strolling by the board I noticed that someone had added to the message. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Analysing with Technology

     I think most everybody knows what this is. It's a device to store work, papers, general information. But in my class today it took on a whole new meaning.
     We had an "early-out" day today. It is a day similar to a minimum day but just the students get to go home. We teachers must stay until the end of the normal work day and attend meetings and collaboration.
     Being that our periods are only 1/2 hour today, I used the Their Eyes Were Watching God as an SSR book. As we are still only half way through I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone. We were reading a chapter where Janie, the main character, gets jealous of Tea Cake, her husband, flirting with Nunkie, a young girl working with them. Tea Cake and Janie end up having a big fight and eventually it gets so heated they have sex. The typical get mad and then make up scenario. In the book it is not very descriptive but you definitely know what's going on.
     One of my students decided to go to the bathroom a little before this scene. By the time he got back we had finished reading, and the class was twittering about the encounter.
     B: "What happened? What did I miss?"
     T: "The best part!"
     B: "What happened?!?"
     T: "They got it oooon"
     B: "Huh?"
     T: "You know...his USB got together with her hard drive!"
Somehow, I will never look at a portable USB Drive the same way again.


Friday, March 20, 2015


"Mrs. Nelson, did you hear the news?"
"What news?"
"About the stabbing?"
"Well, G. there's a reported stabbing at least once a day in Santa Maria. Which one are you talking about?"
"Oh. The one last night. Where they arrested the guy that stabbed another guy."
"Yes. I saw it on the news this morning."
"He was one of my Homies."
"The guy that got arrested or the guy that got stabbed?"
"The guy that did it."
"G. you need a better class of Homies."
"Das right, Mrs. Nelson," He nods several times. "Das right."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Beauty

We are working on essays today. Boring. At least for me. But it is good that I have been able to give the students the opportunity to work on them in class where they can get help from each other and get help from me. I wish I had the time to go over each and every essay with the individual student, but that would take weeks. Not that I think it would be a waste of time, because constructing a decent essay will be a life saver in college, I just don't know if I can afford the time out of the curriculum. So today, as we are focused on our essays, I thought you all would like to see some more of the amazing artwork we have on campus. Enjoy!


Wow! My 59 year old brain got the better of me yesterday! I was posting about a kid that reminds me of Eddie Haskell, a character on a vintage TV show. And I explained that he was on The Ozzie and Harriet Show. Well, as a friend pointed out last night it wasn't on that show but another very popular show of the same time period: Leave it to Beaver. Both shows had a family of 4 that had two boys. So I apologize if I made anyone run to Google and settle the "huh?" in their heads. That's what you get when you teach teenagers all day! Sorry folks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Eddie Haskell

     If you teach you have had one of the Eddie Haskells of the world. For those of you too young to know who that is, you make me feel old! He was a character on one of the first sit-coms on TV: The Ozzie and Harriet Show. It was about a family that had two sons, Wally and "The Beaver" (for the life of me I can't remember his first name but it really doesn't matter.) What matters is that Wally had two friends. One was "Lumpy" who was a big football player and the other was Eddie. Eddie was the original "two face" student. He would tell Mrs. cleaver (Wally and the Beaver's mom) how pretty she was and always be on excellent behavior. That may sound nice but his comments and his attitude always had an undertone of falsehood and sarcasm that caused Mrs. Cleaver, and the other adults on the show, to never take him seriously.
     I have one of these students: an Eddie Haskell. He's a new addition to one of my classes and I have spoken to his other teachers. His true attitude is laying right below the surface. I'd like to think I will be the one teacher to make a difference in his life, but after looking at his previous record, that doesn't look promising. I will be interested to see how long it takes before he shows his true colors to me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


     Today I got to listen to music all day. Yes, I had my regular classes full of students but I gave them the entire period to work on their rough drafts for their essays. I spent the day inputting grades into the grade book and listening to music. It was nice.
     When I first started teaching I didn't have the ability to play music in my class room. That lasted about a year and when I moved to my current school my husband bought me a set of wireless speakers and, for our anniversary, an iPod Touch. Yes, I know you can get music from Pandora but with an iPod I can listen to the music I want. I play my music all the time for the kids. I detest a quiet classroom. I have a large variety of music; everything from reggae to country to oldies. Most of the time the kids like my music and I will hear them singing along. And the rule is, the times when music is allowed, if they don't like my music they are free to listen to their own as long as I, or others around them, can't hear it.
     Today was nice.

Monday, March 16, 2015

5 Minutes

     The beauty of 5 minutes. So much can be done in 5 minutes or less. Unless you are a teenager that is. Every week I give the kids the opportunity on two days to read for 20 minutes and follow it with a reading log for 5 minutes. You would think, because teenagers despise homework, (they have to have 5 reading logs done each week) that they would take advantage of that time and get a reading log actually done. Nope.
     Timer goes off. "Log, please," I say.
     "If you spent less time groaning at having to log and actually write the log you would get more done."
     "Yeah. but Mrs. Nelson. It's Monday."
     "And we always read and log on Mondays," I reply.
     "It's too hot," one says.
    After 5 minutes we move on with our lesson. We read a portion of the next chapter in our novel. And when I stop my iPod, I start asking questions to check for comprehension. I am usually met with a chorus of appropriate answers, since their short term memory is powerful. (And on any topics related to sex and drugs and teachers' mistakes, their long term memory is excellent, also.)
     "So. What happened to Annie Tyler?" I ask.
     "Why doesn't Janie want to be like Annie Tyler?" I ask, trying a different route.
     Blank stares.
     "Are you kidding me?" I admonish them. "Was anyone listening?"
     Now they won't even look me in the eyes. Nothing. They are ashamed.
     "O.K." I said. "Get your log books out and do a reading log on what we just read."
     "You have 5 minutes!"
      More groans, followed by a series of questions from them hoping to kill time so they won't have to do it.
     "Nobody leaves until you get your log done." I announce.
     "You now have 4 minutes!"
     It's amazing how quickly they can write a log when they have incentive!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Isn't it Lovely?

      Today is Saturday and I don't normally post on a Saturday but I thought I would today. I walked around on my prep period the other day and took several dozen pictures of the student art work we have on campus. The tree wall is probably 60 feet long. The Van Gogh is about 9' x 9' and the reading lady (I don't know the original artist) is part of a series of pictures added to the front of portables that measure approx. 4' x 4'. There are over two dozen of the 4' x 4' paintings on portables. They are are wonderfully painted and much of the artwork has been on campus for so long most people don't remember how long they've been walking past it. I'll post some more on another day. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In response to "Now What?"

     The other day I wrote about my kids not completing their outlines for their persuasive essays. And the ones that did complete it didn't do a good job. I was disgusted, to say the least. I had a severe talk with them. (I was prompted to call it a discussion to soften the matter, but it really was just me telling them how disappointed and scared I was for them...not a discussion.) The next morning I got this in an email from one of the teachers that has 10 or so of my students in a Skills class (a class that is taken with a regular English class for those that need help due to low testing scores or ones that are still experiencing a language barrier.) 
From Ms. Toews to me. She's the one talking to the kids.
Them: Ms. Nelson is really upset with us right now.
Me: Why?
Them: We didn't do our work, even though we had a month to get it done.
Me:  I can understand why she would be frustrated. So why didn't you do your work?
Them: Because we're lazy.
From the horse's mouth.​ At least they are honest.

Yes, at least there IS that. Rough drafts are due the 18th. We'll see if I made an impression. Teenage self-reflection being what it is, we'll see if things have changed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


We are in the middle of a campaign to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Every year we participate in this fundraising effort by sponsoring a child. This year we are concentrating on a little girl, Mia, age 9, a Leukemia survivor from Rowland Heights, CA. Mia, a patient in remission for four years, is a strong advocate for other children who are experiencing cancer.
We call our campaign Pennies for Patients. Each classroom has a box for contributions and as you can see from the poster below, the winning 5th period class gets a free lunch from Olive Garden. My classes have never won the award but they all contribute. Donating is a good lesson to learn and hopefully one that will stay with them as they grow up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Now What?

     It is almost the middle of March. In two months most of my juniors will be seniors and my seniors will be graduated. Maybe. As of last Friday I have a full 1/3 of my students failing my class or on the brink of failing my class. Well, let me reframe that statement. They are not just failing my class but all their classes.
     So today we had yet another talk. This following a supremely poor showing of work handed in for the essay outline assignment. I told them that we teachers have discussed and planned and augmented lessons and units this year and we are being met with resistance to #1 do homework and #2 do homework well, if done. All my students failing are doing so because they just don't hand in the work, and the bad thing is that they are not doing or handing in work for anyone else. (I know, I've said this before.)
     Is there a conspiracy going on that no one told me about? Have the students banded together and decided they are going to take a stand and not produce work of any kind for us?
     There are exactly 57 school days until the end of the school year. Once those are gone I am afraid many of my students are going to be asking, "Now What?" and not liking the answer.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Drowning in Technology

    Here's me after a morning of technology. Not a pretty picture. You know those tablets we received in January, when we returned after Christmas break? The District-Powers-That-Be have finally lined up some training for the teachers. This morning was supposed to be a "basic" class on turning the computer on, personalizing the "tile" page (oh, yes. It's got Windows 8.1 on it) and playing around with finding websites and sharing documents.
     These 3 short hours, this morning, with two breaks, were all a little too much for me to handle. The young man who was hired to do the training was so nice and was so helpful but like all technicians and computer experts he went way too fast, clinking merrily through websites and search engines and typing in URLs and then quickly showing us "Oh, By the way here's how to do this" spots on the side, in the middle of instructions on something else.
     I get it. They love the technology. They think it is cool what you can do and share and coordinate and block and transfer and all the other activities. I get that. I just don't get all the steps and the process, nor will I remember next August, what we did today. I guess I just don't learn well that way. I like to figure out one thing at a time, when I need it, use it repeatedly and feel secure about it and then move on.
     We learned that there are going to be entire days of training in the future for One Note etc... Please. An entire day for each major program? I'm gonna need a life preserver.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Babies?

     We have been reading Their Eyes Were Watching God in class for the past two weeks. (It takes forever on this new schedule to read a novel!) About halfway through the book the protagonist, Janie, has gone through two husbands and has just met the man who will become her third husband. She is in her late 30's now and has been married (twice) since she was 17 years old.
     My students just realized that she never talks about her kids.
     "Janie didn't have any children." I say.
     "Never?" They ask.
     "Nope." I reply. "It's a story. The author can have their character do or not do whatever they want."
     One student said, "But you said that this story has a lot of details from the author's life in it."
     I told them, "Zora Neale Hurston didn't have any children either, and she was married a couple of times."
     Another student asks, "What? Did they use condoms?"
     I gave him my best blank look.
     He persisted, "No. Really, Mrs. Nelson. Did they even have condoms back then?"
     Suddenly I had the whole room's attention.
     "There is evidence that people used birth control as far back as the Egyptians," I told them.
     I could see it in their eyes. They were skeptical.
     "Any more questions?" I asked.
     One kid, "That's what I like about this class. Sometimes you learn things."

     My mission here is done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In Memory of Eddie

     Again, another sad day at our high school.
     Today at noon our school will hold a memorial for Eddie Gutierrez, one of our Security Personnel that passed away this last weekend. He died quite suddenly from a brain aneurism. 
     Eddie was well known on campus, as one would expect, but he was also very well liked by the students with whom he had dealings with every day. They say he gave them a lot of good advice and the girls from the basketball team he coached, loved him. He had only been on this campus 3 years and died too young: 51 years old.
     The students have erected a memorial in his honor with cards and flowers and the item you see in the pictures. They had t-shirts made and will wear them with pride in his memory. His family is visiting campus today and at lunch there will be an open mic for those that wish to share a story or say their regrets. As we say here on campus when one of our loved ones die: He will forever be a Saint.


     I sit at my desk every day and listen to whistling. It's coming from the practice field and it is usually students out playing during a P.E. class. Once one kid starts it, another will pick it up and then another until 5 or 6 kids are whistling back and forth to each other. I'm not sure the kids on the practice field are doing anything other than making exuberant noise but I do know that whistling has been used, as a form of communication, within gangs for a long time. It's a verbal noise that travels long distances. When I show the movie West Side Story, (after we study Romeo & Juliet) at least one student always comments on the whistling that is part of the introduction. It is the members of the gangs, whistling to locate one another and check to see if everyone is safe.
     But, like I said, I don't think that most students these days use it for anything other than making noise and bugging the teachers! At least they don't do it in class. (Usually, although I have had a student, Abel, for two years now, last year for World Lit. and this year for American Lit., that whistles as he's coming into class and leaving and sometimes when we have free time. But he's not in any gang. He just likes to whistle; I think he's a happy kid.) In this age of technology, gang members don't need to whistle. All they have to do is text.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

The view from my classroom this morning.
Surrounded by clouds
About 5 minutes later:
#1 Kid: "Is it raining?"
#2 Kid: "Yes."
#1 Kid: "How do you know?"
#2 Kid: "There's water falling from the sky."

There certainly was. Big fat drops pouring down on us and thunder booming. By the end of the period it was gone. It would be nice if we got more rain but I don't think another storm is forecasted for the near future.