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...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day

Well, the ASB kids have been at it again! They are so good at keeping us all updated as to what's going on. It's Earth Day today, the 3rd day of Awareness Week here on campus. We have posters up, chalk drawings on our pavements and a lot of recycling going on, (which most of the teachers do all year.) We will also be having a special rally at lunch today and another Earth Day celebration on Friday; a minimum day. The chalk drawing above includes the concern for saving water here in California, as we are in the middle of a drought. Thanks ASB!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Today our campus is decorated with purple. It is in observance of Awareness of Domestic Violence. I especially liked the tear strip to have a great day. They are positive messages: "You are worth it!" "Believe in yourself" ""Never, ever give up" and so on. By the end of the day I hope to see all the little tags ripped from the bottom of the pages.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Awkward Moment

     So much of teenage life is awkward. I don't make a big deal about kids going out to use the restroom. They make eye contact, they grab the pass, they put their phone on my desk and leave. (Never more than one at a time.) I know where they're going. I don't want them to interrupt class and ask to go. they're 16/17 years old for heaven's sake. And even if I don't see them take the pass, I can see from my window where they are going.
     Friday, one of my students took the pass and left. On his way back to class he met up with a young lady and they talked for a bit and then separated to go their own way. Here's the conversation we had when he finally got back to the class room:
Me: "You know, it would have taken you less time to get back to class if you didn't stop and flirt with the pretty girls."
Him: "That wasn't flirting!"
Me: "Then what was it?"
Him: "Man, that was AWKWARD!"
Me: "Why? Do you not know how to talk to a pretty girl?"
One of my girl students, behind her hand: "That's his ex, Mrs. Nelson."
Him: "Mrs. Nelson! I wouldn't flirt with her! She has a baby!"
Me: "Is it your baby?"
Him: "Hell no! I never liked her that much!"

I try not to let them see me laugh.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2 Important Days

     Today was the annual Day of Hope. Volunteers stood on the street corners, all over the city, and sold copies of this special edition of The Santa Maria Times; effectively raising money for Cancer Research. Our students in the ASB got involved, too. When I pulled into the parking lot this morning I had a young lady follow me to my classroom and of course, I had to buy one!
     It's also National High Five Day. I must tell you, though, I really don't see a lot of high-fiving going on at school. I see a lot of fist bumps (the guys think that's way more cool.) I stand out on my ramp in the morning and sometimes between other classes. A lot of my male students greet me with the high five/fist bump combo, or the side slap high five/fist bump combo (more laid back). And every once in a while they throw some elaborate new gyration in there. A couple of years ago my students wanted to create a secret handshake with me. One class in particular did and added a rally cry of "ROOM 616!" (That happens to be my classroom number. They pronounced it Six, One, Six.) Of course,  I had no idea what that meant to them (and I probably don't want to know) but we did use it and I did hear it yelled across campus once! Teenagers are fun!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Movie Day

This week, (yes you read that right: week. it takes three solid days to watch a movie now with the new schedule; most of a week) we are watching the movie of the book we just finished: Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is a great movie and holds very true to the story in the book. The kids seem to enjoy it, but then again, they enjoy any day they can sit in a dark room and watch a movie, which doesn't require them to do any work or produce homework. One year I made popcorn every time we watched a movie. But I only had 60 students back then. Now I have double that amount and I don't splurge like I used to.
     The most popular phrase I've heard today: "Back it up so we can see Janie kissing Tea Cake!" In typical teenage fashion the girls swoon and the boys make funny comments.
"What's the rating on this movie Mrs. Nelson?"
"PG 13," I said.
"Really? Seems kinda hot for PG 13!"
"You think so?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah. Man!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


     It happens at least once a year here at SMHS. A student goes missing. The first time I experienced this was my second year of teaching. I had a young girl in my freshman class go missing. She was an excellent student, and had perfect attendance. And then one day she was gone. I thought maybe she was just out sick but as the days rolled into weeks all of her teachers started to email each other to see if maybe she had decided to just cut a class or two (not expected of her but you never know.) Finally the counselor let us all know that her parents had been in to see them and explained that their daughter had left the country and gone to Mexico with her older boyfriend. In a letter she told them how much she hated them and that they would never see her again.
     I was shocked. It was so out of character for the girl I knew.
     Two years later a boy, also good student and having good attendance disappeared. He was gone almost two weeks before his family came to tell the school that he had been stabbed and would be out the rest of the year. He did recover and I saw him the next year. 
     Currently I have a student that has been gone almost two weeks, not counting the week and a half we were off for Spring break. He hasn't been absent since the beginning of the year. He has two AP classes; a good student. At winter break he came to me and told me how much pressure his parents and the family ranch was putting on him. He cried. I helped him the best I could and made sure his counselor called him in. He hadn't said anything since.
      I checked today to see if he was just missing just my class or all of them when I noticed that he turned 18 the week of Spring Break. A red-flag went up. Oh, no. Now I'm wondering if it all got to much for him and as soon as he legally could, he left. We haven't had any news from the office or counselors and none of the kids have said anything, (which is where we teachers get a lot of our news.)
     I think about that first young lady every once in awhile. I wonder if she's happy. If she ever came back to her parents. If her boyfriend ever married her. And now in addition to her, I am hoping I don't have to think about my young man the same way and wonder if I could have done anything more.

Monday, April 13, 2015

On Writing

     When I was in 5th grade I had a teacher by the name of Ms. Hanaberry. Of all the 15 schools I attended before I graduated high school, this is the only teacher's name I can remember. Ms. Hanaberry was young and cool; straight out of the hippy generation. But what impressed me the most was the importance she put on writing. At the beginning of the school year she handed each of us a black and white composition book and told us we were to write in it whatever we wanted. We could decorate it and draw in it and paste cartoons and pictures in it. But most importantly we were to write in it, every day, like a journal or a diary. This book became a treasure to me and was the beginning of my writing adventures.
     Two weeks ago a fellow teacher came to me and asked that since I knew a little bit about writing, would I be willing to talk to one of his students who was interested in writing a book? I told him I didn't know everything but I would try and help her out any way I could.
     I met with this student. She is so excited to be thinking about the book she wants to write and she was so interested in everything I had to tell her. I am hoping I can take the enthusiasm Ms. Hanaberry gave me and pay it forward.
     I am constantly amazed at the roles we, as teachers, play in our students' lives. It's not just enough to teach the prescribed curriculum but, I think it is also our job to help students discover their talents and help them accomplish their dreams. Maybe I can do this for this one young lady. That will make me an extremely happy teacher.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Break

      Here's what the new schedule has done to my Easter/Spring break. You see before you 120+/- each of essays, rough drafts, outlines and a supplement graphic organizer, (Do the math...almost 500 pieces of paper will flow through my hands next week. Yikes!) I don't want candy eggs for Easter, I want a grading assistant.
     We have a minimum day today and Spring Faire, where the clubs all sell food, etc... to raise funds. I think I'll spend my time getting a jump on all this grading. Or maybe I'll lock my door and take a nap to rest up for my "vacation."
     I hope all my teacher followers have a great time off to spend with family and friends. I'll be back to blog after break...hopefully with my eyesight still working.