Friday, March 31, 2017


Today I had a grand total of not 1, not 2, not 3, but zero students cry today. That's right, folks, count 'em, 0.

This despite students having to pay me class dollars for not turning in their homework.

This despite students having to take an unannounced math quiz.

This despite making them all stay in their seats while each of them told me something they learned in their science rotations instead of going one by one down to lunch.

This despite not getting computers for typing and we did the read aloud for 20 minutes instead.

Zero tears. Not bad for a Friday before spring break.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


T.U. came to my class this morning claiming to be colorblind.

"Everything that's supposed to be white is pink!" A tremendously horrid thing if one is him.

Blobfish Lover took it upon herself to announce it to everyone in the room as they walked in.

But it didn't prevent him from learning, so that's a plus, I guess.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Once Upon a Time Today

Once upon a time today as I went to pick up my students from lunch, and they filed past me in a sort of amorphous blob, I caught words that went something like, "T.U. got his eyes poked by a tree branch."

Wait. What?

Like he ran into a tree? Like someone rammed him into the tree? Like he picked up a branch off the ground and it got thrown at his face?

He was last in line. Mostly because he was stumbling along the sidewalk, like he wasn't sure of where to walk. Like he couldn't quite see the door where I was standing.

When he finally reached me, aided by another student, I had him look at me. His eyes were bloodshot and he was crying. But not "I'm crying because it hurts," tears. It was more like, "My eyes are expelling a foreign object by producing extra water and the extra water just happens to be coming out of my eyes like unto tears. I'm not crying."

"Okay look at me. Now look to the left. No. Turn your head back toward me and move your eyes to the left. No. Wait, that is your left. I meant your right. My bad. Can you see? You don't look like you have anything in your eyes."

"I can't see!"

Got it. So, probably send him to the nurse's office. But I had to see how he would do walking down the hall first.

First, he tripped. Then he couldn't find the line. Then, apparently, "I can only see red and blue now!"

I had another student, Alberto, direct him down the hall to the nurse's office. Hopefully, I thought as I took the rest of my class up the stairs to our classroom, they would make it there alive. A minute after we got settled, Alberto returned and joined us for math.

Halfway through math, T.U. stumbled into the room and made his way clumsily to his cubby.

"What did she say?" I asked him

"She said to get my stuff."

"Are you getting checked out?"

"I don't know, all she said was to get my stuff. Can I have someone help me back downstairs?"

Yes, he did get someone to help him down the stairs and I guess he did get checked out because later, when we had an unscheduled fire drill, he didn't come out of the building, even though the nurse did.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Have You Ever

Have you ever not wanted to do things like plan a math lesson or a writing lesson or a reading lesson and thank goodness your small group lesson is planned because you wouldn't want to plan that one either?


That's my day today.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Made a Student cry Today

I made a student cry today. It was during small groups and she needed to be reading. When she didn't, I told her that she had to read for a certain amount of time before going to her group (in the other room with an aide). Which she didn't do. So she got to stay in class and read by me instead. When she decided she was going to her group I said, "No," and turned back to my small group.
Less than a moment later I heard the tears from behind me.

In front of me, at my kidney table, were 3 girls who were trying to partner read "The BFG". They glanced up at the crying student apprehensively. Was I just going to let her cry there? Was I not going to do anything? Was I not going to do anything like earlier when this student had made another student cry? (Yeah. Fun morning.)

I directed the three girls back to their books and asked them to keep reading while I listened. As the tears behind me subsided and stopped, I turned to her and took the time to talk to her about what was gong on and how her behavior could improve.

While I did this, the three girls in my group kept reading their book. And they kept reading their book. And they kept reading their book. And they let me take care of the student who had been crying.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

One Week

Spring break starts in one week.

One week.
One week of students attempting to learn.
One week of math lessons.
One week of students wishing they were outside.
One week of reading every day for 30 minutes.
One week of figuring out something for Blobfish Lover and Miss Fifth Grade Math to do when they've finished the assignment quickly.
One week of pushing all my students to take A.R. tests so they can meet their goal.
One week with my team all together.
One week of hopefully no suspensions.
One week of looking forward to the weekend.
One long, long week

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To Do List

Things I need to do for my class on Monday:
  • Finish planning math.
  • Check up on the student who has a magical star stamp that's supposed to help her be kinder.
  • Update the grades sheet.
  • Find the pre-tests I somehow lost.
  • Figure out how to help all of them pass off "Good Timber".
  • Find a new poem to memorize.
  • Practice my flute so it sounds fine when I play for them on Tuesday.
  • Come up with a new way to help Blobfish Lover behave.
  • Come up with a new way to help Arts and Tanks boy behave.

I can do all that by Monday. Right?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hard Things

This week I did hard things.

I convinced a student that a star stamp was magical and that carrying it around would help the magic seep into her and help her be kinder to everyone.

I convinced a student to write down something nice about everyone in our classroom. When she's finished, she's going to tell everyone what she wrote about them (the list will be approved first).

I took my students to two assemblies in one day. Once with chairs, once without. For the second assembly I had to convince them it was okay not to take their backpacks down, even though they knew it was the last thing we had planned for the day.

I taught science to a class that had had a substitute for 2 days and they even payed attention to everything. Mostly.

I pulled a bunch of worksheets out of nowhere for the 3 students in 2 days who had some sort of in school suspension. They weren't in my class, but their teachers were gone and the poor substitutes had no idea what to do.

I taught all week even though I didn't get much sleep most nights.

It's a good thing my class motto is "I can do hard things" or I don't know if I'd've made it through this week.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Grading Opinion Essays

Miss maddox can we read lord of the rings

I'm grading essays today. Opinion essays they've had almost two months to learn how to write.

In my opinion that you should read lord of the rings.

Some of my students haven't been able to quite grasp the way to form paragraphs on a google document.

First the book is so entsting

Or that red underlining to the word means it's been spelled incorrectly, even though I've showed all of them individually how to fix it.

If the the movie is good the book is and it has evil parts the book can keep your muscles resting

Some of them haven't even written the essay yet. To be fair, of the 5, 3 are usually in resource during writing and the 4th has trouble coming every day, bless her heart. She got half of her essay written today, though, so that's a plus.

the book can help your reading skills and can help your a.r testing. 

The fifth was going to type hers up, but the computers weren't available and she had a really good story idea that she had to write down before it disappeared into the air forever. Do I know what the story idea was? Nope. Will I find out eventually? Absolutely. She shows me her stories. Then it's my job to come up with ways to help her improve her writing because she is actually good at it.

Next I prefer so you can have good accurse

My other students show me things they've written, too. Sometimes I have to stare at their words for a while before I realize what it is they are trying to say. For example, I've been staring at an essay for an hour and just realized that accurse is supposed to be accuracy. At least I didn't also have to decipher handwriting.

This is a type of book to keep you going.

That student's handwriting is usually very legible, though. Which makes it easier when I'm grading her handwritten things.


Assuming, that is, that she finishes her sentences.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keeping up with Miss Fifth Grade Math

We went ice skating today for the AR (AR=Accelerated Reader, they get points for reading books and taking quizzes. The more questions they get right and the more advanced the book, the more points) activity. It was super fun. We all got tired out by the time we got back to the school for lunch. After lunch, after math, when they were reading silently, I noticed that one of my students, Miss Fifth Grade Math Even Though I'm in Fourth Grade, was already halfway to meeting her AR goal (30 points, extremely high for my class) for this current term.

The term started Monday.

I went over to talk to her as she was reading.

"Miss Fifth Grade Math," I said to her, "I've noticed you've basically met your AR goal for this term." She gave an I'm-completely-innocent-and-I-really-did-read-all-those-books smile. I smiled back and continued, "I've realized that your goal isn't high enough. I'm going to double it. It's going to be 60 AR points."

She took a deep breath and then consented.

The day is long since done, but from that point to the end of school she earned 6.5 more points. And a challenge to have the highest AR score at the end of term. A challenge I issued to my top 6 readers (really because one student wanted a battle to the death with AR points and I realized she needed some competition to reach her goal of 36 points).

Tomorrow she'll have earned probably at least 6 more points. Friday she'll earn the same, and Monday about 15. But maybe, just maybe, the other students with the challenge will be able to keep up with her.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Practice Seeing the Good

Today I got mad. I got really frustrated.

Stop complaining, I yelled at them in my head. Do something good instead. But I didn't yell. That wouldn't have worked. That would have done the opposite of what I wanted. So I decided to try something new. Something my language arts professor had taught me when I was in school.

"Okay, everyone. You all have a piece of paper I just gave you. On this paper, you are to write down everything you are frustrated about, everything you want to complain about, everything you hate, or are mad at."

Some of them thought I was crazy. Some of them have had absolutely nothing to complain about since the beginning of the year. I made them do it anyway.

"Spelling doesn't matter," I told them. "No one is going to look at these but you. Keep writing."

When I decided that time was up, I had them stop. One of them wanted to share. I told them no.

"Okay, now what you are going to do, is take your paper and crumple it up. And this is the only time you can do this, but you need to throw it at the garbage." I crumpled up my own to demonstrate and threw it at the garbage. It landed at my feet because I'm an amazing thrower in my classroom.

Some of them crumpled it up, some of them tore it up. All but one threw it away. I hope it's valuable for her.

Then I gave them a new piece of paper.

"On this paper, you are going to write everything you like right now, things that make you happy, things you love, things you like. If you can't think of anything, just write the same thing over and over again."

They began again. A few asked if they were going to throw this away too.

"Why would you want to throw your good things away?" I asked them.

A few asked if they could read their's aloud.

I said no. Mostly because Blobfish Lover would have read the name of the boy she kissed a few months ago and isn't allowed to play with anymore. And she'd have read it upwards of 20 times because she wrote it over and over and over and over again.

Then we discussed how they felt when they wrote the first things. The negative things. They felt angry, mostly. And how did they feel when they threw it away? Relieved was the consensus.

How did they feel when they wrote the positive? Good. How easy was it? Harder than the negative, because they practice the negative more often.

But now we're going to practice the positive. It felt happier. It felt good. So that's what we're going to do. All of my students and myself included.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Positive Reinforcement

Today I decided to focus on positive reinforcement. Like, ignoring negative behaviors and comments and only focusing on the good. I mean, some negative behaviors need to be immediately stopped, but others can just be ignored.

I forgot how effective it was. I mean, minus the part where one student wailed and hid under her desk just before free-time and had a freak-out because I raised all of their AR goals for this term (her's raised one point, she'll be fine.)

The really fun part, though, was focusing more on the students who are always good and letting them have all the attention they need. Students like Ashaleighey and Veronica (who, coincidentally, on the last test said, in answer to the question: if you could have any other name what would it be, put Veronica, which means that I picked a good pseudonym for her), my quiet ones who have already begun working on their new AR goal.

I'm going to do it again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Night

Sunday night.

Sunday night, almost bedtime.

Sunday night, almost bedtime, starting lesson plans.

It's a good thing a teacher on my team taught me how to take Go Math lessons and turn them into guided inquiry lessons or my students would be bored out of their minds tomorrow during math. And then somehow Monday would turn into another Friday.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I tried not to think about my students or teaching at all today.

I failed.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Somehow, and I'm not quite sure how it happened, I gave Blobfish Lover permission to bring St. Patrick's Day cupcakes to school today. For everyone.

Somehow, even though we weren't going to have anything St. Patrick's day fun they talked me into believing in their extremely good behavior and we had a leprechaun drawing contest instead of free-time.

Somehow, though it was not my intention and it will not happen again, I offended half the boys in my classroom and some of the girls as well.

Somehow, though my tricks haven't been working this week, I got my class to be quiet while they were waiting to go into the other teacher's class for science (thank you sign language basics.)

Somehow, even though the computer teacher/tech guy got a new job and hasn't been here all week, we got the computers for typing. They were even unlocked.

Somehow, even though we worked on it this week, and all year, all of my students forgot how to do word problems.

Somehow, and I'm sure his goal needs to be higher next term, Alberto met his AR goal at the very last minute.

Somehow, though I don't know exactly how, I'll have a better day on Monday.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

First New Student (Not to be confused with the one who started yesterday)

I got a new student near the beginning of the calendar year. I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect. I'd been given her name (spelled incorrectly), her gender (female, obviously), and her ethnicity (Tongan).

I did my best to prepare. I set out her notebooks, folders, morning work, and pencil. I made her an envelope for her class money. I added a class job just so she would have one and feel special. I made her a nametag.

I waited with baited breath as the day began and for the office secretary to bring her up to my classroom.

From the moment she stepped into my classroom she brought a new cheerful light. She always smiled. She quickly got the hang of everything. She became friends with everyone. She asked questions, she shared her experiences, she gave her ideas, she shared what she'd learned in her old school.

She was learning. She was making progress.

Then, one month later, just after Valentine's day, she brought notes in for everyone in the class.

"My family moved back!" she told me. "This note is for you!" It came with a chocolate heart taped to the envelope. I watched as she passed the other handwritten notes out to all of my other students in the class.

She spent that one last day with us, and just like that, just like she'd came, she was gone.

Dear Miss Maddox, 
I am so glad I got be down here in your class. 
You will always be my favorite teacher. 


My students still mention her sometimes. They miss her. I miss her, too. I hope she is as bright in her current school as she was a light in my class.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Student

I got a new student today. When she began talking to me her voice was quieter than a whisper. It still had sound, but it was so quiet I had to ask her several times to repeat herself.

She was quiet all day. As the day went on she got a little bit louder and a little bit louder. During writing time, when my students were taking their opinion essay test, I helped her take her opinion essay pre-test.

"You have opinions on things," I told her using the first example that came to my mind. "You have an opinion on moving here, whether you wanted to or didn't want to. Write about that. It needs to be five paragraphs."

She worked diligently. When she was done she came to show me her essay and I helped her set up her school gmail account so she could type it up. When it was time for recess she said to me, "I was so scared when I came here. I was so worried. but I got lucky. I got the nicest teacher in the whole school!" Her voice was loud enough that I could hear her from two feet away.

"Thank you," I told her. "I'm so glad you think so."

I think I'll like having this new student as much as she likes being here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Today in small groups, I introduced a reader's theater piece.

It was fine. Mostly.

They read it through aloud for fluency. Twice. And then twice on their own. And then with their assigned parts. Then I tried to get them to read the first line as an announcement, like the instructions instructed.

"Speak up!" I told them, "You need to believe that you are the most important person in the room. You need to have presence. You need to speak as though everyone's attention should be focused on you."

I gave an example. I spoke as though I were the example. I was reminded that I need to stand and talk this way in my classroom so my students will pay more attention to me. I had them practice.

It did not go well.

They did not want attention. They did not want to act like they wanted attention. They did not want to make an announcement. They wanted to sit quietly and mumble through their words so no one would hear them.

But who did want attention? Who did want to speak as though she were the most important person in the room? Who did want to demonstrate to her fellow students that they could be just as amazing as she, even though a few minutes earlier she was compelled -- even though her tears -- to begin silent reading?

Blobfish Lover.

That's right. And so, because I thought maybe it would help my students in my small group, I relented.

She stood tall, proud, as though she were the most important person in the room and announced, "There is a sandwich in my desk!" The heads of everyone in the entire room turned to look at her (except for one student who was trying really, really, really hard to concentrate on her reading).

"AHA!" I said to my students in my small group, "Did you see that? Did you see how everyone in the class turned to look at Blobfish Lover because she acted like she was the most important person in the room?"

They all shook their heads no. Of course they hadn't, they'd all turned to look at her just like everyone in the class. I pointed this out to them, had her demonstrate again, and had my students in my group try once more.

They stood up this time. They tried to announce it this time. They spoke with slightly more conviction this time. They were better this time. And I guess progress is all I really can ask for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Second Chances.

I yelled at a student yesterday.

I didn't know I could yell.

I didn't know I could be "mean".

Now I have anxiety.

The student didn't come today.

I wrote this a week or so ago. Looking back I can now say that it is not my fault. But do you ever feel like things are your fault because you're the teacher and you're new and you should've tried harder? It's a good thing there are second chances.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


The fun thing about having a blog where I tell about my students is that my family gets to stay updated on the funny things my students do. Then when we do get together they get the added details that the rest of y'all don't get. Details like my intern coach was completely skeptical about the magic mirror and how, exactly, my students say, "Knowledge."

Alberto and TU were the first students I noticed saying this word.

"Knowledge!" One would say using at least one hand for emphasis, usually two. It was said after something I taught. Anything I taught.

The other students started to pick up on it too. And began using it, but not as a noun.

"Knowledge!" Said for anything important.

"Knowledge!" Said with with both hands when they understand something.

"Knowledge!" Said with a hit on the board because the problem they showed everyone was correct.

"Knowledge!" Because they are correct and have gained information.

"Knowledge!" Because I wrote it on the board for my morning message and they didn't read the rest of it, they just circled the word and pronounced it with extra emphasis when I had them read it aloud.

"Knowledge!" Because they get it and they'll follow my instructions.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Figuring out what your Students are Excited About

Ashaleighy came into my class with a camera on Thursday. She is my quiet one who sits still and doesn't talk and generally looks like she's on task. She racks up on class dollars and hasn't spent a single one since school started.

"Miss Maddox," she said in her normal voice which is just above a whisper and always excited, "I need to take pictures for the yearbook!"

My students began chittering excitedly to each other.

"Ah yes," I said, because I'd remembered that I had sent a grand total of zero pictures to the yearbook teacher despite having multiple reminders to do so. "Come take a picture of our class." She giggled and began snapping away.

After a couple minutes of picture taking and my class no longer paying attention to the math lesson, I noticed Ashaleighy looking a bit lost at everything.

"What do you need to take pictures of?" I asked her.

"I need pictures of everyone working," she responded.

Ah, good. Salvation. They'd have to work.

"Did you hear that!" I asked my class as half of them began to diligently look like they were decomposing fractions. "She needs pictures of you working. Start solving this problem on your whiteboard."

They immediately began writing on their whiteboards. Ashaleighy snapped some pictures around the classroom, and then the whiteboards began to be lifted up in the air. Normally when they finish a problem on their whiteboards they hold it up so I can check it off.

This time, however, they were holding them up so Ashaleighy could take pictures of words like blobfish, knowledge, I <3 school.

I rolled my eyes half-heartedly and grinned as another picture was shot. Finally she left and my students actually began working on their math.

She came in a couple more times, once to find Veronica who was also taking pictures around the school, and again to get a couple more pictures. She left quickly both times and returned to work on the yearbook.

Really, I would have let her take as many photos as she needed. She was so excited to join yearbook especially because forth graders aren't normally allowed to do that. And even though I haven't figured out exactly how to talk to her yet, at least I can see what things she's excited about.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ongoing Game of Tag

A couple weeks ago (3, perhaps 4), I noticed my students playing a game of tag. In the classroom. Before the bell rang. And after the bell rang. And when they were doing individual work.

I watched them at it for a day or two. Just to see if I was okay with it. My intern coach always tells me to look at different things happening in my classroom and ask if I am okay with it. If I'm not okay with it, something has to change.

And so, I watched them.

It was an ongoing game of tag. When the day ended and they all left the school, the game paused. When the next day began and they began arriving, the game began again.

Alberto, I think, is the one that started it, but it could have been one of the cousins, or any of my gentlemen.

I asked them the rules.

"You can't get tagged when you're sitting down!" they were all quick to reply. Ah, that explained why some began the morning in the wrong seats.

"And not if you're standing in line!" a couple other students added. Aaaand that explained why the last two people to line up took so long.

"Okay," I said. And I continued to watch.

I have mentioned, in an earlier post, that we are not allowed to run in my class. The reason for this is that one day, near the beginning of the school year, I was going to be that cool excited teacher who ran across her room to point out a word on the word wall. After my first running step, my right calf said, "NO!" and immediately stopped working. Which was a problem, because I was running and couldn't stop, even though my leg had.

Luckily, I only hit two desks and even made it back to my word wall.

Unluckily I limped for 2 weeks and had to take the (notoriously slow) elevator.

Running in the classroom, from that point forward, was banned.

As I watched my students over the next week, I began to notice that some of them would run to get to a chair. Run to get in line. Run back to their seat. Not do what I'd asked because the person that was it was the only other person not sitting.

Okay, I thought. I'm not okay with this. Something needs to change.

I thought about it a lot. Then I realized exactly what I needed to do.

The next morning I stood in front of my class to give them some announcements. Announcements about tag.

"I'm giving you new rules today," I told them. "Rule number 1: if you run in class, you are automatically it. Rule number 2: if I ask you to do something, you cannot get tagged." I looked around the room to see if they were listening and if they'd do it.

"Knowledge!" said Alberto. He held out his hand for emphasis. (They've been obsessed with the word for a while.) The other students agreed.

And I knew they weren't going to run anymore.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Value of a Blobfish Book

"Blobfish Lover," I said to my student this morning, "how good are you going to behave today?" Blobfish Lover has been more... exuberant than usual the last few weeks. Her behavior sets off her best friend, Tania, which sets off the behavior of BFF #2 and the rest of the students think they can get away with anything.

She looked at me critically. "On a scale of 1-10? Probably a 9."

Nine was a whole lot higher than I thought she was going to say, or even behave, but I went with it.

"Alright, Blobfish Lover, if you can be a 10 today-- what does that look like?"

"Following the rules, listening, making my teacher happy," (class rules 3, 2, and 5), "following all the class rules."

"Okay, if you can be a 10, doing all of those things, I will let you read a page from your blobfish book at the end of class."

She looked at me incredulously. Then smiled her dimpled big-face grin. I haven't seen it in a while. "Really?"

"Yep. You have to be a 10."

"Okay," she said, clutching Pink is for Blobfish to her chest.

"You have to do your morning work," I reminded her and she practically ran (except we don't run in class) back to her seat.

"Miss Maddox, how am I doing now?" she asked me almost hourly. Mostly a 9, once an 8, sometimes a 10. Add that all up and it's one hundred times better than she has been.

When I went to pick them up from specialties I didn't think she'd make it. Her hair was undone and much messier than it had been when I dropped them off. All I got out of her was that it was BFF #2's fault.

"Are you still going to read your book at the end of the day?" I asked her.

She nodded sullenly, lifted her nose in the air, and walked to her place in line. By the time we'd reached the drinking fountain down the hall she'd returned to 10.

I still don't know what happened, but at the end of the day, when she asked if she could read it (while pulling it carefully from her stack of books), the answer was yes.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Little Mother Hen

My little Mother Hen bustles about the classroom. My little Mother Hen cleans my round table. And my back table. And the side counter. And the board. My little Mother Hen takes care of everything.

My little Mother Hen loves sparkles and glitter and unicorns and drawing pictures of me on her paper.

My little Mother Hen begs to read Treasure Island with KV, her reading partner.

Wait, what?

KV doesn't want to read Treasure Island. KV would rather read Ninjago or video game books. Or goof off. Or potentially do some art.

My little Mother Hen will sit him down and open to the right page and make sure he reads withe her. She wants to finish and she knows that she is not allowed to read that book without him.

A few weeks ago, during small group time, I started partner reading. I paired up one reader with another a couple levels above them. It's to increase their fluency and reading abilities. Mother Hen was paired with KV.

And suddenly, he was on task during small group time.

She wanted to read all the books in the classroom and because she wanted it, she made him read with her.

I have a student who is my little Mother Hen. She bustles about the classroom. And with her excited and gentle way, she helps keep the other students on task.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 2

Day 2

It's day 2 of the buckle up song and I can barely stand it.

Not all of my students have working headphones. Normally this isn't a problem, but starting Monday they've been singing the Prevention Dimensions song "Buckle Up". Most listen to it on their laptops with headphones. Those that don't have headphones, however, just play the song from the computer speakers and man it is annoying.

KV won't stop singing it.

Okay, he will stop singing it, but starts up again as soon as he's doing individual work.

"Buckle up. Buckle up. When I'm in the car I buckle up."

It's not loud enough to be disruptive. Just singing quietly to himself.

"Buckle up. Buckle up. When I'm in the car I buckle up."

This from the boy who would willingly talk for hours about World War I and World War 2. Who creates tanks from my math blocks that I let them play with during indoor recess. Who wrote an opinion essay on why Fallout 4 is the best. Who can only sit still for one thing: the arts.


"Buckle up. Buckle up. When I'm in the car I buckle up."

He actually has a good voice and I don't want to discourage the message of the song by telling him not to sing it. Besides, he loves the music. Should I discourage that passion?

"Buckle up. Buckle up."

I didn't realize at the beginning of the year that he likes the arts. In fact, I only found out by accident. I was meeting with my intern coach and noticed a beautiful drawing of an apple on her desk. It had my name on it: Miss Maddox, 4th grade. It had KV's name next to it. I stared at it in confusion. Had KV done that? It turns out, he had. The art teacher handed out the best apples to the administration so they could display them in their offices.

I expressed interest in the picture and my intern coach gave it to me. "I can get another from the art teacher," she told me. "You should have this one."

Then I began to watch him when anything happened to do with the arts.

Before Christmas some of the fifth and sixth graders put on a concert. Band, orchestra, and choir. From the moment the first song began, he was riveted. It was the longest I'd ever seen him sit still. Once or twice, in between musical numbers, he glanced over at me to see if I was getting after him for being disruptive.

I wasn't. I smiled, gave him a thumbs up, and pointed up to the stage.

"When I get in the car when I go somewhere," something buckle something, something buckle up.

After Christmas other fifth and sixth graders put on "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Again, he watched with rapture, hanging onto every word, shushing those around him.

Today we had a field trip to watch the Repertory Dance Company. The dances were amazing. I could barely tear my eyes from the stage to look at KV to confirm, or perhaps just to see how much he liked it. He studied the dances, inhaling the performance, and not moving a muscle when his neighbor, Blobfish Lover, began laughing and copying something happening on stage.

Tomorrow morning we'll sing the song again. He'll love it. He'll sing it periodically through the day. One day we won't be singing "Buckle up". We'll have moved on to another song.

Until then, I'll just have to suffer through a few more days of "Buckle up."

Monday, March 6, 2017

My Students do Hard Things

Today I do not want to write and mostly it's because I finally found out a hard thing one of my students is going through.

My students do hard things. Near the beginning of the year I told them that they only put students in my class who could do hard things. It helps that above one of the whiteboards are the words "I can do hard things". The teacher who had my classroom last year painted them up there.

When my students say that something is hard I will point to the words on my wall and ask them what it says. They have to do whatever it is they are doing anyway. It's okay if it's hard and it probably will be hard, but they do hard things.

One of my students has been acting out a lot more than usual the last few weeks. I showed this student my magic mirror. It helped for a day. I gave this student a bit more attention. They sought more negative attention. I tried ignoring this student's negative behaviors. The other students thought it was funny.

Today, as my students were working on their opinion essay, this student, always the fast finisher, came up to me saying that their essay was ready to be typed up. I looked at the essay, gave positive feedback and suggested some edits. To which edits, the student began arguing with me about the quality of the essay and how I don't do this with other students.

Ah. I thought. This student needs to see my magic mirror.

The student refused to look into the mirror.

That's odd, I thought.

Finally it was recess. We went outside and I continued to talk to this student. It was finally brought up that this student's parents are probably going to get a divorce.

"They weren't even going to get married but my mom got pregnant with me and then they had to." This student cried while saying the words.

"Recite our poem," I told this student. And with a bit more prodding, and a claim that nobody even knows what the poem is about because it's just about trees, she began.

"The tree that never had to fight for sun and sky and air and light, but stood out in the open plain and always got it's share of rain, never became a forest king, but lived and died a scrubby thing." Good Timber by Douglas Malloch.

Then she recited the second stanza, "The man who never had to toil to gain and farm his patch of soil who never had to win his share of sun and sky and light and air never became a manly man but lived and died as he began." She has the whole thing memorized. She passed it off weeks ago.

We talked about those two stanzas, how man means person, how tree means her, how fighting means figuring out how to be kind and knowing that things are going to be okay, but right now they are going to be hard.

I wondered why it was so hard for this student to pay attention, to be obedient, to sit still. I wondered why the magic mirror wasn't working like it's supposed to be working. I wondered how I could help this student be the better behaved child they were two months ago.

Now I know. This student needs to know she is loved.

My students do hard things. Near the beginning of the year I told them that they only put students in my class who could do hard things. It helps that above one of the whiteboards are the words "I can do hard things". The teacher who had my classroom last year painted them up there.

When my students say that something is hard I will point to the words on my wall and ask them what it says. They have the do whatever it is they are doing anyway. It's okay if it's hard and it probably will be hard, but they do hard things.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Reason for Rules and the Reason for Mercy

So, the only problem with being a teacher and kind of klutzy ("Bull in a china shop, Chalice," my roommate tells me) is that I'm the reason for some of our classroom rules.

Don't run in the class? That's my bad. My leg healed after two weeks (mostly). It's fine.

Don't throw things in class? Also my bad. The projector is fine. Didn't even get a dent. The dead marker was probably hurt more than the projector ever was.

Sometimes my students will do things like throw something or run across the classroom and I'll have to make them stop, but if I try to do the same thing, my students are quick to remind me that if I run, my leg will break. (It wasn't broken. They just thought it was.) If I throw something, it will definitely hit the projector.

The other day I had a reminder that sometimes when they break the rules, it's not because they meant to. And guess what? It was when I accidentally broke a rule (again).

What happened was that my phone went off while I was doing my read aloud ("A Year Down Yonder"). My students know that calling or texting me while I am teaching is very rude. Some of them even reprimanded my phone for me.

I reached into my back pocket to pull it out to turn the sound down and as I pulled it in front of me, immediately lost hold of my phone. It bounced on my hand as I tried to reestablish my grip and went flying a few feet.

I will not say what it hit. But there were lots of apologies on my part. And a bit of reflection.

My students are 9 and 10. They don't always do things on purpose. And I need to remember that more.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Imitating the Teacher

I wear pens in my hair. And pencils. As a teacher who can't wear pants with proper pockets (mostly due to fashion than anything else) this is the most logical and handy place to put them.

Sometimes I don't realize the unintended consequence of this. Blobfish Lover, for example put all her markers in her braid one day and I didn't realize that she was doing this because of me until long after I'd told her to take them out. (I think my principal was visiting that day. Paying attention to a lot of things was hard.)

Another student shoved all her colored pencils through her headband for crazy hair day. (It was one of those crocheted headbands with lots of natural holes. It was fine.)

When we switched for science one of the boys in the other class kept putting a pencil on his head. His hair is barely long enough to comb let enough hold a pencil. Somehow he managed to balance it between his short hairs and head and walked slowly so that it wouldn't fall out.

"Isaiah, what are you doing?" I asked him when he came up to the front of the room to do something. "Take that off of your head."

"Awww. I was trying to be like you."

Oh. Of course he was. I smiled. Then I laughed. I guess I shouldn't laugh when students say and do things like that. I did anyway.

Someone once told me that if I ever asked my students to do an impression of me, that they'd be able to do it really, really well, glaring flaws and all. It makes me wonder what things I need to do better or which things they are picking up on that I really need to do differently.

Friday, March 3, 2017

I don't Mind

"Hey, Miss Maddox!"

"Yes, Alberto?"

Something mumbled in response that I can't hear because my ears have been plugged up for two weeks. He immediately goes back to reading to his buddy.

We're in kindergarten today. We always are on Fridays. For 20 minutes my students read a book to a kindergartner. Sometimes two kindergartners. (I only have 19 students and 2 are always lunch working. There are 22 kindergartners when they all show up. You do the math.)

"I'm sorry, Alberto. What?"

He looks up brightly, "What, Miss Maddox?"

I was also talking to the student teacher. I had to end my conversation in order to concentrate enough on him that I can hear him, even with my plugged up ears. I'll probably end up reading his lips.

"What did you just say?"

He concentrates for a moment, "Oh. HI!"

Mentally I facepalm. That's what he wanted to say?

"Hello, Alberto. Keep reading."

He smiles with his whole face and turns back to the kindergartner beside him to keep reading. He has a beautiful smile and uses it often. He is a student I can always count on to be cheerful.

Mentally I'm shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and almost laughing. Apparently, children will interrupt what they are doing (which is important) just to tell you, "Hi," because they've noticed that you are sitting near them and they want you to acknowledge their presence.

But I don't mind it. Really I don't.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Magic Mirror

I pulled out my magic mirror the other day. Thrice. Once for Blobfish Lover and once each for two boys who forgot how to behave. We looked into it for a while. I did the talking and they listened. 

My magic mirror only get pulled out on special occasions. Occasions like yesterday when Tania had given me 30 dollars after complaining 6 times in a row and then I remembered I don't think she likes herself. That however is not today's story. The story today is of my magic mirror.

My mom gave me the magic mirror this last summer before school started. It's my first year of teaching and she knew I'd need help. I wasn't planning on showing it to all of my students. I was planning on showing it to the ones that needed a magic mirror. 

At first I only showed it to a couple of my students and its magic seemed to work. 

And then snack happened on a Tuesday or Thursday because that's the day we have our snack and they gave us red and green apples. You know, the kind that remind you of the fairytale and so instead of my regular read aloud (Harry Potter) I picked up my collection of Grimms' fairytales with the true story of Snow white. 

In the true story of Snow White the wicked stepmother has the magic mirror she looks into and it always tells her the truth. To my students I found myself saying, "Did you know I have a magic mirror? I have a magic mirror it tells the truth. It tells you--it shows you who you really are."

My students are 4th graders. by the time you're in fourth grade you're starting to figure out there's no such thing as magic especially when you come from their homes. They knew and I know they know there is no such thing as magic but I showed them my magic mirror anyway. It's small enough to hold in your hands and it has a fancy cracked paint old frame. 

They each took a turn looking in it and then I put it away.

Today I got it out again. 

Blobfish Lover needed a reminder of who she was and that she could listen to her teacher and then understand how to do fractions. I'm not sure how well it worked, but she said she tried harder to understand fractions when the sub was there for math.

The two boys who needed to look into it are only in my class for small groups. For some reason (possibly that I was filming that lesson for EdTPA) they could not listen, pay attention, or follow directions. They both got their markers and whiteboards taken away and couldn't really participate in the rest of the lesson.

By the time small groups were over they had earned the markers and whiteboards back but I knew I needed to do something if I wanted them to be better next time we do small groups.

So I showed them the mirror.

"Did you know I have a magic mirror?" I asked them. They looked at me quizzically.

"Yeah? It's that," N pointed to my closet, "hanging up." He's loquacious. The other boy agreed. They'd both seen it before.

"Oh, no," I said. Mine isn't hanging up. That was from the teacher who had my classroom last year. I pulled it out and showed it to them. 

"This mirror shows you who you really are," I told them. "What do you see?" They looked for a moment.

"Do you know what I see?" I told them individually. "I see a little boy who is handsome on the inside as well as on the outside. I see a boy with ears so he can listen. I see two eyes that can read instructions and pay attention. I see a mouth that speaks only kind things. Mr. N," or Mr. L, depending on the student I was talking to, "Can you be that person? Can you be the person who listens and who is good?" They both nodded. They both said yes. They both went back to class.

Two days ago we had small groups again. In the middle of their partner reading I paused to pay attention to them. They were reading aloud, but quietly, like I'd asked. When they had arrived for small groups they sat down quickly. They pulled out their reading tools (3-prong folder with page protector) and immediately began reading the limerick we've been using to practice fluency.

I smiled to myself.

Did the magic work? Are you hoping the magic works?

Of course it worked. Magic always works.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Of Course She Did

I have a student who is obsessed with, wait for it, blobfish. Yes, you read that right. And while I am going to change her name, I didn't change the obsession to something less identifying like shrimp or clownfish or something girls are normally obsessed with like unicorns (which she is also obsessed with along with the poop emoji).

For those of you completely unfamiliar with blobfish, they are a deep-sea dwelling pink fish that looks like, you guessed it, a blob. With a nose that droops over it's frowning mouth and beady eyes it doesn't have any muscles. (Also it's poisonous. Don't eat it.) Quite frankly, it was voted the worlds ugliest animal.

She thinks they are adorable.

The day before Christmas vacation she got a letter from Santa in response to her persuasive essay on why he should hire her as his decorator elf. The letter was lovely. It extolled her virtues and complimented her on applying for the job. It ended with a post script, several actually. Post script #2 (or P.P.S) said, "Mrs. Claus found a blobfish and thought it was so adorable she named it after you."

She screamed.

In class.


Actually, I was waiting for the scream. Santa's letter workshop was in my parents' kitchen and I had read all the letters before the elves delivered them the next day. It was still loud.

She's been obsessed with them before the school year began. A few weeks ago she painted a blobfish picture and leaned it next to my whiteboard. I moved it and listened to her complaints until she spotted it in a less noticeable corner.

Apparently, that gave her permission to make more blobfish pictures. Well, it may have been that I had a substitute a week or so later. And she had art that day. The art teacher is cool. She gives them projects and then lets them work on what they want.

In the case of my student who has an amazing name that I'm not going to put here, blobfish drawings was what she wanted to do.

From what I can gather, she made at least 2 blobfish drawings in art class and another with my scratch paper back in class. And at some point during the day, I'm not sure when, but probably before lunch, she taped them to my walls.

Okay, fine. She taped one to the cupboards, one on Larry the U.S. Dragon (named by my students, he has a handcart and is almost as tall as my room, not including his tail), and taped the third (the one drawn on my scratch paper) to my corner reading castle.

I gave an exasperated sigh when I saw the first one. The sub let her do that? Then I saw the second one. On my dragon. That I had painted. And the tape would probably take the paint off.

I bolted across my room to carefully peel the tape off. I was lucky my students weren't there. If they were they'd have said, "No, Miss Maddox! You'll hurt your leg!" Which is what happened the first time I ran in my classroom.

I digress.

I took the blobfish picture down, folded it gently and put it in her mail bin. I did the same with the one on my cupboard. After another quick sweep of my classroom to make sure there weren't anymore on my walls, I sat back down to my computer and got to work.

I don't know why it took me so long to spot the third one when I knew full well there would be a third one. But to be fair, it was on smaller paper, on the side of my castle, hidden behind a bookend.

Of course she would put a blob fish on my castle. Of course she would. It too went in her bin.

A few days later we got a flyer for the upcoming book fair. It had a picture of books and other fun things they were going to sell and a note saying the dates and times the students could go. I glanced through it, but failed to notice the one thing that would elicit a squeal from a student and a mad dash over to Blobfish Lover.

"Look! There's a blobfish book!"

I had the friend go sit down. "We don't run in class," I reminded her. "You can look at that later. When the bell rings."

I forgot to look at it later. She did not.

Pink is for Blobfish written by Jess Keating.

She bought it.

Of course she did.