Before I Forget: Restorative Practices Anecdote

[Warning: this post contains profanity]

So some time in early May, a girl created a Kik account for me. Kik is basically an instant messaging app that kids have on their phones.  Many kids don’t have text so they use kik.  News spread but lots of kids were reluctant to add a teacher. Totally uncool, I understand.

Also, I’m a bit apprehensive about getting too accessible and friendly online because I don’t want to ever get caught up in some scandal AND I don’t want kids to think that it’s okay for their teachers to be all up in their social media biz (because there’s always that one creepy teacher that we all read about in the news…).

So, my rule of thumb was kids could add me, but if it wasn’t related to homework, I wouldn’t answer.

The other night I was invited into a group chat and well, you can look below.

The group is called “FBGM”, and being unfamiliar with how Kik works, I just assumed it was someone’s username.

Screenshot_2015-06-08-20-02-53

And wow, that sucked because this was a group of boys that I think highly about. I quickly took a screenshot and removed myself from the group mainly because I didn’t want them to incriminate themselves further (although in retrospect, I should’ve stayed on just in case they denied this happened).

I then emailed some leadership about what to do.  As I emailed, I felt embarrassed because I’d been told offhandedly by someone in that email group that “Kik causes drama”, and I’d breezily responded with, “Oh, it’s just for homework.”  I mentally berated myself for opening myself up to this because the kids probably say these kinds of things all the time but I just had to have witnessed it.

I know the blame is misplaced, but I just wished I hadn’t seen him make a bad decision.  I called his home right away and said that I’d like a conversation the next day with a parent.

Well, the end of the year is happening and there aren’t many times for breaks.  He showed up for class, and I was surprised because I thought he was going to be pulled until we have a conversation. I tried to keep things normal because honestly, I didn’t actually care that much.   I’m pretty sure kids say things like this to look cool and if the kid actually thought it was me, he wouldn’t have said it.

Finally at lunch, he, an administrator, and I had a conversation.  This is what I love.  Because the kid is used to this sort of protocol, he was able to open up right away.  He expressed his guilt, his sorriness, and how he just “didn’t know it was me.”  I and the principal sort of pressed upon him the fact that the hurt comes from the words themselves too and the principal asked him “How do you think it makes Ms. Kim feel?”

He responded with, “She probably lost respect for me and doesn’t trust me anymore.  She’s probably hurt because it was a bad thing to say, and I feel bad too. I know I messed up and I don’t know if she can respect me anymore.”

The principal then said, “Why don’t you ask her?”

and he said, “I don’t want to ask her. I don’t want to know.”  Then there was some silence, and she discussed ways to restore our relationship.  She then left us to continue to talk it out.

“Ms. Kim, I just knew I messed up. I woke up at like 2, and I couldn’t sleep, because I was sorry, and I knew I messed up.”

I stopped myself from quickly saying, “Oh don’t worry, it was a mistake.” and instead I allowed myself to say that I had been hurt.  I don’t actually know how hurt I was, because I think as a middle school teacher, you just have to grow thicker skin.  You can’t let things like this hurt you because not every kid will respond like this kid was.  So, it wasn’t until I said, “You know, I try really hard with you guys, and I felt like you and I had a good relationship,” that I sniffled a bit.  I bet I could’ve held that back.. but ya know, sometimes a kid has to see that he can inflict pain.

We agreed that he would help me pack after school, and today I was a little irked because I had to go remind him rather than he coming up to my room right away.

But I think things are okay because some kids later came into ask why he was here, “For service” and one guy began laughing saying, “dude, he was all..” and was about to share the story, but my kid hushed him quietly and kept doing his piece.

And that helped pull things together for me.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, things suck, but things always pull up. I want to keep loving them as much as I can.  I’m going to be a mess tomorrow.

It was only one year with my ASCEND kids versus the two with the kids from OCA.  Yet I feel like we just had more … heartstring action. I’m thankful for an environment that lets me connect in healthy, whole relationships.  If you don’t have this at your school, I don’t know how you can continue to teach (unless kids are docile and there’s a lot of moolah!).

End of the Year Junk Awards

So, one thing I’ve *always* wanted to do but never had the chance to do (until now and our lovely end of the year schedule where I have a week of half-days), were end-of-the-year gag gifts.

I love puns, and as a Humanities teacher, I feel that it’s only appropriate to have fun with these.

Last night I scoured the internet for ideas but maybe due to a lack of the right search terms, I found a few usables, but then kept finding funny certificates but no actual item-gifts.

I made sure to keep them gentle and lighthearted, and to save you the grief of looking them up on your own, here’s my list I compiled (guffawing to myself).  Most of these I’m using. Some of them I’m not.

  • highlighter – for the highlight of my day
  • lemon – turning lemons into lemonade (always cheerful)
  • egg – eggstreme (could be anything from eggcellence to just any other extreme)
  • teddy grahams – warm nature
  • donut – “I donut know what I’d do without you.”
  • spatula – always flipping out
  • rubber band – always bouncing back
  • ruler – boss / rules the class
  • Extra gum – does extra!
  • band aid – always helping
  • nuts – drives me crazy
  • glove – lending a hand
  • kit kat – for the kid that works super hard but maybe never gets the BREAK s/he deserves
  • sock – puts best foot forward
  • cinnamon – putting spice into life
  • candle – a deLight to teach
  • chips – always willing to CHIP into discussions
  • plant/flower – lots of growth!
  • fan – I am a fan!
  • mint – a breath of fresh air (ideas)
  • banana – drives me bananas
  • chili pepper – being so calm and chill
  • mushroom – an all around “fun guy”
  • box – thinks outside of it
  • cheese/corn – corny/cheesy
  • mustache – always “mustache” a question
  • star or orbit gum – spacey space cadet kid
  • puzzle piece – still cannot figure this person out
  • rose – always rising to the occasion
  • raisin – Raising the roof!
  • lid – For the kid who could never stop talking

Then, as I went shopping, a few more popped into my head.  These, I could never use, but they exist just the same. HAHA.

  • Squirt Soda – for the kid who takes incessant bathroom breaks
  • Turnip – kid that’s always turnt up
  • sock – for never putting a sock in it
  • lid – to help put a lid on it
  • splinter – splinter in my side
  • Ketchup – always behind
  • Hanger – always hanging around
  • Leaf – will never leave!
  • Sunglasses – always in the dark.

IMG_20150610_241013326 IMG_20150610_240916500 IMG_20150610_240937039  IMG_20150610_240955019

A speech I want to give tomorrow..

Well, maybe not a speech, but just a…

Hey guys, I just want to ask the class for forgiveness for losing my temper yesterday.  It was wrong. It’s just that you guys are doing really great, advanced work but instead of seeing it through, you prefer to stop and play. These reflection parts are also important because this is how you SHOW what you know and did!  It’s just really hard for me to see that, but I know that doesn’t excuse my outburst yesterday.

You know what though? I get sarcastic quickly.  I raise my voice quickly. And it’s something that I really think I learned at my first US charter school. I don’t remember yelling or being angry in my tone when I began.  It makes me sad that I didn’t notice the bite in my words until I lashed out today at a few kids and didn’t realize that my assistant principal (who is the most sunshiney, kind, understanding soul in the world!) was in the room.  I blushed right away but blustered on acting as if it was fine.

It stinks that it wasn’t until someone else truly saw my colors that I felt remorse. I wish that my conscience had kicked in sooner and that this wasn’t so normal for me.

Something to sit in for a while..

CSET Series: Math III and OpenCourseWare

I have a personal problem where when something difficult peers over my life’s horizon, I go into denial and procrastination mode.

Leetle by leetle, I’m doing better… mainly because honestly? It makes my God happy when I try my best.

Last month, I spent one week feverishly cramming for the first of three math CSET exams (In CA, you need to take 3 subtests to earn a math teaching credential… although I don’t know why I have to get one since my multiple subject cred technically covers up through 8th grade and I doubt any 8th grader will be learning calculus no matter what’s in Common Core…).

I felt pretty despondent about it because I honestly knew very little.  No, I’m not being modest. At one point I wrote in the free response section, “Hello, I plan to teach in urban Oakland where there are very little qualified math teachers.  As you can see, I’m a creative problem solver and I am great at explaining my thinking. Please be gentle.”  Or something along those lines – basically appealing to their pathos.

Now in two weeks, I have the third subtest (CSET III for trig and calc).  Two days after, I’ll have the second subtest.  I just don’t have time to do them any time else.. although now that I think about it, if I don’t pass, I might as well have just scheduled these for later.  (20/20 hindsight).

To add to all this unmotivation is the fact that trigonometry kicked my BUTT in high school and although I loved calc, I can’t say I really remember any of it.  (Truly, a 5 on an AP Calc exam doesn’t really work 10 years later..).

BuuUUuuUUuuut…just now, I figured out the cosine of 5pi/4 by drawing a picture .. so now I feel a leeeetle better about my prospects.

I’m using Khan Academy, Barron’s AP Calc book and UCI’s Open Courseware to prep math teachers for the CSETs.  I’ll let you know which worked out the best for me later.

If you know of any other resources, let me know!

Example diagnostic problem from UCI's OCW CSET Test prep!

Example diagnostic problem from UCI’s OCW CSET Test prep!

Disheartened

Voice and choice.

Voice and choice.

That’s what everyone outside of the classroom is talking about. Students need more voice and choice. Voice and choice feeds into high interest which in turn fosters student learning.

After a year of being inspired, prodded, guided, and pointed in this direction, I have a few thoughts.. especially after a particularly dispiriting day.

1) If kids don’t have basics by a certain age (aka fluent reading skills), that should be a time where heavy interventions happen WITHOUT voice/choice. Choices should be made FOR them until they demonstrate the skills to be able to utilize their voice/choice.

2) If classrooms are expected to allow more voice/choice in ways that are systems-driven (without teacher input), people implementing those systems should expect to support teachers in the classroom.  Basically, if there’s a high-needs student in my class, rather than offering me suggestions based on theory rather than practice, come INTO my classroom and COACH this kid or COACH ME in helping this kid.  It’s not support or help if every time I send a kid for help (after trying a bunch of things and detailing out the events to you demonstrating that I gave plenty of chances and opportunities), you message to the child that they need to “ask for more breaks”, and tell all the teachers to help students “better exercise their choices”, then umm, YOU do it.

3) 21st century learners need academic skills first. ’nuff said.  If not that, then humility, teachability, and perseverance.  If not that, then we need more people to support the teacher.  Otherwise, what message are we sending to the kids?  As long as you’re not behaviorally disruptive, you’re fine?  Just cancel homework?  I have kids who get their ish done despite coming from dysfunctional homes.  Our homework is NOT hard.  All the kids do after school is play on their stupid phones.  What the heck. If they don’t know how to wisely use phones, why give them “voice/choice” over them?  If YOU’RE not willing to coach them on proper use, then don’t make others provide it.  Or if you just want to give them voice/choice, then fine. But in the end, again, what do we care about?

A Day in the life of a teacher on her day back from Spring Break

12:55 AM – Reluctantly go to bed after admitting that I can’t put off school by staying up late.

Have weird dreams throughout the night that I’m administering the CAASPP test. See IS and KA and feel happy to see them.

6:25 AM – Stumble out of bed and put on the same outfit as I wore to church the day before.  Blearily ask roommate to make extra coffee.

6:50 AM – Leave for school.

7:02 AM – Grumble inwardly that the side entrance isn’t open.. drive around the school to get to the other entrance.

7:04 AM – grab the crickets to feed the class pet, papers to return, and coffee and stumble into school.  See kids, but don’t say hi.

7:05 AM – Feed the cricket!

7:07 AM – Organize books for lit circles. Realize belatedly that there aren’t enough copies of two of the books after scouring the library and the closets.

7:20 AM – shoot out a desperate email asking if anyone has copies of Slam or Gathering Blue

7:25 AM – Realize belatedly that it’s standardized testing today and all the posters are still up.  Scramble to start covering up any posters with words and pull down student work.

7:25 AM – give up. Begin fiddling with the iPad to see if I can administer the test through the iPad.  Can’t.

7:35 AM – look at the testing schedule and realize your prep comes AFTER you see your first class.  Scramble to start printing out materials and prepping.  It’s also not a good time to realize that during spring break you spent so much time LT planning that you actually have nothing concrete for the first day.

8:10 AM – print out a Japan geography lesson, lit circle deliverables.. and realize your toner is low and the office still hasn’t ordered any extra.

8:12 AM – make copies.  Munch on a vegan blueberry muffin from Acme … all the good pastries got taken first and now there’s only bran and gluten-free options left

8:25 AM – Wait at the door. Enthusiastically greet kids.  I feel strangely ready since I DREAMT that I taught already!

8:30 AM – get into hectic-ity ASAP.  “Teaching” is a blur.  Happiness to see them turns stressful fast.  Immediately regretting not having planned this day better.

9:15 AM – Made a girl cry because she just got back from what I assumed was a long vacation but in actuality was an emergency death in the family.  She thought I was being mean, when really, I just felt extremely harried.  Am told all this by the kindly science teacher… who tactfully asks, “Did you have a rough break?”  I didn’t… so I feel worse that there’s no excuse for my grumpy combativeness to her suggestions of fixing things with the sad student soon.

9:25 AM – Try to figure out the rest of the plans for the extended class that I’m getting.  Getting ready because essentially, I’ll be with them from 10:15-3:30. Yeesh.  Do some other stuff – I don’t really remember what.

10:10 AM – It’s showtime!  Principal comes in to help administer.  Kids come in.  We start getting ready and the internet goes bonkers with 50 kids trying to access the secure testing site.

10:20 AM –  I realize I don’t know how to find the session code.

10:25 AM – Thankfully, I figure it out before the principal has to show me.

10:35 AM – all kids are “approved” and testing.  Unlike my testing experiences where I just tested and the teacher sat and graded, I take walks around the classroom, nonverbally reassuring kids with a touch on the shoulder or smiling when I catch a kid’s eye.

11:05 AM – I see a piece of wire from a mauled pen on AM’s desk. I pick it up to throw it away and start fiddling with it.  “It made me bleed,” AM warns.  I just shrug and right then, prick my finger pretty hard.  He muffles a laugh.  I put my finger in my thumb.  I throw away the wire.  I hope he has no diseases that can be transmitted through blood.  I suck on my thumb to suck out the poison.  I walk around the room with my thumb in my mouth. I feel stupid.

11:35 AM – testing fatigue / complacency is kicking in.  Some kids are on question 6 out of 44.  Principal warns students that they will have stay in through lunch to finish since we have another test tomorrow.  “Shaking your head’s not going to make it better.”  Students buckle down.  Begin eating my sweet potato because it looks like I won’t be getting a lunch break.

12:10 PM – Suddenly, half the kids who were super lagging are done already.  I know that they’ve thrown the test.  My heart sinks a bit but I also feel annoyed that these tests are so long.  Yet I also know that the kids in Palo Alto will probably joke about it and feel like testing week is super relaxing.

12:15 PM – Excuse some students to lunch.  Have others go down to get lunch and come upstairs.  Impressed by the perseverance of some.  Depressed by the cluelessness of others.  Kids are antsy now especially as the principal is not here. Also created a new seating chart because these kids kept asking for one.

1:00 PM – Study hall starts and most kids are done.  They don’t have much to do…  I do my best to hold down the fort.

1:30 PM – Send 4 kids down to the office to finish the test.  Begin teaching.  We cover SO much it’s crazy.  I don’t even know how we covered this much… I think it’s because everything was so crappy in the morning that I was able to revamp.  That’s one thing I like about myself – the ability to fix and improvise on the fly.  Changed seats, went over the spring break project, went over Lit circles, began Japanese geography… and a bada bing bang!

3:30 PM – GO HOME GO HOME GO HOME!

3:45 PM – talked with the interim Dean about a student.  (Oh yeah, sent a gal out because she was all grumpy about the seating and then refused to do work and kept saying snarky things about me and smirking. oh 8th grade).

4:00 PM – Went to school-wide planning meeting.  Discussed huge things.  The main theme = we have no money! We’re cutting this! BUUT we’re juggling so that we can keep THIS.  Alas.  public schools.  #Amiright?

5:15 PM – Finish with appreciations and reflections (love this time teehee).

5:20 PM – Go back to my room to clean up and bring some work home.

5:33 PM – Leave school.

5:50 PM – Get home.  Go lie on my bed to start checking emails that people have been referring to all day.

6:15 PM – Notice that it’s 6:15.  Contemplate working out (because feeling tired) or taking a short nap.

Opt for the nap.

8ish PM – Roommate asks if I need to wake up or if I’m going to sleep. I just mumble I’m going to sleep.  She turns off the lights.

1:40 AM – wake up.. get INTO my bed to finish sleeping.

2:22 AM – Wake up – wide awake.  Answer some emails.  Turn on a sermon.  Fall back asleep about 20 minutes into it.  Plan to wake up at 5AM in order to get some work done.

6:50 AM – wake up.  Total fail.  Clip my hair and put on a hairband. It’s going to be one of those days.  And back to school.

I guess you guys got some bonus hours.  But that day was CRAZY.

This WEEK was crazy:

Random thoughts/quotes.

Dreaming about teaching the Japan pre-assessment Tuesday night so that on Wednesday, cranking out the pre-assessment was easy.  (The power of dreams)

Tuesday, I misplaced my keys. Panicked. Had NT and J-Say come help me find them. They found them. They also found my selfie-stick.

Wednesday

– During the talks/requirements of the 8th grade boat dance…

“No, you may not bring anyone outside of ASCEND to the boat dance?”

“What if it’s a chaperone?” – spoken by the one kid.. who I could totally see… it being realistic.  I just about died when he asked this (mainly to himself, but I was in hearing range).

Girls kept remarking on my hair.  “Let me fix that bun.”

Had Storm come help me after school on Wednesday with a few things.  We just kept giggling/laughing together.  Then some girls came in mad because apparently she called someone a B***.  It started to get heated (but stupid) and I mediated really quick.. and it ended really quick.  I told them to cut the drama.  -_-

– Walked out of my classroom blaring, “ALL I DO IS WIN” … because I felt like a winner.

Thursday

– Woke up Thursday morning thinking, “Oh shoot, I have to teach Japan today and I have nothing prepared!”

 Girls asked me, “Ms. Kim? Why’s your forehead so shiny?”  I wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or an insult. :-/

Kids were teasing me about my age..

Kid: “Ms. Kim, how did it feel when they invented fire?”

Kid: “Ms. Kim, what was it like in the Middle Ages?”

Me: “Yeah yeah, I used to ride dinosaurs to school..”

Kid: “What was it like when 9/11 happened.”

Me: “Dude, I was alive then!”

… it’s really nice seeing kids getting INTO their books.  Lit circles are SO COOL.  I just need to remind myself to scaffold scaffold scaffold so that I can release release release!

This is why I teach

letter

“Ms. Kim, you probably feel pissed off when I called the guest teacher sexist because you believe I was rude and shouldn’t have said that.  to be honest, I agree with you, I was out of line.  However, I felt that way, I just felt that word.  I chose to do this because it was just another way of expression.  That word, sexist, was a word I used because I felt like when an instruction was given, I was called out, as well as keven, not because we’re dudes, but also because I just needed to say that word.  I could’ve just perservered and held it in till the end so that no one will get the wrong idea about who I was calling sexist.  Ms. kim, you probably want me to apologize for what I said.  If you really want me to, I can.  but, what I feel whats best is just respect her throughout the time we still have with Cal Shakes because I owe that to her.”

So, context.  We’re having this amazing visiting teacher from Cal Shakes – a Bay Area Shakespeare group.  They’re awesome and this teacher is great at managing. Unfortunately, I saw the same things from the students that they gave me when I came in at the beginning of the year.  A lot of testing, a lot of rudeness… just a lot of sh…enanigans.   Plus, I’ve been dealing with this issue of kids throwing out the word “racist” and “sexist” especially at adults… and I’m sort of like, these are loaded words, and in the sphere of adults, they’re overused.  These issues –sexism and racism– are real, but they lose their clout when people misuse them! Anyway, kids know that I’m sensitive about those words.

Anyway, she’s really great at management and has been calling kids out on it, and so of course, they’re responding with derogatory speech and attitude.  I’ve been having different students reflect, but at this point, it sometimes feels fake.

I read this letter today after school, and I smiled big in my head.  This boy had left my room angry saying, “Why do we always have to check in? I’m never checking in.”  He missed school the next day, but today, he gave me this letter, happier.  I read it, and honestly, to spell it out for all you readers, this is why I teach.  I get to witness the awesomeness that’s inside each kid that I come across.  Sure, there are parts that our school has instilled in them… and maybe even a teensy piece has to do with me.  But really, I didn’t teach him to write THIS.  I didn’t teach him to put these pieces together and follow up with me like this.

Tomorrow, I’m going to tell him I read the letter. I’m going to suggest that apologies still go a really long way, and that he should apologize because as an adult, I know how much it means to me.  And I’m going to leave it at that.  He doesn’t need a standing ovation.  I just hope he continues to grow.

Update 4/3 —

Had a talk with him in the morning.  I was rambly (per usual).  Midspeak, I stopped myself.

“Do you get what I mean?”

“I hear you.”

“Can you speak back what you heard?”

“Hold on, I’m processing.”

“Okay, okay. Well..”

“I’ll do what needs to be done.”

“Okay.”

“kay.”