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Posted by on in General

After more than three decades of working with kids from kindergarten to high school age,  I have witnessed many a behavioral outburst.  Occasionally, these incidents have been explosive, with a student striking out vocally and/or physically at his teacher or one of his peers in some attempt to openly rebel and assert his individual power.  These types of outbursts can potentially cause more harm to the well-being of others than to the angry child himself.    

A second type of meltdown is implosive in nature.  The most vulnerable in these situations is the child himself.  Feelings of depression, rejection, humiliation and hopelessness can lead a child to retreat into his own mind and melt from within.   

Sometimes you face kids who are imploding and exploding at the same time.

I was just about to get in my car and head to my weekly administrator's meeting, when my cell phone started ringing.  I balanced my pile of data in one arm and clicked the phone's green "accept" button with my free hand.  "Yes?" I hollered. 

"Mr. Ramsey," our school secretary, Valerie, began, "Mrs. Larrabee needs you by the eighth grade boys' restroom.  She says Louie is pounding his head on the sidewalk and screaming." 

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Posted by on in General

Teaching writing to seventh graders is often quite tedious.  Most of the kids really don’t want to write and, if they do, they don’t want to go through the arduous process of revising, editing and re-writing. 

Still I love what I do…most days.  This year, I am really enjoying using our new software that allows me to monitor, from my screen, what every student is doing on his/her screen.  What is really cool, is that I can enter any student’s essay at any time from my desk and offer suggestions to keep the writing going.  It takes a bit of managing as all 35 kids in a class want their work read immediately and all at the same time.  But I am getting there… 

Today, my students began writing their rough drafts of their creative stories inspired by the painting, “The Scream.”  Many started raising their hands only minutes after the assignment was given.

“No,” I announced, “today you are going to work by yourself for the first fifteen minutes without my help.  Have faith in your writing.  When the time is up I will help one person at a time.  Remember that you have your seat partners to read and revise with you.” 

Nick immediately came to my desk.  I looked at this quirky kid and repeated my directions.  “Fifteen minutes, Nick.  It’s only been fifteen seconds.” 

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Posted by on in General

Building relationships with kids takes time and commitment on both sides of the equation.  A solid connection can be encouraged or fortified by a grand event – an open house evening, a “Donuts for Dad” or “Muffins for Mom” celebration, or a campus carnival – but such an event alone cannot create long and meaningful relationships.  The daily interactions of teachers with their students, with ongoing discourse between the two, is the only thing that I have found to be most effective in developing and nurturing lasting connections. 

Sometimes you just have to listen to each other’s stories of pain and sadness, joy and gladness, and everything in-between. 

By the end of the first month of school, I know quite a bit about a child’s life just from the continuous conversation he/she and I have had.  Tiny bits of information from numerous simple conversations while lining up, while turning in papers, while waiting for lunch, while passing each other on the sidewalk at the end of the day all help to bring us closer together. 

All of that dialogue has informed me of the child’s family situation – parents together or separated, number of brothers and sisters, favorite subject in school, type of pets, names of school friends, fears and worries at home and at school.  

I know each student’s favorite type of music, favorite football team, favorite color, favorite candy, favorite brand of shoe.  I know a little bit about each child’s interests and each child’s goal for the future.  All of these seemingly trivial pieces of information help me to carry on more conversations with each child and help me to further forge the bond between me and them. 

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Posted by on in General

 Our country truly needs to re-examine the way it views education. 

A boy in my homeroom class was packing up at the end of the day. He walked up to me and asked quite bluntly, in pure seventh grade manner, "Mr. Ramsey, was your father ashamed of you for becoming a teacher?" 

I was truly taken aback and hurt a bit by this question. But, in true seventh grade teacher manner, I remained calm and asked, "Why would you even think that?" 

"Well, like he was in the Marines..." 

"Air Force," I corrected. "So?" 

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Tagged in: teacher

Posted by on in General

At school, we have a new program that allows teachers to monitor students as they work online.  One cool feature allows us to simply shut down a student if he is not on the assigned site for the day.  It is fun watching their reactions to being instantly blocked.

Another great feature allows me to go directly into the document that a student is creating and to join the student in the writing process.  I can add feedback, and I can also help guide a student’s writing in real time.

“Joaquin” is one of my best writers.  I’ve known that since he was a little kid in my fifth grade class.  One of his stories that year was about having a superpower.  The boy wrote about being able to capture all the terrorists in the world and then making them all work at McDonald’s.  After a few days of working the fryer, they all surrender and promise to go home.  Joaquin, the superhero, is celebrated as his neighbors throw a party with ponies and pinatas

Much to the boy’s dismay, I think I shared that story with every teacher at the school.  At the start of this year, I asked him if I could read his story to the class.

He looked at me in disbelief.  “No!” he squeaked.  “You still have it?”

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