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Posted by on in General

 principals office

Stocky kindergartener Leonard was sent to my office on the fourth day of school for hitting another little boy and for refusing to do his work. He was to return several more times that first month of school for similar transgressions. Visits with his mother were somewhat encouraging - and behavior problems subsided - but only temporarily. Before long, the little boy was back in the office lobby waiting for the assistant principal to intervene again.

Free-spirited eighth grader Tony was also a frequent flyer for similar reasons. Couldn't work quietly. Wouldn't keep his hands to himself. Disrupted and distracted in every one of his classes. Tony was a likeable kid - a little goofy, but relatively harmless. After the first month of school, I was a little tired of his presence in my office.

One afternoon, both boys found themselves sitting in my office at the same time. Tony had been sailing paper airplanes across his math classroom. Leonard had been urinating on the outside wall of the kindergarten building. "I told the playground aide I had to go to the bathroom," he explained, "and she said, 'Then just go,' so I did!"        

Tony raised his right hand and little Leonard high-fived him. Too tired to reprimand the older boy, I turned my attention to the kindergartener and asked, "After you went, did you wash your hands?"

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Posted by on in General

race car

Valerie stood in my doorway and quietly tapped. "Here's the file you asked for, Mr. Ramsey," she said. "New boy, Gonzalo Pomelo, eighth grade, Mrs. Duarte's homeroom."

I took the file and thanked my secretary. As I opened to the first page, she added, "By the way, he's here in the lobby waiting to see you."

"Really?" I sighed, slapping my forehead. "He just started this morning!"   Valerie quietly waited for me to tell her what to do with the child waiting for discipline. I exhaled. "Give me a sec," I uttered finally. "I just want to take a look at Mr. Pomelo's file. I'll come get him in a minute."

Quickly, I scanned the first few pages before me. Eighth grade. Last attended school in New Mexico. Parents divorced. Dad given full custody. Son sent to Arizona to live with grandparents temporarily until Dad could sell the Albuquerque home.

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Posted by on in General

teacher

Throughout my career, I've been asked numerous times, "Why do you teach?" This question is usually followed by one or more comments along the lines of observations of poor pay, crowded classrooms, lack of motivation on the part of students, lack of involvement on the part of parents, and lack of understanding on the part of those who craft school curriculum and policy.

Yes, all of these things exist. They've existed since I started teaching in the early 1980s. I'm sure they existed long before then as well. So with all of that baggage tumbling to the front of my classroom on a daily basis, why do I continue teaching? Why does anyone?

Why do I teach? Because all of those barriers don't matter to me as much as do the living human beings sitting before me. I can deal with all of the junk thrown my way. If necessary, I can dump it out on the sidewalk, close the door and devote my time to reaching the minds and hearts of the youngsters with whom I've been entrusted.

Teaching is so much more than the scattering of information upon youthful heads with the hope that spring assessment scores will be high. Teaching is about strengthening a child's heart as much as his head so that he will be able to function as a compassionate family member, as an empathetic community member, as a visionary architect of his world's future. It is one thing to prepare the minds of students with the information to meet these challenges. It is quite another thing to fortify the hearts of these students to allow them to actually put all the pieces together in a caring, meaningful manner.

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Posted by on in General

fresh start

The side door to the administration building swung open. I could not see this from my little office within, but I certainly heard the shouting of the eighth grader whose angry hand had nearly wrenched it from its hinges. "I hate her! I hate her! I can't stand this place! I hate this school!"

The lobby was filled with parents, most of whom had just returned from a field trip to the zoo with their first graders. The weary moms and dads were now seeking a cool, yet temporary, respite from the Arizona heat before heading home for a few silent hours sans children. Each looked to the door and then to me anticipating how this situation might play out. I was already on my feet having just excused myself from a phone call with another child's parent.

Freddy reached the front desk as I reached my door. He flung his referral at the secretary and continued to scream. "I didn't do nothing! I hate that teacher! I hate this school."

Ever-calm Valerie, spoke quietly in an attempt to calm the boy down. "Okay, Freddy. You are in the office now. I know you are angry, but please don't take it out on me. Why don't you have a seat at the front table and cool down for a minute?"

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Posted by on in General

                                                                                                                                                                                                  b2ap3_thumbnail_Antonio-letter-2.jpg

There is an old saying among teachers that the students we teach are only in our classrooms a year but in our hearts forever. I've learned over and over again the truth in that adage.

"Rico" was a cute little boy in kindergarten during my last stint as an assistant principal. He always made it a point to run up and give me a hug throughout his early years. He became a fifth grader the year following my retirement and my return to the classroom at the same school. I was fortunate to have him as one of my students for that year. He was taller, yet that innocent little boy remained. A witty child, yet sensitive and compassionate, he overflowed with joy. And yes, he still gave me a hug every day.

At the end of his sixth-grade year, I announced to the school that I would be leaving due to staff reductions. Rico was not happy at all with this news, and he let me know his feelings several times during the last month of the school year. One day during the last few weeks, while I stood at my spot for afternoon duty, Rico stopped and tried to persuade me to stay.

"I don't really want to leave, Rico," I sighed.

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