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Posted by on in General

One afternoon, a week before the end of the past school year, I was washing my hands at the classroom sink.  When I was finished, I turned to walk to my desk.  Instead, I slipped on a pile of student backpacks left sprawled about on the floor and soon found myself sprawled out next to them.  

I tried to play off the pain that was shooting from my right hand to my elbow and all the way up to my shoulder.  It was bad enough that my ego was bruised and on display for thirty seventh graders to see.  I really didn’t want to admit any other bruising that may be emerging as well. 

Workman’s compensation papers completed, I headed to the assigned clinic where I was quickly examined and then prescribed several sessions of physical therapy.

A few days later, I arrived for my first session.  The therapist walked into the lobby and called my name.  He asked, “Do you remember me?”

I am embarrassed to admit: I remembered his face, but my brain could not quickly supply his name.  It turns out that my physical therapist, Dr. Brandon Olson, was once a student in my fifth-grade class – twenty-four years ago!  Ten-year-olds grow up!  They change!

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Posted by on in General

The final day of another school year has quickly come and gone, and summer vacation is but a few hours old.  The desks have been cleaned and stacked.  The books have been packed away in cupboards.  Student work has been taken down and handed back to kids to either take home or add to the recycling bin already bulging outside our classroom door.

And the kids have all left the building in search of many exciting adventures far removed from school.

This final day of school lasted just four hours.  Some of the kids did not even attend.  I anticipated a morning filled with noise and unruly, reckless behavior.  But, for the most part, there was no commotion.  Our students sat on the floor and played Uno and Connect Four.  Others listened to music on their phones.  Some signed yearbooks.  Some simply talked and laughed.

I have learned to sit back and observe, to listen, to learn.

All of my check-out items had been completed earlier in the week.  There really was not much else for me to do.  So I listened. 

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Posted by on in School Culture

Kids will not work for you unless they trust you.  If they trust you, they will enjoy being in your presence.  The longer they are in your presence, the easier it will be to form lasting, productive relationships.  And the more genuine relationships you have in your school, the more positive your school climate will be.

Building relationships with your students takes time.  The process takes a lot of conscious effort.  It involves a million little conversations and compliments and moments of caring and concern and celebration.  It includes laughter and sometimes disappointment and a few tears as well.  

I spend my entire day talking to kids – in the classroom, in the hallway, on the way to and from specials and lunch and recess and assemblies, in the cafeteria, and at the front of the school as they are leaving for home.  I believe that all of those mini-conversations make a difference in making kids feel as though they are noticed, as though they are appreciated, as though they are loved.

This morning, as I took a short break from testing, I headed to the office for the restroom and then to check my mail.  I heard my name called and turned around to see Ivan leaving his testing situation in the library.  

“Mr. Ramsey!” the boy called.  “Where are you going?”

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Posted by on in General

Today, the first day after the state writing test, was a day of decompressing, reflecting, and celebrating.  I began each class with my assessment of how I thought the day had gone.

“I’m not allowed to read your work,” I explained.  “None of us are.  But all of your teachers spent the entire day circulating through our classrooms and making sure that all of you were on task.  Let me tell you, our feet are tired.”

I paused for a moment and then continued, “I was so impressed that you listened to me and that you all filled those giant four-squares to the max!  Hallelujah!  We all were impressed.  Truthfully, none of us have ever seen kids spend so much time planning, writing, and revising a rough draft!  There is simply no way your scores can be low!  I am so proud of you!”

Marni raised her hand.  “Mr. Ramsey, you turned some really awful writers into great writers!”

“Thank you,” I replied.  “But you all were already good writers.  That little seed of creativity was buried inside of you.  It just needed a little attention and time.”

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Posted by on in General

 26 standardized full

The first day of this year's state testing is tomorrow. I know I shouldn't be nervous, especially after being a teacher all these years, but I am. Our first test is writing and, of course, the weight of the first assessment is on my shoulders since I am the writing teacher. 

I've worked hard to teach my seventh graders, and I know they have worked hard also (well, most of them). I love reading their work and really can see a big difference from when they were with me in fifth grade. Two years with me - I hope I've done them justice.

Today was my last day to practice with them, and I tried to review every possible thing I could. I reviewed the state writing rubric (for the 100th time), and I reminded the kids that I've been using it all year long to grade their work. I talked about playing the game right and how to get the most points possible. 

Sal sighed and said, "Mr. Ramsey, I'm really nervous. I'll try to do my best."

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