Tag Archives: school

Paging Mrs. Broccoli!

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I have a new name this year.  A new name…at least with some of my kindergartners. After almost twenty-seven years as Mrs. Rackley, I am now Mrs. Broccoli.

No kidding…

Over the years, I’ve had trouble with students pronouncing my name. We work on it a time or two and that usually does the trick. Not this year and especially not with this one little boy. We’ve practiced. We’ve broken down the word into syllables…RACK-LEE. Still, he can’t get it. He finally told me that he just couldn’t say it and that I was Mrs. Broccoli.

The thing is, he’s heard my name other places so in his little six-year-old brain, Mrs. Broccoli and Mrs. Rackley have become two different people. I’ve tried to explain, to help him, but still no luck.

We’re on the final swoop of the year, working on the last nine weeks, and trying to finish with as much growth and positive energy as we can. Honestly, it’s hard. In some ways, the end of the school year is just as hard as the beginning. It’s just a different kind of hard. People are tired…kids and teachers alike. All of us are struggling from time to time with energy lags, sometimes frustration, but then at other times, amazement at how far the students have come. If your babies at home are seeming a little more tired or maybe a touch grumpy, don’t be alarmed. It’s a real condition from now until the end of May.

Funny’s of the week:

Bright eyed girl, age 5 – “You’re pretty,” she says to me as she looks me up and down. “I look just like you.”

Cool boy, age 8 describing new guitar lessons – “The first day of lessons was the worst day of my whole entire life.”

Bubbly kid, age 6 – “If you’re not Mrs. Broccoli, then who are you? I know you’re her!”

 

You Can’t Say That At School

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A little girl with bouncing, shiny black curls ran towards me in the hall. It was more like a skip but still, in her current condition, she should’ve been walking. Covering her face was a mixture of glee and concern. Her large eyes met mine as she sort of smiled then sort of frowned. “I’m going home,” she said, immediately wanting a hug. “I don’t feel good.”

I hugged her back as I tried not to breathe in her germs and told her to get better soon.

And then this little voice, very twangy and small, chirped from behind me, “Her’s freakin’ sick.”

In a nano-second, I pushed the girl out of my arms to turn to the boy. “What?!”

“Her’s freakin’ sick!”

For a few seconds I could only gape at this child, only five years old and already spunky. Had he really said freakin’? Oh yes, he had. And did I want to address that first or his use of her instead of she?

I ignored the grammar lesson and proceeded to tell him not to use that word at school or at all.

So I thought I’d heard it all for the day. Not so fast. A few hours later, just as I’d wrangled the attention of three antsy little ones, another small voice demanded, “Who farted?”

Once again I gaped at the child (not the same child as before). I then told him not to say fart at school or ever. He proceeded to tell me that somebody did it and it smelled bad. Minutes later, as I’d moved the children on to other topics, the same fellow spat, “I can’t hear myself think!” He then began to chant as he squeezed his ears from top to bottom, open and closed, “It’s okay…it’s okay…peace, peace, breathe, breathe.”

All I could do was stare…that’s about it. Sometimes you just have to follow their advice or go crazy. So I breathed and then I laughed a little – but not in his face.

Y’all…come visit for a day. Come for a week. I promise you’ll smile.

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Jofis (Or Kindergartners are Kwazy!)

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She’s little, maybe comes to my hip. She’s blonde and giddy and very, very expressive. There’s a little speech impediment and a smile big enough to make you laugh for no reason.

“Jofis! Jofis,” she chants until the little boy (really named Joseph) looks at her. “You better be good! You hear me, Jofis?”

In the next nanosecond, she turns to me and exclaims, “Do you know Nancy (name changed to protect the innocent)…she is making me cwazy!”

“Who’s Nancy? Why is she making you crazy?”

“My sister, Mrs. Mawackawee!  And she…you know her?…she’s so mean to me!” She shakes her little blonde head and rolls her bright blue eyes. “She’s my fwiend but she’s so mean!”

These Kindergartners are a hoot. And their teachers are angels on earth. If you don’t believe me, come visit for awhile. I’ve always appreciated how hard they work (and always wondered how and why they stay with it year after year), but now after working with these little ones myself…all I can say is wow. These educators take on things we outsiders can’t even grasp. Tears, fear of toilets, angst and anxiety – and they are expected to take them from sad, I want my mommy little ones to ready to read first graders. My appreciation for these Kindergarten teachers has quadrupled. You guys are rock stars!

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Little Tiny Hands

More Kindergarten quotes…and mind you, these statements come at you like rockets, one after the other, sometimes with no breath in between…bam, bam, bam!

“I like tantelopes.” I say cantelopes. She says, “That’s what I said…tantelopes.”

“I’m a good listener.”  Little princess repeats this four times in a row before I even have a chance to nod. “A really good listener.”

“I might stink – I took a bath last night but I pwayed on the pwayground, so I might stink.”

“The tooth fairy comes to my house in some bubbles…”

“Hello, hello…,” she says to me, “Let me see your clock.” It’s the watch on my arm, and of course, I let her see it.

“Look, look, Gracie…Gracie…why, why, why? I don’t like lemon pie.”

Can’t Never Could

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Where has the time gone??  Six weeks since I last posted. Of course I know where really…it happened when the big change occurred in my life.  When I last posted, I had just gotten a new position at work, and since then, that change has consumed my life (but in a joyful way).

This past week, I finally began to interact with my new students. Being an interventionist, I serve small groups of students at a time, helping with certain skills. So far I love it. I love the one-on-one time…I actually have time to talk to them about the process of learning. Early in the week, I did a welcome-back-to-school activity while we were testing. It was very simple…they had to write the word can and decorate it. The word correlates to the “I can do it” poem I say with students who come my way.

Most of the kids smiled and quickly completed the task but one little boy balked. I told them that in my room we don’t say can’t, only can. He frowned at me, a very confused scowl on his face, and said, “But…but some days you have to say can’t.  Some days you just have to.”

I said, “We’re going to work really hard in here and try not to say can’t.”

“But…,” he shook his head, “No…no.”

This is the same child who within five minutes of meeting him, told me that his mom and dad don’t live together, his brother is being bullied every night, and his sisters are in heaven.

No wonder he knows the word can’t.

Can’t never could…maybe it’s hard to believe that when your home life is in shambles. Maybe it’s hard to believe that you can succeed when everything around you is crumbling. And believe me, he’s not the only child in our building whose home life is far from ideal.

I definitely look at him in a different light now.  Even though I may be expected to treat all students the same, how can you when you catch glimpses of their souls? Each one of them needs something different, something unique. Our job as educators is to figure out what that one thing is.

Can’t never could…I’ll be repeating that statement to myself often next week. I begin working with Kindergarten students…something I haven’t done since my first two years out of college. A part of me is excited, the other is terrified. They’re young, needy, sometimes very emotional, but so stinking cute. Should be interesting!

Love my new space…


 

 

Time For A Change

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Change is hard…especially for people like me. People who like patterns and lists, people who believe in schedules and the comfort of sameness. I rarely move around the furniture in my house. I find a brand of make-up I like and stick with it for years. Changing cars or hairdressers or considering joining a new group at church can bring on an incredible, almost silly amount of discomfort.

Often reluctance to change equals doing nothing new. I recently read, “Doing nothing is an option.” You can choose to do absolutely nothing…that is a viable choice in life. Keep the status quo and rock on. Many times it’s a good alternative.

For me, I found that doing nothing was no longer an option. I’ve felt it coming for years, this need to mix up my career. After lots of prayers and a deep whisper in my heart that begged for something new, I knew it was time. So this spring, I began looking in earnest for a new position. With the backing and steady prodding of my friends and family, I sent letters of declaration, delivered applications, and even interviewed for the first time since I was 22 years old!  (Talk about leaving my comfort zone.)

Last week, and with great excitement, I was offered and accepted an interventionist position at my current school! For the first time in 22 (working) years, I will not have a homeroom. I know the work load will be different and heavy, but I am thrilled for the opportunity. With more excitement than fear, with more joy than nerves, I am ready for this. I know the time is right…it’s time to embrace a change.

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The Blessings of Wanna Be Teachers

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“I don’t like the Lego movie either.  When it comes on, I just turn it to Fox News.” – This quote did not come out of the mouth of a teacher.  Nope, a six year old said that to me and two other teachers this week.  Of course I laughed (and began writing his quote down immediately). One of the other teachers piped in, “Well, as long as it’s not MSNBC.” The boy and teacher looked at each other and smiled, sharing some inside joke I know not much about.

School has been busy as always, but I’ve been blessed with a student teacher the past month.  I get to keep her until March 1st and then it’s back to one set of hands.  A little girl told me the other day that it’s like I have two sets of hands now that Miss Sarah is around.  Very true.

I’ll be the first to admit, and I told Miss Sarah right up front, that I really didn’t want a student teacher. It’s a crucial time of year with testing lurking around the corner, and the thought of turning my class over to a college student was daunting.  I also told her that I believed that sometimes things happen for a reason, and that if God put her into my life, there was a reason for it.

Never doubt His reasons.  He placed a human into my life so level-headed and mature, so ready to work. When something is amiss, this girl tackles it. No being shy, no wondering if it’s her place.  She jumps in and figures out what needs to be done.  Sarah is a very mature soul in a young body, a natural-born teacher.  She’s kind, calm, loving but firm, and my kids love her.  And I do too.

Honestly, I remember being her age.  I remember having my first classroom at her age.  A year older than her, I had my first child.  I look at Sarah and know that I’m old enough to be her mother.  And yes…all of that freaks me out.  Inside, I don’t feel old enough to be my student teacher’s mother!  I mean, come on – I still feel 30-ish most days.

I look at Sarah and thank God young, vibrant souls are entering education.  I’m thankful that these women want to teach. I’m thankful that our community has a college that is producing such well-rounded, highly qualified wanna-be teachers (you’re awesome, Martin Methodist College).  Because these teachers will one day take our places.  These young, happy, light souls will one day soon slide into the rooms that many of us are retiring from or simply leaving for other endeavors.

Maybe God sent a young soul my way to remind me that there is a cycle, that the world keeps turning and progressing, even as I get older and my time grows shorter in the classroom.  Maybe God wants me to learn that it’s okay to jump – jump into new fields, new opportunities, new changes.  There will always be new life to take the place of the old.  And from what I see, this new life is ready to tackle the world.

 

Miss Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

We Called Her LP

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A half-empty Sun-drop bottle, an open pack of crackers, jelly packets scattered across a desk.  A snatch of time, a life finished too soon.  I made myself stare at her desk, take it all in.  Her myriad of bobble-head dolls, her schedule for the day.  It was all where she’d left it, expecting to return.

Our school lost a dear friend this past week. She spent the last twenty-five plus years of her life taking care of teachers, taking care of children.  Petite and thin, strong and quick-witted, she was sharp.  She was unique.  If you were willing to open yourself to her, if only you tried the slightest bit, you found a friend.  Not always a woman of many words, she was so much more than what the eye perceived.  She had a smile that was bright when she chose to smile, and when she laughed, the air around her sparked.  Sharing a laugh with her meant sharing joy.  I’ll never forget our last laugh together, me illiterate about technology, asking her how she’d fixed my VCR and remote, her shrugging and saying ‘I don’t know’. We looked at each other and laughed.  And it was real – a moment between souls that just got each other.

And that soul left behind so much more than a half-empty Sun-Drop bottle.  She left her ability to connect with children. It could’ve been a sweet, spirited little boy or a special needs child.  Her radar found them and they became hers, not just for the day or for the week, but for life.

She left her dry sense of humor, her devotion to work when she could’ve retired years ago. She left her no-nonsense approach to life, her gift of technology, the taping of school programs for parents, and her never-ending supply of change. She left mementos like crochet blankets and wooden bowls, tweeting birds and knitted booties. She left a lifetime worth of memories.  She left all of us at Pulaski Elementary feeling like we’ve lost a limb or gained a hole in our hearts.

She was our friend, and we called her LP.

Brown Eyes 

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I know you must get tired of my teacher stories, and after this one, I promise to find other topics to write about.

There’s this tiny fellow in my room…brilliant, asthmatic, mannerly, kind.  He’s so smart he can barely contain the thoughts bouncing through his head.  We’ll call him Brown Eyes.  Well, today he came in from the playground with a massive pout on his face.  I mean this kid was down.  I called him over to my desk and asked what was going on.  It took all of three seconds for him to burst into sobs – the kind of sobs you can barely speak around.  He proceeded to tell me that nobody would play with him, that he’d even asked a few people and they said yes but they all ended up running in different directions.

By this time, he was nestled in for a big hug, his head on my shoulder.  The other kids were watching.  One little boy slipped up behind him and began to pat his back (this fellow is Blue Eyes).  I took the moment to remind the class that we take care of our own, we’re family and nobody gets left out.  About this time, Blue Eyes said, “It’s alright, man.  Don’t be sad.”  

That was all it took…Brown Eyes turned around and threw his arms around Blue Eye’s neck and held on for dear life.  Blue Eyes looked at me, startled at first, but then just hugged him back.  See….here’s the thing:  Blue Eyes is a whole year older than Brown Eyes.  He’s seen more, lived longer, and in little boy years, has outgrown innocent shows of affection.  Brown Eyes is young, he’s still very innocent.  To him, hugging another boy is no big deal.   Blue Eyes…he’s already been taught or simply learned through osmosis that guys don’t do that.  But here’s what’s awesome – he let Brown Eyes hug him anyway.

Not to be outdone, here come several girls, ready to mother at a moments notice.  A few more boys hustled to us.  Suddenly, at my desk…at 11:03 on a warm day in September, there was a group of seven or eight kids, arms thrown around each other in the sweetest group hug I’ve ever seen in my life.  

Brown Eyes smiled after that.

I shared this story because it was my life-line this week.  I’ve been weepy, sad in a way I have a hard time expressing.  My heart is achy because I believe my heart may be realizing that the teaching I fell in love with so many years ago doesn’t exist in that form anymore.  I ache for what I fear is gone.  The teaching I once knew has been replaced by numbers and mandates.  What may be the hardest is knowing I’m not a numbers or mandate kind of person…never will be.  So when I was at my lowest, that little boy and my huddle of kids…well, they gave me a reason to keep going.  Those babies reminded me what I love about teaching…them.

Highlights of a Hairy Week

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Here are some highlights from a very crazy, busy week:

Mrs. Rackley…can I ask you a question about babies? 

Be.  Still.  My.  Heart.  This came from the mouth of a precocious, mannerly little fellow.  As smart as he is, I’ve got to be honest, I sputtered some.  My eyes, I’m sure, got big.  Finally I said, “Sure.”

Why do babies walk on their tippy-toes all the time?

After I could breathe again, I tried to answer him.  I might have said something like, “Oh you know, their muscles are not strong yet…blah, blah, blah.”  I was so happy it hadn’t been anything worse, I could barely focus.

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I got this love letter on my birthday.  It was written by the sister of one of my students.  And let me assure you, sweet girl, you ARE beautiful…and smart and creative and kind and thoughtful.

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At another point, we were brainstorming (-ed) family words.  I got bed, red, fed.  One yells out ted.  I told them yes but as a name with a capital letter.  A few little brains churned until I hear, “Like the movie ‘Ted’?”

“Yes,” I say, while I’m thinking ‘you better not have watched that movie’.

Someone else yells out, “What about Teddy…like my teddy bear?”

Then boom, another says, “Teddy Roosevelt!”

Only the little fellow and I knew who he was, but still, it was another one of those moments where I know my face looked stunned.  (I have a hard time hiding emotion on my face, like really hard.  It’s a curse.)  I’ll tell you, I’m surrounded by some very intelligent, inquisitive children this year.  Hope I can keep up!

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So, I had a birthday this week.  The students asked how old I am, and I told them….then it was their turn to look stunned.  Their minds cannot process 46.  It’s too much – especially when I’m older than most of their parents…which they made sure I knew!  I’ve got to be honest…birthdays have become a weird, almost depressing event over the years.  What happened to the celebrations?  Now it’s just, “Oh crap…in four years I’ll be fifty.”  But fear not, the hubby made the one thing I wanted for my birthday.  I had chocolate cake so all is right with the world.

This is the masterpiece Bill made.  Half chocolate icing, half cream cheese.  Yum!

This is the masterpiece Bill made.  Half chocolate icing, half cream cheese. Yum!

Stress

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If there was an award for stress eating, I’d be your champion.  Like the gold medal, first place winner.  For instance, our adopt-a-school sponsor, the wonderful Johnson Controls, gave us a goody basket of supplies for back to school. Nestled inside was a jar of jelly beans…the really good kind you get at Easter…and I ate every single one of them in probably fifteen minutes flat.  Told ya…first place for sure.  

Back to school is the ultimate stress inducer, as in there is no worse month in the month of teaching than August.    New students, new personalities, new schedules, new everything.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I stress eat like a crazy lady.  Not good things either.  Stress eating hits at non-meal times when I’m weak and shaky…at times when only a snack will do.  Things like M&M’s and Smarties and dark chocolate.  Not good, I know.  

I’m hoping this week will be better and the marathon snacking will subside.  We’re entering week three, day ten of this new year.  My class is sweet and eager, hard-working and interesting, and I’m anxious to see how far they will progress.  If we can survive August, we can do anything.

So as I prepare for another week, I’m asking a huge favor.  Please pray for the children and for the teachers.  Pray for us and how we deal with our stress.  We all don’t handle it the same, and goodness knows we’re all just looking for a way to survive the moment.  Some chew nails, others cry, some rant.  I eat candy.  

And that is my confession.

Told you they were interesting!