Category Archives: teaching

Anything having to do with my job, being a teacher, education, my school, or my classes.

Proud Moment

During my prep today, I took my usual walk down to the office to check my box for anything of significance.  Inside my box was the January 28th edition of Duck’s Illustrated Magazine, held open to an article about the Oregon’s  Women’s basketball team losing four games in a row .  At first, I was slightly baffled.  I’m not a huge fan of basketball, I’ve have  been known to play a little basketball or even go to a basketball game or two, but not overly interested enough to read an article about it… at least until I read the byline.

One of my students, Kyle, who had graduated last year, was the author of the article.  I poured over the article and then passed it around to the different teachers that I know had stock in Kyle.  The article received a lot of excited reactions, from me especially.  In no way am I saying I played any part in his good writing or getting to  see him working in the field he has always aimed for–I’m merely proud enough to say, “Hey, I know that guy!”

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we’ve been gifted this island, we’ve been gifted this day

As of tomorrow,  five years ago, I stumbled into, accidentally found and blindly wandered into where I belong.  Absurd as it may be to find delight in marking a half a decade at a job, there are some sappy feelings and a whole lot of gratitude to be spread around for where I am now, which is exactly where I started five years ago.

Cottage_Grove_HouseFive years ago, and a couple of weeks, I was a term into my second masters degree.  I had completed my teaching program and had decided to continue into Special Education for one and a half reasons.  Half reason: I was interested in the topic.  Whole reason: I wanted to wait a year for Jess to finish her grad program.  Lucky that I did so.

I was called in to the  office of the director of my previous teaching program.  She had been in contact with someone from a Cottage Grove High School because they were looking for a replacement for a Special Education teacher who was unexpectedly leaving after one term.  My name was thrown around by the program director because she knew I was interested in the field.  With my permission, my name and number was passed off to the district.

A day later, my phone rings, the director of Special Education is calling to talk with me about the position.  I’m brutally honest with her, SPED is not the area I want to teach, I won’t have my SPED teaching license, and I’m a full-time grad student who’s not even really looking for a job. Understandingly, she says she understands each of my comments but still suggests, “Well, just come down and see the school.”  Reluctantly, I agree and day or two later, I drive down to Cottage Grove.

Their new high school is big and beautiful, having been built but a couple of years earlier.   I’m shown around the school, meet some of the teachers, the principal and the SPED department head, who I think already didn’t like me.  Walking back to the front door, the director of Special Education asks me what I think, I reiterate all of my previous concerns covering my lack of interest and credentials.  Even more so now, she is very understanding, nodding with each expressed concern; yet, she doesn’t hesitate a half of a breath after my concerns to say, “Well, you should just apply, there’s not commitment.”

Reluctantly, I take the application and head back to Eugene. A day after my application was submitted, I am called by the principal of the high school, asking me to come and interview for the position that I don’t want, I don’t feel qualified for, and don’t feel ready for.  I reel out all of my concerns to this new sympathetic ear, he completely understands, saying that it’s only an interview, not a commitment.  Reluctantly, I schedule an interview for five in the evening for the next day.

Up until this point, I had interviewed for multiple jobs before, yet none of them had been in the field I was actually aiming for.  I figured that since this was my first, big time education interview, I was going to be slammed with questions over pedagogy, behavior management, my understanding of Special Education… and I was questioned over all of this, however, what was unexpected was the stories and laughter that took place during the interview from my interviewers.  Even though this was my first ‘dry-cleaned shirt and tie’ interview, it was the most relaxed, most comfortable interview I had ever been through.  My interview to be a bag-boy at a supermarket had been more tense; my interview to be a resident assistant  was more grueling.

After a round of shaking hands, I was on my way home to think over the interview–with the feeling that I was probably the least qualified applicant and that this had been a good practice interview.  I knew that in a couple of days, the phone would ring and the official, understanding voice would say, “Thanks for applying, but…”

The phone definitely rang in two days, as expected, the voice said, “Thanks for applying…” however I was only half right with my guess,  “…we’d like to offer you the position.” Awkward long pause.

“Really?”  Was my response, second-guessing their decision making skills.  I was assured that they had called the right applicant.  I nervously asked fora day to think about it, which I was granted.  I talked to many people, but the phrase that sat on top of my head that night and the next half day was my dad’s, “step out of your comfort zone, try something that’s not completely safe to you, something that may be hard.”

Around lunch time, I called the director of Special Education.  Red-faced, nervous and slightly nauseous, I told her that I would be happy to accept the position.

Three days before the second term was to begin, I met the guy who had just previously held my position.  I was regaled with stories of  horrendous kids, a miserable job, and a promised urge to be in this position for no more than a year, two at absolutely max.  Not the reinforcement I had been seeking for my half-confident decision.

And the job was hard… at least initially.  The previous teacher was right, there were bad attitudes, student’s that wouldn’t trust me, challenged me, and were intentionally upsetting the balance of the class.  All this and I was still a full-time student, teaching all day and in class at night.  However, I found out that these behaviors from the students weren’t their doing, it had been the teacher.  He had been so callous, so empty with the kids that they hated him, hated anyone that was in his place.

Through the remainder of that year, intentionally or unintentionally, I had reversed that shock wave of a bitter teacher and the rest leads to where I am right now. Cottage Grove, unbeknown to be, drew me in.

Within the following year, Jess and I bought a house in the tiny little town.  She was hired on at one of the elementary schools.  We started to make good friends.  The Grove had sent out its tentacles  and reeled us in. For me, Cottage Grove feels as though the red hot summer days of my early years.  The glint and mist that Woodburn used to have for me.  The comfort, the roamable comfort of a town that knows you and compliments the notches of your own puzzle piece, nuzzled within it.  The streets match your feet, the city limits, gently, are just at the furthest tips of your longest fingers, stretched out at the end of your arms.

Slowly, the high school morphed from this giant building where I was a singularity, to where I go to work with friends.  Where I feel a certain love and kinship with my colleagues.  The students are the source of my good, bad, and best days.  It’s an ebb and flow.  Is every day those white-boarded wonderful days of educational and teaching bliss?  No.  Some days are hard, some days grip hard upon the minute hand around the clock.

But every day is rewarding.

More often are the days that I come home in a better space than I left home in.   Most days have their personal bests and moments of all of these connections. But every day has its reward.

Without reluctance, I would like to thank little Cottage Grove.  Thanks for letting me fall into your grace, into a job I love, into a place I belong.  Thank you for the people, students, adults, the barely known faces and names, those I see every day that make it The Grove, welcoming and anointed me as a Grover.

As accidentally as I arrived, it is with much intention that I stay here.

Sweaters and Putty

schoolsweaterHere’s this year’s school picture… as you may or may not have notice, I am wearing an awful sweater.  It’s not just any awful sweater, it is an extra-large woman’s knitted sweater with a split collar.  This isn’t to say I regularly wear the opposite sex’s clothing–this was a gag that Ricky and I came up with for staff pictures.  Our idea was that we would find an awful sweater from a second-hand shop and then try to convince as many people as possible to wear the sweater.  With a little bit of prodding, the first person hopped into this monstrosity and had her picture taken, then Ricky and I followed suit, which must have set the tone because nearly everyone on staff adorned this purple, green and black piece of art.

I was really surprised at how many people were game for the sweater, there were even a handful of people that I thought would sternly refuse to slip on this hideous rag, yet they did.  I can’t wait to see the yearbook when it comes out, hopefully it shows a staff that can be lighthearted and has a good time together, especially with our goofy mugs adorned in the same outfit.

As the previous tale implies, school is back in swing, for which I am thankful.  Not that I don’t enjoy my summers but I enjoy my job just as much, especially when I learn something new, as I did this year.

As with every year, I see some of my same students from the previous year and then a whole host of others that I have never met before.  I had a new tenth grade class come into my class and I thought I was in for a rough year.  I was sure at least one kid was trying to stare me down, while others were loudly voicing their belief that this class was going to, in her words, “suck”.  Along with that, another gal professed that she loved to mess with teachers and “piss them off.”  I came home a little deflated and was sure I was going to have a hard-line approach with this class.

Then we started our poetry unit–for some reason, unbeknown to me all of those things cracked and quickly faded.  The kid who was staring me down works hard to get his work done.  The girl who was sure how much the class would suck has quickly taken to haikus, illustrating one beautifully.  As well, the one student who said that she was out to make my life miserable has actually made me laugh more than any other student.

So, I guess the lesson belongs to me–the first impressions and my preconceived ideas about my students aren’t meant to held on to, rather, I should just do what I do and they come around… and hopefully they will become, as one of my Educational Assistants said, “Putty in your hand.”

Ps. I won my first game as a head coach 27-0… then proceeded to lose the next two.  I knew I should had retired with a perfect record.

Faux Pas-palooza

Faux Pas: As a teacher, coming to school dressed strangely similar to a student

Super Faux Pas: As a teacher, coming to school dressed strangely similar to two students.

Double Secret Faux Pas Extraordinaire: The students are both girls… and the teacher is a dude.

So… there is a reason…

Best compliment.  ever.

Student, out of the blue, during second period:Mr. Wells, do you remember when we were learning about poetry during our sophomore year?”

Me:Uh, yeah, of course.

Student:I really liked that.”

Me:Thanks; I like teaching it.

Student:Since then, I can’t stop writing poetry.

Me:Really?

Student: Yeah, I have two journals completely full of poetry.

Me:Wow, I’m seriously impressed.

…not to mention feeling touched, honored, proud and successful.

One down, seventy more to go!

It ain’t easy being grumpy…

I have to admit, I’m not always the social peach I usually portray.  I have my grumpy days, I have the days when I’ve got a hair-trigger… and yesterday was one of those days.  I had not slept well the night before and I was fully prepared to hold the world and its occupants responsible for that.

I was grumpy driving to school, grumpy getting my lessons ready, grumpy when the first bell rang.  I’m not sure how it happens, if I send up a flare that I need someone to cheer me up but my first and second periods did so.  They made jokes, funny observations and even made fun of me a little (in a good nature way).  My grumpiness was dissolved.  The rest of the day went really well.  I guess it is like most human relationships; the people who can make you mad or push your buttons, are also the people who can relieve you of your emotional fog.

It’s funny that, as teachers, we are so focused on making a daily difference with the students–sometimes I forget that the reverse can also be true.  This was just another reminder that I feel like I made a good decision by going into teaching.  It also reminds me to value the kids I see on a daily basis, they’re more than ink on a roster.

On a serious note…

With the rapid and consistent decline of the economy, the important of education is becoming more apparent… and it’s not looking good.  There is talk of the state denying payment to the school districts for 15 school days or even a whole month.

Getting out of school in May would be a change.  There has been consistent chatter around our school about what would happen if teachers would have to go without pay for a month.  Some are in precarious situations, some of my coworkers are the only working parent in their family and others, like Jess and I, both get our income from the school district.

In our district, we have already given up 3 school days (sadly, they were our snow days) which just from my pay alone, took a $600 pay hit.  I’ll let you plow through the math to see what 15 days or more would look like.

Sometimes it feels as though education is the punching bag sometimes.  The mantra that teachers earn too much, get too much vacation, have a job that is too easy.  All misnomers, I assure you.  But that’s not the worst part, that would be the rampant claims of “Education is important, we have to fund schools!”  I understand we’re taking a hit, but when you drown education, you can’t expect it to reach the already difficult goals (thanks, NCLB).

Ironically, this isn’t a gripe… more of a rant.  It is kind of astounding that there are billions given to business, in turn, these business buy a $87,000 rug which would easily fund two teachers for a year.  Not to mention the $1,400 garbage can that would be a hefty load of text books.  What does a $1,400 garbage can look like anyways?  I’d be afraid to throw stuff away in it.  I bet there is expensive garbage for that can.

Early summer?  Second job?  Keeping our jobs?

Who knows?

Just slightly daugnting.

the roof… the roof… the roof is on fire…

In the space of a couple of days we actually had, not one, but two actual fire alarms at the high school. Pretty interesting stuff you consider we have a fire drill at least every month. The first was your run-of-the-mill elevator shaft filled with smoke because of leaking hydraulic fluid which was dripping onto the elevator motor.

On Monday, that was the biggie. A student, in their infinite wisdom, decided that they would gain respect and kudos from the student body by igniting a fire within one of the boy’s bathrooms. While the entirety of building was out of the curb cursing yet another fire drill, the fire engines started rolling in. We knew we were in for the long haul. For about twenty-five minutes we stood outside of the school, watching firefighters, the police, and district maintenance people going to and fro with fans. After that, we were allowed to go into the somewhat hazy and very dank halls and back into our rooms.

By the end of the next period, our principal was on the intercom saying that if anyone had any information about who had put flame to the bathroom, that there would be a handsome three hundred dollar reward for that person with such information. Luckily, this period also happened to be my prep period; as per my usual routine, I wandered down to office to check my mailbox to make slightly insightful yet humorous remarks to the office staff. When I walked into the office, there was a line of at least fifteen students outside the principal’s office, waiting to give up information for three crisp Ben Franklins. Keep in mind it had only been about three minutes since the announcement. Apparently the school’s firebug had also been boastful prior to ignition, shown by the population of students outside the office.

As it turned out, the saying about ‘loose lips’ and their destructive power over ships proved to be true and the person was quickly dealt with by the school. the lesson I took from this is to never underestimate the coercive power of money. Friends, foes, and strangers in passing will line up to tell of your misdeeds in order to grease their palm. But, of course, if you’re brave enough to regale a crowd with story, I guess you’ve got it coming.

Time to pick a name…

In my vain attempt to do different things within my classroom, I’ve decided that I will be maing a website where students will be posting some of their work.  From there, it can be commented on, reviewed, and so on… that way it doesn’t neccesarily have to be the usually turn in and hand back format.  With the website, it would be WordPress based, such as Box of Whine, but with the school site I would remain the administrator of the sight while all of the students would have a contributor’s log on…meaning I would review everything before it was posted. Overall, it’s bringing in technology and blogging into the classroom to make it a different experience.

So here’s what I need help with from you, loyal readers.  I have one idea for the name, but Jess has informed me that it’s pretty lame (wellsdotcom.com)–since my ideas are supposedly flat and lifeless, do y’all have some suggestions?  Parameters: It’s school appropriate, no allusions, hints, winks, nods, or gestures to sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, tardiness or cheating.  It has to have some realtion to my name, the high school (Cottage Grove), Language Arts, or my room number (108)… or some combination of those.

Let me know you’ve got… thanks.

That about does it

Grades are submitted, all valuables and electronics are locked away.  Now all that is left is to turn off the lights and lock the door.  Another school year has come and gone.