Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 23rd: Goofballs, All Y'All!

Ah, seventh graders. So often they make me want to cry. Whether it's because they're so frustrating or because they're so endearing is a toss-up on any given day. Today it was definitely the latter. Well, for most of the day anyway.

How can you not feel good about yourself when you're being followed by three seventh grade girls who are arguing about which of them loves you the most!

"I love you, McTeachy!"

"No, I love you, McTeachy!"

"Well, I love you more than both of them!!"

This conversation lasted the entire walk over from the office to middle school; that's several minutes of my life being forced to listen to adolescents stating how much they love me! I'll take it!

Then there's the student who has been teaching herself sign language, and has learned it at a remarkable rate! Yesterday she informed me that she's figured out how to sign "McTeachy." Ok, actually, it's more along the lines of "McTeacher" but it's close enough. I'm not sure how I feel about her teaching ALL of her classmates the sign...I'll have to get back to you on that.

By the way, what do you do about a student who raises her hand in the middle of a discussion on African history and, when called on, says, "I love you."

Answer: "I love you, too. Now, can we get back to the Shona Empire?"

Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22nd: Kindnesses Abound!

I think I'm just going to have to accept the fact that I can't keep up with two blog posts per day. And I'm okay with that. Part of being a grown-up is knowing my limitations, right? Not wallowing in them and letting them get the best of me, but knowing how much I can handle and not pushing myself beyond it. This I can live with.

I do still try to focus on at least one positive thing per day; that was my goal when I began this project and that continues to be my goal each and every day. I'm just running out of time each day to get everything done AND get some sleep. [It's 11:15 p.m. as I'm writing this and the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. I may not be a math teacher, but even I can figure out that those figures don't add up to enough sleep!]

I love writing, however, and I love being able to share parts of my day with those who happen to stop by here. So I will continue to write as much and as often as I can.

Let's start with today. Last week was Random Acts of Kindness week. To celebrate, I asked each of my seventh graders to make one card. Actually, they were more like large notes...one for each and every person who works on our campus. The notes were to be anonymous and had to contain some sort of positive message for all the people at our school who make a difference in the lives of our children. We would deliver them in secret, hopefully, leaving them someplace that their recipient would find them and, again...hopefully...enjoy a moment of appreciation.

Each of my students drew a name out of a hat. Well, not so much a "hat" as a small cardboard box that I just happened to have on my desk. I made note of which student had each member of the faculty and staff, and the students set about making their cards. While I was walking around the room, one of the girls asked me if my name was in the box. I told her I'd kept my name out as we had more grown-ups on campus than I had students.

Care to guess what that student did?

Wait...I'm getting ahead of myself. More on that later.

So today we delivered our notes. All over campus! It was quite amusing to watch these goofy seventh graders trying to tape large notes to classroom doors without being spotted! I even had to run interference for one pair who was trying to tape a note to the Health Room door with its recipient sitting about two feet from them! The two boys got the biggest kick out of that. You would have thought we were secret agents or something.

One of my favorite moments came when I was standing in the computer lab and watched as three of my students delivered their notes to the small office off of the library (we call it the Hot Dog Room for some reason). These students were practically giddy as they snuck into the small room. I had thought they were just going to tape their notes to the door, as we had discussed, but they decided to take advantage of the fact that no one was in that office at the time. They taped three notes to the door and then ventured inside to deliver two more notes.

We had our note adventures late in the day today, so we haven't yet heard any reaction from anyone on campus except for our school secretary. The student who drew Mrs. Wilson's name actually taped her note to the large window that Mrs. Wilson sits behind. Nothing secret agent-like about that one, I'm afraid.

Tomorrow I'm going to ask my students to write a reflection on this experience and then ask members of the faculty and staff to share their thoughts as well. You can count on hearing more about this...hopefully tomorrow!

Oh, I guess before I sign off I should share with you what was waiting for me on my door when we got back from computers:

McTeachy. [sigh]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 10th: So, Where Was I?

I've gotten a bit off-track with this blog, and I have to let myself be okay with that. Life has been quite crazy lately, and I've not been able to fit everything in. Last week was Catholic Schools Week which is just craziness defined. Add preparing for a big presentation at the end of that week (totally unrelated to Catholic Schools Week, it was on Personal Learning Networks) and you can imagine how exhausted I was by Sunday morning.

So, this morning I have a two-for-one offer for you. Two positive thoughts for the cost of one blog post.


Monday morning I arrived at school, still exhausted, still wanting to be in bed with the warm, cozy blankets pulled over my head and the even warmer furball named George next to me (the closeness of which is determined by how hungry he is), and I discovered someone has decorated my classroom door. Two of my seventh grade girls had been at school on Saturday for some sports-related activity, and they came over to my classroom to see if I was there and to say "hello." I am quite often in my classroom on Saturdays, so they were sure that they would find me there. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), I was at East Bay CUE giving my PLN presentation, so I missed their visit. They decided to leave me a note or two. I don't know where they found the materials needed to do this (I don't know any seventh graders who carry around masking tape!), but it made my day, Monday!! Imagine starting not only your day, but your entire week seeing this:

...and this...

I don't know how "McTeach" became "McTeachy," but I'll take it! So my Monday began with a big smile which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a major accomplishment! Oh, and just so you know, I took a Sharpie to their sign. The pencil they'd used originally didn't photograph well.


Tuesday's positive moment was brief, but it made me smile, once again. I was walking back to my classroom as the lower grades were returning to their classrooms after lunch. As I started to walk past the first graders who were waiting in line for their teacher to come retrieve them, young Michael stopped me, saying, "Hi!!!" in that sing-song kind of voice that lasts for about five minutes. Michael comes into my classroom about once a week for Faith Families activities; he is just the cutest thing! The last day before Christmas break Michael showed up wearing nicely-pressed pants and shirt, and the cutest little Christmas tie!

But back to yesterday. After he stopped singing, "Hi!!!" I stopped and responded, "Hi, Michael! How are you?" And this was the best part...he answered me with, "I'm fine, thank you. How are you?"

Thank you.

How are you?

Isn't that just the cutest thing ever?! Such a polite young man...I hope I get to see that same polite young man when he arrives in my classroom in five or six years.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 4th: Love Is Flying Everywhere!

A wise man (and his three wise friends) once sang, "All You Need Is Love." [I'm sure "and chocolate" was implied.] This week at school our gospel value is Love, so I've been talking to my seventh graders about how we let our friends and family know that we love them. I asked my students, "When was the last time you told your parents 'I love you'?" About 90% of my class of 36 had said those words that very morning. As it turns out, they say those three little words on a daily basis to their parents.

I find that quite remarkable.

Well, since this initial conversation, they seem to be making a point of telling each other "I love you!" loudly enough so that I can hear it. Or they just come up to ME and say, "I love you." And then they wait.

Now, to be honest, I've never been all that comfortable with that phrase. And I'm not sure if hearing it so much this week has made me more comfortable, or if I've heard it so often in the space of a few days that it has become commonplace. But if I step back for a moment and take a look (and a listen) from a detached observer's point of view, I think it's pretty cool. My students are so comfortable expressing their feelings (unlike their teacher) that it gives me hope for their future. I hope they carry this open-heartedness with them throughout their lives.

Even though I don't say it very often, my students do know I love them. They tell me that all the time, "You know you love us, Miss McMillan!"

No, I don't.

"Yes, you do!"

Don't argue with me! I'm the teacher!

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh, Miss McMillan, you're so funny!"


This afternoon a few of the girls decided to leave me a little message on my whiteboards. Normally I frown on the kids writing on my boards. I have thirty-six students; if one writes on the board, they all have to write on the board. I don't have that much board space! But I have to admit that this was pretty gosh darn cool! Although the coolest part of my day was yet to come.

One of my seventh grade girls has a younger sister in second grade, Becca. Now, apparently my loud and obnoxious self can be just a wee bit intimidating to the younger kids. I say hello to Becca whenever I see her, and she responds with eyes filled with terror. I may be projecting just a bit. After school today, Becca was in my classroom with her sister Emma and friends. The girls were being their regular goofy selves and talking eighty million miles per minute at me. I looked down at Becca and she rolled her eyes. We were united on this one: seventh grade girls are weird.

I finally managed to convince the girls that it was time for them to leave, and they started throwing the l-word at me again. "We love you McTeach!"

Yeah, ok...get out of my room!!!

"Ha! Ha! Ha! You know you love us!"

I know no such thing! Get out!!

"Oh, Miss McMillan! You're so funny!!"


[Stick with me, here. The best part is about to be revealed!]

As they were walking across the blacktop, Becca turned around and yelled back at me, "I love you, McTeach!!" I was so shocked! It took me a moment, but then I just started howling with laughter! I mean, doubled over, tears streaming down my face, side-splitting laughter! Just to be clear, it wasn't what she said...it was how she said it. She said it exactly like the goofy seventh grade girls I see every day.

This is how they become so goofy, you see. Their training begins early!