Tuesday, July 2, 2013


We don't have nap time in 8th grade.   If we did, I would be the first one with my head on the desk, thinking my happy thoughts.  For real.

Will some kids try to nap in your classroom anyway?   Yes.   What should we do?


Why?   They got on the big, yellow bus.   When it dropped them off at school, it wasn't a surprise.   Why would they expect to sleep at school?

Also, how are we going to explain that to parents?   Let's say the child has an F in our class, and we allow them to sleep.   "Hello, Mrs. Jones, Scooter is not doing well in class.   In fact, he sleeps days at a time during third period."

Most likely the parent will wonder why this is being allowed.

When we allow children to sleep during instructional time we are telling them that their contributions are not valued in the classroom community.   We are telling them that we do not value their education.

Does this make our jobs a little harder?   Yes.   It does.

You will most likely meet teachers who allow children to sleep as one of their last ditch desperate attempts at classroom management.   Here's a scenario.  Let's say there's a child who's not being productive in your room.  You've tried all of your tricks, so before calling home you ask her other teachers for ideas or advice.  Seems the teacher of the class that precedes yours lets him zone out and drool on his desk every day.  The teacher tells you this outright.  This means you're batting clean up.  Teens usually don't physically or emotionally transition from REM sleeper to star (or mediocre) student in the flash of a class change.  As an added bonus, you will probably be met with some surly resentment from the child as well.  Mrs. So-and-So lets me sleep.  Why won't YOU?!

The child.  Don't lose that thought.  The child will test you every day, and she may not like you, but that's not what you're here for.  And, after all, she's the child; you're the adult.

What to do?

In the best case scenario, we are working in schools where having students attend class awake is a core value.  If not, hopefully we established it as a core value for our classrooms on day one.  They should know what to expect from us, if they break that rule.

Stand near the child's desk.
Tap on the desk.
Wake the child up.
Ask if he/she needs to go to the nurse.
Ask if he/she needs to stand at the back of the classroom to complete the day's work, so he/she can move around and keep those eyes open.
What about a trip to the water fountain?
How about a S-T-R-E-T-C-H?

If this happens a second time, we speak with the child in the hallway.   We reiterate our expectations for all children, and remind this child that it's disrespectful for us to care so very little about his/her education.  We can certainly ask the child for her side of the story. (I'm verrrrry clear to the child that I am not the babysitter.  If I were, I would demand better pay, tasty snacks, a comfy couch and cable.)  We then contact guidance, administrators, nurses, case managers and/or parents as needed.

If you need support from your colleagues, check the child's current grades.  Is there a class where the student is excelling?  Ask that teacher for ideas, or check the cumulative folder to see last year's teachers.  Maybe they can help.  Usually they can.  After all, they just spent nine+ months with the child.  They have a lot of anecdotal information to share, and their expertise lets you hit the ground running.

Are kids sometimes sleepy for reasons that demand our compassion?  Yes.  More often it's an electrical issue.  You know what I mean.

Here's what we're up against.  We need to help kids know when and how to "unplug" and rest.  More on that on another day.

Back to the other teacher who is letting her sleep.  There's not much you can do with a grown person making his/ her own choices in this matter, unless that teacher is one you are mentoring.  Be kind and reasonable in explaining why alert students are preferable.  Most folks get on board with that.  At this point, it's your administrators responsibility to decide whether or not to request that the teacher change his/ her classroom management approach.

While this issue can usually be resolved by working with the child, sometimes you will need to ask for help at home.

Sometimes this issue is more complex than it first appears, but try the simple approach first.  Set behavior expectations early and follow through on enforcing them.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Writing Process and Projectile Vomiting

Hi there.  You probably know all about projectile vomiting at this point in your life.  If not, YouTube will help you visualize that concept.

Don't you just get all cranky when you give children a writing activity to complete, and some of those whipper snappers think that their ideas flow from their brain to their hand with the speed of an involuntary airborne stream of baby formula?  Makes me want to give those kids thick mittens and nubby crayons to slow down the process.

In all fairness, I sanction the "projectile vomiting approach" to brainstorming or short bursts of timed writings.  It has its place in the writing process, but turning in such impromptu musings for a final product is, how can I put this, nauseating.

Sometimes I ask my students to pretend that their favorite authors are in the room responding to the same prompt.  "Trust me," I say.  "Imaginary Stephen King is still drafting.  He's not even on his final."

I'm not a big fan of quotations.  They make my eyes roll with their pat simplicity in explaining complex matters...unless...they are just so true.  I'm sure I've mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating.   It also bears being stenciled on the wall of every language arts classroom.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult 

than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann

Ain't that the truth?  We didn't go to college to teach Knee-Jerk 101.  That class can teach itsownself!  

Craft your language, people.  If it took me longer to write the prompt on the board than it did for you to write your response, dig back in.