This is a crazy time of year. There is a total dichotomy between what students are thinking and what teachers are thinking. It goes something like this:
Me: Oh Dear God! Next week is midterm exams and then SOLs the week after we get back in January! We have more work to do than ever! Its very important that my students buckle down so we can get it all done!
My Students: The holiday break is almost here! I'm done!
I get it! I really do... Anyway, I have a few really nice stories to share about three of my students.
The first one is that last week my husband and I went out to breakfast. As I was going through the buffet line I hear "Hi Miz Nilknarf!" and looked up to see one of my students. She is 15 and I was shocked to hear she has worked there for two years! This of course brings to mind all kinds of questions, including, is she here illegally and being paid under the table, but I digress... I said hi, chatted with her a second and then sat back down. A few minutes later I went back up to find my sweet husband still talking to her. He jokingly said, "We were just talking to her about how mean you are!" and she said in such a sweet voice "You aren't mean at all! I love your class!". Made my day!
Second story: I was out with a sick child on Thursday. I walked through the cafeteria when I returned and one of my students ran up and hugged me like she hadn't seen me in a month! "How is your son?" she asked...wow! I guess they a) recognize that I really do have a life and b) care about me as a person. Its very sweet (and shocking).
Third: One of my students had her cell phone out at the end of class the other day. I told her to put it on my desk. The cell phone policy at school is very clear. She went nuts "Oh Miz Nilknarf! Don't you trifle with me! Its the end of the class! You ain't gonna take my cell phone away! I been nothing but nice to you and you ain't gonna treat me like that!" I was really annoyed and a little hurt that she would speak to me that way. I started to write her up and then decided to hold off until the next morning. One of my administrators told me about the "24 Hour Rule" where you hold off and give yourself some time to get some perspective. I decided to try and talk to her first and see how receptive she was.
I saw her out in the hall the next morning and said "Tiffany, do you have a minute for me?"
She responded, "I always have time for you, Miz Nilknarf!" So far, so good....
"Tiffany, you know what the school policy is on cell phones....and if I let someone have it out the last two minutes of class, then..."
"I know Miz Nilknarf, you are right. I am so sorry. I had just read a text that made me mad and that's why I reacted that way... I am so sorry. I didn't mean to be disrespectful."
Done. It was much better to hold off and try and reach her on my own than to escalate things by involving administration. So that's Miz Nilknarf's Holiday Advice #1 for you.
Here is #2. Fourth period, I have three kids, including twins, who are constantly disruptive. I have sent notes home, called home, and even had the kids write a contract for how they would improve their behavior. I had them sign it, the parent sign it and I signed it. The other day I wrote a referral for them, listing all previous efforts at managing their behavior. On Friday, we were doing a review game for their midterm. We worked in teams of three and of course, those 3 sat together--a Bermuda Triangle of obnoxious, disruptive behavior. After several warnings, I kicked all three of them out to sit in the hall until class was over. After they left, the difference was amazing. The class was quiet, focused, respectful. I didn't have to stop talking every three words to wait for the class to come to attention. So, that is Miz Nilknarf's Holiday Advice #2--remove the bad apples. They bring down the class. Don't let the worst 5% of the class get 100% of your attention.