Army Brats Unite

I feel as though this post needed to be titled “Army Brats Unite” because so many people I grew up with will understand what I’m about to say.
 
This afternoon I pulled an 8th grader during the last class of the day (and yes, I waited until afternoon announcements were over) to talk with him. He had a rough way to go in one of his classes today, and since we’ve had a good relationship for several years, I figured I could help find out what was going on.
This young man proceeded to share several things with me, but one frustration of his stood out in my mind. This 8TH GRADER was upset that some of his classmates were closed-minded. He didn’t mind that his views differed from his friends, but he did care that some were so closed-minded that they wouldn’t listen to reason or engage in a collegial conversation with him.
We started discussing why this might by the case (and no, we weren’t bashing any other students in the process), and every thing we discussed all came back to  one’s upbringing. If you’re raised to not value other’s opinions, why would you all of a sudden do so in a classroom?
This 8th grade young man, in the middle of raging hormones and crazy body changes, can figure out that it makes sense to appreciate other people for their differences. He gets that he can have friends who don’t all think the same thing, as long as they can take part in a conversation with valid reasoning and logic. THIS 14 YEAR OLD BOY GETS IT, yet I see adults who struggle with this every day?
Rather than share our views and discuss our differences, we bash not only the other’s views, but the other’s being. We start bashing the person’s personality, their lifestyle, WHO THEY ARE all because we don’t see eye-to-eye.
Instead, why don’t we just talk? Why don’t we start saying, “You know, I get what you’re saying, but here is why I think this” instead of “Well, that’s stupid” or “You’re clearly an idiot.”
I praise God every single day for working with middle school kids. The kids keep me grounded. They remind me we aren’t all the same. We didn’t all grow up the same way with the same values and the same Sunday dinner procedures, but that doesn’t make any  of them any less important or valuable.
 I praise God for reminding me that I live in a world where people of all different colors, races, religions, and sexual orientations exist to make ME a better and more well-rounded person. If an 8th grade boy can also get that, why can’t the rest of the world?
P.S.–Yes, I did set the feature image for this picture as my high school dance team. Girls from all over the world with totally different lifestyles, but we seem to be getting along just fine.🙂

A Work in Progress

Let me start this entry with an overly vague thought–I once read a quote that really resonated with  me .  That really isn’t saying much, as I’ve been quoting song lyrics on my AIM away message since I was in middle school myself, but this quote continues to stick out to me…as both a 20-something figuring out life and a middle school teacher.

“We expect others to be a final product while we allow ourselves to be a work in progress.”

As I pushed through this Monday (as I do every Monday for the simple fact that I am not a morning person), this quote kept coming into mind. I am far from a perfect person, and I am constantly working on becoming the best version of myself. And as a teacher, I have to remind myself of this simple fact every day.

I am far from perfect. I let my kids know if I have a headache or if my day has been “rough”…they ALL know to behave if they’ve heard that last part.

But do we always allow our kids to be a work in progress?

I often get called crazy for teaching middle school, and most people know why. Most people remember their own emotional, mood-swing filled middle school years and can’t imagine ever going back.Our kids are constantly changing. I pulled a student aside today. This is a student I’ve pulled aside many-a-times to redirect. I KNEW this child could be better, and for some reason, my constant re-directions finally kicked in for him. I’ve been  nagging this student for MONTHS, and today he finally decided that he could be a better person. He decided he could focus; he decided he could work non-stop all class period; he decided he could be the best version of himself…it just took him a while to get there.

So next time our kids make a mistake, take a step back. Breath for a minute. No, don’t take it easy on them, and don’t let them slack. Let them know your expectations and let them know you truly believe they can succeed. And while it may take almost all school year to get our kids where we believe they can be, aren’t we all a work in progress?

Kerrie

 

 

 

“Mom…I mean Ms. Bal…”

I have never claimed to truly understand the trials and tribulation of parenthood. I’ve never given birth or adopted a child through some state agency, but some days I truly feel as though I am both teacher and mother.

I constantly preach to my kids the importance of independence.

I will not hold my kids’ hands every step of the way. They have to learn to succeed ON THEIR OWN. Society won’t hold their hand for them.

I will not always be there to wipe away the tears and kick their tails back into shape.

For most kids, this method I use works…

until I have to actually turn into “Mom”.

More so than most professions, I come in contact with a wide array of children whose living situations are not “typical”…honestly, what is typical anymore?

I’ve had students from every walk of life. From students living in self-proclaimed mansions to students who bounce from house to house every day, I see it all. Sometimes, I get knocked right on my butt and am forced to refocus my perspective.

I had a moment today where I truly had to stop and think about being “Mom”. Yes, I teach middle schoolers ELA. Yes, I preach relationships with students…but what happens when I have to “mother” the student? Way beyond building a teacher-student relationship, but truly having to tend to the student’s basic need and desire for love…what happens then?

What happens when I have to hold the kids hand and fight with them to simply finish a single problem because no one will push the child at home? What happens when I am the one pushing the student to succeed and be their absolute best because no one at home believes they can be better than where they came from?

I hear so many people (mostly parents) say that ALL parents care, they just don’t always show it.

I beg to differ.

Now, this post certainly wasn’t written to bash parents. I know many parents who are very supportive of their children and who push their child to excel.

My point is that we  ALL have to realize that some days we have to put on our “Mom” hat. Some days, being “Mom” is WAY more important than being the ELA teacher because, well, who else will fill those shoes?

So, as frustrated as I may get, I am going to try my absolute best to remember that having to fill this role surely isn’t my kids’ fault. At 11, 12, and 13 years old, a child shouldn’t be worrying about who will be making dinner or whether or not anyone truly believes in their ability to succeed.

Next time I hear a, “Mom…I mean Ms. Bal”, I’ll put a smile on my face and except the duty not with resentment, but with every ounce of love I can muster.

After all, we all just need our Moms some times…

Love, Respect, and A LOT of Hard Work

A student walked in my classroom for the first time today. Despite this being the 4th day of school, this child walked into my room for the very first time this afternoon. The other students and I have worked diligently these past four days on various introductory assignments, none of which this child was aware of in the least bit.

Wonder what the first thing this kid said to me was…? Before he even introduced himself to me…?

“I heard you’re a pretty cool teacher, but I’m going to have to work in here.”

SCORE.

This quick interaction tells me one of two things. Either my reputation precedes me (and I obviously mean this in a great way) OR (and this is what I am hoping for) in four short (yet extremely long) days, somehow kids already get me.

I want to be laid back. I want to have fun. I want kids to feel comfortable walking into my room, and I want them to know I am here for them each and every single day….

BUT…and perhaps equally as important…

I want my kids to know they will be pushed. WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

These first few days I’ve challenged my kids. I’ve ensured my kids have totally understood the 5 major rules in my classroom. I’ve ensured my kids filled up an ENTIRE page on what they know about ELA, even when they SWORE they couldn’t do it. I pushed them and encouraged them to keep going and to not stop until they gave me their absolute best.

And they can expect that this entire school year…from the very first day to the very last.

Long story short, what I hope my kids get out of this year the most is the love and respect I have for each and every single one of them.

Enough love and respect that I won’t let them quit. I won’t let them slack. I won’t let them be less than their very daggone best.

So yes, I will be the teacher that starts working on day #2. I will be that teacher that works my kids on half days and ensures they’ve completed all of their work to the best of their ability until they are blue in the face.

The relationships I build with my kids are far more important than knowing the difference between their, they’re, and there…even if not knowing drives me crazy. THESE relationships are the ones that ensure that when I am pushing and prodding my kids, they see it as love, not only as the annoying teacher who won’t get off their back.

As I tell my kids each and every day, WE ARE THE EXAMPLE. We will be the best, and we will show our best each and every single day. Don’t you dare every let anyone think that we are anything BUT the best.

Here’s to another year of being the absolute best we all can be in my classroom.
Wishing you all a phenomenal year of being the absolute best you can be. Remember, we are the example.🙂

–Ms. Bal


“My Super Power is Teaching…What is Yours?”

“My super power is teaching. What is yours?”

I really can’t stand that quote.

I am not a super human.

I do not posses powers that allow me to make it through the school day.

I do not have a magic potion to sip when I get tired or irritated or overworked.

I do not have a suit I hide in my desk drawer to pull out when things get tough.

Rather, I fight through my day just like the rest of the teachers in my building. I wake up at the crack of dawn after staying up late the evening before perfecting plans and grading assignments. I face kids who are unhappy because “How dare I GIVE them a C…or D…or F…” and parents who believe the same. I deal with kids who can’t believe I made a mistake…even if the mistake was actually on their part. I watch apathetic students sit idly by as I push and prod for them to give just a bit more effort. I hold back tears when I hear about the home life of a student I see struggling. I stay long hours at work to tweak a test for my kids.

Instead of becoming angry, I ask why. I delve into a situation to figure out the background and just how I can solve it. I talk with a student about the multiple opportunities to complete make up work and meet with parents during my lunch periods to ensure clear communication is had between all involved parties. I smile at the kid who thinks I made a mistake after his peer corrects him, rather than giving him a double dose of negativity. I continue to push and prod the apathetic students…even when the apathy just becomes greater.

Long story short.

Teaching is hard work.

And while I SO wish I could “Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo” my way through the day, it simply isn’t possible.

Next time you see a teacher off in “La La Land’ or totally zoned out after a long day, cut ’em some slack. They’ve given every ounce of themselves throughout that school day to make sure everyone and everything stays afloat.

So, if you can’t muster up some good ol’ courage and fight through the tough times without a mirror on the wall or a magic wand, head on out.  Teaching isn’t about having some magical power, it is about giving 110% of your self all the time, no  matter all the extenuating circumstances.

And while I wish I grew up attending Hogwarts and had potions and spells to get me through the day, nothing of the sort has actually happened. Hard work. Dedication. Running on “E”.  Unrelenting passion. Those are the qualities of a teacher.

All I’m saying is maybe the super heroes could learn a thing or two from teachers. We’re saving the world without a drop of magical powers.🙂

Me in my non-super hero glory. No super powers or  magical wands hiding behind my back.
Me in my non-super hero glory. No super powers or magical wands hiding behind my back.

“Crap”

I don’t deal with crap.

Any kid I’ve ever had in class can tell you this. I often tell my kids I won’t except “crap work”, and they know exactly what that means.

Don’t give me less than your best.

At that, how dare you waste your and my time with anything less than your best.

It might sound harsh, but I fully believe it. We can’t let kids turn in crap or act like crap or (in case you’re not following along) they will continue acting like crap forever.

Now, as an ELA teacher I know “crap” isn’t the best word for my real feelings here. My real frustration is when I get less than 100% effort. When kids would rather accept the zero than explain why they didn’t have their assignment in. When students won’t study for a test and bomb it…and accept that they bombed it with no worry or concern.

I’m sure many people are already probably thinking “Well, then why in the world did you go into teaching…and teaching middle school? You obviously made a poor career choice.”

 

Why do I not accept crap?

Because I KNOW my kids can do better.

I KNOW that if they have an advocate in their corner constantly pushing for their best, they will eventually give me their best.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t take a long time or that the crap work/effort goes away after one class period. Often times, it is a constant battle with my kids.

As a teacher, I am tough on my kids. Sometimes I may even be too tough on them. What I won’t be is the teacher who lets them slide by thinking they are worthless. I refuse to be the adult figure in their life who accepts them for less than their best. Whether in the classroom or at practice, I am going to push my kids to the point of annoyance (and some days hatred) until they finally understand why I am pushing…because I believe in them.

So…moral of the story?

Don’t accept crap. Push kids until they give you their best and don’t settle for anything less. Why? Because not only do you deserve it, but they do, too.

 

IMG_5467

Dear Parents, Stop Cheating

 

I’ve spent the last 4 hours grading journals for my 6th grade students. For those parents (or students) who have experienced these journals before, you know I leave very detailed notes. I want to ensure my students understand WHY they received their grade and how they can improve for next time.

Every year, inevitably, there is a child (or should I say parent?) who doesn’t complete their work. Their assignment is turned in, but the work is CLEARLY not their own. In my 3+ years of teaching, I always have the one parent who completes their child’s work for them, and it is always so easy to pick out.

The child who never understood commas suddenly learned the rules perfectly.

The child who has atrocious spelling but great ideas suddenly has perfected every single word, even the most difficult.

The child who knows nothing about proper citations suddenly cites their paper perfectly.

 

My question to parents is simply–WHY?!

Every time you do your child’s homework for them YOU are cheating your child. Actually, you are cheating, but that is another conversation.

 

Completing your child’s work is telling the student they can slack off…that when things get hard they can give up and someone else will pick up their slack.

NO!

NOT OK!

Our kids CAN do hard things! We can’t just let kids give up. It won’t happen in my classroom, so doing work for them at home simply puts them behind the curve.

PUSH your kids. Make them struggle a bit. Assist them as needed, but let them become frustrated a time or two. Make your child talk to the teacher when they are confused. Make your child peer edit with someone else in the class.

Learning is an experience. Students will struggle, but any decent teacher knows this and will help their students to the best of their ability.

Think about it this way…

How can I help your student learn and excel if the work I get to grade and edit isn’t even their own? You want to help your student?

Let them struggle, and let me do my job. Do you really want to raise the kid who gives up every time something gets tough? I didn’t think so.

-KB

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