“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.”


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.


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.



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.



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.


“TK Stone Class is on the Ball”

I’ve never understood why people are afraid of change. As an Army Brat, if something wasn’t changing, something was wrong. I thrived on moving and having new experiences with new people each and every year. I think that same desire for change has made an impact on who I am as a public/independent school teacher.

This year, I decided to take out all the desks in my classroom. In their place, my classroom is full of bright red and blue yoga balls. Everyone who hears this story keeps me asking me the same two questions…



“Are you crazy?”

No, I am not crazy…at least most days. Why? My real answer? Because change is good. Just as I enjoy a change in scenery every now and then, our kids enjoy a change of pace. I provide my kids with something different. The one period of “different” keeps them on their toes. It keeps them engaged and interested in learning. It isn’t anything spectacular, and I don’t know if I truly deserve all the praise I am getting, but this one change HAS made an impact.

What I do know is change is good. This change has positively impacted my classroom in one short month more than I could have dreamed. So next time you’re not sure about that new text or incorporating that new idea, just remember that change can be scary (and others will probably call you crazy), but most of the time it will be so worth it.

"Class Kicks Out Chairs"


"Class Kicks Out Chairs 2"



The “Favorite” Teacher

BAL-EV BAL-FD On August 6th, I began my 4th year as a middle school educator. YAY!

During my previous 3 years of teaching, I have been blessed with kids who have deemed me their “favorite teacher”.

Despite those loving words (which I am well aware can most often be taken with a grain of salt due to the ever-changing minds of the middle school child), I’ve had parents and even other colleagues often share with me their reasons for denouncing the validity of that statement.

“Oh, they just like you because you’re young.”

“The boys think you’re cute. That is why they listen to you.”

“You just teach reading. It isn’t that hard.”

OH, and my favorite one…

“You must not do a good job of teaching, or the kids wouldn’t like you so much.”


Here are some tid-bits of information these parents and colleagues may want to read before saying that this “young, dumb blond” must be doing something wrong:

1. I work my butt off, and my kids know it. I am at the school building from 7:30 AM-7:30 PM, if not later, e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e d-a-y. I coach cheerleading, serve on my schools’ SBDM, co-sponsor the academic team, attend graduate school, and assist with Fuel Up to Play 60…and that is just the beginning. Oh, and believe me, I am not the only one. There are many other “favorite teachers” in the building who stay just as late and stay just as involved.

2. Because I am “young” and “cute”, I have to prove myself even more. There are some phenomenal teachers in my school district who have taught for more years than I have been alive. I strive to be like those teachers each and every day. I mean, who doesn’t love Linda Gregory? My point? When a kid comes to pick up their schedule, everyone automatically knows Mrs. Gregory will take darn good care of them. When they see my name, they know me as the fairly new teacher at TKS. I’m fighting to be more than the “fairly new teacher”, I’m fighting to be the “darn good ELA teacher”.

3.There are new ELA and reading standards in the state of Kentucky. My first day as a teacher in my school district I was unpacking brand new standards. No binder was handed to me full of lessons and units. I worked alongside my colleagues from day one to figure out how to best reach each and every student that walked through my door. Reading makes the world go ’round, folks. It’s a pretty big deal.

5. No doubt, I have a good time in my classroom. My kids sit on yoga balls, I often sing to them, and the conversations you  hear won’t always be ELA related. Nonetheless, my kids LEARN in my room. They learn how to talk to their peers about topics beyond drama and middle school. My kids learn how to have a discussion on controversial topics by proving their point with evidence. My kids learn that working hard will get you far. My kids learn that there is no such thing as perfection, but you should still try hard to achieve it. I may not be the best ELA teacher out there, but I give my kids a voice. A voice to be heard and respected. To the large majority of my kids, there is nothing more rewarding.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My goal isn’t to be every child’s favorite teacher. Some kids and teachers just don’t jive. Some kids absolutely hate ELA. My goal isn’t to run for “school’s best teacher”. I don’t want every single person to love (or even like) me. I’m not trying to toot my own horn (although I suppose that did happen a bit).

My hope is that people realize just how hard teachers are working. To me, being a favorite teacher isn’t giving the kids candy every day. It is making them work hard and pushing them until they can’t be pushed any more. It is loving my kids and attending as many events and competitions as I can. It is treating them with the dignity and respect that ANY person deserves.

So maybe, just maybe, all of those favorite teachers out there have done a bit more to deserve their title than you realized,  huh?



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