Posted in Classroom environment, DIY, Timesavers, Tools

Chapter 9: A Useful Tool

When I hired in last year, I was delighted to find that two walls in my classroom were covered with big chalkboards like the ones I had in my very first classroom. I was less delighted to learn that we didn’t have any of those big chamois erasers like I remembered using 20 years ago, and the teacher-supply stores in Amarillo and Albuquerque didn’t carry them, either.

Enter my husband, who came in one day with some leftover pipe insulation — the kind that’s about as big around as a Coke can, with a split seam along one side — and asked whether I thought it would be good for anything.

I certainly did. I cut a section about a foot long, wrapped a soft car-wash rag around it, and tucked the ends into the seam. Voila! Instant chamois knockoff.

I made a pair of them and took them to school, along with some spare rags. They work really well on my chalkboards, and they’re easy to maintain: When a rag gets too dusty to use, I just swap it out for a clean one and throw the dirty one in the laundry.

This fall, we got new Promethean boards, which are basically ginormous iPads the size of a big-screen TV. My faux-chamois erasers remove fingerprints from the touchscreen on my Promethean board as effectively as they remove chalk residue from a blackboard. In fact, they’ve come in so handy that I wound up making one for each of my colleagues for Christmas. I hope they find them as useful as I have.

Emily

Posted in Classroom management, Discipline, Humor, Pranks, Shenanigans

Chapter 8: Trickery

My English IV students have, over the course of the semester, picked up a bad habit of steering every conversation in the most inappropriate possible direction. Every time they do it, I remind them that my classroom shares a wall with the superintendent’s office, and it would be most unfortunate if she overheard some of their comments.

They are unbothered. They are also hilarious, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere, and I decided to draw it in a memorable but largely painless fashion: I talked my superintendent into coming in during class and convincing them that she had heard every word that had come out of their ornery little mouths.

While I tried (and mostly failed) not to corpse, she came in and delivered a stern lecture in a tone so calm and so icy, it unsettled me a little bit — and then, instead of tipping her hand and letting the kids in on the joke, she simply walked out, like:

obamamicdrop

It was GLORIOUS.

I pointed out that I had warned them, turned back to the board, and let them sit there for a few minutes in stricken silence while I continued reviewing for their final.

About a minute before the end of class, I told the kids I was going to let them in on a little secret. With a purely Slytherin grin, I said, “She’s never heard a single word through that wall. She just came in here to mess with you because I put her up to it.”

I wish I had video of their reactions. They couldn’t decide whether to be horrified, outraged, or delighted by my deception, so they basically did all three at once.

I reminded them that there was a moral to the story: Watch your mouth, because if your superintendent is that intimidating when she’s pretending to be mad, you probably do not want to see the real deal.

We’ll see if that works. Probably not, because seniors, but at least I tried.

Emily

Posted in ELA, Journalism, Reflection

Chapter 7: View from the Sidelines

If someone had told me, two years ago, that I could be happy sitting on the sidelines, watching other journalists work, I would have been convinced that person was hallucinating.

In between teaching gigs, I’ve spent most of the past 30 years in journalism at one level or another. I know the frustration of fruitless investigations, the tedium of crunching crime stats, and the frenetic energy of a newsroom on Election Night. I’ve pored over court records, spent holidays covering crime scenes, and done shots of peppermint schnapps to remove the stench of dead bodies from my sinuses. And I’ve found the profession wildly addictive, despite its myriad drawbacks.

Last time I taught it, I relapsed and ended up back at a newspaper less than two years later — so you can imagine my consternation last spring when my boss asked me to take over our journalism program. Continue reading “Chapter 7: View from the Sidelines”