Saturday, December 17, 2011

You May Daydream of SugarPlum Fairies

....or, if you're a teacher, you may daydream of the tiniest inkling of a HINT of appreciation from your students. Ever. But especially as you roll into the holidays and Christmas break. dear sweet friends, I got that on Friday. All of my trials and tribulations from the past five months were validated on Friday at school with my gremlins (and I do hope that at this point you realize I'm using that term most affectionately).

This past week was the last week before a glorious fortnight in which teachers and students alike loll around like slovenly heathens who don't have to work for a living. Or whatever it is you like to do during winter break....

Thus, I had three trying days of instruction/Midterm review on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by a Thursday and Friday consisting of Midterm exam administration. Thursday was for Part 1: Reading, and Friday was reserved for Part 2: Writing.

For me, this week posed two challenges, and they were: First, what do I do for my students for Christmas, if anything? Lord knows teachers are financially challenged, but I didn't want to send them off into the holidays completely empty-handed. Second, if I get them anything, what day do I carve out 30 minutes of time to give them their presents where it would not interfere with Midterm review or actually taking the Midterm?

The easier part was choosing what to give them. I decided to make every student I teach a "paper plate award." Paper plate awards are exactly what they sound like. Paper plates, decorated by yours truly, that celebrate some quirk or talent of each individual student. They take a good little chunk of time to make, because you first have to go through all of your rosters and concoct an individualized, specific "award" for each student......and then you actually have to decorate the paper plates.

I then decided that if I hammer in Midterm review for two and a half days straight, I could reserve the end of my class period on Wednesday for paper plate award dissemination.

Now, I like to get UBER specific with my paper plate awards. None of this generic "Class Clown" or "Most Improved" or "Most Likely to Succeed" bullshit.

No. My paper plate ceremony included such prestigious awards as:

"Most Steptastic (but NO you are not at Step practice you are in ELA!) Award"
"Most Likely to try to use his charm to get out of trouble Award"
"Most Likely to make me forget I'm talking to a 14 year old because you're so mature Award"
"Most Entertaining Explanations for why he is out of his seat at any given time Award"
"Most Random Question-Asker Award"
"Breath of Fresh Air Award" (for those THANK THE LORD students who are literally "breaths of fresh air" among their rowdy classmates)
"Most Reliable Participator Award"

You get the point. I gave a short "build up" speech before I presented each award to create anticipation and let my students kind of guess who it was going to be. I don't know if it was more fun for them or for me.

When Thursday and Friday rolled around, I knew that two days straight of test taking was going to be almost more than they could bear, so I was glad I had given the awards (and given them an academic break) on Wednesday.

This is the message I displayed on my SmartBoard for students about what were acceptable post-exam behaviors and activities:


1. Read a book.
2. Work on a Double Entry Journal.
3. Work on any late or missing assignments you have for my class.

5. Write an extra-credit Parody or Double Entry Journal.
6. Do a crossword puzzle or word search (on the back table).
7. Study for another exam.
8. NOT wander around the room.
10. Daydream about sugarplum fairies and candy canes.

11. Write an explanation for why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

13. Write a story about a far away fantasy land where students never have to take midterms.
14. Write an explanation for why Lord of the Rings is the greatest movie ever made.

15. OH----OR NOT TALK."

As you can see, they had plenty of options for activities to occupy their time when they finished my exam.

You may have inferred that some of these options were placed on the board in a half-joking manner. Therefore, imagine my surprise when one of my fourth block students ACTUALLY WROTE AN EXPLANATION FOR WHY STAR WARS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE, albeit he tweaked it slightly.

This was, hands down, the single greatest piece of student writing I have received in my teaching career to date. It was so awesome that I will now provide a picture and a complete transcription of the written piece.

"Star Wars has got to be the second greatest movie ever made. With that being said, Lord of the Rings has to be the best movie in the history of movie making. Sure, Star Wars is a combination of action, adventure, and science fiction, but Lord of the Rings has all of my favorite genres-- action, adventure, fantasy, and drama. On top of that, Lord of the Rings has a way better story line than Star Wars. I would rather watch a noble quest while battling creatures than space dudes fighting for the galaxy. Also, the Jedi have got to be the biggest hypocrites in space. They are always talking about bringing peace to the galaxy while they are carrying weapons and slicing dudes arms off. The Brotherhood of the Ring at least are honorable enough to die for their land. The Jedi just send out their clones to do their dirty work for them. Just because there are unlimited amounts of them doesn't mean they don't have feelings. With all that being said, Lord of the Rings has got to be the best movie ever made."

Oh. My. God.

You sir, get an A! I don't even care that you called it the "brotherhood" instead of the "fellowship" of the ring. YOU ARE MY NEW FAVORITE STUDENT EVER.

Do I seriously get paid to be in charge of a classroom where students write me EPIC SHIT like this because they know how much I love Lord of the Rings??

And of the reasons that teaching is the best job on the planet.

As aforementioned, Friday was the last school day before break. I was fully expecting 1 or 2 notes or "Merry Christmas-es" from some of my sweetheart students. However, I was absolutely NOT expecting all of the thoughtful letters, well-wishes, and gifts I received on Friday...

Please note the TWO 2-liters of Diet Coke.....from 2 different students..... They know me too well.

My favorite thing about Friday was not that I received gifts from my students--I definitely didn't need anything tangible from them. It was the tiny bit of confirmation that everything I've been trying to accomplish or the relationships I've been trying to form with them since August have not been completely in vain. Small victories.

Another 4th block student crafted her own "award" for me. The "Dang I need a Diet Coke, Y'all!" Award..........Apparently I say that phrase entirely too often if this student thinks I deserve a personalized award for it.

There were many hugs exchanged in the hallway outside my classroom door after the end-of-day bell rang on Friday, and I daresay I will actually miss those little gremlins until January 2nd.

Do I become frustrated with, complain about, and become baffled by my 14-year-olds on a daily basis? Maybe.

Do I have the best classes in the world? Oh HELL yes.

happy holidays yall :)


  1. I find that giving students too many choices confuses them. Even so, my after-exam list contained your exact #'s: 1, 4, 8, 9, 12, and 15. And my kids say they never get any options about what they want to do in my class.

  2. Awwwww what a sweet post! Both what you did for your students, and the letters/gifts you received. Also your list is fantastic!

  3. cute!!!


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