Get On The Bus…

The dark side

I hadn’t planned on writing another blog quite so soon, but the response to my use of humor to share teacher misery was overwhelming!

99% of you understood that it was meant to be funny. <1% (well, actually 5 of you out of over 66,000 hits) were actually looking for ideas to make In-service better, and the last <1%, (2 of you), well, I’ll save them for later on.

To start, let me tell you that I’m required to attend 8 days of In-service and 2 work days. Quite a bit of these days are not led by Administrators but people hired to teach a seminar.  I have the greatest of respect for good Administration who are there to do a job many of us would rather not do. We call it “the dark side”, but really, they get to see some of the worst of the worst as far as situations, student behavior, etc.  Many of them DO have their hands tied and can’t do anything different for In-Service, or they are afraid to do something different because ‘this is how it’s always been done’. Every now and then you get an Admin who is open to new things and that’s when we, as teachers, need to jump at the chance to share our ideas.  So as we commiserate, we can remember that they are probably just as un-thrilled as we are about what’s going on. Now, people who are hired and get paid to do this for a living…that’s another thing!


One fella we had brought cotton balls and gave them to us as a ‘reward’ for ‘participation’.  I teach Junior High, so we think like them from time to time, and we brought cotton balls in our purse, and the guy couldn’t understand how the bowls had become so full.  THAT’S the kind of In-Service I’m talking about….

People had some great ideas about what teachers really want and need in an In-service, so to help people out who were looking for this, I compiled the suggestions.

1. Have a separate training day for new teachers. They can get all of their paperwork finished, learn about campus and district policies, and receive all of their supplies and assignments. (I always wanted them to wear beanies for a week, but that’s probably teacher hazing).


2. Have the whole staff attend a 30 min – hour meeting where new teachers are introduced, any finished/ongoing changes to the campus/district are discussed, and teachers receive a folder of all paperwork that needs to be completed by the end of the day (contact forms, etc.).


3. The rest of the day is spent with Departments creating lesson plans for at least the first grading period. While they are together, the Principal can stop by and let them know test results and what the department needs to focus on for the upcoming year.


4. Technology can come and meet with teachers by building and make sure all technology is working/installed/updated. (Did you know that if you put in a tech request and they fix the problems quickly, they close out the request by typing P.I.C.N.I.C which means ‘Problem in chair, not in computer’? It’s true…)


5. All extra-curricular teachers and sponsors can meet and work out their calendars for the year. Hopefully this will help and little Johnny won’t be expected to be in band, in choir and on a Student Council trip at the same time.


6. Teachers can join one of several different teacher led campus committees, such as PTA Reps, Secret Pals, Special Events, Sports Support, Grants for Teachers, Pets in the Classroom, etc. and plan how to involve teachers throughout the year and how to use activities to not only help students, but that also build teacher morale.

6296_fundforteachers7. As an In-service activity, teachers can be grouped with different departments and they can discuss what works, what doesn’t work, ideas for classroom management, etc. They create notecards full of ideas that work, and all teachers receive a copy to give them new ideas.


8. Anyone who needs a specific course in bullying, harassment, discipline, management, etc. can use this time to take an online course. Many are offered through region training centers and can be taken at school. Results are printed and filed in the front office to make sure they have credit.


9. And last, but certainly not least, teachers are able to make copies, clean and decorate, and get ready for the new batch of students.


Now, as for the <1% who obviously didn’t understand that my previous blog was to be humorous, my advice: don’t read my blogs. It’s that simple. I am truthful and I try to present truth in a way that makes people laugh. I believe I was called a ‘whiner’ and told that my classroom scores must not be good, and that I needed to ‘get on the bus’.


I got news for you. All teachers are ON the bus. We LIVE on the bus. We eat there, cry there, celebrate there, and fall in love with our kids and career every year there.  One In-service activity last year actually had us get on a bus and tour the neighborhoods we served so we had a better idea about the kids and their home life. Some people threw up from motion sickness, some got heat exhaustion from the AC not working, and others just stared in awe at the ‘homes’ that these children lived in. But we were ALL there, and we stay there long past the day we retire.

What people who don’t teach don’t understand is that we don’t do this for the money, certainly not the insurance or the retirement. We do it for the kids, and if we have to use humor now and then to commiserate, then so be it. Like it or no, the truth is funny.


If Teachers Planned Inservice Training…

Team Work

I let out quite a chuckle when I saw this picture. I’ve been there and I’ve made that face.

*Disclaimer* This blog is not meant to imply that teachers do not appreciate learning. It is also not intended to imply that we are ‘lazy’, ‘unprofessional’ or the like. We wouldn’t be in education if we didn’t appreciate its value. What we don’t appreciate is receiving the exact same training year after year. That’s not Professional Development. That’s insulting. As far as those looking for examples on what could be done during In-Service, please read my other blog entitled ‘Get on the Bus’. Any and all comments which use bad language, insult another who comments by name calling, etc. will not be posted. *

It got me to thinking…teachers are required to attend Inservice “training” before school. It’s always dreaded and I, personally, would rather have a cavity filled than sit 3 days in a hard wooden chair, rehashing the same things year after year after year after…you get the picture.  What if teachers were in change of Inservice? What would we do away with if we could suggest anything and people in charge would listen? Ohhh, the possibilities…..


1. Please do not give us binders full of materials we will probably never use because YOU (the planner) attended a training and decided it was awesome.  Honestly, just give us an empty binder. That’s what is going to happen anyway. We listen to your synopsis, trying our best not to roll our eyes or poke the person next to us, and then, when it’s over, in the hidden comfort of our room, we are going to throw away these copies and use the binder. Save a tree. Just give us the binder, say you went to a conference and let’s move on. Time saved: 1 hour.


2. Please do not read your PowerPoint presentation to us.  At some point in time, we’ve all proven we are literate.  Also, doubly, please do not put said PowerPoint presentation in aforementioned binder we will not use. Just don’t. Time saved: 30 minutes.


3. No, we do not want to change how we teach AGAIN because so and so came out with a new technique which looks familiarly like the one we used several years ago until a new technique came out and we used that. And for goodness sakes, please, please, we don’t need another laminated copy of Bloom’s taxonomy. Nope. Time saved: Up to a day. Literally.


4. I like my coworkers, and heck, I even love some that I’ve known a while, but I don’t want to hold yarn in a shape with them and throw a ball around until it falls through a hole. You REALLY want work place bonding? Break us into groups, give us a list of clues and tell us there’s a pay raise hidden somewhere on campus.  Oh yeah, you’ll see some bonding, and some true colors come out. Time saved: 1 hour, We’re bonded and richer


5. What we despise? Really, really loathe. Think-Pair-Share = No.  You know what’s going to happen? You think we’re sitting around talking about your binder, and your PowerPoint (in the binder) and how much we loved the yarn activity, when really, we’re talking about where we’re going to for lunch. You can call on us and we’ll make something up on the fly that sounds relevant if you need us to do that. We’re teachers, remember? We are experts of thinking off the cuff. We’re still throwing away your binder, and now we know we’re having Mexican food for lunch. You can’t come. Time saved: 30 minutes.

Mission statement

6. Why ask us what the Campus Mission Statement and goals should be if the Mission Statement and goals have not changed in 20 years? Hand us a copy, we’ll grunt in agreement, and we’re done. Please don’t give us a copy and ask us to Think-Pair-Share with the group about these things. We care about as much as the students care that the floors are waxed. Time saved: At least an hour.

Sounds great

7. We know you want us to get into the groove ASAP with our ISPs and our plans for those in DAEP and ISS. We see we have scheduled ARDs or have paperwork on students that have a BIP.  We also need to look at our STAAR scores, but the 411 is that we are A-OK with actually saying the words. Time saved: Not really applicable, but at least everyone can keep up with what’s being said.

And last, but not least…


8.  We are not statisticians. Some of us may be able to do statistics under threat, but what we really want to know, in caveman speak even, is ‘You do good’ or ‘You do bad’. That’s it. We are relatively easy to please. Please do not hand us copies of every single test ever taken in the last 15 years and ask us to create and graph the distribution. This is when we suddenly get an ‘urgent’ phone call, or stomach troubles. (By the way, we’re all hanging out in the bathroom, rolling our eyes, heavily sighing, and walking very, very slowly). Time saved: 1 hour


“Keep it down, folks!” Classroom Procedure for Quiet Made Into a Game

Noise Buttons

“I don’t go to your house and stand between you and your Xbox and try to teach you Science, so please don’t come into my ‘house’ and disturb what I’m doing.”

Any teacher can tell you that there are those moments in education where you’re moving right along with your curriculum, you’re in the zone, ……..and you realize that you’re talking to yourself.  I have tried many classroom procedures to quell the extra chit chat.  Over the years, I have learned that bringing in a competition of sorts, especially with tweens and teens really 1. Gets their attention, 2. helps the class to bond and, 3. uses positive peer pressure to help kids conform.

Now, I can hear the groans. Oh no, HOW could you use peer pressure? What if EVERYONE doesn’t win the game? Does EVERYONE get a reward? What about their SELF-ESTEEM? As an adult, I can tell you that I have learned just as much from my failures and losses as I have from my successes.  My soapbox for 2 minutes: Kids need to understand that there’s a lesson to be learned in not always being successful/a winner/perfect. I think the world where everyone gets a pat on the back for showing up is really setting our kids up for unreal expectations.  Let’s stop setting these kids up for disappointment.  There’s nothing wrong with not coming out on top from time to time. It’s part of being human, and, yes, people will have certain expectations of you as an adult. You can be yourself, but learn when it’s okay/not okay to buck the system. Alright, I’m done now.

Anywho, I had these bottle caps I found in an old tin from a garage sale and I kept them with the thought that one day they’d come in handy.  I saw a similar project on Pinterest where large letters spelling ‘noise’ were used to keep the class aware of the noise level. I decided to turn it into a game, given my audience. Let’s talk about what I did first, and then I’ll tell you how the game is played.

I painted the bottle caps in sets of 5. I have 7 different classes for I ended up with 7 different colored sets. (I know there are 6 sets in this picture. I remembered to take a picture only after I had already started my next step. Oops.)


Then, I used my Mod Podge and some letters I found in some old scrap book stuff to create the word ‘noise’ on each set. If you aren’t familiar with Mod Podge, you’re missing out! It’s like a glue, but less sticky, easy to work with, and dries to a nice glaze. You can get it from all local hobby stores. I placed some under the letter, and then placed two coats on top of the letter, allowing time to dry between coats.Mod Podge

Bottom Coat

Top Coat

After they dried, I placed magnets on the back with hot glue so that they would cling to my classroom white board. Here’s my finished set.


To make this into a game, I created game cards, one for each class.  They were color coded to match the bottle  caps, and were 7″ x 7″.  I spaced out the blanks by 1/2″. I plan to laminate them so that dry erase markers can be used on them.

Game Cards

Here’s my finished set of cards and bottle caps, aka game pieces.

Game Set

To play the game: Each Monday, all classes start with a full set of game pieces on the whiteboard. If they get unruly, don’t pay attention, etc., a letter comes off.  This continues for the week. On Friday, the number of game pieces they still have on the board determines the number of moves they get to make on the classroom/team game cards.  These cards are posted on my bulletin board.  The goal is to fill in two complete lines on the card. Any direction, up, down, in an ‘X’.  To do this, they have a choice: Use, Block, or Split.

If they decide to ‘Use’, they will use their moves to fill in spots on their classroom/team game card. For example, on Friday, a class has three letters left and they chose to ‘Use’ these three moves. They would place three dots on their card, working toward filling in their two lines.

If they chose to ‘Block’, they can use their moves to place an ‘X’ on another class card to cover over a move that class has made. To redeem this move, the class who received the ‘X’ must use a move to get that space back.

If they chose to ‘Split’, they can use their moves to make a mark on their card and block on their opponent’s cards.  Example, they had a great week and earned all 5 moves. They place 3 dots on their own card and block two opponents.

Each week, the class elects a different Game Leader. This Game Leader listens to his classmates and make the decisions that the class, or most of it, agree upon in relation to Use, Block or Split.

When a class fills in two lines, they get to draw a class reward. For example, a fun lab in class that other classes don’t get to do. Half a class day outside, etc. The cards are erased and the game starts again.

Now, if the class goes through all game pieces in a week, you need to slow down and evaluate what’s going on in that class because something is wrong with the precious little angels!  I have one like this every year and sometimes you have to create different procedures for them because they are just a handful (we’ve all been there).

Hope you enjoyed this post and let me know if you have any suggestions, if you try it, etc.


I am a teacher

I would like to be able to say that teaching is all I ever wanted to do; that when I could first choose a path for life, I thought of the joy in instructing others.  That would be a lie.  I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a doctor, a corporate guru, and in my younger years, Princess Leia, but never a teacher.  I work with amazing people who have been teaching for years, who knew that this was what they wanted to do.  I, for lack of a better word, stumbled into it.

I did very well in school, but I was very shy, except around my friends.  I always compared myself to the popular girls who were tall and blonde and beautiful.  I was nerdy, short, had coke bottle glasses and I always ruined the ‘curve’.  I didn’t like speaking in front of the class and I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me in any way. I honestly didn’t think much of myself except that I could master any subject, pass any test, or do anything academic with ease.  By the time I was 26, I had my Master’s degree and wanted to finish my Ph.D., joining the ranks of professors.  Life is funny though: It had other plans for me.  My Ph.D. program lost accreditation right before I was to move to attend and I was lost. Utterly, completely, totally, l-o-s-t! I laid on my couch for a week surrounded by boxes of my life and wondered what it was I was supposed to do with this messy moment.  (You’re thinking perhaps that it was then I had a revelation, an epiphany, that I was meant to help others learn.  Nice way to sum up the story, but wrong.)

I wandered from job to job to job.  I always did them very well, but something was always missing.  I didn’t feel as if I had purpose, that I helped anyone in particular, or that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  It wasn’t until I was 32 that I came across a local program where I could achieve my teaching certificate in a year since I already had a degree.  I was working for my grandfather selling real estate (never work for family), had the time and realized I had nothing to lose.  I gained my certificate by passing the certification tests the first time, and I was set.

Granted, like any new teacher, I had delusions, ( super big ones), about how my classroom would run.  It would be like a combination of ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, where I inspired inquiring minds to ‘seize the day’! They would show up excited to be in my class, would eagerly complete all my assignments, and would leave at the end of the year, better people!  I would single-handedly save the academic world! I quickly discovered that the only thing some wanted to ‘seize’ was a nap, some only wanted to complete a text on their ‘hidden’ phones in their laps, and the only thing some couldn‘t wait to do was leave my class.  Although I won them over with my witty remarks and they all thought I was ‘so funny’, I couldn’t seem to get them to learn and love learning.  I cried a few times in the bathroom stalls and I had to ask myself if I had yet again made a mistake.

One day near the end of the year, I found a note on my desk while grading papers. I still have it and it reads:

Dear Mrs. Lap, Thank you for this year.  It has been so much fun. As I leave this school, my head will be full of memories from your class.  It was a place where I could be myself.  You helped me realize that it is better to be myself than to be something I’m not. With Love, your student.

I felt like a giant ass.  I had been so focused on “the curriculum” that I forgot the most important part: the students.  I told myself that I would never again make the worksheet more important than the kid.  I would never make the test supersede a student’s bad home life.  I would not forget what it was like to be unnoticed, overlooked, and to feel unimportant.  Once I made this the cornerstone of my teaching, everything else fell into place.  Now, granted, some days are better than others and some kids are still knot-heads. They are teenagers and they roll their eyes, but as long as they leave my classroom with whatever knowledge I can give them about science and life in general, I am fine with the mood swings and semi-drama.  It’s hard to describe unless you’ve found it yourself, but amidst it all, I know that I’m finally where I need to be.  I am a teacher.