Thursday, January 20, 2011

I figured out my password!

A new-teacher blog is a complete oxymoron. What new teachers in this world have time for a blog?

Here are some gems (some of which I've posted on Facebook) from my "little" sweeties:

--15 yr old male student
"You should go ice skating with me this weekend."
"Hm. That's probably pretty inappropriate, buddy."
"But we could get hot chocolate. . .and little gloves. . .and my mom could drive us there!"

You had me at "my mom."

--14 year old female student
"Mrs. Minich, I have a question concern gay rights."
". . .yes?"
"Can you explain to me why, like, people are so against gays, but, like, so turned on by lezzies?"

How does a person answer a question like that?

--14 year old male student
"Miss! I like your hair today! It looks clean."
*concerned* "Does it usually look dirty?!"
*laughing hysterically* "Naw, miss. . .like fresh. Like. . .good."
"Then why didn't you just say that?!"

At only 23, I'm already too lame to understand their slang.

"Okay, class. Let's brainstorm. Who are some personal heroes in your lives?"
"Mom!" "Dad!" "Firemen!" "Jesus!"
"Great. Who are some well-known villains?"

Who am I to argue?!

"Okay, pretend like you can speak with anyone in the world. . .living OR dead. Anyone! Who would you choose?"
"Kim Kardashian!"

I didn't even know who that was. When I figured it out, I was highly disappointed. Anyone in the world. . .and they wanna talk to Kim Kardashian?!

Looooove my job. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010


I sit down to write my blog, and I'm usually so exhausted that I never finish. I have 3 or 4 half-finished entries just waiting to be posted, so I think I'll just sum them all up here. Sorry I've been such a lousy blogger!

Okay...summin' up time. Here we go!

Joys: I'm really starting to connect with some of my kids. Some of them have given me cute nicknames (such as "Mrs. M-fresh" or "Miss Lady"), but I have quite a few who stop by before and after school just to chat with me. One student brought me pages of her poetry to ask for my opinion. Another brought me pictures of his cat that I had asked about. Another came to me for advice on how to win a girl over. I am so grateful that they feel comfortable coming to me for advice, help, or just for company. I'm starting to feel like I mean as much to them as they mean to me, and it's a beautiful thing.

Losses: One of the other cheer coaches lost her father yesterday. You probably heard about it on the news. He was driving his motorcycle at 7:30 A.M. Sunday morning when he was hit by a 24-year-old drunk driver. I cannot fathom how it feels to lose a father. I can't imagine how different my life would be. . .how much it would hurt. One man's foolish choice robbed others of a brother, uncle, husband, and father. Would it have been that difficult to call a cab? To stay where he was until he sobered up? He, of course, survived and his currently being charged with manslaughter. My friend is devastated, and I'm hurting for her. Prayers would be much appreciated.
Also, while I am so excited that my students feel comfortable enough to come to me for help, I am also saddened and overwhelmed by their stories. I wish I had known what some kids have to go through at 14-years-old when I was in high school. I took so much for granted. I thought almost everyone's parents were together and happy. I thought everyone participated in sports or fine arts, ate dinner at 6:00, and saw their brothers and sisters every day. I never had to work a part-time job after school to help support my family; I never knew what it was like to genuinely struggle. I experienced hardship sometimes, of course. But not like this. Never like this.
One of my students has been taken away by CPS multiple times. Last time it was because of allegations that her father had raped her. She's scared of opening up and tired of getting hurt.
One of my students was evicted from her apartment this week. Her mom lost her job, and she's not sure how they're going to make ends meet. Mom was also just diagnosed with cancer.
Several of my students have never met their parents because they're locked up in prison. Some of my students were abandoned at a young age and live with friends of the family, grandparents, or strangers. Many have experienced abuse and neglect.
They come to me with these stories that make me sick. I am not trained for this. I am not a counselor or psychiatrist. I'm a teacher. I don't have the answers, but I have compassion. And maybe I can't tell them to believe in God, but I can show them the wonderful things He's done in my life, and I can pray that He'll guide them when they don't have good parents or friends to push them in the right direction.
I'll always be a listening ear. But I won't pretend like it doesn't wear me out. It hurts. I hurt for them. But they trust me, and I honestly cannot tell you how much joy that brings me. I have more stories than I could possibly share in one post, but trust me--you wouldn't want to hear all of them.

Favorite lesson plan so far: I taught me kids about the writing process using play-doh. Most students receive a writing assignment, type something up the night before it's due, and hand it in. Of COURSE they're not going to produce quality writing. They haven't revised, edited, re-read, or even attempted in any way to perfect their paper.
This year I'm putting far more emphasis on the writing process than the ultimate product. It's kind of the "teach a man to fish" mentality.
First I asked the kids to create a list of things they might create with their play-doh: grapes, cookies, pizzas, aliens, snakes, etc. (Later I related this portion of the activity to brainstorming before writing a paper. You never begin writing a paper cold. It has no organization or direction. If you brainstorm several ideas and then select one from your list, it's much easier to start writing and far easier to figure out exactly where you're going.)
Second I asked students to select one item from their list and to take five minutes to create that object out of their play-doh. (This is the "drafting" process of writing. You create a "sloppy copy." This is the copy most kids turn in to their teachers. No wonder their writing, spelling, and grammar is atrocious. They write it and don't both to glance at it a second time.)
Next, I asked students to add to their creation using a second color. Then they molded, reshaped, or reorganized their creation. (This is the "revision" process. We can always add more details to our writing and beef it up with some great figurative language.)
Then I ask students to take something away from their creation--something that wasn't completely necessary. (This is the editing process. We check for proper grammar, punctuation, etc. We also check for unnecessary or superfluous details that don't do anything except distract the reader from the REAL story.)
Last, I asked students to display and name their creation. (This reflects the "publishing" part of writing. After brainstorming, drafting, revising, and editing, our papers should be stellar! We should be so proud of our writing that we are willing and wanting to share it with the world.)
The kids LOVED this. They actually UNDERSTAND the process. They understand why it's important. We are currently writing memoirs, and we are in the "revising" stage. Every day I ak, "What stage are we in now?" and they can tell me where we are and what we're doing. It's fabulous.

Not every single day runs flawlessly, of course. My first and fourth period are HARD. Those are my "regulars" classes. These kids are often second-language learners or have motivational problems. My pre-AP babies are BRILLIANT. They love language and literature as much as I do. It's so wonderful to be in a room full of people who are obligated to talk about books with you. :)

Overall, things are going well. I think God put me in this place for a reason; He lead me to these kids because He thought I could help them. I just hope I'm making Him proud.

Love you & God bless!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Frustrated & Defeated

Today was not a good day.

I know I'll have plenty of those in my teaching career, but I didn't expect to have one so early on.

I'm really struggling to squash the notion of being "the teacher they like" in favor of being "the teacher they need." I know what kind of teacher they like. They like the funny guy--the guy who has no rules, no seating chart, and no intention of challenging them.
They don't like to be pushed beyond their comfort levels. They don't like it when I hand back the paper they just gave me because I don't feel like it's quality work. They don't like hearing, "Try again." I can tell some of them have been spoon-fed in some their previous English classes. They looked at me like I was an alien when I said, "Answer in complete sentences." They live and breathe fragments. I honestly received a sentence like this:

sun = makes me happy.

What?! They speak as if they are texting or updating their status on Facebook. I have to prepare them to take the 9th grade TAKS test, and they're still resisting writing complete sentences.

Don't get me wrong--they are smart. My Pre-AP kids are especially impressive. They analyze, evaluate, and think critically all the time. It's so fun to sit in a classroom full of people who are just as passionate about reading, writing, and literature as you are. It was hard for me to imagine a student who wouldn't be moved by poetry and a good book. But they exist. I know that now.

It's frustrating to want someone to succeed so badly and to receive the impression that they could not possibly care less. I'm doing everything I can to motivate them (grades are never a good motivator, by the way), and I'm not throwing in the towel yet. But some of them are so incredibly resistant. They are sweet and respectful, but they look at a pencil the way I look at a screwdriver. "What in the world am I supposed to do with this?"

How have they gone this long without discovering the beauty of the written word? How haven't they discovered how relaxing it feels to vent your frustrations to journal? (Or a blog in my case!) They've gone nine years without learning to love literature. And you know. . . maybe they will never love it.

But they WILL learn how to write a complete sentence. They WILL be able to create a grammatically correct and stellar looking resume. They WILL discover how to differentiate between good and bad writing. I'll make sure of that.

It's just sad. I don't mean to go on a tirade, but most of these kids have nothing. Their future is in their hands; every single choice they make impacts their future. Studying for this quiz could mean the difference between an A and an F. . .between enrolling in the university of their dreams and dropping out of high school. I care about them SO much that I'm willing to sacrifice being that "teacher they like" to be "the teacher they need."

Quite honestly, I don't have this problem with all of my classes. I even have kids who come after school & see me, eager to hang out and talk for awhile. But there is ONE class...just one...and it's making me a little bonkers. They're not rude, disrespectful, or mean in any way. But they always look exasperated. They always look like I'm asking them to run outside and fetch me the sun. Maybe, to them, I am. Maybe no one has ever said, "This mediocre effort is not good enough. Try harder." But they'll be hearing that a lot this year. And when they give me something wonderful, we'll celebrate. It won't all be hard times, but it won't be a giant party either. They're here to learn, and I'm here to make sure that they get the best possible free education that they can.

I needed to pep talk myself! Haha! I just feel like my work is definitely cut out for me this year. I'm just going to do my absolute best and hope that they remember to thank me later. ;)

On another note (though one that's NOT much lighter), two of my students came to see me today. We were sitting down at my desk talking when they both started crying.

One told me about some family issues they've been having. She lost her 2 year old cousin, and her family has been grieving.

One said that her mom lost her job. Their car was repossessed last night, and they've been evicted. They can't pay their bills, and dad is not around. When he was, he was abusive to both her and her mom. Mom was recently diagnosed with cancer, though she refuses to tell the kids and worry them. This student only knows after eavesdropping on her mother's private phone conversation.

I never dealt with these things when I was fourteen. I still don't know how to deal with them now. I hugged them both, told them that I was always there for them, and asked them to please call or email me if they needed anything. They hugged me back and said, "Thanks for listening. We were going to go to the guidance counselor, but we really just wanted to come to you."

This is why I do what I do.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Week--I Survived!

I am officially a teacher! I've taught one week and one day of lessons, and I'm happy to say that it's exactly what I hoped it'd be like.
The kids are polite and--even though they're a handful--I've already started to adore them. I teach two regular English classes and three Pre-AP. The difference between the two classes is vast, but I think that's due to the high level of second language learners in my regular classes.
I've had some frustrating moments & some funny moments. Here are some things that have made me laugh:

Young male student, lounging casually on my desk after class- "Miss. . .I wanted to tell you. . .I broke up with my girlfriend yesterday."

Student-"Miss! You're actually not wearing heels today!"


"I'm Mrs. Minich."
"Mrs. what?"
"Mrs. Minich."
"......Can we just call you Mrs. M-fresh?"


"Tell me two true statements about yourself and one lie. We'll try to guess which one is the lie."
Student- "I have two brothers. I like to read. I have a hot girlfriend."
"Which one is the lie, class?"
Entire class- "He has a hot girlfriend!"
Student, in all seriousness-"Yeah. She's not really hot. She's kind of medium."


There have been even more moments that made me giggle, but I'm exhausted and probably won't remember them until later. All in all, I've really, really enjoyed myself. I'm completely and totally overwhelmed with the administrative side of teaching, but I've stopped treading water and am finally starting to swim. Before I felt like I was drowning.

Tomorrow we are going to the library to take our ID pictures. I took mine a week ago and it looks TERRIBLE. Maybe I can convince her to get me another? ;)

I'm off to finish the sweet and sour pork chops I'm baking for my hubby and his brother Tim! Bye!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nikki = Hermit

That's about as good as my math gets.

I will be a teacher in one week and one day. I will have students. I will have a classroom. I will be responsible for an entire year of their learning, growth, and progress. I will be held accountable for their TAKS scores. Oh. my. gosh. I am 60% excited. . .40% terrified.

I have been working diligently to finish all of my certifications and tests before the school year begins. I finally finished everything about twenty minutes ago! I still have some preparations to complete for the school year, of course--planning lessons, collecting supplies, etc--but the (expensive!) tests are over. I am so relieved; I'll finally be able to leave my house! I've honestly felt like a hermit, cooped up here studying, quizzing, and testing. It's been incredibly stressful, but it's a labor of love. I am SO excited to begin my new career.
Next week is in-service week. I've become friends with my high school's tennis coach/business instructor, and it's so nice to have someone to go through the chaos with. We'll be experiencing the confusion and stress together. . .preferably over a pitcher of margaritas!

On another note, my mother spent ALL day last Saturday helping me clean, organize, and decorate my classroom. She is such a Godsend! We scrubbed, pinned, cut, glued, arranged, rearranged, posted, tacked, scrubbed, and sanitized all day long. Here are some pictures!

I've added pictures of my family to my desk & more books to the bookshelves since these pictures were taken. It's a great big room with a row of windows along the back. I put pretty butterfly decals all over the windows. :) I want my kids to feel comfortable when they walk in the room. I remember walking into rooms that resembled dungeons when I was in high school; I definitely don't want my room to feel that way.

I'll keep you updated. I'm only one week away from meeting my kids! I can't wait to tell you about them.

God Bless!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Today I took a CPR training class. I'm not sure I've ever paid better attention in a class before! It was a little daunting to realize that I'm going to be the person in charge if and when something goes wrong in my classroom. I practiced on the training dummy several times, and when I came home, I asked Kevin if he would willingly play the unconscious victim.
He agreed, laid down, closed his eyes, and let his tongue roll out of his mouth like a cartoon character.

Even though it's intimidating, it's nice to know how to perform CPR & the heimlich. And I met a FANTASTIC girl who is a new coach and teacher as well. We're figuring this whole thing out together, and it's really nice to have someone to learn the ropes with. We've got similar values, and she's really likable; I think we'll get along well this year. We went to Blue Goose after training today, joking that we'll be needing a couple Margaritas once the school year starts. ;)

I take my ESL exam this Thursday, so I'll be studying for the next two days. I'll start getting my classroom ready next week. I'm SO excited! I can't believe I've got a "big girl" job now. Haha!

God Bless!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Hey! What are you doing with a room key?!"

Today in the middle of new-hire training, the speaker stopped, paused, and looked at me thoughtfully. "You know," she said, "while I was creating this lesson, I thought of you."

Of course everyone in the room (maybe 40-50 people?) swivels around in their seats and stares at me like I've got leprosy.

"We're talking about body language today. When you walk into a room, you have to own it. Especially someone like you," she nodded her head towards me. "The students are going to walk in your classroom on the very first day and wonder where their teacher is. All they're going to see when they look at you is someone who looks just like them."

We all giggled at this point; she told us that she had dealt with the same problem in her early years of teaching. (She's almost forty now but she honestly barely looks like she's reached thirty. She's absolutely stunning.) Teachers were constantly yelling at her down the hallway, demanding to see her hall pass. They berated her for having a room key, which they assumed she'd stolen from a teacher. She described incident after incident in which she was mistaken for a kid--by both the student body AND the staff. And all of this, she elaborated, was coming my way.

You know what?

I'm not worried.

I've been on stage in front of hundreds of people. I've forgotten dance routines, flubbed lines, even tripped and started bleeding in front of hundreds of people. It's about presence. A toddler could walk up in front of a classroom and, if she had the confidence, teach a class full of high school juniors. It's all in the way you carry yourself; I understand that's the point she's trying to make, of course. But I am continually warned that the kids are going to try to eat me for breakfast. Maybe years of theatre has taught me to act more confident that you are. . .act like you know more than you do. . .and if you make a mistake, you roll with it. I've honestly started to believe that EVERY teacher should be required to take an intro to acting class. It has helped me immensely.

I thought that was just a funny little thing. I guess I'll let you know on the first day of school how the kids respond to me. To my knowledge, I should be teaching freshmen, and I'm at least seven years older than they are, so hopefully it won't be too problematic. If I can survive the seniors (who are only four years younger than I am), freshmen should be a breeze!

I'm just ready for school to start. I am stressed beyond belief. I just found out that a new state law requires English/Language Arts teachers to be ESL certified. I have until October first to study, take the $120 exam, pass it, and pay to have it added to my certifications. I also have to finish a Spirit course to become fully certified to teach my cheerleaders. AHH! When does it end? The notion that teachers get a summer off is complete myth; we spend the entire summer studying, testing, and attending trainings!

Anyways, I'm off to a sushi rolling class. More later!