Hey teacher – my kid is listening to every single word you say.

Pretty much the title here says it all. My daughter is a Junior at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, California. The reason I’m blowing my cover and giving out a location is because I want to give credit where credit is due.

One of the mantras on this blog is to talk with your kids. That said, my kids talks to me about everything that goes on at school. I’m not saying that there aren’t frustrations and difficult issues. The workload is insane. The pressure of AP classes is insane. I’m sure there are also social issues I don’t know about that wear on a young mind and heart.

A lot of what I do hear is about the teachers. Even if the work is hard, the teachers are good. They’re great.

Dear Teachers,

  • My teenager likes you. All of you.
  • Mu teenager respects you.
  • Even when you’re assigning difficult and completely confusing projects she likes you.
  • Why? Because you treat your teenage students with respect.
  • Because you make an attempt at humor.
  • You never make any of the kids feel stupid in front of other kids.
  • You call out kids who are being jerks and deal with it.
  • You don’t treat your students like babies.
  • You make the subjects interesting.
  • You know the kids are all going to be desperately trying to get into college soon and respect that panic. You know the difference a grade can make.
  • You encourage parents to talk to their kids before they call you.
  • You encourage your students to think and have original thoughts.
  • You challenge your students to think for themselves.
  • You answer your students questions.
  • You respect the teenagers and acknowledge that they are valued as future human beings.
  • I know my child is in good hands.
  • I wish all teachers were like you.
  • This is for the AP History, AP English, Chemistry, Algebra 2, Ceramics teachers (you know who you are, I hope. I’ll let you know personally later.)

Thanks,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Keep Calm We're Teens

Dear Teacher: End of the year letters to high school teachers

shell

Dear Mr. M,

My son will be starting college in the fall as an Environmental Science Major with a Minor in Art. Over the past 2 years you’ve shown him the connection between the world of science and that of art. Not just that, you’ve also shown him that through science and humanity all things are possible, all things inspire, all things are important – as long as it is based on truth and knowledge and understanding. You showed your students that being curious is a good thing. You opened up worlds full of possibilities mixed in with those cold hard facts and formulas that they must learn (or else.) You’ve made a difference, not just for my son but for hundreds of teens. They will change the world – and that is a good thing. Thank you.

 

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Dear Ms K,

All year long I had to hear my daughter complain about you and about your class. Every evening she would describe the Bedlam type conditions in a room full of insane psychopaths and deviants and sex fiends. And there you were trying to be warden for these kids. Yes, there were a handful who wanted to be there and wanted to learn. Their grades might not reflect the fact that they did learn. At the same time my daughter was complaining about you and your curriculum she was also bringing up topics for discussion such as the comparison of presidential speeches or mythology or poetry. She talked about the books she claimed to hate reading (you have very different tastes.) The more she talked about you the more I told her that you were an amazing woman for teaching that class full of horrible monsters every single day. And you got through to kids. They don’t know that yet.

One of my most popular blog posts was written about you. It was called Thank You For Pissing Off My Teenage Daughter. I could have emailed it to you but I thought it was better not to. You might have taken it the wrong way. But that said, thank you for staying in the battle and for educating your students – even the monsters.

Also, please don’t edit this letter. I know it is making you hurt due to my fast writing and lack of correct grammar today. I know I have no excuse. Just thanks for sticking in there for the kids who want to learn. Thanks for trying to get through to the kids who don’t want to learn. That is all.

 

Everyone needs to get along!

Dear Mr S,

Thank you for taking over from a marginal strung out teacher mid semester and taking over another out of control class full of rude young people. My daughter thanks you too. You told the sexist kids to shut the F up and you tried to keep control in the class. I swear I don’t know why you teachers are put in such a battle zone. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you’ve done an amazing job. I told the principal that she needs to hire you on perminately. She’d be a fool not to.

books

 

Dear Ms A,

My children have not only learned another language from you – they’ve learned another culture and a new view of the world. Thank you for bringing Spanish alive for them. Thank you for making the class more than memorizing. Thank you for making a different kind of grammar interesting. They don’t just know a different language, they know that despite the language that we’re not that different from each other.

 

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Dear Mr. J,

My child hates math. But she likes you and has requested to have you as a teacher for math next year. She said you’re the best teacher according to the students her age. She hated you at first but then she realized that she really just hated math. I appreciate the communication and resources you’ve shared with the students and teachers. The fact that my otherwise A student didn’t fail your class is a good thing. Maybe next year she’ll shine. Just a note: Some kids need a little extra coaching from the teacher because they never “get it”. Hint hint.

 

hipster+cat

 

Dear Mr. G,

The Night Coach post is not about you. In all seriousness the kids adore you. Good job. You’ve gotten them up off of their butts and maybe helped build some life long fitness habits.

 

High School Coach thinks he is going to score with a Vampire mom only to find himself in a passion that is off the score charts!

High School Coach thinks he is going to score with a Vampire mom only to find himself in a passion that is off the score charts!

 

Wishing you all a wonderful summer and many thanks. You are appreciated.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

flying pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zombies in the Morning – The Horrors of School Funding

This morning around 7:40 am I saw a line of what looked like Zombies staggering along the side of the road. They were coming from all directions to a main meeting point. Their heads down, their feet shuffling, their eyes glassy and nothing could stop them.

“What is this horror?” I thought.

Then I realized these are not Zombies but high school kids carrying 40 – 60 pound backpacks full of heavy text books.

So much for news stories about school being “online” and every kid having online books, tablets and their own laptops. These kids DO have computers/tablets at home but don’t dare bring them to school.

They have to carry books. And these books are heavy (and don’t give me that story about you walking to school 5 miles in the snow wearing flip flops and a hair shirt.) They have to carry their books because they don’t have lockers. They don’t have lockers because the schools can’t afford security.

The school can’t afford sets of books for every classroom. They can’t afford online books or computers in every classroom.

The school can’t afford library books either. The brilliant librarian gets donations for books, kindles, nooks, computers and whatever else she needs.

In California, where I live, we have a state lottery that makes a lot of money that is supposed to go to the schools. I wonder where all of the lottery money for schools goes? I wonder where all the money we vote in for school use every year at each election goes? Not to our schools. The teachers and librarians and school staff gets by on absolutely nothing. Parents volunteer and donate. Where is that money going?

We don’t have bus service either but we’re dealing with that too.

But even with a future of back problems and no computers the school succeeds. The teachers there could teach the kids under a tree with a slate and a piece of chalk. They’re that good.

So while our State Government and elected officials prove time and time again that they can’t do their jobs… the teachers and school staff proves time and time again that they CAN and WILL do the job, no matter what, hell or high water, budget or no budget.

We don’t need more over priced studies that tell us what schools need. We don’t need more consultants to tell us what we already know. We need the funding to buy books and supplies and services that our children and their teachers need. Write your State Representative and ask them “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH OUR MONEY?” If enough of us do that maybe they’ll listen. If not vote them out of office. And please, send a link to this blog post while you’re at it. Thanks.

And to those Zombies – make sure you eat right, get plenty of sleep, do your homework and TALK to your teachers and parents. They might not be able to do anything about your heavy load but they’re here for you on everything else. And I mean everything!

So your assignment today is to hug a teacher or librarian. And hug a Zombie and maybe even give it a nice shoulder rub.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

zombie baby and cat

Standardized testing and the value of the GREAT TEACHER

How was school?

I’m a mom so I have to ask.

Clara started the infamous STAR Testing this week for the 8th grade. STAR Testing is the State of California’s Standardized Testing and Results which measures how schools are doing. There is some value in these tests but generally it confuses the hell out of most parents, kids and maybe even the teachers. My kids’ schools rank high (very high) but I sometimes wonder about the real value here.

There are some school that spend all year studying for these tests. That is ALL they do. They even cherry pick the kids who will be in the school in order to get high scores (and surprise, the schools with what they call average kids of all different levels, like my children’s schools,  get scores that are just as high or higher (yes, higher). Go eat THAT for lunch with your snob sandwich.)

Fortunately my children go to schools where the administration is wise enough to not spend all of their time studying for tests. They don’t put that unwelcome and uncomfortable pressure on kids. All kids at these schools have the opportunity for a great education. They study for life, learning, thinking and discovery.

YES – LIFE, LEARNING, THINKING and DISCOVERY. And more amazing – at public schools!

So back to our discussion in the car…

Real HistoryClara: We did history and math today. The math was easy. The history was confusing. They asked us about a lot of Roman Empire stuff we didn’t even learn in class. I’d never even heard of half the people they asked questions about.

Me: I’m sure you did ok. You can usually figure out the answers by just thinking about the clues. That’s why I always win trivia games. I don’t know the answers but I can put together the clues and usually come up with a right answer.

Clara: I know.

Me: Multiple choice tests can’t measure what you know or how smart you are. I believe you learn more from history the way your teacher teaches it. It isn’t all about memorizing dates and names and locations of battles. History is about learning how people lived, what motivated them, what inspired them, why they did what they did. It is about learning about our past so we can understand our future. You’re so lucky to have Mr. R for a teacher.

Clara: I won’t miss most of the kids when I go on to high school, but I’ll miss the teachers. Mind if I play my music?

I know she’ll miss the kids, but we’ll all miss the teachers who have inspired the Middle School kids. Each one of these young teens will enter High School knowing they hold the keys to knowledge and discovery in their own hearts and minds. They are our future, and they know the lessons of the past. They’ll never forget their amazing Middle School teachers.

So students (young and old, for we are all lifetime learners), your assignment for today is to appreciate the great teachers in our lives. Teachers shape the future through inspiring our kids.

And get plenty of sleep because STAR testing is ALL WEEK.

Parents: Your job here is to get involved. Schools with a high rate of parent involvement have a higher rate of high scores and a higher rate of graduation. And don’t use the excuse that you are busy. Most of the parents I know (moms and dads) work full time AND are involved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Todd, who was a great teacher and inspired so many at American River College. You truly loved your students and inspired so many and changed so many lives for the better. And nobody had a sense of humor like yours! We love you and miss you!

Middle School Teachers – The Truly Brave Souls

Not all Middle School Teachers are Drama teachers.

All Middle School Teachers are Anti-Drama teachers.

If you live with a child age 12-14 you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

And don’t forget to tell these remarkable teachers of strange-creatures-of-puberty-and-poor-judgment THANK YOU for being out there for our kids. It is a tough job for for the brave of heart and spirit.

The 4 teachers at my daughter’s small public charter school have all of my respect and admiration.

So your assignment for next week: Say THANK YOU to a Middle School Teacher. They are the brave ones, the wise ones, the tough ones.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 

(Little known fact: Even the bravest of Vampire Hunters would not last a week doing the job of the average Middle School Teacher.)

These creatures can be very very scary. Thank your luck stars for Middle School Teachers!

These creatures can be very very scary. Thank your luck stars for Middle School Teachers!