An Explanation for Why I am So Cranky

So Cranky

Those of you who follow my blog or my FB page have known for a while that I have a tough group of students even though they are only second graders.  Still, I think many may think to them selves, ‘Please, how bad can it be?  They are just little kids.  Stop being such a baby.”

To those people I present for your entertainment today the following.  To my own boys who don’t understand why mom is so exhausted when I come home from work every day now you will know.  To my students who always wonder why Ms. Bietler is so cranky by the time 1 o’clock rolls around, now you will know.

A couple of weeks ago I got hurt at work when I fell up the stairs.  No, that is not a typo, yes I fell UP the stairs.  That is what happens when a second grader grabs your butt to get your attention.  Anyway, I ended up pulling a groin muscle.  Yes, women do have groin muscles.  I had to google it to prove it to my husband who was quite sure I was wrong.  The next day I was in a considerable amount of pain and had to call in a sub.  When I hobbled into work the following day this note was left on my desk along with a stack of notes from the students.

Because I don’t want to get sued or lose my job all the names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent.

“Dear Ms. Bietler,

 To put it mildly, Wednesday was a complete disaster.  The principal had to come by several times.  The only students who were not rude, disrespectful, or talk incessantly were Ben, Darnell, and Hassan.  Nina and Celia were okay, too.

 The only thing that the class did that did not involve pleading, cajoling, and yelling on my part was write letters to you saying how bad the class acted in your absence.

 Natasha was profane and bullying, and she refused to stop touching her classmates or taking their belongings.  She was sent to the office.  After she returned from the office she yelled out loud that she was going to, “Sock Ma’Kayla right in her face.”

 I could not at any point get more than half the class to pay attention for any given period of time.  Unfortunately this resulted in your class accomplishing absolutely nothing.  For this I sincerely apologize.  I simply could not get the class to cooperate.  I feel I must tell you now that I will not sub in your room in the future.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me at (555) 555-5555 (yes that is a fake number).

 Kind regards,

Jack Dixon”

In a year and a half (I taught these kids as first graders and looped with them to second) I have had FIVE subs inform me that they will never sub in my room ever again.  Perhaps it was the pain meds or I finally broke from reality, but after reading this note I was roaring with laughter.  The only thing that cracked me up more than poor Mr. Dixon’s note to me were the notes the children all wrote tattling on each other.  They were simply priceless.

Derl Ms. Bietler

Sadie was bad wen the sub told her to be good.  She sed him the B word and then she punch Ben.  Pleas come back.


 Dear Ms. Bitler

 I was being good but the teacher think I was bad.  Natasha was bad and the techer afto wait and wait.  Sadie was bad too.  The teacher (sub) yell at us and averyone was playing but not me.  I was good reelly.


 Daer Ms. Bietler

 Everybody was being disobedient to the sub.  They wasen’t lisening and they was pushing and shuving in the line.  They was so bad definly Natasha.


Der Mis Bietler,

 Everybody was be bad.  Sadie was soy very bad.  I was gud and everyone else was flippant.


 Der Ms. Blfters

 We was bad with the techer.  We will be good wen he comes back.  We will say that we are sorre and we was flippant and rude and we are sorre wen he comes back.  I don’t think he is coming back.  He said so.


dead teacher

The substitute must have told the class to stop being flippant because that word came up in several of their notes to me and I have never used that one but might just start now.

So now you know why I am so tired and cranky and why last year I had to start taking Zoloft!  I literally told my doctor to give me something to calm my nerves or that I was going to be a raging alcoholic by the end of the school year.


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Shame On You Staples and Office Max for Making a Teacher’s Job Even Harder!

school supplies2

Every summer I watch my sales paper like a hawk waiting for that exact moment when the penny sales kick in.  Three prong folders a penny each.  Glue bottles 5 cents each.  Pencil cases regularly a dollar now 1 cent each.  Year after year I trekked to Staples and Office Max to get the most for my money…not for my own two boys, but for the 30 boys and girls who would show up in my classroom every September.

In the past teachers were allowed to purchase 25 items, and I would always take my son, AJ, with me so he could buy ten additional items, the limit that non-teachers were allowed to purchase.  This way I would have a full class set of the necessary school supplies and a couple extra for the new students who came later in the year.

I never minded spending my money on my students.  I work for a district that is cash strapped, and the parents are also short on funds.  To have a smooth school year we need those supplies, so every year I buy them myself.  I am not bragging, and this does not make me extra special.  Many, many teachers in districts across the country do the exact same thing.  We depend on those penny and nickel sales.  We NEED those penny and nickel sales.

To be fair, when I go to Staples or Office Max I don’t just buy the penny and nickel items and leave.  I also get my favorite pens, some printer ink, and stationary for myself, stickers to use throughout the school year, and the items that my own children will need for their school supplies.

Today, in the Sunday newspaper, arrived the new sale papers and there it was.  Folders, glue, pencil cases, all at Staples.  More folders, pencils, and paper were at Office Max.  Happy, happy, joy, joy!  It was time for this mommy/teacher to grab the kids and go shopping!

First we went to Staples.  I loaded up on my 25 items for each of the sales.  Then I grabbed a few different things that were also priced right.  AJ got his five items each since that was what was stated in the sales paper.

At the register I pulled out my Staples Educator Card and that’s when I was told that they had changed their policy.  Now, with my Educator Card, I would be allowed to just get the first TWO of each item for the penny or nickel.  Then I would have to pay full price for the other 23 items.  In several weeks I would get a Staples Rewards for the difference.  The Rewards could ONLY be used at Staples.  So at the end of the day, one way or another, I was going to spend a heck of a lot of money at Staples.  When I said to the customer service guy that the new policy was really going to hurt a lot of teachers because not all teachers would necessarily have that much money up front all he said was that was the way it was and there was nothing he could do about it.

So I added up all the items in my cart and I realized that I was about to lay down $60 or more for the school supplies at just this one store.  Even if I was going to get about $45 of it back down the road, it was a lot of money right now.  Plus I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of “Rewards.”  A reward means you are obligated to spend it back in the same store.  Further, rewards always have expiration dates on them and if you don’t use it before the expiration date, then you lose your money!  Period…the end…no second chances to get it back.  Trust me I have tried!  I can’t even begin to tell you how many “Gym Bucks” and “Kohl’s Cash” I have lost out on over the years for just that reason!  I was so stunned and disappointed that I literally walked away from my basket and left the store.

A very similar situation played out at Office Max.  Pay in full first, get a rebate later on that you can then use in the store at another time.  Apparently Staples and Office Max are under the presumption that teachers now make a ton of money and have loads of disposable income.  I am sorry to report that this teacher has taken a pay cut for several years in a row now due to declining state revenues.

So today started with great excitement and ended with me coming home with no school supplies.  None!  I was so upset that I didn’t even bother to purchase AJ’s five items.

I know Staples and Office Max are under no obligation to help me help impoverished children in my school district.  They are businesses trying to make a profit and I don’t begrudge them their profits.  But the new policy still stings none-the-less and I will most certainly notice the absence of those much needed school supplies come September.

My job is hard enough even under the best of circumstances, now we will be short of pencils, folders to hold papers for different subjects, and paper.  I am not exaggerating when I say it is perfectly normal for the school to run out of pencils and glue sticks by March.  That is when I pull out my secret stash that I stocked up on in July to see us through the rest of the year.  The same goes for paper and the like.

Now I will need to keep my fingers crossed that perhaps Target or Wal-Mart will put the things I need on a super sale, or else my little second graders will be going without this year.

Dear God, Give Me the Strength to Make a Difference

Dear God

During my senior year in high school I had already filled all the credits required to graduate, but my school didn’t allow for early dismissal.  So I spent forty-five minutes a day helping out in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  Until that time I had thought I would go to college to be a lawyer because I am very good at debate and making a persuasive argument, especially when I am passionate about the subject.

However, working with those adorable five and six year olds was just too much fun, and by graduation I made up my mind to be a teacher.  While still a freshman in college I became a teacher’s aid working in an elementary school five days a week.  I maintained that job all through college.  Then I subbed for a year before I finally was hired.  If you add all my years together I have been working with children of assorted ages for over two decades.  Add to that mix my own two boys and I think it is safe to say that I know a thing or two about kids.

Lately what I seem to know I find more than a little alarming.  I work in an inner city school system and children are growing up way too fast, know things they shouldn’t know way too soon, and are failing to truly take to heart empathy and kindness for others.  But it isn’t just a city problem.  Just watch the news and you will know that.

My children are not perfect, but I am proud of the fact that my kids still act like the kids that they are.  It is something I worked hard at.  They play with a wide range of toys, run through sprinklers, build snowmen, and love bedtime stories.  On family movie night we watch The Sand Lot, Matilda, Peter Pan, and movies that are designed to inspire and amuse.  Sure, we watch The Avengers, Spiderman (the one with Tobey McGuire) and some PG action movies too, after all they are boys.  But my children have never seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Dark Knight, Jason vs. Freddie, and the like, not even my twelve year old.  Yet most of the first graders in my classroom have seen all of the scary movies I just mentioned and even some I had never even heard of until they told me about them.

After dinner and on weekends my kids are told to go outside.  They ride bikes, climb trees, and play with other kids in our sub.  Where I teach there is supposedly thousands of children living in roughly a two mile area, yet if you go up and down the streets you see almost none of them outside.  They are all inside playing video games, day after day, week after week, and yes, year after year, even in the summer time.

I see firsthand how children are becoming “desensitized” to the world around them.  Early in my career working with children it was normal to have two, maybe three kids in a room who were quick to shove, punch, and basically resort to physical aggression as their way of dealing with frustration.  Today, I look around at class after class and I see ten or more kids in a room who resort to that type of aggression.  Plus, the fuse to trigger those angry outbursts is shorter than ever.

I also find shocking the amount of sexual knowledge early elementary kids have.  I am talking about first and second graders knowing about a whole lot more than just kissing.  They think it is “nasty” when they talk about it but I am shocked none the less when a six year old raises their hand and starts talking out of the blue about topics that literally make me blush.  Equally shocking is how fast children are developing these days.  When I was young most of my friends and I started “that time of the month” when we were in middle school.  Girls didn’t develop womanly
curves until seventh grade or later. Today I could literally show you second graders sporting a B cup.  Don’t tell me all those growth hormones being given to dairy cows and other animals aren’t having an affect on our kids.  Girls in the third grade should not need maxi pads.

But the most alarming thing I see in children today is their lack of sympathy or caring.  If you talk to them you quickly learn that they know all the right buzz words and phrases:

“We keep our hands and feet to ourselves.

We should never bully another kid.

We feel better when we fill someone else’s bucket.

The easiest way to fill someone’s bucket is to be nice.

Calling names makes other people feel bad…”

Just because they know these words and phrases doesn’t mean that the meaning of the words have traveled farther than their brain and into their belief system, however.  Otherwise, how could a 16 year old girl in Ohio be raped by not just one but two different boys, with an audience of 60 other teenagers?  How do we reach a point where out of sixty other kids, all with smart phones, not one of them thought to use that phone to discreetly call for help?  Not one?!  Instead they all took out those smart phones and snapped pictures and created video recordings to later humiliate the girl.  Those phones were used to upload to Facebook and Twitter a criminal act that apparently didn’t seem wrong at all to all these teens.

Even the other girls at the party did nothing to help.  Remember when girls were sugar and spice and everything nice?  Don’t let the pigtails and Mary Janes fool you.  Girls today have become mean.  Think of the movie Mean Girls but only much, much worse.  Go to YouTube and search “girls fighting”.  You will get 828,000 matches for your search.  Sugar and spice?  These days it is more like vinegar and crushed red pepper.

So what do we do?  How do we make a difference?  As a parent and a teacher I can say that it starts at home.  I know you have heard it before but it is the truth.  I see my students about 30 hours a week for about 9 months and then they are gone.  In that time I work hard to teach them not just reading and math but good behavior and to do the right thing, but I can NOT change a negative attitude that has been developing for years.  I may be able to reach some of them but I will never successfully reach all 29.

Make sure you know what your kids are watching and that it is appropriate.  Limit video games to a few hours a week or use it as a reward to get chores and homework done and don’t purchase the games that are nothing but violence and swearing.  Don’t dress your little girl like a hoochie mama even if it is the fashion.  Pants with the word DIVA written across the rear end need to be left in the store.   Even if you don’t buy into a religion you can still teach your children about morals and ethics.  There are many fabulous children’s books to check out of the library to read at bedtime and talk about once the day is winding down.  Encourage your kids to be kids for as long as you can and maybe girls will be made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys from snails, whales and puppy dog tails once more.

The Proper Way to Flush a Toilet…and When to STOP!

Welcome to my first post. I have been following several blogs for over a year now and always think to myself as I am reading them, I should be doing this, because Lord knows I have a lot to say. Between my adventures in motherhood and my adventures in teaching first grade my life is actually quite comical most days, even if I am the punchline of the joke.

It amazes me that no matter how many things I teach my students there is always something I forget to mention. Let’s take class rules for example. There are the obvious of course. Keep your hands and feet to yourself. Raise your hand to speak. No running in the class, etc. Then there are the other kinds of rules like blow your nose in a tissue and put it in the trash, wash your hands after you use the bathroom, and keep your fingers out of your nose. But, apparently there was one big rule I forgot to teach my students. If you plug the toilet please do not continue to flush it over and over. Friday one of my little darlings raised his hand and politely asked to use the bathroom, which is in the back of our classroom. He was in there for a while taking care of business but then came out and went to his seat. I was in the middle of teaching and failed to notice the trail of wet footprints he was leaving on the carpeting.

About five minutes later another student asked to go to the bathroom. She walks in and walks right back out.
“Mrs. Bietler,” she says, “there is water on the floor.”

I didn’t get alarmed. When you have 28 first graders all using one bathroom to wash their hands there is often some water on the floor. “That’s okay,” I tell her. “You can still use the bathroom.”

“But there is water on the floor,” she repeats. The look on her face is rather distressed, she clearly needs to pee, and quickly as she is now bobbing up and down doing the perfect potty dance.

I walk back to the bathroom and the first words to pop out of my mouth are “WHAT THE…” Luckily I remembered there were little ears listening and managed to not finish the sentence. The bathroom was wall to wall water an inch deep and the toilet was filled to overflowing. Thank God there was nothing “floating” in the bowl or on the floor!

Almost immediately I had twenty plus little kids standing behind me trying to see what the hubbub was all about. “Did someone poop on the floor?” a kid asks. “Ooh…I know who did that,” the class tattle tale immediately shouts.

“Go back to your seats,” I tell them and call the office. “Help, we have an overflowing toilet.” In two minutes I have one custodian and two maintenence men in my room, which the students find terribly exciting.

“Are we getting a new toilet?” “Why did the water come out?” “Who are those guys?” “What are they going to do?” To say six year olds are easily excited is an understatement. I didn’t even try to teach while the plunging and the mopping were taking place, they wouldn’t have listened to me anyway at that moment. Once all the excitement came to an end we then had a class discussion about the proper way to use a toilet and what to do if it doesn’t go down. Of course, this caused every hand in the classroom to go up and I was forced to listen to well over a dozen “yucky toilet stories” from the children before I finally said enough!

Still, a valuable was learned…by me. On the first day of school not only will I model proper hand washing skills, but now toilet flushing will be part of the lesson as well.

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