Friday, April 30, 2010

Thursday, April 29

Rose #1: Today, my student with autism recited the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet almost perfectly. 7 of my ten students refused to even try, but that was almost totally wiped out by this one student's "performance."

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, April 28

1. I did the discussion activity with the post-it notes with my other 10th grade English class and they LOVED it. We had so much discussion we almost didn't have time to read. And it was GOOD discussion. Three of my male students are at the same age now that their parents were when they had them, so we've had some really great discussions about what that feels like.

2. My senior students continue to enjoy The Alchemist, and they continue to tell me they do. This makes me smile. :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday, April 27

Rose #1: I got the copy of A Raisin in the Sun that I ordered last week! It's the movie version with Sean Combs & Phylicia Rashad. I can't wait to show my kids!

Rose #2: I came up with an idea to do a fun discussion activity with my kids today where I gave them four post-it slips. Each student wrote his or her name on each of his or her slips, and then the students were required to speak at least 2 times to get credit, but could only speak a total of 4 times. It was fun to see students who haven't been involved in discussion get involved. I was being observed this morning, so I'm really glad I had the idea & that it worked!

There might be more roses today......wait and see!

I hope you stop to smell the roses today!

Monday, April 26

I have been sick, so there hasn't been much to smile about over the past week. However, I also realize that this blog is what helps me recognize those things that will make me smile, so I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things!

Rose #1: I attended my district's transfer fair today which gave me the opportunity to email with principals from other high schools in my district in case I decide I want to make a move. I only interviewed with one high school, the one closest to where I live, and it was fantastic. It really helped boost my confidence. You know how you feel when you have a really good interview? Like, oh, I am good at this! That's exactly how I felt, and I have to say, it's really improved my attitude. I was pretty cheerful on my way to work today.....which might have been more of a result of the fact that Adam bought me the Glee: Power of Madonna cd last night & I listened to it all the way to work! But, anyways, the interview was a really great experience for me and I'm proud of myself for following through.

Rose #2: My homebound student is doing so well! We are preparing for a big test in history and I decided that if I was going to be a good teacher, I better know the stuff better than her, so I went through the test she'll be taking and found all of the answers and read through different sections of the book so I could help explain things to her. She'll take the test today (Tuesday) and I can't wait to see how she does!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday, April 20

Rose #1: A student reminded me that I needed to update my star students, so I did. I really like doing that and looking at how students have improved over the past quarter.

Rose #2: My B day 10th grade class has been carrying on some really great discussions about The House on Mango Street. I'm amazed at how much we have to talk about and how willing they are to participate.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, April 19

Rose #1: I decided to show Shakespeare in Love to my 9th grade classes. It does a good job of showing students what it was like during Shakespeare's time. My B day class started it on Friday and didn't respond as well as I wanted them to. My A day class on Monday, however, really responded to the movie. They were engaged and noticed parts of the movie that related to what we've been learning about.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Friday, April 16

Rose #1: At our parent partnership meeting on Thursday, I awarded one of my students as most improved in English for the 3rd quarter. On Friday morning, he came up to tell me that not only did I make his day, I made his mom's day too.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thursday, April 15

Rose #1: I had my introductory dinner for the Eastern Virginia Writing Project's Summer Institute. I got to meet my group that I'll be working with all summer. I also got to eat dinner at the Blue Talon, which is one of the most delicious restaurants in Williamsburg. It was wonderful.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, April 14

Rose #1: Today, I attended one of HP's Digital Learning Events. It was held in Leesburg, VA. I got to meet Intel's Director for Global Education. It was really cool. I also learned I'd rather be teaching my students than sitting in traffic.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tuesday, April 13

Rose #1: Other teachers recognized that my journal activity in my classroom has been really successful and suggested that it be presented at one of our parent meetings. It's nice to know that other people are interested in what I'm doing in my classroom.

Rose #2: When I worked with my homebound student after school, she brought her Of Mice and Men paper that she'd been working on over spring break. She had done so much pre-writing and organizational work, and she had so many questions to ask me about the paper. I was really excited to see how my teaching has affected my students as far as their writing is concerned.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Monday, April 12

Ok, so it's been crazy since I got back from break! Sorry it has taken me so long, but I'm going to try get back on track!

Rose #1: My rose for Monday is that, for the first time all year, I'm starting units I actually LIKE in EVERY class! My seniors are starting The Alchemist, my juniors are starting A Raisin in the Sun, my sophomores are starting The House on Mango Street, and my freshmen are starting Romeo and Juliet. Please respond if you've read any of these or remember reading them in school. If you've read them, tell me why you LOVED them. If you learned about them in school, tell me what your teachers did to make them interesting!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday, April 2

Rose #1: My students wrote papers on Of Mice and Men as a final assignment. One student came into class and said, "Ms. Oxley, I need help. I just don't know how to tie my thesis together with my conclusion." One of my best teaching moments ever. The fact that he even cared enough to ask for help, and the fact that he knew what kind of help he was looking for, really impressed me!

Rose #2: SPRING BREAK BABY! Catch ya on April 12!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, April 1

Rose #1: My students watched a documentary on Zora Neale Hurston and they paid attention even though they weren't required to take notes. When I asked them questions afterwards, they knew every answer plus some more information I didn't ask about!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wednesday, March 31

Rose #1: I haven't had many students turn in their poetry projects even though they are worth 150 points and were due two weeks ago. I started wondering if the project really WAS just too difficult for them. Then, a couple of my students who aren't really star students generally turned in projects that were great. They're work impressed me and re-affirmed my belief that it really was a good project that my students were capable of completing.

Rose #2: All of my girls at Girls on the Run ran the same number of laps or more than they did at our last meeting. We're making progress!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, March 30

Rose #1: Three of my Key Club officers went to lunch with me today at the local Kiwanis meeting. The president spoke in front of about 20 adult members of the Kiwanis club and he did a FANTASTIC job. It was so exciting to see my students acting like mature young adults.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, March 29

Rose #1: This is a Girls on the Run related rose instead of a school one. We talked about gratitude today at GOTR. We talked about how what matters is our insides, not what we look like on the outside. One of my girls said that someone told her our outside bodies are just our "earth suits" and that some day, they won't matter any more, and only what's inside will count.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Friday, March 26

Rose #1: The lowest score on my Of Mice and Men test was 55/60! The essays were FANTASTIC.

Rose #2: We got through all of the material in my last class despite my students' best efforts to drive me insane. This is a big accomplishment on a Friday afternoon when it's raining outside.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25

Rose #1: One of my students just said, "Embroiled? Does that mean deep fried?" I can already tell it won't get any better than that today! :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, March 24

Rose #1: The SUNSHINE! :)

Rose #2: Healthy legs for running!

Rose #3: My 11th grade students started a conversation yesterday comparing the movie version of Of Mice and Men to the video version we were watching. I'm proud of them for taking the intiative to start the discussion on their own!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday, March 23

Rose #1: My rose for today is that after a long day of teaching, I was rewarded with one of my best up and coming "leaders" being elected vice-president of our Key Club for next year. This student is sort of a project of mine and I'm so excited that the other students saw the potential in him that I see.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, March 22

Rose #1: One of my students knew every answer to Of Mice and Men review Jeopardy!

Rose #2: My tenth graders actually liked the black & white version of Lord of the Flies and they TOLD me they liked it.

Rose #3: My students were impressed that I let them watch an episode of The Simpsons in class. I was shocked myself.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This made my heart smile.....

Rose #1: Found in a student's journal:

"The way I react to coming in 2nd or 3rd place is that you did your best and came out strong. One time, I was at church and they was talking about racing. I learned that it didn't matter if you came out 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. The only words they should hear is 'well done.'"

Rose #2: My journals in general! I haven't been good about reading them over the past couple of weeks, but every week I choose an article from's Current Events archives. Students respond to a question. These journals impressed me at first mostly because the students who started off writing very short responses that basically just reiterated class discussion or summarized the article began writing longer responses and including personal examples. Now I'm noticing that students have become, for the most part, so thoughtful in their responses.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, March 16

Rose #1: Today was tornado drill day in Virginia. Because we are housed in trailers, for tornado drills, we have to go over to the high school which is across two parking lots from us. As you can imagine, my students despise doing this because they realize that if there was really a tornado, we wouldn't have advanced warning so that we could walk casually over to the high school. However, they were EXTREMELY well-behaved. In fact, the students from the high school were much more poorly behaved, in my opinion, and the drill ended up lasting longer than it was supposed to because the other students weren't in place on time. I was proud of my kids. (Also, during the tornado drill, I got to see one of my students from last year who transferred back to that high school. That was DEFINITELY a bright spot in my day because I really miss her!)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday, March 15

Rose #1: I attended an IEP meeting today for a student I have who suffers from a severe lack of a short-term memory. He has always struggled with writing, but for this most recent IEP meeting, we were able to eliminate the writing goal, as he has reached it. It felt good during the meeting to know that he is making so much progress on his writing and his academic goals in my class. He's not very self-confident, especially since he knows that he has this "disability" that he can't do anything about. I felt good knowing that something I'm doing is working, and I felt motivated to try to do even more.

Rose #2: One of my students who exercises an inconsistent amount of effort in the classroom came up to me today to show me his poetry project. The project was assigned last week and students have two full class periods to work on it. The rest they have to complete on their own. This student showed me how much he had done and, while his project didn't look like MY project would, if I did one, he has definitely put a lot of effort into it, and some of that effort had to go on outside of school. I'm really excited to see his final project, and I'm hopeful that he doesn't quit.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, March 12

Rose #1: It's Friday.

Rose #2: One of my students came up to me today and said, "Ms. Oxley, online it says I have 100% in your class right now." I said, "Yes, that's correct." He said, "My mom wants to know how that's possible." Hilarious.

Rose #3: When my principal came in to observe me today, 7 out of my 8 students were in engaged in their silent reading. Snaps for me.

Rose #4: I told the blusher he looked nice today. He blushed.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday, March 11

Rose #1: Can I just say that I LOVE being the kind of teacher kids know they can go to if they need a classroom to hang out in in the morning before classes start? I really, really love that.

Rose #2: I got to go review two new textbook series for next year this afternoon. It was so fun! :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10

Rose #1: The ipods were GREAT! The kids were quiet & working.

Rose #2: I started working with a homebound student today. Basically, she used to be a student at my school but was dismissed for the year, but awarded a homebound placement. I'll work with her ten hours a week for the rest of the school year. This is always really exciting for me because it gives me the chance to work one-on-one with students which is what I really love about teaching anyway, and it gives me the opportunity to teach history, science, and math, which I don't usually get to teach! (Oh, and I make bank. Booyah.)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9

Rose #1: I picked up copies of Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men, the audio versions, from the library this weekend. I put them on my computer and through itunes have been able to put them on the ipods we're lucky enough to have at my school. A few students actually seemed EXCITED at the idea of getting to listen to the story instead of having to read it. I hope it works!

Rose #2: A ton of students in my first class got caught up on missing work by asking me what they needed to do instead of me chasing them around with make up work. That was exciting because they're grades went up just in time for interims and I have a lot less stress about trying to get them to do that missing work now!

Rose #3: I got to "order" furniture today for my NEW classroom in our NEW building! This has nothing to do with children, but it was, nonetheless, a very exciting part of my day.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Monday, March 8

Rose #1: SOL week is over. No more staying after school with students for preparation purposes.

That is all.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thursday, March 4

Rose #1: I opened a student's journal today and read this, in response to the prompt, "What would you do if you were homeless?": Head to wilderness, build a shelter, hunt and survive for the remainder of my days. I wouldn't want to be helped.

This is the student who reminds me of Dwight Shrute from The Office.....I think maybe you can tell why, based on this journal entry. It gave me a good laugh!

Rose #2: I've been waiting to hear whether or not I've been accepted to the Eastern Virginia Writing Project's Summer Institute for this coming summer. I just heard yesterday. When I told my class I was accepted, they clapped! It was mildly out of character for them, but it was absolutely adorable.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tuesday, March 2

Rose #1: Today, my freshmen students wrote odes. I wish I could post them all here, but some wouldn't be that funny to all of you, given that you don't know my students. What I do want to include here is a "bode," which is the name I came up with for an ode to something bad, or something that you don't like.

"Bode to My Four-Wheeler"

You may be fast, but piss me off
I fix you when you'r ebroke
I ride you, and I clean you
I dry you, and I feed you

When we ride I go through mud
You bottom out so we go no where
YOu get stuck and dig two ruts
Only to find out this really sucks

I pop your clutch in second gear
We pop wheelies in the air
Then come down and only to find
Your chain on the ground in a twine

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday, March 1

Rose #1: My freshmen students are still studying poetry, and will be until the end of the school year. As you can imagine, this really excites them........and me. However, I have discovered the key to making poetry fun: The Twilight Zone. Apparently, my students love it, and luckily for me, The Twilight Zone producers chose to make many episodes that relate to poetry. We watched "Come Wander With Me" yesterday because we were learning about ballads. That was the reward for doing the hard work of graphing the syllables in a few stanzas of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Graphing the syllables caught on very, very well with one of my classes of freshmen last week, but the class I had today did not understand. This afternoon, I was pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with several students one-on-one to do these graphs. One of my students, and I guess this is the real "rose" of the day, was looking at what I was writing on the board and had suddenly LEARNED something. I had a ballad stanza written on the board, and for those who don't know, the lines have 8 syllables, then 6 syllables, then 8 syllables, then 6 syllables, so they are lines of 4, 3, 4, 3 feet. The student said, "Ms. Oxley, I just realized that if there are 8 syllables and 4 feet, when you divide it, that's two!" And I said, "Yes, that's because in poetry, a foot is two syllables." It was one of those moments where I knew I could tell students over and over how many syllables are in a foot, but until it clicks in their minds, it doesn't mean anything.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Friday, February 26

Rose #1: I use a weekly journal activity with my students. I used an article today about schools in China. It sparked an almost hour long discussion with my senior students about what the goal of education should be. It was a very, very exciting morning for me. For the most part, my students spoke very intelligently on the subject, which really impressed me. I think we're always hearing such bad things about our youth today; it's always nice to hear examples of how they're interested and motivated.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25

Rose #1: This rose might last me for a while. I write pretty frequently about one of my students with autism. This is another rose from him! During our discussion of limericks yesterday, his eyes lit up. He told me he knew a limerick & he wanted to recite it out loud for the class. He remembered it word for word; he heard it on an episode of Spongebob Square Pants, but it still counts. Then, we talked about epitaphs, and he told us about when he and his family went to Disneyworld and how one of the attractions had fake gravestones outside of it. He remembered some of the funny epitaphs and shared them with the class. Then, I told the student we were going to watch an episode of The Twilight Zone and he lit up and clapped! It was such a great class for him and for me.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24

Rose #1: I showed Frankenstein in my first class today. I've never seen it, and the students haven't read it, but they did read another short story by Mary Shelley, "The Mortal Immortal." We were watching the movie because I want students to do some fiction writing in this style. For maybe the first time all year, 10 out of my 11 senior students stayed awake for the ENTIRE class. It was incredible.

Rose #2: I got to play vocabulary BINGO with two of my classes today. I always like to play games with them, and I think it helped them review. My freshmen students REALLY got into it.

Rose #3: My sophomore students and I discussed symbolism in Lord of the Flies. They are becoming such thoughtful readers. I was expecting it to be a pretty boring, not very fruitful, discussion, but they really understood symbolism!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, February 23

Rose #1: Again, in some of my classes, students seem to really be growing. They are able to quietly work on a task without being constantly reminded that this is, in fact, a quiet, individual, task. My sophomores this morning really just buckled down and got to work without much prodding!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22

Rose #1: Upon leaving school after my first block because I felt so terrible, several juniors voiced concern about me leaving. One girl even patted my arm. I am loved. :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Friday, February 19

Rose #1: I'm getting excited that my Key Club officers and I might get to go to the district conference in March! My kids have been excited about it for months and I wasn't sure we'd be able to go because it's expensive, but I think that our local Kiwanis club is going to put up all of the money for us to attend. I'm excited to see how my kids act in that type of setting and help them grow in their leadership.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

(P.S. Sorry this is so late! I have sinus issues going on again. Left school early Friday, felt better Saturday morning, way worse Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and Monday morning)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18

Rose #1: My senior student I was talking about last week who I've struggled with but seem to be making strides with lately came in to my room early yesterday morning. Students generally have to stand outside after they get to school and before school starts in the morning. Sometimes they don't like standing in the cold, so if they have permission from a teacher, they can sit in a classroom. He didn't have permission from me, but he came in, sat down, and put his head down, for about 20 minutes before class started. It showed me that he feels more and more comfortable with me which makes me really happy.

Rose #2: My students wrote funny poems yesterday. Most students chose to write haikus. Here are some examples:

I was ice skating
I pushed a kid on his face
He stood, fell again

When I stuffed my face
It felt like I had a lump
Then I took a dump

Great grey globs of gnarling gruel,
Is what they serve in jail.
They serve it in a bucket,
In a bowl or in a pail.
It's full of chunks, it's full of globs,
It causes all those angry mobs.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17

Rose #1: I have to preface this rose a bit. I have always wanted to be a teacher. As I was approaching the end of college, I started to think maybe it wasn't right for me. At the same time, I became involved with the Bay City Central Writing Center project which gave me the opportunity to work one-on-one with high school students to revise and improve their writing. These experiences showed me that I really did want to be an English teacher. Even though I teach at a school with small class sizes, I still don't get to work with students one-on-one often enough. If I stop to work with one student, the others go crazy and I lose control. I've been working with a few students after school to prepare for their upcoming state writing test. One student in particular brought in a practice essay for me yesterday. We worked together to improve the essay so that he could see how to outline and prepare for writing his test essay and then how he could work to revise the essay before submitting his final for the test. It was really exciting to see the paper improve! It also restored my faith that teaching is for me and that I do love it.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, February 16

Rose #1: More great poetry today! My students wrote concrete poems today, which are poems that take or make the shape of an object. One of my students made an amazing one in the shape of a hot air balloon and then was able to recreate it on the computer. It's amazing!

Rose #2: Some of my students really rocked out on their chapter 2 quiz for Lord of the Flies, including one student who got a 100% who usually scores around a C or a D.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 15

Despite the fact that every other teacher I know had today for President's Day and I didn't, it was still one of the rosiest days I've had teaching so far!

Rose #1: My first class of the day did something amazing. We did our weekly journal activity and then they took a quiz. After, we graded the quiz, and then I gave them the work they needed to finish before our next class (reading another chapter in Lord of the Flies and doing the vocabulary for the next chapter). Amazingly enough, my students go to to work and they were SILENT. I was absolutely amazed at the way they just sort of took the initiative to figure out what order they wanted to do the assignments in and if they wanted to do vocabulary on the computer or use a dictionary. They worked right up until the end of class and I was just so impressed and happy!

Rose #2: Remember the great poems my kids wrote last week? Today I asked them to read the poems to the rest of the class. I didn't even give them the warning about how difficult it is for some people to read their writing in front of others, and how inappropriate it would be for them to laugh or make fun of someone's poem or reading. They managed to handle the whole thing very, very maturely. On top of that, my student with autism didn't want to read his poem. Another student in class encouraged him, telling him she saw his poem and it was really good. Then another student offered to read it for him. This surprised me for two reasons: the student who volunteered to read the poem isn't the nicest boy, and I was shocked that the boy with autism was willing to let him read the poem for him. I was so, so nervous that the reader was going to make fun of the boy, but I just took a deep breath and crossed my fingers and sent up a little prayer. He did an absolutely fantastic job. At the end, my students were all so kind and polite. I was really, really proud of them.

Rose #3: Today we talked about poetry & structure in my 9th grade class. The students were so excited about concrete poetry. Poetry is really not my favorite subject at all, but their enthusiasm today re-energized me to keep teaching the unit and to keep trying new things.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday, February 12

Rose #1: I have one student that I have struggled with over the past two years. He has a generally bad attitude. Last year, he did not do well at all in my English 11 class. This year, I have him in English 10 and English 12. He's a senior, but he failed English 10 when he was a sophomore. This student has had a rough time in school. He isn't easy to get along with, and I think many teachers have dealt with him unfairly, myself included. He carried a B all the way through the first semester in both English classes and I was really impressed by the strides he seemed to be making academically. My relationship with him as been improving VERY gradually as well. I joke that I can even have a discussion with him now without him giving me a look of disgust. Today, I gave him my "most improved student" award in class since he wasn't at our meeting last night to receive it. He was happy to receive the award. He didn't make a big deal about it, but I could tell, and his behavior was excellent all day. I was so excited because it showed me that he just needs some positive attention and that I can "change my spots" too.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday February 11

Rose #1: More GREAT poems!

Rose #2: My Key Club students are doing such a great job. Yesterday, they gave up their lunch to have a meeting since our after-school activities were cancelled on Wednesday when we had planned to meet. They made posters for our upcoming meeting and prepared paper bags for our canned food drive. They are really becoming great student leaders.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 10

Rose #1: My students wrote FANTASTIC poems today! Almost every student decorated his or her poem, too, which I was really excited about. I can't wait to have the poems to show at our parent meeting tomorrow night.

That's my only rose for the day because it was really one of my greatest moments as a teacher!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday, February 9

Rose #1: Today, my students were doing a pre-reading activity for Lord of the Flies. One of the questions asked students to name someone they know who is "good." One of my students chose me. :)

Rose #2: My freshmen students are studying poetry. Today, they were assigned to do some brainstorming and pre-writing for a "color poem." Some students asked if they could write about a season, a month, a sport, or a hobby instead, and I said of course! One student chose to write about skateboarding. He was SO excited about what he came up with and it wasn't even his final poem yet! I love seeing my kids take pride in their writing.

Rose #3: My students are preparing for their state writing test in early March. I've been keeping a few kids after school several days a week to do some remediation. One student is improving so much. When we do practice tests in class, he is consistently scoring higher and higher and I really expect him to score very well on the test. It's exciting, as a teacher, to see your work pay off.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday, February 8

Rose #1: I had two good conversations with senior students about the movie Avatar. My students frequently complain that they never get to just talk. So today, our weekly journal article focused on smoking in the movie Avatar, which gave me the chance to let students know I saw the movie this weekend. We then talked and debated a little, and I think it really started their day off right.

Rose #2: Again, my timing is getting so, so good. I'm using up every second of instructional time, and I can feel discipline problems lessening as a result.

Rose #3: This year, I started "Ms. Oxley's Boulevard of Stars" and each quarter, a choose a star from each grade. They fill out a form telling me what it means to them to be a star student, and I post their answers. The best thing about it is that my students really change their behavior when they're named a star. My 10th grade star for this past quarter has become my most respectful and mannerly student. He even tries to encourage other students to behave better. I'm so proud of him, and I'm excited to see what it does for his grades, too!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday, February 5

Rose #1: This one is less student-related, but it's something I'm very proud of. The timing of my lessons is getting so good! I've always struggled with having enough work to keep students busy. I always think activities are going to take us so much longer than they actually do. We were only school two days this week, but I wasn't reaching for things to do to fill up the time in ANY of my classes.

Rose #2: One of my students who failed my class last year took it in summer school so he wouldn't have to double up in English this year. This kid has changed COMPLETELY since last year. He and I struggled so much last year just to get along, let alone for him to actually do his work or study. This year, he consistently has an A in my class. He hands in his work on time, and his in-class behavior is fantastic. (Here's where I throw in my advice for parents to hold their sons back a year before starting school. This student was clearly not mature enough for 9th grade last year. Had he started school a year later, he probably wouldn't have so many classes to make up at this point.) Anyways, this student comes to my classroom all the time! He stopped by today to complain about having to go to history every day, since he has to make up that class as he failed it last year, and he told me that he'd rather have English every day than history! While I think the history teacher is fantastic, I will NEVER get tired of hearing students tell me they like my class better than other classes.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday, February 4

Sorry I'm a day late! This was a crazy week with three days off for the kids!

Rose #1: My seniors had a great discussion in the morning about 18th century England and the Whigs and Tories. They were comparing them to more contemporary political factions. I couldn't get them to stop talking, but the best part about it was that the discussion was on topic.

Rose #2: I found so many neat resources to use as pre-reading activities for The Lord of the Flies. This year will be my first time teaching it all the way through since I came in part way through last year. I found an article from Paul Fussel's book, Thank God for the Atom Bomb, called "Postscript on Japanese Skulls." I also found an online survival skills test at So far, my students have responded more positively to these assignments than they usually do, and I think doing these activities will significantly enrich our reading of the novel.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday, January 29

Rose #3 (from yesterday!): Oops, forgot about this one. I usually am not very good at writing exams, as far as making the exam long enough to take the students the full 99 minutes. Mostly, my exams take my students less than half that time, which might be because they don't care, or it might be because they know the "stuff." I don't get to see that until I grade their exams. My exam for my English 9 class, however, took the students the ENTIRE class period to finish. They were actually working hard & hustling to get it all done in time.

Rose #1: I have a blusher! While most of my male students find it completely hilarious when they make a fart noise or actually fart during class, one boy turns TOTALLY red. I absolutely love it, because it lets me know that he does have some idea of what is socially appropriate, and he knows farting in the middle of a quiet room really isn't!

Rose #2: I got some planning done today for my first classes when I get back on Tuesday. I am usually not excited about teaching poetry, but I've decided to take a different, more fun approach this year. My students are going to start off with narrative poetry, so we're going to read poems like "Casey at the Bat" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade." I love bringing children's books into my classroom, so I think this will give me another opportunity to do so. I want my students to see the fun, light-hearted side of poetry, as well as the deeper, more serious side.

Well, I'm off to Cleveland for the weekend, which is practically my rose for the entire month of January and maybe even for 2010! I haven't seen Carly, one of my very best friends, in almost a year, so this weekend will provide us with some much needed catching up time.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday, January 28

Rose #1: Today, I was able to relieve the stress of one of my students by being flexible. I have one student with autism who sometimes doesn't handle pressure so well. I knew that I had made my English 9 exam rather difficult as far as finishing it in the time allowed. Basically, I just wanted them to be kept busy during the entire exam period, so I figured if the majority didn't finish both of the two essays I assigned, I would just only count one. Well, they all seemed to be working away just fine, but the one student was clearly upset. I offered him the opportunity to type his essay on the computer, which seemed to calm him down, but he was still just staring at the screen. Finally, I went over and told him he could write one of the essays and I would double his score. He ended up writing only one essay but it was as long as the other two essays were supposed to be put together! It was one of those situations where it worked out well for both of us, and I was able to possibly make a connection with him.

Rose #2: I had a very productive afternoon. Usually, I hate being at school when my students aren't there, so I am not usually a big fan of exam days, when students only have to be there for half a day and we teachers have to toil away alone for the rest of the afternoon. Today, I turned on Yahoo Radio on my computer and spent the afternoon singing and cleaning and throwing away!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday, January 27

Rose #1: It's another one rose day. Still being held back by whatever is going on with my sinuses! Today, my fellow staff members threw me a surprise birthday party. I had been feeling pretty down because my birthday is over winter break and we didn't celebrate it this year. We usually make a big deal about birthdays because we have such a small staff. My principal emailed us all today to tell us he needed to meet with us after school for just a minute, so I walked over to the meeting. I sat down and a minute later, the guidance counselor walked in with a cake and my friend Jamie walked in with balloons! Everyone was singing happy birthday and for a minute I was SO confused because I knew I hadn't signed a birthday card for anyone. Then I realized we were celebrating my birthday! I'm smiling about it now as I type this little story. It was really just what I needed during this crazy week of exams & sickness! Many thanks to my colleagues :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday, January 26

Rose #1: This is the only rose for today, as it was not a great day. However, this IS a great rose! Today, for the first time EVER, I gave a test that only ONE student didn't pass. And, that student was only 3% away from passing. I generally have to give 10 points or more as a curve to get all of my students passing. I was happy not to have to curve at all, and all of my juniors will pass this semester! :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday, January 25

Rose #1: I taught my students a tool to remember the three purposes of writing non-fiction (to persuade, to inform, to entertain) = PIE. Today, we were reviewing for their semester exam. When we made it to the non-fiction part of the review, I covered PIE and then moved on to the four different types of non-fiction writing we covered (persuasive, narrative, descriptive, and expository). After that, one of my students said, "Ms. Oxley, what about PIE?" And, while I was moderately irritated that he wasn't paying attention when I covered that not five minutes before that moment, I was more excited that he REMEMBERED THE TOOL and that he's likely to do well on that part of the exam!

Rose #2: This rose didn't take place at school, but has more to do with how the sunshine & warm weather provided me with the opportunity to go for a quick run after school to blow off steam. For me, one of my roses every day is that I'm healthy enough to run and walk and exercise.

Rose #3: My third rose didn't take place at school either, but it's related to one of the great roses among my fellow staff members at school. My favorite other teacher & one of my very best friends recently had to say goodbye to her husband as he left to serve in Haiti. They don't know when he'll be able to return, and they are not in contact very frequently. Tonight, she and I went to see "It's Complicated." I always feel like quite a rebel when I go see a movie on a "school night." This rose is for the fact that I was able to take some of the pressure off of her after a long day at school and give her mind a break from missing her hubby!

Rose #4: This rose is for my first comment on my blog! Thanks to Megan for reaffirming my purpose in writing this blog.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday, January 22

Rose #1: Two students handed in work today that raised their grades to the point of passing. They are both seniors, so I was stressing out about them failing English, since that would mean they couldn't graduate. While I'm still irritated with them for taking so long to do these assignments, I am so incredibly happy that they both managed to get it together in time.

Rose #2: Because I'm the only English teacher at my school, I am considered the chair of the department. As such, I get invited to some important English teacher meetings. One of these is going on tomorrow. The instructional specialist for English emailed us to let us know the meeting was going on and to ask if we had any comments for her to take with her to the meeting, or if any of us wanted to go. I emailed back just to see if she really thought it would be helpful for me to go, and she was SO excited! She even emailed back a day or two later to make sure I was still planning on going. This all leads up to today when a teacher friend at another school in my district sent me an email with some district updates. In the email, it noted that I would be attending the meeting with the instructional specialist! I thought that was so cool.

Still sick. Make sure you're all drinking plenty of water & oj & tea, as well as getting plenty of rest, and using those anti-bacterial wipes and sprays. Stay strong. :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday, January 21

Rose #1: Several students finished papers due next week today and turned them in! It is sometimes difficult to get my students to turn things in on time, let alone early. The papers are well-written, as well, and represent several drafts and lots of revisions and hard work. Yay kiddos!

Rose #2: Thankfully, my school is very flexible, so I was able to leave early today, since I'm not feeling well. While being sick is definitely not a rose, the fact that my principal let me leave early was.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"From the thorn bush comes forth the rose." - Old Jewish Proverb

Rose #1: 11th grade students did well on a practice multiple-choice SOL test. Only one would have failed, and I'm already working with that student after school to get her caught up.

Rose #2: Our Key Club is doing a fundraiser for the earthquake victims in Haiti. Today, two of my students, one who isn't even involved in Key Club, took the initative to make signs and designate a bulletin board in my room as the place where we'll hang the stars we're selling. Once they had done that, all of the other students got really excited about the fundraiser and were talking about how much money they're going to bring in. Those two students did a great job getting everything organized and getting kids fired up!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday, January 19

"It will never rain roses; when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees." - George Eliot

Rose #1: Today, I had one of those moments that teachers sometimes dread: my principal dropped by my class. Sometimes, I get nervous when I'm teaching and my principal drops by when it's not something really exciting and engaging. Today, we were reading from the play, and it had come to a part with only two characters. So, the rest of my students who weren't reading probably didn't look totally engaged because, honestly, I thought they probably weren't. However, when I would stop students to ask questions, which I do regardless of whether my principal is in the room or not, they knew the answers. They knew MORE than the answers. They provided totally thought-provoking discussion; I was impressed and so was my principal. It was really exciting to see that my students are actually "getting it."

Rose #2: I had the opportunity to chat with one of my students today when she was done with her work in another class. We went over her grades and how she's doing on her research paper she's working on it. Working with students one-on-one is my favorite part of teaching; unfortunately, I don't get that opportunity very often. I was really thankful for a few minutes to make a connection with her. She's one student that I watch really becoming a better student and person every day, and she reminds me why I'm here.

Rose #3: I finally set up some hanging folders in my filing cabinet so I could file my students' writing folders. They've been stacked up in just about every place around my classroom, my car, and my room at home. Finally, they have a home, and HOPEFULLY, now that they do, I'll use them like I'm supposed to!

Rose #4: When setting up the hanging folders, I found a GREAT resource for helping my students prepare for the writing SOL (state test - Standards of Learning) in March. It's a little old, but it will do, and it didn't cost the school any more money because it was just collecting dust in the back of a drawer. I was getting nervous about how to get the students that needed a little extra help prepared; I've been keeping them after school but I wasn't totally sure how to structure the time. This book will help, and there are more than enough copies for all of my students. I'm thankful I stumbled upon them today, and that someone had the good sense to keep them around!

As a side note, sometimes I don't even realize all of these roses until I start to write about them. I like that this gives me a reason to look back on my day and remember the good instead of focusing on the negative. Thanks for reading! :)

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday, January 15

"As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round." - Ben Hogan

Rose 1: My students have been creating grammar mini-lessons for the past weeks in preparation for their state tests. Two students presented this morning, one on using apostrophes, specifically in cases of possession and specifically NOT in cases of plural words. The other student's presentation was on colons. Both students needed a lot of help to prepare their lessons. I was so impressed by not only their presentations but also by the worksheets they developed for students to demonstrate that the lesson taught them something. In general, the mini-lesson assignment was great and the students loved it.

Rose 2: My freshmen students are working on an I-Search paper, which I wrote about earlier. Today, three students turned in their rough drafts. All three students chose great topics (fly fishing, the war in Iraq (specifically when soldiers will be coming back), and languages). I was excited because the final paper is required to be 3-4 pages long, and the students were telling me there was "no way" they could write a paper that long. Each rough draft was two pages long, and I was able to comment and make suggestions on each paper, so I'm now sure the length requirement for the final will be no problem!

Rose 3: Thanks to the great Martin Luther King, Jr., this is a three day weekend, which is a cause for celebration for teachers everywhere!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday, January 14

"Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow." - The Secret Garden

Rose #1: The sun is shining! Because my school consists of three double-wide trailers, I have to walk to get to lunch. That meant I got about five minutes of time in the sunshine today, which is more than I probably would have if I taught in a regular high school where I could walk to lunch inside.

Rose #2: I get to spend my afternoon with some really neat students I work with through Key Club. We have a meeting after school followed by the Winter Rally for our district. It's wonderful that I get to spend time outside of school with students because it gives us an opportunity to get to know each other a little better, and it tends to improve their effort on classwork and their behavior in class.

Rose #3: My principal is nice enough to extend us the professional courtesy of letting us leave campus during our planning period. This afternoon, at the beginning of my planning period, I drove to Starbucks and used a gift card a student gave me for the holidays to get myself a delicious treat!

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday, January 13

Rose 1: A recent assignment my senior students had was to write a 3-6 minute expository essay. They were able to choose any school appropriate topic. A few students finished this project on time with no trouble and gave their speeches in class. The speeches weren't fantastic, for the most part, but my students really put the effort in, so I didn't mind. One student who was struggling with a death in his family finally gave his speech today, about four weeks late. He gave the best speech out of all of my students which was definitely not what I was expecting. He followed the directions, which my students often do not do, and he developed a very charismatic beginning to his speech that exceeded my expectations for all of my students. The best part of this was that his speech was on MMA, or mixed martial arts, which I have absolutely no interest in, but he made it interesting to me. I was so impressed!

Rose 2: In my last class of the day on B days, I have freshmen. They're currently working on an I-search paper which is sort of a watered down version of a research paper. It has been a struggle in one section but today, my students started to "get it." We started with a topic letter that gave them the chance to propose their topic. Students then moved on to an outline I had created based on the blueprint I wanted them to use for the paper. Today, I noticed a student splitting his screen so he had his outline on one side and his draft on the other side. It caught on with other students and they started to realize that the outline is made to help them write their drafts. I was happy to see real, practical learning taking place.

I hope you stopped to smell the roses today.

Roses (& thorns)

My idea in starting this blog came from the game "Roses & Thorns." If you're not familiar with the game, it can be played in a few different ways, but, basically, at the end of the day, you can sit down and think, "What's the best thing that happened today?," and that's your rose. The worst thing that happened would be your thorn.

Sometimes, being a teacher, it's hard to look on the brightside of things. Lately, it seems like we are given less compensation to do more work. Because teaching is what I want to do, I've realized I need to look for and appreciate those bright moments in my days at school.

So, my promise is this: Every weekday, I will post at least one school-related rose from my day. Hopefully, if there are any other teachers reading this out there, my roses will help you notice those bright spots in your days.