Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed | M.Ed | Passionate | Compassionate | Purpose-driven | Public school teacher!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Lunchtime Sit Down

In addition to giving my students space to chat and let out their feelings about the election, minus the teacher's bias, I did inform one kid that I wanted to see him at lunch and speak with him some more. I had him as a 3rd grade student and was pleased as punch that I would be the opportunity to work with him again as his 5th grade English teacher.

In third grade he proved himself to be quite the presidential scholar, often choosing to read and speak about presidents during our times of SSR and the subsequent "book talks." We talked a lot when he was in 3rd grade and I was interested in this thoughts on this election now that he is in 5th grade. I've blogged about him before on here.

Lunchtime came. We sat and chatted about presidential politics like we were two old men. His favorite president was Kennedy "because he helped a lot of people." His least favorite was Nixon "because he got impeached and lied." When asked about his feelings regarding this election, he used the word "disappointed." When asked why, he enumerated the myriad reasons we all as adults have named. We then talked about taxes and what revealing them may uncover. He wasn't really aware of how that all worked, so I started small (very small) with what my returns would reveal. Donations to "do good" organizations like animal shelters, the church, etc. After my example and explaining what Trump's could say, he got it.

He also noted that he didn't like neither Clinton nor Trump, but of the two, Clinton would have been the better choice.

After several minutes he got up to leave and expressed how he enjoyed the chat and that we'd have to do it again. Agreed.

P.S. I'm a public school teacher in Philadelphia. He and I both share a heritage. Just an fyi just in case any other mental images were coming to mind.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In the Classroom the #MorningAfter Trump Won

So, there it is. D.J. Chum—ahem—Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. I’m choosing not to go into the myriad reasons why I don’t agree with a clown taking the Oval Office. Instead, I’m going to focus on the fact that I am a public school teacher in Philadelphia who teaches students with opinions about these things.

Today the mood around the school was somber. Staff and students alike seemed to be walking around in a daze, stunned that such a man could have possibly won the long 2016 election and is set to become the 45th President of this country.

Instead of ignoring the feelings the students had, I allowed them time to express themselves. I didn’t get to do this with every class the way I wanted. But in their Social Studies class with my colleague, they also had the opportunity to express themselves. Many had strong opinions about both Trump and Clinton. Others didn’t have an opinion about the election at all. And when asked what advice would they give to Trump if he were to come into the classroom that very minute. One student said, “Quit!” #classdismissed

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Student's Art/Reading/Knowledge sketch

"Mr. Flemming, I have this drawing idea of a fist coming out of books with the title 'Knowledge is Power'. Can I bring it to you?" ~5th Grader


J. Smith, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Get the Kids' Opinions

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Dilemma: Only 5 Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in the classroom (new). Everyone likes to read them.

Solution: Get the kids' opinions on a fair way to distribute books during the time set aside for silent/relaxing reading.

May I also take time to thank some of my personal friends and family, who when they heard of my dilemma, offered to gather their own kids' used books or volunteered to pick up one or two or more!

I've maintained for some time that reading is meant to be enjoyed not tested! We have a ways to go, but in the interim, let's get them to love reading and letting the words take their imaginations to......wherever!!

"RACE" Movie Soundtrack in Class

Today I played one song from the 'RACE' movie soundtrack in class.
"Let the Games Begin"

Prior to the start, I read the lyrics poetically. As one class was settling down, the mood in the room instantly changed. I could hear quiet mumbles of affirmation and whispers of agreement and inspiration. The tone of the class period was set and you could cut the "we can do this" attitude with a knife if you wanted!

Let's gooooo!!!!! Let the games begin!! We got this!!!

Stuffed Animals and 5th Graders

Last year, near the end of the school year I had an idea and it worked. Read about it here. It involved adding stuffed animals to the classroom library. The idea caught on even as a personal friend of mine thought of me as she toured the NJ aquarium. She purchased a hippo from the gift shop to add to the collection.

While I'm sure teachers have been doing it for ages, you must remember I'm coming from middle school grades. This year, I'm trying it earlier and with my 90+ 5th graders. We'll see how they respond. They already love the idea of pillows.

The larger ones are on loan from a colleague. The smaller ones were purchased in the sale/(clearance?) section of a department store.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

It IS in The Cards!!

Every school year I take the time and have my students write down what it is they desire to be “when they grow up”. Noted on index cards, I’ve also asked them to autograph and date the card. “Yes, ladies and gents, I want your autographs now! You will not grow up and do great things and deny you ever knew me!” lol I also ask them address it to me, a thought that hit me a couple of years into the tradition.

This year was no different and was something I was really looking forward to doing!

Signing of the index cards is preceded by a very real talk about hard work, goals in school and life, the ways of society, others’ thoughts about them, and my speaking words of life and empowerment into their lives, letting them know they are pearls of great price or another ‘symbolistic’/metaphoric ‘thingy’ I may use at the time!! These “chats” (as one former student called them) happen all throughout the year and at random times.

Those cards have become a “Mr. Flemming staple”. When old students come to visit, when I go to their games, graduations, or other events, “the cards” undoubtedly come up! “I still got ya cards!” That, followed by, “I’m tryna be at graduation to help you celebrate!”

Sometimes going back to the cards becomes emotional. Last school year, two former students lost their lives tragically. Going back to their cards, looking at what it was they wanted to be and do was all too surreal.

Cut off.
Too soon.
I put their cards on my classroom door last year, in some small hoping to honor their memory and dreams. One would have graduated this coming June. {sigh}

On the complete opposite end of the pendulum of emotions, pure joy!

Two such emotional moments came when I attended the class of 2016’s graduation ceremony to help these young men and women celebrate!! Big ups to that great kid who was in room 103 in 6th grade for making sure I was able to come! For the first time, the cards accompanied me to the ceremony. Catching up with as many of my former students as I could, we reminisced, albeit briefly, over what they wrote six years prior. Many snapped pics of what they once wrote, some laughed at what they wanted to be, many still wanted to be it and others paused…
One graduate and former student softly said to me, “Thanks Mr. Flemming. That really means a lot.” Another started getting choked up as I showed him his card and as we hugged. His words, “I did it Mr. Flemming, I did it.” (Messed me all the way up when I got back to the car and starting to ‘allergy’ up my eyes even now)

We never know who is sitting in our classrooms. The next {insert à positive occupation/profession/position here} is that kid sitting right by your desk…or up in the front…or by the door…maybe even the window…or the one whose home life becomes dinner time banter over broccoli and meatloaf. *Hmph*

I jokingly tell each group of students that when they reach their goals and make it big and make tons and tons of money to come back and break me off some! (Sorta, kinda almost kinda not joking about that one lol).

As we are in this season of fresh starts and new beginnings, let’s recommit ourselves to the noblest profession on the face of the planet, the profession that makes all other professions possible, the journey of teaching and learning with our students!! Speak life! And more than just speaking it, act on it!!

Happy New Year!!
Let's go! Success is my only option!!