Thursday, September 30, 2010

Visiting Hours

Yesterday, I had a visitor in one of my classes.

You may remember me mentioning this kid. He was one of the charming boys that made my life miserable the first three weeks of school.

He was transferred out of my class, along with his friend. But he was back yesterday, right at the beginning of class. The bell rang for class to begin and there he sat in his old spot. I proceeded with my lesson like normal, and pretended like there was absolutely nothing different than usual going on in class. My students were listening to me and surprisingly enough, they were paying absolutely no attention to the visitor in the room. He didn't make a peep, but I could see him trying to hide a smile every now and again, thinking he had fooled me. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the situation, but I knew I wasn't going to give him any special attention. About 5 minutes passed and when he realized no one was going to make a big deal about his presence, he got up quietly and went to his regular class.

I couldn't believe it went off without a hiccup. Why did he say nothing to draw attention to himself? How could he come and go without a word? Afterward, I spoke to my principal about the incident and she said, "You took away his power." I hadn't thought about it that way, but she was right. Unknowingly, that's what I did. He came to prove to me that I couldn't control his actions. He could be transferred, but he could still make my life difficult.

I don't have super keen teacher instincts when it comes to discipline. I know I was being looked out for by the Lord in those five minutes in front of my class. I didn't want to treat this student as if he were invisible, but I did want to maintain the positive teaching atmosphere that I had been trying to reestablish since he transferred out. I still can't believe the other kids paid him no mind. I saw one backward glance in his direction and that's it. Heavenly Father was looking out for me.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Today was talent day.

Looks like it's the time of year when I need to redefine the guidelines for this particular event. Today, I had 2 girls get up and sing the "Sprite" version of do-re-mi and 2 girls in a different class sing the "Twinkie" version of do-re-mi. I had two boys get up and do an original composition that was about 5 seconds long using only the words "boo-bee-boo-bee-boo." I actually don't think they really understood how bad that sounded.

Here is the kicker. In girls ensemble, a girl got up and said, "I will be singing 'Defying Gravity' from Glee."

I'm sorry, what?

Wicked became popular when I was in college ladies and gentleman. And ALREADY, the new generation is associating the song not with the Broadway musical, but with the television show Glee. Oh well, at least the show is giving exposure to some really good music, right?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I have a crush.


I hate crushes.

I LOVE crushes.

This is literally a textbook crush. Do any of you recognize the signs?
  1. I've known the guy for a month and he only recently started to acknowledge my existence.
  2. I smile and chuckle to myself when he says something funny (even when no one else is laughing) and think, "He's so darn cute!"
  3. I find myself analyzing every look in my direction or every word spoken in passing.
  4. I take great pains with my outfit, hair, and makeup any time I know I'm going to see him.
  5. When I do see him, I completely avoid him.
  6. If I ever do get the guts to say something, it's usually a very short statement that I plan out in advance and afterward think, "Katie! That was lame!"
  7. I give myself pep talks before I see him as to why I am a great catch.
  8. I have to call my mom or sister after every time I see him just to debrief the situation.
  9. I practice making eye contact without getting embarrassed whenever his glance happens to meet mine.
  10. I harbor no hope that we will ever actually go on a date. Isn't it more fun that way?
In other news, thanks to all of you who sent thoughts and prayers my way during my classroom crisis. The situation has been taken care of and I feel sooooooooooo much better. With the help of the administration, we changed around a couple schedules and I got a refresher course on "precision commands," to help me be a more effective disciplinarian.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Rising Generation

How I'll make it through this semester is currently unknown.

Today, my difficult class was even worse than yesterday, if that's possible.

Case in point #1: One of my tough kids (who was absent yesterday) was back in all his glory today. Aside from fighting with his friends all class period and being overall obnoxious, he said rudely, "Ms. Houston, boots don't really go with skirts." I was wearing a knee length skirt with tall boots. Now it's starting to get personal. I obviously don't care about the opinion of a 12 year old boy on fashion, but the comment just made me realize that they are starting to take disrespect towards me to a whole new level.

Case in point #2: Because of the blatant disrespect shown me by a couple of extremely oppositional students, the rest of the class has started to deteriorate. Kids who were fine at the beginning of the year have started being extremely defiant and mouthy to me. One student in particular asked for me to check over her assignment. There were several errors and as I pointed them out, she got increasingly annoyed because she wanted to turn in the assignment and be finished. She corrected one thing and said, "Now can I turn it in?" and I said, "No, you made an error here with this note..." and she turned her back on me and said, "Bull crap" and went towards the drawers where I have students turn in their papers. I called her out on it, but it really stung to hear a student be rude when I was so undeserving of that kind of treatment. I guess I am starting to get what it's like to be a parent.

After class was over, the history teacher who housed one of my difficult kids for the period after he mouthed off to me one time too many brought the kid back and made him talk to me in my office. I was so distraught I didn't know what else to do but be honest with him. I told him that he was being down right mean and making life miserable for me. I told him I felt awful after class every day. For one second, I saw a shining moment of sincerity and understanding. He sincerely said, "Sorry," and I believed him. He didn't understand that the way he was acting was truly hurting me.

After he left, I broke down bawling in my office in front of my BYU pre-student teacher and another teacher who took one of my difficult kids for me for the entire period. I just didn't know what else to do. I still don't. But I'll figure it out, one way or the other.

Interestingly enough, it was my turn to prepare the visiting teaching message for my 6:00 visiting teaching appointment with my companion. After writing my principal a long email pleading for help, I pulled up to see the V.T. message for September and this was what was staring back at me from the computer screen:

Our Responsibility to Nurture the Rising Generation

The Lord's timing is perfect.

My first reaction when I read that was, "What if you want to STRANGLE the rising generation?" but I quickly repented of that thought. From my experience with my somewhat remorseful little guy in my office today, I realized that values such as kindness still ring true with these kids who growing up right in front of us, in our classrooms. Let us teach love and kindess rather than anger, even though I am often quite prone to do the latter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One can only take so much...

I lost it today.

Every so often, you find you've had about as much as you can take and something inside you just snaps.

Today, that something snapped.

My 7th period has been really hard. I have three extremely difficult boys and 4 very difficult boys all in the same class. And when I say extremely difficult, I'm not exaggerating. Picture a student throwing things across the room, calling other kids names, opposing the teacher in everything she asks the class to do, refusing to participate, tipping over in his chair, chewing gum, being highly disrespectful with every sentence he utters, changing seats without permission, getting up and moving about the room, etc., all within a 45 minute class period and times three. The few students who struggle with serious behavior issues have a massive effect on the entire attitude of the class. It's absolutely amazing. In that period, the students don't follow directions, they talk, they come to late class and unprepared, etc. I truly believe that so much time and attention has been focused on the few extremely difficult boys that the rest of the class has figured what they do doesn't matter. My other 3 periods of the exact same class run smoothly. This class, however, is about 2 full class days behind the rest of the kids because of the amount of time wasted on seemingly useless discipline.

To compound matters, I have a BYU student during this class who has to teach at least 3 times a week and gets double the disrespect I get. It's a nightmare and it's a zoo. Today, while he was teaching, it was just insane. He was videotaping himself for his seminar tonight and the kids were out of control. I finally said, "Everyone stop." I used my meanest teacher voice. It's the extra mean one I save for maybe once or twice a year. I then told the class we were going to sit for 5 minutes in dead silence or else I was calling parents. Anyone who started laughing got the following from me: "You think that's funny? How funny is it going to be when we call your mom?" I literally stood in front of them for 5 solid minutes, watching the clock and saying nothing. My 3 boys were causing as much trouble as they could during this time, but even they realized that messing around was going to get them no attention from their peers.

After the 5 minutes were up, I had a well behaved class in front of me with the exception of two very mouthy little boys who got marched to the counseling office where I told them they were switching out of my class. Turns out they don't want to learn an instrument and after talking with the counselor, decided to shape up and stay in class. The other kids in the class asked if the difficult kids could be moved out of the class, and I had to fill them in on the harsh reality that we can't just do that. I also informed the rest of the class that laughing at these boys is just as much of a problem as being the ones to cause the trouble because it makes them want to do it.

So, the question is this: Did I handle it correctly? No. Did I handle it incorrectly? No. Looking back, I'm glad I showed them I was serious about good behavior. I did not, however, like the fact that even the angelic students had to feel the wrath of Houston. The 5 minutes of silence was a good thing (it gave me a chance to pray about what to do once the 5 minutes were up!) and helped the kids get perspective on how boring I can REALLY make class if everyone is planning on misbehaving all period long. I wish I didn't have to plead with the counselors to save me from my own students, but I literally didn't know what else to do at that point. I've kicked them out of class several times already for extremely poor behavior, called and emailed parents, contacted administration, etc. but nothing has been effective. I wish I could handle it on my own.

  1. 7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Here comes the bride!

I met Stephanie Casey when I was 3 years old. We first became acquainted at preschool. We became good friends and so did our mothers! We have remained so to this day, almost 25 years later. The two of us and our moms try to get together at least once a year for lunch when we're all in town.

This weekend, my parents and I had the huge privilege of seeing Stephanie marry her sweetheart, Greg, in Newport Beach, California. It was a blast and I felt so lucky to be a part of it!

Here's a glimpse of the wonderful weekend we had!

Our Hotel:

The Casey and Parks family graciously paid for our hotel room for both nights we stayed in Newport Beach as a thank you to my dad for performing the wedding ceremony. Here is what we saw from our balcony:

What a treat for us! It was incredible. I fear I will be having withdrawals tonight. Nothing will ever be the same after the mattress I slept on in that hotel! My dad called me his princess and the pea because of how much I loved burrowing in the blankets in the middle of my own big, squishy mattress.

Wedding Rehearsal:

The rehearsal took place at the hotel.

Parents of the groom

Mother of the bride
The bride and her daddy :-)

This is the same "bouquet" (above) from Steph's shower in August!

Rehearsal Dinner:

The rehearsal dinner was at this amazing restaurant called Sage, which happens to be Stephanie and Greg's favorite restaurant.

I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as the bride and groom and his parents. They were so nice and it was so great to see what an awesome family Stephanie is joining.

Stephanie's friends from high school, UCLA, and UCI were so nice to include me as one of their own :-).


Saturday morning, my parents and I went to this little bakery called the Rose Cafe and had some deletable croissant sandwiches and exquisite baked goods. Afterward, we walked along the beach and got to see some fun things, including a beach side wedding!

Modest seaside homes...(should we start guessing how much that property goes for nowadays?)

Check out this random rock.

My mom loves the birds.

My dad loves the boats.

Wedding Ceremony:

The ceremony was beautiful and I was so proud of my dad. He has a beautiful way with words and so many were touched by what he had to say about maintaining a strong, happy marriage. He also told the couple that in order to tie a strong knot, both ends have to extend much farther than just meeting halfway in the middle. He talked about marriage being ordained by God and how important it is to keep Him in the relationship. He also talked about 5 important things to cultivate in a marriage relationship, including selflessness and trust. His remarks were simple, powerful, and inspiring. So many thanked him afterward for his insights that they felt they needed to hear.

It got me thinking that we don't pause often enough to talk about what makes a good marriage in our society. It's almost a forbidden topic. Our nation's leaders are worrying about so many other things...war, poverty, education, etc...that sometimes the most basic values that hold a society together get brushed aside. Kindness, patience, nurturing, and loving in families would make such a difference when it comes to the other problems our nation faces. I wish my dad could give the same remarks he did at the wedding to the whole country. Just seeing the postivie effect it had on 100 people makes me think how much good it could do to share it with the world.

Waiting for the bride...

Steph's friend Jennifer did a beautiful reading from "A Farewell to Arms."

I did a reading from "Union" by Robert Fulgham. That was an honor! Thanks, Steph!

Look how big Greg's smile is! Is this guy happy, or what?!

Appetizer Hour:

We got some INCREDIBLE cheese while we waited for the bride and groom to finish taking gorgeous pictures by the water! Seriously, some of the best cheese I've ever tasted was put before us, along with crackers, pencil thin breadsticks, and veggies. Didn't get a picture, darn it! We got to find our name cards (each name was written on was so fancy and perfect it looked like a font on the computer!) and sign the guestbook while we mingled with other guests.

Jennifer and I had to laugh...we both did readings at the ceremony and it totally looked like we called each other up beforehand to coordinate what we were wearing!

I got so excited when I saw Stephanie's name card...with a different last name!

On either side of the picture of Stephanie and Greg, there is a wedding picture of their parents.

Wedding Reception:

Steph and Greg's wedding had 119 guests and was so pretty! What a fun evening.

The bride and groom's table!

How gorgeous is this cake?

This was my table.

Introducing the bridal party...

...and for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Parks!

Steph and Greg danced to, "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds.

These are the proud parents of the bride and groom, being honored in front of the guests.

Salad dressing was TDF...

Heaven...I'm in heaven...

Best man mean...toast!

Look at these cuties!

It's a bit sad to be back in the real world, but I'm so glad I got to be there!! Best wishes to Stephanie and Greg! ENJOY HAWAII!!