Miss Cardigan's Blog

Instilling Catholic Values, One Middle Schooler at a Time

Holes October 20, 2010

Today was an example of how it can be extremely difficult to try and teach adolescents, period, but particularly to teach them about modesty and making good choices.  I try very hard not to be careful of what I say, so that I am supporting them and sending a message consistent with the Church’s teachings…but sometimes…sometimes, even teachers speak before they talk.  Or, perhaps better said, they speak and forget CRUCIAL adverbial prepositional phrases.

As I have previously mentioned, I have a very energetic, and wordly class this year.  It makes for quite the deadly combination some days.  Today was one of those days.

There are some pieces of background information necessary to fully appreciate the story.  First is that Tiger has a hole in her turtleneck (required uniform shirt) in her right armpit.  She plays with it all day, sticking her fingers in and conceivably stretching it out.  Second, my students have snack every morning, but must store their snack in their desk throughout the morning.  They are not permitted to get up and go to the cupboards to get it from their lunches; that is just too distracting.

It recently came to my attention, as well as the rest of the class’ attention, that Wilma has an odd idiosyncrasy when it comes to snack.  Unlike many of the girls, she has no problem remembering to put her snack in her desk each morning.  She does not try to eat her snack throughout the morning, but rather waits until Snack Time (very sacred in my room).  No, the oddness comes out AFTER she has eaten her snack.  See, she has this habit of going to the cupboards, taking her lunch bag out, looking at the food she has for lunch, then putting it all back (without taking anything), and returning to her seat.  We’re not really sure what this is all about, but we are trying to support her in breaking this habit.  Yesterday was day 1 of our attempt (and by our, I mean mostly mine), and it was successful.  Today, though, we were checking vocabulary homework and I was distracted and only picked up that she was at the cupboard when the class started telling me “Miss Cardigan!  Wilma’s at the cupboard with her lunch again!”  That is when Tiger so lovingly calls out “Wilma, you’re so weird!”

I chastised Tiger and reminded the class that we are here to support Wilma: “Girls, we are here to help Wilma get through this and realize she does not need to check her lunch.  That no one here is going to eat her lunch during snack.  We all have odd character traits.  It is not Wilma’s fault that her’s is a little more visible to the class.”

But no.  That’s not all I said.  Nope, it gets better…wait for it…wait for it.

“For example, Tiger, you like to put your fingers in your hole.”

IN YOUR SHIRT ARMPIT.  IN YOUR SHIRT ARMPIT.  But did I add that adverbial prepositional phrase?  NO.  Of course not.  And why not?  Because I do not think like my 13-14 year olds.  I didn’t realize what I said (or rather, how it might be interpreted) until I started to hear the mumblings.  Luckily, I was able to ignore and quickly return to checking vocabulary.  I can only imagine the dinner conversations around their tables tonight…


The dreaded parent phone call… October 18, 2010

Filed under: Modesty,My girls are too young for this...,Teaching — misscardigan @ 1:50 am

I’ve recently had to have two very difficult moral conversations with individual students.  I needed time to digest the incidents leading up to the conversations, and the conversations themselves, but am now ready to share and explore my thoughts…

A few weeks ago, on a Friday, a co-worker came up to me and told me that she needed to discuss something that happened with my students, which was setting them a bit on edge.  Great, I thought to myself, Bring it on.  See, this class is wonderful, energetic, charismatic, and out-going, but they are a little different than my previous classes.  This class is a little more worldly, has had some bullying issues, and developed a very difficult reputation last year because they seriously clashed with one of their teachers.  I’ve been approaching the year as a “great and successful” one…but some days its more difficult than others.

Finally, the co-worker and I were able to find 5 quiet minutes in my classroom for her to tell me that she heard through a student that Darling told a group of girls that she had…let’s just say done something very…advanced…with a boy (again, I teach 8th graders…and yes, we’re talking something more serious than kiss).  Wow, I replied.  I thanked her for letting me know and told her I’d figure out a way to handle it.

My principal (who is fabulous) always tells me how she hates Friday afternoons, basically because that is when the sh** hits the fan (my words, not hers), and it is really difficult to resolve anything because it’s Friday afternoon and everyone is heading out to the weekend.  My co-worker and I talked at about 2:50 on a  Friday.  My principal is very wise.

I finally find my principal after dismissal and say to her “You know how you love Friday afternoons?” Her: “Yeah…” Me: “Well, can we sit and chat for a minute?”  Her: “With that intro, I don’t think I want too.”  As I think to myself…no, you definitely don’t want to, but come on now.

So we sit, and I tell her the whole saga. about Darling.  Long story short, we have to figure out if it is for real, or if it was just said for attention.  She tells me I have to call Darling’s mother.  Gee, thanks!  Just what I always wanted to do: tell a mother that her daughter perhaps isn’t as innocent as one would like to think her daughter is.  Thankfully, mom didn’t attack me and we both agreed that we’re here to help Darling and we need to figure out what is going on and why this was said.  I hung up feeling much better than I had felt as I was dialing, which I considered to be a success.

Monday finally pulls around and Darling comes up to my desk, wanting to talk to me.  We set a lunch date.  I’m hoping against hope that she wants to talk to me about something related to school.  No luck.  “So Darling, you said you wanted to talk to me…what’s on your mind?”  “Well, I know that you talked to my mom on Friday…”  Ahh yes, so we ARE going to have that talk.

What resulted was actually a very nice conversation, where we were both open (well, appropriately open considering she is a student and I am a teacher) and had a mature discussion on what was going on.  I learned some background information, and she learned that perhaps I’m not as antiquated as they make me out to seem.  I also learned that she, mom, AND DAD, had a pretty difficult, but open conversation over the weekend.  Dad cried (which I think pretty much sums up WHATEVER could have been said in the conversation).

So this basically left me thinking…HMMM.  Darling is struggling for whatever reason which a lack of self-confidence and a need to prove herself around boys.  Need to think of ways to do handle this and support her in making life choices.  And part of me was thinking that she would perhaps need a little different presentation than what I normally do regarding boys, choices, chastity, and sex.  But as I’ve been observing her in class, things seem to be okay.  I don’t hear her making immodest comments, etc.

And then?  Then, this past Friday occurred…


The Beginning September 28, 2010

Filed under: Clothing,Middle School Dance,Modesty,Teaching — misscardigan @ 8:50 pm

There is one day, at the beginning of each year, which I have learned to love and dread all at the same time.  It is the Friday of the first dance at a nearby boy’s school.  See, I think that it is my duty as the girls’ religion teacher to give them a pep talk before the dance on how fabulous they are and how they should make good choices.  I saw some former students on Friday afternoon and explained how it was the first dance talk…they nodded their wise heads and gave me a knowing look…”ohhhh.”  I had to laugh as they either had it last year or the year before—it’s not like we are talking years and years ago here.  But anyway.

I cover basically the same topics in each speech, although I did tweak this year’s a bit to better fit the personality of the class.  Here’s a general cover of what I discuss:

I open by telling the girls that this is a day we have all been waiting for (I really try to build it up) and go on to say that they are now my students and as such represent me.  As I am fairly involved in the Catholic community in my area, I have connections at most of the local schools, so I remind them of this and encourage them to be aware that I WILL FIND OUT (although most often I find out from them…as they think I am deaf and won’t hear it if they talk right in front of my desk.  Yeah, right.  I’m 24, girls—I HEAR YOU!).

Then we go through the 3 Bs (this class also got 2 extras…no bellies and no backs).  We briefly discuss that they don’t need makeup, but if they and mom decide they can put it on, less is more (don’t want them looking like they belong on a street corner somewhere!).

We cover that they aren’t engaged to these boys, so if the boy dances with them, and then dances with someone else, there is no reason to take it personally.  He’s obviously not THE ONE and they should just talk to someone else, not get angry with the girl.  Of course, there is also a conversation on how even if I am not at the dance (I only chaperon our dances), God is everywhere and God sees everything and that God will see them.  That they should leave room for the Holy Spirit, as he guides us in making good decisions and if we leave him out, how will we be guided into making good decisions.  And that leaving room for the Holy Spirit is not just a mental thing—it is also a physical thing.  There should be actual SPACE in between the bodies.  My favorite is when I talk about inappropriate dancing…and how we just don’t do it.  I’m not sure if they don’t think I know the word grinding, or if they simply think I won’t use it, but I do and they are always shocked.  I figure that if I’m up front and direct, there will not be any room for questions or discussions.

I end by simply telling the girls how fabulous and beautiful they are, and that I firmly believe that they will change the world.  I remind them that they are perfect just the way they are and that they don’t need a boy, especially not one who will make them feel bad.  I try to stress how special and wonderful they are so they will go into the dance feeling great and confident (so they will feel strong in making good choices).

How do you talk to your kids about dances and making good choices?


Is this what you get? April 18, 2010

Filed under: Teaching — misscardigan @ 7:35 pm

Friday was the 8th grade retreat.  My grade partner and I had planned an off campus retreat, on a nearby retreat facility, lead by two retreat directresses.  Truth be told, I was a little skeptical.  I love retreats.  I originally wanted to be a Theology major so I could become a high school campus minister and run retreats.  I have gone on tons of retreats, many of which were incredible experiences.  I have also been on retreats that…well, let’s just say they a lacked a little bit.  I know that 8th graders can be difficult to impress and I didn’t want this experience to turn them off from retreats.  Luckily, it was awesome and I think over all the girls had a great time.

The day’s events started with prayer, and a reflection down 9 years of memory lane.  It was so fun to watch the girls explore and explode over the memories of the time they have spent together.  They discussed their gifts and talents and how it is important to allow everyone to follow their dreams (we also watched a very poignant clip from Happy Feet–such a good movie!).  It ended with an opportunity for them to write their dreams and ambitions for their lives. Broken into small groups, they were handed a paper which had a circle drawn on it.  In the circle they needed to put their hopes/dreams/ambitions/desires for their lives.  Outside the circle they were to record any obstacles to achieving those dreams.  As I walked around and glanced at their papers, I was amazed at their thoughts.  They wanted anything from travel, to education, to marriage and children.  They recognized obstacles as well–and ranged from almost anything and everything.  One obstacle that consistently struck my eye was “boys.”  I was glad that they recognized the potential distraction and obstacle that boys can cause in their lives.

At the end of the exercise, they put their papers on the wall and the retreat leaders went over them.  My grade partner and I were sitting next to each other, slightly removed from the group, taking it all in.  One of the obstacles the retreat leaders found on the paper was “other gods.”  She paused and question the group about it and they discussed various idols, etc.  My grade partner leaned over to me and said “is this what you get?”  At first I was confused and didn’t know what she was referring to.  Then, it dawned on me–in her teaching of math and science, she rarely sees the depth of our girls.  We had a quick laugh and I explained to her, yes, I see this all the time.  It made me think though.

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in the difficulty of trying to instill good values into our students, that we forget to see the gems of what we have in front of us.  And that yes, for every student we have who will potentially make some bad decisions, we have a BUNCH who won’t.  And at the end of the day–they do know.  They do get it.  They may choose to ignore it, but that is their decision.  All we can do is encourage them and pray for them and the decisions they will have to make.


Purple Chin March 22, 2010

Filed under: Teaching — misscardigan @ 8:03 pm

One of my daily struggles is reminding my students not to write on their hand.  They do it for a variety of reasons–as a reminder for homework,  missing worksheet, or because they are bored.  I try to encourage the use of the planner for reminders and scrap paper for doodling, but at the end of the day, I have to choose my battles.  So, I do verbal reminders and “the eye” when I catch them.  I try to discuss with them why they shouldn’t draw on their hand…messy, Body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (does God want “math worksheet” written all over God’s temple?  Personally, I don’t think so), and the fact that it is a rule.  I’ve even thought about referencing Sarah Palin’s hand check during an interview as a way to dissuade them (You don’t want to be a famous politician and get caught looking at your hand for notes during an interview do you?—here it is, in case you missed it!)

Today, however, was perhaps the best lesson in “why not to write on my hand.”  I came back to my girls after they were at a special class and noticed that one of them had a faint purple tint to her chin.  I went over and inspected, trying to figure out what could possibly cause purple skin discoloration.  Finally, I looked at her hand and there it was—a big purple box on her hand.  CAUGHT!  She had clearly rested her chin on her hand and the ink had transferred from the hand to the chin.  Well, she dashed out to the bathroom to do some damage control.  I hope this experience left a lasting mark (hehe) on her!


Fail. March 19, 2010

Filed under: Teaching — misscardigan @ 12:37 pm

Apparently I am a horrible Religion teacher. I have girls who STILL believe that the Jewish people practiced sacrifices by killing animals to JESUS. And that JESUS lived in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Even though we’ve discussed a 1000 times that Jesus was a JEW, so people wouldn’t sacrifice animals to him and people didn’t worship him in the Temple since he was ALIVE. Fail.