Ice Breakers Part Deux

The Hairless Rat

It’s summer school, 8:45am and the second graders are doing ice breakers (see yesterday’s post)

Adam*: “I have a little dog, a big dog and a cat…that cat is not so nice.”

Me: “I see. Does the cat bite?”

Adam: “Sometimes. If you came to my house and tried to pet it, then yes.”

Me: (laughing) “Well, I’ll try to remember that.”

“Oh! I also have…had…a hairless rat.”

Had? Did he die?”

“Yes. He’s dead.”

“Dare I ask…did the not-so-nice cat…”

“No, no. The rat, he just died. You know, it’s the circle of life thing.”

* (not his real name)

Kids and Pets Part I

The Setting: Summer School with eleven 2nd graders, 8:45am.

We do an ice breaker: How many of you have pets? I ask.

Sam* raises his hand. 

“I have a little dog, he’s part…”

Poodle?!” Adam* interrupts.

“No, he’s part…”


“No, he’s part hot dog dog and…”


“NO! He’s part hot dog dog and chi…”

“He’s a chihuahua!”



Beatitude (Supreme Blessedness)


Today was the fourth day of summer school (I’m teaching a 2nd and 3rd grade combo class).  We hadn’t even gotten to the fun stuff yet (math Bingo with M&Ms and vocabulary skits) when one second grader beamed and said, “I love summer school!”

What part?” I asked.

“All of it!”

Her gratitude was intense and contagious. Other students murmured in agreement. Summer school is the bomb. 

She could have complained about waking up, getting dressed and going to school.

She could have dreaded doing math (again).

She could have complained and compared herself to other kids who are going on vacations to California and beyond.

But she was completely present. She was 100% here with 16 other kids and me and we had a great time.


The Squamate


His food went directly to his tail, apparently.    (Day 3 of 31)

School is out and I’m preparing to teach summer school at a new site. I’ll be teaching 11 second graders and 6 third graders. Last night, I confided in my daughter (aka Wise Owl):

“I’m kinda scared of these kids.”

“Why? Aren’t they, like, five years old?”

“Seven! And some are eight!


Teachers have an opportunity to take enrichment classes to make up for days we took during the Walk Out. #Red4Ed

I’m taking CPR. I wonder how much it’s changed since I took it way back in the day? 




“Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow”



Dear struggling summer school student (about to enter 5th grade),

I was your summer school teacher for 3 weeks, 3 hours each day. Today, I said goodbye to you.

I (hope) you learned from me:

  • the value of working hard;
  • the importance of basic skills (math facts);
  • learning can be fun;
  • you are capable of so much more than you think you are, truly.
  • never, ever give up.


I learned from you:

  • a few of you are wracked with emotional pain (dad is in jail, parents are divorcing, etc.);
  • you like learning to be fun and you’re quick to learn;
  • you have some amazing teachers at your school (!);
  • “arm” in Spanish is brazo;
  • your lack of sleep might have to do with the violence on your street, late at night;
  • you hope to be the first in your family to go to college.


Work hard. Never give up. And you shall make it there.



Father’s Day


Summer School. Day Five.  12 students. Ten more days left. Our days together are so few and there is so much to do.

Kids are like mirrors. I am always learning from them and they show me things about myself. They help me be better. Today, I was teaching them how to use Word: how to open it, type in it, save , change fonts, etc. We were making Father’s Day cards and the fact that one student’s father just went to jail was not lost on me. “If you prefer to write a card to your mother or grandparent, that’s fine.” She chose to make it for her father anyway.

“What if I need to write it in Spanish? My father can’t read English.”

(Taken aback): “How do you communicate with your dad then? How do you talk to each other?”

“We say, ‘How are you?’ and simple stuff like that.”

“OK, Type it in English and we will translate it to Spanish when you are all done.”

Several kids nodded and resumed typing. I continued walking around, helping, realizing the chasm within their families.

One student asks, “Mrs. Wipff, are you going to call Anthony “honey” too?”






What Do You Want?

Summer school students

yawning, with heads on their desks

                                                                 Why are you here?

To get smart!

College – what is that?

Listen – you can be whatever you want to be

You can do it!

But you must work hard

Now, write down what you want to be

Dream Big!

Mrs. Wipff, how do you spell….

(a list of jobs shouted out)

I write them down


There. You can be successful,

but you need strong math skills

you need to work hard

it’s all up to you

For the rest of the day, I call on

the doctor, the engineer, and the mechanic

(oh, the teacher and the artist, too)

they smile with their new monikers

they work hard on this hot summer day