Going out to eat is always a great decision.  We sat down in the small restaurant in a corner booth.  The place was small enough that almost every conversation could be heard.  It didn’t take me long to realize that we were sitting in a booth next to  two young teachers having an early dinner, most likely,  before spring break.  I couldn’t help myself from listening in.  I always thought I would make an awesome spy.  Dave glared at me, knowing what was up…I just couldn’t help myself.

“Can you believe she actually said that to me?  That my kids needed a better management system?”

“No, I’m wondering who she thinks she is telling you what to do.”

“Well, maybe to the outside observer I can see why they might think that… but I do have a system, and I have very high academic standards…but sometimes they are not very good in the hall.”

“I do marbles, you should do marbles.”

Well, I am considering marbles, but I hate to start something this late.  This summer I will think about marbles.  This year I have worked on ‘building community’.  I think that I have just built such a strong community…full of trust that that they treat each other like brothers and sisters they kind of fight like cats and dogs.”

I like marbles.  Some people take away marbles when they are doing things wrong, but I would never do that.  They really deserve those marbles when they get them.”

“I was maybe thinking about letters up on the white board and erasing them to get a group prize, you know you erase a letter if they’re good.   Some people will then put back a letter when they misbehave.  That maybe is something I can do when they are crazy waiting for gym class…either erase or put another letter up according to what kind of behavior they have.”

“I like marbles but you could have a clipboard with you and right down the names of the ones goofing up…and then checkmarks.  They don’t like it when you use the clipboard!”

“Oh, that would be so many of them, I couldn’t even figure it out. I think I’m going to have to think about this during the summer.”

At this point, I’m starting to think thoughts like this…hmmm…I might march them all back to class or how about stopping in the hall every time someone starts to talk…before it got crazy.  The conversation was epic, I couldn’t stop listening.  At one point Dave just said, why don’t you just get up and join them?

I think it is great that you have established great trust in your learning community.  I bet that they are pretty decent writers.”

“Well, I uh…haven’t exactly worked on writing this year.  Have you heard of Kagan and Cooperative Learning?  That’s what we have been doing mainly, to establish the trusting stuff.  I’m going to have to figure out how I can get the writing in next year and work on that this summer.  I just don’t know how to fit all this touchy feely discipline cooperative group stuff in and do the mandated curriculum.”

“Well I like marbles.  And we also have a new fake money system for behavior and it is showing some promise.  I would recommend it as well.  I’ve done marbles for almost two years and I think I’m liking that they have to pay me money when they don’t do their homework.  I’m a little frustrated about how to get any reading done during the day with all the behavior stuff I manage and all the little one minute drill practiceI have do in reading and math.”

Sometimes, I just want to break down and read a book, but then I think again.  I really don’t have time for that, do I?”

“Well, I admit it, sometimes after the marbles and money.  I get to read a book aloud.  I feel really sneaky and a little guilty.  I wonder what they would think if they saw us doing that?”

Maybe stomp their feet and start cheering for the kids, I think.  

PS Names are not included to protect the innocent, oh, I didn’t know their names, but figured out one was a first year and the other was a second year.   Management was the issue for me back then  and wow…it still continues to be the issue.  Do some of you who are my age hear the names Kagen and Canter and remember?  Obviously, there were things that were good from both of these methods.  I’m an absolute believer in building a ‘community of learners’…but the word is respect and all of the community building can only work in the context of reading,writing, and thinking.  And read aloud????  Get the book In In Defense of Read Aloud (Layne,2015), it beats Canter any day of the week.  Get your fingers moving to Amazon right this instant girls….maybe on spring break…don’t wait for summer!!!  Have your book and management too!

PSS  Teaching was and is a difficult job.  I know that my voice sounds a bit critical in this post, but one good thing is this…at least these newbies are trying to work things out together.  Without our teacher friends we break down pretty fast in those early years of teaching.  I’m hoping they discover Two Writing Teachers…I wish I had stopped them and had offered encouragement, however, then they would known I had been listening in…oops spying!


6 thoughts on “conversation

  1. Ooooh, now I feel like an eavesdropper! I love how you threw in the bits about Dave… I can just picture you sitting there, bent slightly toward their conversation.

    I am reading Steven Layne’s book right now, and I just went to see him in a full-day presentation. He was awesome.

    I nearly fell out of my chair at “Oh, I didn’t get to writing this year.” NOOOOOOOOOO……


  2. Like Dana, I had to clutch my heart as “Oh, I didn’t get to writing this year.” Being a new teacher is extremely difficult because most of what you need in not found in any college course you take. I am big on mentoring programs.

    It really is hard not to listen in on a conversation, especially one that is part of something that has been a big part pf your life. Glad you listened in and shared.


  3. I truly think all teachers could become spies with our advanced eavesdropping, multi-tasking, and observation skills! hahaha!

    Thanks for the book recommendation! I will be sure to check it out.

    Behavior management is hard, especially when the whole school isn’t on board with one system. I worked at a school where all of the teachers from pre-k through grade five used the same system and it WORKED.

    My biggest problem with my current class is behavior during specialist class. We have a behavior chart that they carry with them because at first the specialists had no control over them, but now it seems tenuous at best. Sigh. Ideas?

    -Amanda at


  4. mrssurridge

    “I like marbles.” Oh my! You had me laughing at that one. The only thing I could think of is how ridiculous some of our conversations must sound to others. I agree that at least they were talking it out. Being a new teacher would be so tough now-a-days. I wish everyone who had at least 10 years experience could have a first year teacher as an apprentice for one year. I would have loved having the wisdom of a mentor teacher rather than trying to figure it out myself. Plus, I think I will try to whisper more when I’m out to eat with other teachers. Ha!!


  5. OK, so first I laughed. Can’t even tell you how many of these conversations I have overheard. And I laughed at Dave’s responses! Once a coach, always a coach. But then, on a more serious level, I wondered where the coaches and mentor teachers are in their lives. Who are the people in their building that COULD help? I really feel like teachers who have been doing this a while have a responsibility to the baby teachers, whether it’s in a formal or informal role.


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