Category Archives: Classroom Confessions

High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.


However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

Sunday Morning Confessions # 16-18

Summer officially ended last week and so too did my hiatus from writing.  It’s always tough for me to get back into the groove of writing, but confessions basically write themselves.  So here are 3 confessions from my first week of school:

16.  I fell asleep in my classroom.

This was entirely intentional and I feel no shame because that first week back is straight up exhausting.  During my prep period, I turned off the lights, curled up in my papasan chair, set my alarm for 5 minutes before the bell rang, and knocked out.   Hopefully no one came looking for me.  I was well-rested for 6th period and the kids were none the wiser. (Unless they noticed my bed-head).

I know I am not alone in my first week exhaustion.  After months of sleeping in and peeing whenever our bladders’ desire, getting back “on-stage” all day is always a rough transition.  During break on the first day, the Bible teacher was sprawled out on the couch in the teacher’s lounge.  And the kids think THEY have a hard time coming back to school…

17.  I was late on the second day of school.

We have a new principal and my goal has been to make him think I am one of those “punctual” kinds of people who is responsible and professional and never falls asleep in staff meetings.  I’ve shown up on time to all our meetings and he hasn’t noticed my coworkers winking at me and congratulating me for being a real-life adult.  But alas, day two and I made it to campus 20 minutes late, just as the bell was about to ring.

In my defense, I would have been on time if my car had started, but a dead battery left me scrambling.  Ironically, this dead battery was an answer to prayer.  I was bone tired and had prayed that God would give me energy for the day.  Nothing wakes you up quite like the thought that you won’t be able to get to work.  So, thanks for that, God.  I may have been 20 minutes late but I was WIDE awake.

18. I spent more time making this poster than I did lesson-planning.IMG_3123

We were granted huge chunks of time to work in our classrooms before the first day of school, and I should have spent that time preparing lessons.  Instead, I killed spiders, arranged a gazillion nic nacs on my desk:IMG_3146

and made my annual “ugly faces from last year” poster.  I now have an entire wall covered in ugly faces.  It. Is. Awesome.  And super distracting for the ADD kids, but whatevs.

I tell my students that I keep all these old posters so they can laugh at their older siblings, so I can remember my past students, and just in case someone becomes wildly famous, I will have an incriminating photo to share with US Weekly.  Cha ching!

Now it’s your turn: Have you taken naps in unconventional places? Have you been late to places you really shouldn’t be late to?  If you’re a teacher, did you struggle like me during your first week back? I’d love to hear any and all of your me-too confessions!

Reason I Love to Teach # 12

I Don’t Dread Coming Back to Work

Don’t get me wrong, the first week back from Christmas break is always rough.  The days stretch long and my brain physically aches.  But no matter how wonderful the break was, no matter how many friends I laughed with:

or adventures I embarked on…

No matter how many guns were fired…

or fires were built: 

I still love coming back to my little classroom to be with my little teenagers.

I mean sure, I groaned every morning when my alarm went off.  And yeah, every day I was tired and hungry and retraining my bladder is never fun.  But my students made me laugh every day, and they made it less painful to wake up before the sun.  (Which really should be illegal) That being said, this conversation took place the first day we got back:

S: Miss Hardeman, did you dye your hair darker?

Me: Nope.

S: Are you sure?  It looks A LOT darker.

Me: Yes, I am sure.  This is what it looks like when my hair hasn’t been washed.

S: Oh.

T: Ew.

I wasn’t too offended because “ew” is one of T’s favorite words.  Later in the week he said, “Ew.  Silent letters are the worst.”

Apart from not being able to wake up in time to shower, one other problem with returning to school is that I must readjust my filter and quit saying and doing everything that comes to mind.  Two of my sweet international students were the unfortunate recipients of said forgotten filter.  One girl was doing her math homework when she finished her work, so without thinking I grabbed her papers, threw them in the air, and yelled, “Math?!? You can’t do MATH in here!”

Then one of my favorite boys, a quiet Korean genius, was looking back at his notes when he wasn’t supposed to so I snuck up behind him, grabbed his shoulders, and yelled, “What are you doing?!?” He may have peed himself.

Note to self: overly-dramatic displays of pretend anger do not always translate across cultures.

But by mid-week my filter was back on and I was totally normal and responsible.  My students on the other hand…well let’s just say that one day I had to ask them to stop licking their iPads.  Yes, LICKING their iPads.  I allowed them to write with their elbows and even their noses (though I warned them they would probably break out), but I drew the line at using their tongues.  Kids these days…

Here were some of the conversations from the week that made coming back to work enjoyable.

Me: That’s enough, guys.  You should only be talking to your parter about the causes of the revolution right now.

K: Okay, but Miss Hardeman?

Me: Yes?

K: What’s your favorite cereal?

Me: Stop it.

5 minutes later

K: Miss Hardeman, seriously though, what is your favorite cereal?

Me: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Class: erupts into cheers

I may have earned the respect of that class period with my love of sugar cereals, but I lost it in the next class period.  I had drawn a stick figure of Czar Nicholas II and he was holding two swords to represent the two wars he got Russia involved in.  I had written the names of the wars on the swords and the class had to copy the picture so the following conversation took place:

A: Miss Hardeman, what does the sword say?

Me: Ring-ding-ding-a-ding-da-ding-ding.

Long silent pause as the class stared at me with jaws dropped.

T: I just lost so much respect for you.

I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t continue with “wha-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa” like I was considering. Speaking of Russia, after reading a passage about Bloody Sunday in my Russian accent, this conversation happened:

E: You sound like an Olga when you talk like that.

Me: What do you mean?

E: You know how in movies there’s always a pretty Russian masseuse?

Me: Okay…

E: Well and then there’s also a scary looking girl with a unibrow named Olga?

Me: Sure…

E: Well, you sound like the Olga.

When teaching teenagers, one quickly develops thick skin.

Another great thing about teaching is you have a live audience all day and can teach these little sponges whatever you’d like.  Naturally I taught them to speak with Russian accents- an immensely valuable lifeskill.  A youtube tutorial was involved and I may have required them to practice with a partner.  I also taught them how you can’t lift your ring finger off the desk once you’ve made a fist. (Try it. One girl hurt herself trying.) And of course I taught them the art of plucking a chicken:

because come July, they’ll most likely forget all about the Progressive Era and the Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal, but they will probably never forget that you must dip the chicken in nearly boiling water for about 30 seconds and then the feathers will pull right off.

The final class moment from the week that made me glad to be back happened during my study hall, a class that consists of 9 boys from all different social circles.  This conversation took place on Friday:

C: Hey, is everyone in here single?

Class: nods.

C: Yeah! Forever alone!

Me: We should all get that tattooed across our chests.

Class: looks of horror and confusion.

Apparently I’m still working on getting that filter completely back on.

What I realized this week is that if I can’t spend all my days snow-shoeing with friends, shooting guns, exploring the wild, building fires and plucking chickens, then I will gladly spend my time in the classroom with ridiculous teenagers laughing at ridiculous things.

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

This year marks the beginning of my 10th year as a teacher.  I’ve taught in a large public school, a tiny missionary school, and a medium-size Christian school and have found that no matter the location or school size, there are certain things about teaching will always be the same.  It will always be a truly wonderful profession, one that is fulfilling and fun and has fantastic perks like students who make us laugh every day and a 10 week summer.

But teaching is certainly not without it’s challenges, and during our first days of school last week, I couldn’t help but think about some of the annual transitions we teachers must make every September.  I realize lots of people who work “normal jobs” face these same challenges every day for 50 plus weeks, and you probably have zero sympathy for us as we recover from summer.  But I think my fellow teachers will admit that it’s always a bit of a strain on our bodies and minds as we switch gears and turn back to teacher mode.  That being said, here are a few of those challenges we faced last week.

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

1. Waking up 

It’s not that we dread the first day of school.  We really don’t.  I mean sure, we spend the last few nights of summer having first day of school nightmares about horrific students and showing up to school without shoes or a prepared syllabus, but for the most part, we are ready and eager to start a new school year.  However, after 10 weeks of getting decent sleep, our bodies revolt against the absurdity of rising before the sun.  There is something just plain unnatural about waking to darkness.  Without any light one might even, hypothetically speaking of course, accidentally step in the pile of cat puke so conveniently left beside the bed as she staggers to the shower.  So yes, just getting started in the morning can be quite the struggle. Continue reading

Reasons I love to teach # 8

High school teachers are goofy.

This is most likely due to the fact that we spend so much time with teenagers.  Somehow their juvenile sense of humor has rubbed off on us.  Or perhaps we all chose this profession so we’d never have to actually grow up.  Either way, it’s kinda wonderful working with people who don’t pretend to be normal or cool.  God sure knew what He was doing when He directed me to Valley Christian, a place where my colleagues would be an extra kind of wacky and weird.

In fact, just yesterday at the end of the year BBQ, I joined a table of 6 male coworkers who all began applauding when I approached.  They shook my hand and said things like, “Well done”  and “There she is” and  “Congratulations” and “You’re the # 1 seed.”  When I asked what on earth they were talking about, they explained that they had spent the last 30 minutes debating which of the female teachers would win in fights against each other. Continue reading

Reasons I Love to Teach # 7

Memorable Class Periods

Every once in awhile teachers are given a new attendance sheet like none other.  On this list are the names of kids who will make a class that will leave a lasting impression on the teacher.  This year period 6 was that class.  Before I tell you why, here are some of my other memorable class periods: Continue reading

To the student who continually picks his nose with his pinky finger and then eats his boogers in my class,

You realize that I can see you, right?

Do you understand that when we make eye contact while your pinky is deep in your nostril digging around, I know what you’re doing?

I can clearly see that your nail is scraping the walls of your nostril for a tasty treasure.  And I hate to break it to you, guy, but you’re not nearly as sneaky as you might think you are.  When you slip those gooey green gobs of snot into your mouth, you’re not fooling anyone and you are forcing me to throw up in my mouth.

Look, I care about you, kid.  And someday a teacher or a classmate is going to call you out on your booger-snacking ways and you’re going to be mortified.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, there is a social stigma attached to nose-picking and it is social suicide to be caught eating your finds.  So I’m writing this letter to let you know that I CAN SEE YOU and to ask you to kindly stop.

I realize that it’s hard to let that cliff-hanger hang.  But, please, just come grab a tissue from my desk.  Blow that dangling boogie out.

Or, if you really can’t give up the pleasure derived from dislodging your dried nasal mucus, could you possibly adhere to the “roll-n-flick” tactic?  Because while I gag every time I see you sneaking a mucus munchie, it would actually be worse if you were wiping your snotty secretions on your desk.  So thanks for not forcing some unsuspecting victim to wipe their hand across your sticky snot globs.

Perhaps you are of the philosophy that eating one’s boogers keeps you from getting sick.  I get it.  My brothers are staunch believers in this method and you know what?  Some DOCTORS agree with you!

According to Doctor Bischinger, “Eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body’s immune system.  Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.”

So I suppose I shouldn’t judge you for trying to stay healthy.  But for the sake of my gag reflex and your social standing, could you possibly wait to chew on your crusty critters until after class?

Thanks so much,


your booger-picking, but not-booger-eating teacher

ps- do you grow your pinky nail longer for this purpose?  Just curious.


Reasons I Love to Teach (#4)

No Fart Goes Unnoticed

In the adult world you can often get away with passing gas at work without fear of judgement or ridicule.  Other adults will silently endure your SBD’s.  They might want to gag and plug their noses; their instinct might be to cough and to cringe.

But they won’t.

They will sit in your cloud of stank and not utter a single complaint because that’s what adults are supposed to do. Some won’t even giggle if what you thought was going to be an SBD, turns out to be a not-so-silent-but-still-quite-deadly butt-hole emission.  (Because as my dad says, “When you get older, you can never trust a fart.)

I bet politicians and big-wig businessmen can get away with ripping a rapid fire of terrible toots without anyone even raising an eyebrow.

Adults are condemned to silently suffer when others emit pungent odors reminiscent of rotten eggs and sewage.  Age has taught us that is proper and polite to simply ignore the fact that a colleague has released odors so strong and so sour that one must breathe through their mouth to prevent fainting.  Social protocol is clear when it comes to farts in the workplace: “That fart never happened.”

But this is not the case in schools.

It’s quite the opposite really.

The great thing about farts in the classroom is that they don’t discriminate.  Farts don’t care if you’re male or female, a freshman or a senior, a jock or a band geek.  Farts are universal.  They can strike at any moment and plague both the tall and the small, the  rich and the poor, the popular and the socially awkward.  No one is safe when it comes to a surprise gas attack.

And when the attack happens in a high school, if just one little pop slips out or one simple waft of a future poop is released into the air,  it WILL be noticed.

There will be snickering.

There will be comments.

There might be students pretending to pass out.

And if the victim is a girl trying her hardest not to be noticed, she might be traumatized.

I would venture to say that at least 60 % of teenage girls would say their most embarrassing moment of high school was caused by a fart.

Because when you fart in a high school classroom, there is no social protocol.  And teenagers can be ruthless.

Just yesterday I had to pretend to rearrange the books in the back of the classroom so students wouldn’t notice my laughter after witnessing the after-effects of a deadly bottom blast.  The class was quizzing their partner on vocabulary words, and I noticed one boy with his shirt pulled up over his mouth and nose.  His parter had his head in his arm.  Both boys were shaking from laughter.

Then I noticed the boys directly in front of them.  One was gagging.  With one hand he plugged his nose, while he used the other hand to wave away the invisible anal vapors.

The poor tooter was grinning and turning bright red, but there was nothing I could do to save him.

You can’t order teenagers not to laugh at a fart.

You just can’t.

And you’re asking for a mean case of the giggles to break out if you call any attention to the brown cloud.

As an adult, I know that I can’t laugh and point like all the others.  It is my duty as a teacher to change the subject and capture the class’ attention so they will forget about the flatulence and the poor fellow who released it.  But this is one of the hardest parts of my job.

Because when I hear or smell a fart, I am DYING inside.

And I love that high schoolers haven’t yet learned that you’re supposed to ignore the stank and the squeakers.  I love when I catch them exchanging silent glances across the aisle, saying with their eyes and a quick sniff, “Do you SMELL that?!”

You may think me rude for deriving such pleasure from these moments that must be sheer torture for some kids.  But students aren’t the only ones afflicted by attacks.  Teachers, on occasion, also have to squeeze our cheeks to hold one in.  And every once in awhile, we too lose control and let out a butt burp.

However, we are not trapped in our desks like the poor kiddos.

A friend and former flight attendant, who often suffered from the alti-tooties, taught me the beauty of crop-dusting an aisle.  It was one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a new teacher. Feel the sphincter’s song about to be sung?

No worries.

Simply walk up and down the aisles at a brisk pace leaving the students to bask in your fart cloud and wonder which classmate had done it.  All the while, they’ll remain completely oblivious to the pungent party in your pants.  This method has been tried and tested.  It works like a charm.

Sure, it’s probably pretty immature of me to enjoy others’ farts as much as I do.

And yeah, as a 30 year old, it’s a bit ridiculous how funny farts still are to me.

But with a sense of humor like mine, farts in the classroom are ALWAYS a highlight.

 Fellow teachers, have you found this to be true in your classrooms?  Non-teachers, do you silently suffer through others’ silent-but-deadlies?  Or perhaps you farted in class years ago and still haven’t forgotten about it, do us a favor and share your story here.    

October wows

Each month I record the moments in life that made me pause and say/think/feel “Wow.”  These are those moments.

Quite fitting for October, I encountered these boys in the grocery store:

I’m the type of person who talks to kids I don’t know and freaks them out, so naturally I asked about his boney friend.  The boy didn’t answer me.  Instead he looked at me like I was the freak carrying a skeleton and walked quickly to his mom. Continue reading

Friday Favorites- “Rat tails, Polcats, and Squirrel Genitalia”

* Favorite new term

Gurning: “This British term — much better known in Britain and Commonwealth countries than in the US — refers to the pulling of grotesque faces and has often been applied to that action as a competitive activity” (

Seriously??? How have I never heard about this fantastic competition?  And how I can sign up?  If you watching THIS BRIEF CLIP, you’ll get the gist of the game.  This guy didn’t win, but he was my favorite: 

I owe a huge thanks to my British friend, Tom, for introducing me to this world of awesomeness.

He’s a pretty great gurner himself:

* Favorite Facebook birthday wish Continue reading