Friday, November 11, 2016

The Cubs Won! And I'm Exhausted.

So, I haven't posted much in the past few weeks but I have a really good reason.

Baseball.

Seriously.  Between the NLCS and the World Series, this Cubs Fan was getting very little sleep, and blogging time was non existent.  Priorities people.

See, baseball has always been a huge part of my life.  My Dad, awesome man that he was, realized that even though his only child was a girl, that didn't mean he couldn't teach her to love sports.  So I spent a lot of my childhood and young adult life (when I lived on the West Coast) going to California Angel games with my dad and my cousins (and no, I'm never going to call them anything but the California Angels.  So sue me.)  Our family relocated to Los Angeles about the same time the franchise started and so my dad, who loved the underdog, became an Angel fan.

However, when one moves to and eastern time zone, like Daddy Bird and I both did, it is really hard to follow a West Coast Time.

So we became Cubs fans.  My Dad always, and I mean always, loved the underdog.  And he loved Harry Carey and his announcing.  So he started following the Chicago Cubs. Because seriously?  Was there any other team that defined "underdog" like the Cubs?

And we fell in love.

Whereas we aren't from Chicago (Mr. Bluebird is, however) and we don't have a legacy like many of my other Chicago Cubs fans do with the team, we loved them none the less.  My Dad, every year, would hope for a championship, and like millions of Cubs fans before him, was disappointed.  When he passed away three years ago, I made sure that he had a Cubs t-shirt with him in his coffin.  He would never have forgiven me if I didn't.

So, for the first year after he died, baseball was more painful than fun.  I didn't have him to call after each game to discuss the plays and the scores and the bad calls and everything.  And I missed that more than you can imagine.  It made my heart break that I didn't have anyone to discuss the Cubs with, as Mr. Bluebird is not a baseball fan (hockey is his game).  And so baseball sort of left my life for a year or two.

And then I met Baseball Boy, and baseball, and especially Chicago Cubs baseball, became fun again.

So now that Baseball Boy (who I also call my nephew because he's told everyone I'm his aunt, and his parents are thrilled by that, so who's to stop him) is in high school I don't see him as much, but we text and talk a lot.  Especially during baseball games.  And it was a fantastic year for us Cubs fans.

And as the season went on, Baseball Boy and I started to wonder if this finally was our year.

And we won the NCLS, the first time since 1945.  (Baseball Boy calculated that my dad was 10 when that happened.)

And then we won the World Series and partied like it was 1908!

And Baseball Boy and I are still just beaming.  And waiting for Spring.  And Spring Training.  And Opening Day.  And another great season.

And in the meantime, I'm teaching him about hockey.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

And then there was the Minion

We had a nice fall break at the beginning of the month with warm weather and many of us headed out of town.  (I went to Colorado to visit Momma Bird who relocated there this past summer.  I had The List of Chores to do for her.  List completed...)

But back to school we went, and with it came a phone call one morning from The Enforcer.

Now that The Enforcer is the Principal, I don't talk to him as much as he's not working behavior referrals for the kids.  However, once in a while he gets involved with a kid issue and today was one of those days.

"So, Mrs. Bluebird, need your help.  I have this kid, a seventh grader, who just absolutely hates school, except for band.  Kid is falling apart, but he's borderline in a few classes.  Put him in study hall, but that didn't work due to the number of kids.  I've got his dad on the phone and we were wondering if you could take him under your wing one period a day and see if you can get some work out of him."

Oh here we go again.

Turns out I know the kid, he'd been in my room a few times last year, and there are days he'll work and then there are days he will Absolutely Freaking Refuse to do Anything He Does Not Want to Do.  At All.  He's also one of the rudest kid I've ever met which apparently is how The Enforcer met him.  He's one of the few kids I've ever heard who would talk back and buck up to The Enforcer And It Did Not Go Well for him.

I told The Enforcer that I wasn't going to make any promises, but I'd try.

He's a bit of an odd duck, a small kid, and very immature.  He reminds me of an 3rd grader in a lot of ways.  He cannot for the life of him figure out how to use a locker, can't get to class on time to save his life and loses things.  Which is why his parents got him these glasses that look like goggles that strap to his head.  And make him look like a Minion.

The Minion got his schedule changed and showed up in my class the next day.

"Mr. Guidance said I'm your aide," he declared when he came in and sat down in the seat I pointed out for him.  Right next to me.  (He was not happy.  I happen to know he dislikes me a lot - mainly because when I've had him before I've held him accountable.  He hates that)

"Well, actually it says aide, but you're here more for study hall.  And when my aides aren't working for me, they're doing their school work."

"It says I'm your aide," he repeated.

It was going to be one of those days.

The Minion has his moments.  He still has this idea that he's my aide and wanted to know why Honor Roll Kid, my regular aide, got to run errands in the building and he didn't.

"Because he has all his work done and has A's and B's," I said.

He pondered that for a few days and kept harping on why he didn't get to run errands.  Which is obviously something he wants to do.  So now we have a routine.  His teachers email me work for him to do, I give it to him, he does it, and then he gets to use the swipe card, go into the building, and deliver it to the teacher.  Whatever it takes to keep him working and happy.

He wanted to go to the book fair.  I told him he had to behave and get his work done.  He got his work done but then wanted to be disruptive and wave his arms and make faces at my regular customers so I told him he'd lost his chance to go to the book fair and he'd have to see if he could do better the next day.  He did and he got to go to the book fair.

Really, showing this kid rewards and consequences is pretty easy at this point.  He's still rude, still cranky, and still very strange with his big google eyeglasses strapped to his head.

And when he showed up in a yellow rain slicker the other day, looking EXACTLY like a Disney Minion, I about died...but so far, so good.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Going Three for Three and Dodging Mashed Potatos

It's been an interesting week in Our Happy Little Portable.

We're in the last week of the grading period and as such, I'm seeing quite a bit of activity.  Kids have racked up a lot of discipline points and write-ups and they're landing out with me.  And for most of them, it's their second or third visit.

This week we were blessed with The Tyrant.  This little guy is a sixth grader who came to us with a behavior file that boggled the mind.  He is a piece of work.  Has a hair trigger temper, refuses to do anything he does not want to do, and is angry with the world.

Oh yay.

The first day he was out with us I had to call Admin to come remove him as he would not be quiet, would not stay in his seat, and absolutely utterly refused to do his assignments (he'd throw them at me).  When Coach Cool asked him to get his backpack, he screamed "NO!" and went home with out it.

The second day was pretty much a repeat of the first but slightly better.  I didn't have to call to have him removed until later in the day.  (Keep in mind I rarely ever call to have a kid removed.  It's just not something I usually have issues with but this kid...well, he's something else.)

Today was our third - and thankfully, last - day with The Tyrant.  He was, amazingly, almost done with his work (even though it was crap) although he was getting very frustrated with math because he does not know his basic multiplication tables.

Today started out rough.  There was some police activity in the neighborhood so Coach Cool had me relocate my classroom from Our Happy Little Portable into the building, into a room across from the library.  We call it the reference room, but it's more like book storage combined with a meeting room.  In any case, I wheeled in my cart with emergency supplies, computers, and files and camped out there for the day.  It's not ideal, but it works.  I only had four boys this morning, including The Tyrant, so it probably wouldn't be too bad until they started adding kids (which they usually don't when we're in the building, they wait until the following day).

Mrs. Sweet, the library aide who takes the kids to lunch, arrived from the library and took them down to the cafeteria to pick up their lunches while I have my 30 minutes duty free lunch.  Ate lunch, checked our mail box for assignments, and headed back to our room, passing by the Librarian's desk.

And look across to see the lead custodian enter the room we were using with a bucket, rags, and a yellow "wet floor" sign.

"Oh crap," I asked her.  "What's going on with my kids?"

"That little blonde one you have?  He apparently lost his mind, started screaming at everyone, and started slinging mashed potatoes from his lunch all over MY room," The Librarian responded.  Oh she was MAD.  (And I don't blame her.)

I get to the room to find Mrs. Sweet and the Lead Custodian cleaning up the room, wiping down shelves, tables, chairs, and the rug.  (Which was going to have to be shampooed tonight apparently).

Mrs. Sweet stood up, "I honestly don't know what happened or what I did.  One minute he was fine, the next minute he's flipping the bird at the other kids, screaming and throwing mashed potatoes at them.  Or maybe he was aiming at me.  I really don't know.  But he threw them everywhere."

I assured her that she didn't do anything, that the Tyrant flips his lid at the slightest provocation and there isn't anything we can do about it.

"So where is he?" I asked.

"The Enforcer came and got him," she said.  "I had to call for an administrator before he tore the room apart."

Oh great.  The Enforcer.  Who is now The Principal.

So, I had the other kids write witness statements (more to keep them busy than anything else, but they LOVE witness statements) and pretty soon The Guidance Diva came by and told me that she'd just dropped The Tyrant's files off on The Enforcer's desk and that The Tyrant was perched on the arm of the chair like a little vulture waiting to pounce.

"That sounds like The Tyrant," I told her.  "Are they finally suspending him?"

"Finally," she said.  I'm sure his team will be delighted.  It's nearly a daily occurrence having to have him removed from a classroom, but we can't do anything until a behavior plan is in place as he's identified as special education."

Well, he went three for three in my room.  Three days in ISS, Three days removed from ISS.

And then there was the mashed potatoes.

Seriously.  You can't make this stuff up.

Two days until break.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

8 Weeks and Counting

Eight weeks into the first grading period.

And we still don't have a seventh grade science teacher.

But we do have a rather busy parade of substitute teachers, bless each and every one of them.

There are no applicants in the pool who are qualified and/or want the job.

I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

A Family Affair

Today.

Nine kids total.

Three were sixth graders.

All with the same father.

All with different mothers.

Sigh.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another View on Why Teachers are Leaving the Profession

As most of you know, we started the school year at The School, with two unfilled teaching positions.  We are nearly finished with our first nine weeks grading period and we just, finally, filled one of the positions (a special education slot dealing with our kids with emotional and behavior issues) but the seventh grade science position is still open.  Rumor has it there may be a candidate for it, but nothing concrete at this point.

So, I got to wondering if it was just my district (my building isn't the only one with open teaching positions) or the State, or what.  So I started cruising some of the educational blogs and websites I read and stumbled across this gem.

You must read these.


I basically want to find this woman and hug her and scream, "Yes!  What she said!" because she freaking NAILED IT.

Read these.  Read them now.

Full Circle - Or When Your Big Brother Kicks Your Ass

About ten years ago I had a kid who just tore my room apart with his behavior.  He was a mess.  Smart as hell, but mouthy, and lazy and just off the chart disruptive.  He spent a lot of time in ISS and suspended and generally broke my heart because I knew he had it in him to be more than he was.

And then he went to high school, joined JROTC and it changed his life.  His sophomore year he came back and apologized to me and his other teachers for being such a jerk when we had him (and that, my friends, in 14 years, is the only kid who has done that).  We've kept in touch, mainly through FaceBook, and now he's in the military, engaged to a nice girl, and is doing great.  The turnaround was remarkable.

In any case, last week, I got a call from Principal Cool that an 8th grader was coming my way for the day and I recognized the last name and realized it was my former student's little brother.  When I opened the door and took one look at him, there was no doubt.  They are dead ringers for each other.

"So you must be Former Brat's little brother," I say when I introduce myself.  "I had him about ten years ago when I was teaching science."

"Oh he was horrid, wasn't he?" Little Brother said.  "I remember my parents always getting on him for stuff in school.  He's in New York now,  He's in the Army" he volunteered.

So I get Little Brother processed, get him to his station, he gets out his work (a much better student than his big brother was, I noted) and he gets to work after we talk a bit about why he was there and how his grades were doing.

And then I sent Former Brat a message telling him that his little brother had landed in my room.  I figured he was at work, but thought he'd read it at lunch or something.

Ten minutes later, my phone dings.  I look at the screen.  "What's your phone number?" was what it said.

Oh boy.  Someone is gonna get a phone call.  I texted it back and five minutes later the phone rings.

"Hey, Mrs. Bluebird, it's Former Brat," he says. (It still cracks my up how my boys voices change so much after seventh grade).

"Well, gosh, it's nice to hear from you.  Just wish it hadn't been under these circumstances," I respond.

"Can I talk to Little Brother please?" he says.

"Of course," I say, and I hand Little Brother the phone.

The look on his face was priceless.  The look on the other kids' faces was nearly as good as you could almost read their minds.  (Crap!  She knows his older brother?  Wonder if she knows mine?)

Little Brother then spent about ten minutes on the phone getting his ass chewed out by his big brother (whom it was quite apparent he idolizes).  He was not enjoying the conversation at all.  At the end he handed it back to me.

"He wants to talk to you," he said.

So we chatted a bit, he wanted me to text him a report at the end of the day about Little Brother, and said our goodbyes.

I looked at Little Brother.

"Got your butt chewed, eh?" I said.

"Yeah," he responded.  "You didn't hear that did you?  Because if you did, I'm sorry.  He drops the F-bomb a lot,"

"No, we didn't hear that," I assured him.

"Are you gonna tell him I was good?" he asked.

"Maybe.  Depends on if you are or not."

"I'm gonna be," he said.  "He's gonna call Dad tonight, too."

Little Brother was awesome.  Former Brat got a text.  I even told Little Brother, on his way out the door at the end of the day, that he was a lot better than Former Brat ever had been.

That earned me a smile, and dang, if he didn't look just like his older brother with that big toothy grin!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why No One Wants to Teach

So Yellow Rose posted a comment (Hi there! Yellow Rose!) about my previous post about substitute teaching, money, testing and silliness in general.   And her comment was right on target:

"So is Awesome Sub not interested in the full-time job, or does she not have the paper qualifications to get on full-time?  She sounds ideal."

The answer is....both.

Awesome Sub was pretty much offered the job as long as she took the Praxis and passed.  It was her's for the taking.

Except she really didn't want it.

Awesome Sub and I talked quite a bit over the few weeks she was here, and she really was awesome.  But she felt completely overwhelmed.   She had a Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself (if I know most of the kids in the class from their stints in ISS as sixth graders, then you know it's a tough bunch).  And it was a class of 36.  And it was an inclusion class.  And even with an aide in there, They Would Not Be Quiet and Behave.  She told me the only time they got quiet was when I was in there and threatened to haul the lot of them off to ISS for several days.

And that was just the beginning.  She was overwhelmed by the time spent planning, and in meetings, and grading papers, and prepping for labs, and generally just all the things that go into being a teacher these days.  And she has her own middle school son and felt that she wasn't being the Mother to her own kid that she wanted, and he was being short-changed because of all the time she put into her job.

So she's actually applied for an Aide position, which is a lot less stress, and would still give her a steady paycheck and benefits.  And she can leave at 2:30 and take her own kid to his soccer games, and out to dinner after when they suffer a loss and he's upset, and help him do his homework.

I have noticed a trend the past few years with some of our staff - and I don't think our school is unique in this by any measure. Many teachers are leaving because the cost to stay is just too high in terms of emotional well-being.

One of our best sixth grade language arts teachers, who had rock star test scores, decided she had had enough and quit to stay home and being a mom to her kids.  She and her husband realize that money will be significantly tighter than when she was working, but now, instead of grading papers all night, she's spending time with her own kids.

Another rising star math teacher quit a few years ago and is now installing fencing.  He blames the hours and time put into his teaching job as a contributing factor in the break up of his marriage.  Now he has half the stress, makes about the same amount of money, and is able to spend a lot of time with his little girls.

I even had some serious thoughts about leaving myself a few years ago.  I was leaving school every day at 6:00 pm, spending all day Saturday grading and prepping, and was constantly being told it wasn't enough.  When I started teaching, lesson plans were written in a 3" square block in a lesson plan book.  Now we not only need weekly plans, typed, but daily plans, also typed,  which are so scripted they explain exactly what you're going to do and say during every minute of class - and can run to two pages long.  The hours, the stress, the pressure to get those almighty test scores was tremendous.

And along the way we forgot that these were kids, and not test scores.

If I hadn't been given the gift of ISS, I probably would be out of the profession by now.  I have a degree in business, and can run an office with one hand tied behind my back, so finding a job outside of the profession was feasible.  I was at the point where something had to give.

And then I was given ISS and decided to stay.  At least for a while.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Is It About the Kids or About Saving Money?

As you may have read, we currently have an opening for a seventh grade science position.  We are also heading into our fifth week of school and this position is unfilled.  This is a pretty big district, and they recruit heavily throughout the state and even go to job fairs Up North and elsewhere, but we still do not have a single applicant in the pool who is qualified and/or wants the job.

Which means, we've been skipping along using substitute teachers.  And yes, that's plural.

Our substitute program was brought in-house a few years ago, so the subs are now employees of the District.  Employees, yes, but without benefits.  And that's the way the District wants to keep it.  And since we have Obama Care, which would require the District to pay for their health insurance should they be considered full-time, the District has decided that substitutes can only work for 20 days before they have to take some time off.  I'm not sure how long they have to take off, however. 

So, at the beginning of the year, we had Mrs. Awesome Sub in for the seventh grade science position and man, she busted her tail and did a great job.  I would go and help her when I could, especially those first few days when I didn't have kids, and she was a gem.

And she had to leave after 20 days.

So then they got another sub.  I've never seen this man in the building before, but bless his heart, he should be home enjoying retirement and not dealing with obnoxious seventh graders.  He appeared to be in his 80's.  And as soon as I saw him, I knew that the kids on that team (who have been frequent flyers with me already) would chew him up and spit him out.  Which they did. I think he made it through one day.  

And now we're on to our third sub who actually retired from our building a few years ago because of the stress,  He's a great guy, a veteran, and he doesn't take any crap from the kids.  But like he said, if the stress gets too bad, he'll have to leave too.

So it begs the question...since school districts live, eat and breathe on test scores (as stupid as it is, that's the reality), wouldn't it make sense to have a good, qualified, substitute in there for the long haul, as opposed to changing them up every 20 days?  

But apparently that's not important.  Saving money is.