Sunday, May 11, 2014

Middle School Street Party

Two weeks ago we spent four very long days taking the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests.  This is, sadly, very high stakes, so we do what we can to motivate the kids to help them focus and do their best.

Including a flash mob dance with the teachers during an assembly.  That, surprisingly enough, went off better than we thought and the kids went INSANE when they figured out what was going on.  We had one teacher choreograph the dance (very basic, very simple) and we practiced in the mornings in her room, a few times after school, and some people just watched a video.  The only time we actually did it with all of us together was during the assembly.  Amazing we did it and word didn't leak out to the kids.

The other thing we've done the past few years is allow the kids to earn testing "money" which they can then spend at a big party after we're done.  They get a "dollar" for being on time, for using all the testing time (no putting your head down and sleeping/drooling), and they get another one for checking their work, underlining, highlighting, etc.  They can then use the "dollars" to buy things like pizza, hot dogs, drinks, cotton candy, popcorn, and then visit booths where they can get their nails done, hair sprayed a vibrant color, a temporary tattoo, and more.

The party this year was probably the best ever, and it had a lot to do with the weather and location.  We moved it completely outside this year with seven inflatables (I was on inflatable duty which was amusing), football, basketball, a food zone, and a DJ and dance area.  By the time you get nearly 1100 kids out there, you have the DJ blasting music, kids dancing, playing games, running around and screaming, it looked like a block party for middle schoolers.  And the weather?  Absolutely amazingly perfect.

The kids were awesome.  No fights, just fun.  Imagine that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

All Grown Up and I'm So Proud...or The Return of Stoopid Boy

I've been teaching at The School long enough that some of my earlier kids are now legal adults, some with kids of their own.

To tell you the truth that really kind of freaks me out.

Some of my kids have kept in touch with me through the years, including one who my husband and I pretty much consider to be our own - she house sits for us, cleans my house for me (I figure I'm helping pay for nursing school that way), and comes over to borrow books for her classes from our library of history books. She's doing great, and I couldn't be happier or more proud if she was my own.  I often hear how some of her classmates are doing which is great because her class was special.  That group of kids had some of my favorites.  Not the best kids, but my favorites.

Including Stoopid Boy.

Stoopid Boy was, without a doubt, one of my favorite kids ever.  His best friend, one of the Skater Squirts was another one of my favorites.  So when Skater Squirt found me through a post I'd made on The Nursing Student's Facebook page, I didn't hesitate to strike up a conversation to see how he and Stoopid Boy were doing.  These kids were just the kind of kids that never left your heart.

And the fact that Skater Squirt posted that I was his very favorite teacher - ever - well, that just knocked it out of the park.

These two did not have the best seventh grade years - Stoopid Boy, in particular, had one of the worst seventh grade experiences on record, including a stint in Alternative School.  He wasn't a bad kid, he just made bad decisions and had an uncanny ability to get caught all the time.  But he had a good heart, and some of us could see that despite the attitude and behavior.  Skater Squirt wasn't a trouble maker, but he was definitely a kid who wasn't all that interested in academics, but was more into music and being outside, and doing things.  (I was the teacher who introduced him to Jimi Hendrix.)

After a few months of chatting on line, these two young men (because they're now both 21!) came over and had dinner with Mr. Bluebird and I the other evening.  I cannot begin to share what a blessing it was to have these two mature, interesting, funny, and delightful young men spend time with us.

The best part?  They are fine.  They are doing well.  They seem happy and together and grounded and just everything I would have hoped they would be.  They survived middle school and became productive adults.

This is one proud momma Bluebird.  And I'm glad they're back in my life.  They are truly gentlemen.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Once I Get Caught Up...

On grading, and reviewing for The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test, I'll be back to posting....


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It Sounds Weird When She Says It

Today was the last day of notes for our Body System unit.

We finished up with the Reproductive System.

No imagine how much fun this can be, teaching the reproductive system to a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds.  Better yet?  How about a class with 22 boys in it.

What a hoot!

"Mrs. Bluebird, are you really going to say the words?" one of them asked as he looked down at the graphic organizer on the unit that has such fun middle school words as testes, penis, ovary, etc.

"You bet I am," I told them, and then proceeded to go through the lesson.

Best comment?  "It sounds really weird when she says, you know, THAT word."


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Will Winter Never End?

Spring Break (part two as we're calling it since we lost a week of school due to ice about three weeks ago) started on Monday.

On Tuesday it snowed and sleeted most of the day.


Guts and Gore, or Why I Love Teaching Body Systems

Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Angora and I are on our last unit before we start reviewing for The Very Big Deal Government Mandated tests that happen the end of April.  And as luck would have it, one of our very favorite units to teach is the very last one - The Body Systems Unit.  This unit is so much fun to teach because it can be so disgusting and gory.

And if you want to engage a seventh grader, especially a seventh grade boy, disgusting and gory is the way to go.

We have a real human skeleton at The School (it was bought for The School when it opened as a Junior High in 1965) which we can roll out and show the kids.  Of course, most of the kids wanted to take a selfie with it and I informed them that since it happened to have been a real person at one time, to have a little respect and to put their phones away.

After that we have the pig lungs which we put on a contraption with a bellows so we can inflate and deflate them.  I like to put them on the document reader first and zoom in so the kids and see how soft and squishy they are.  The sight of squishy, pink, tissue sends some of them over the edge.  The smell doesn't help either.  At this point, you start to see kids put their heads down on their desk.

Then there's the sheep's brain and the cow eye.  (The cow eye is fun to put on the document reader and then tell the kids "I can see you!")

But we decided to spend some of our own money this year (budget is done with) and bought a few tongues, some kidneys, and some fetal pigs to actually dissect for them.  (They don't get to actual dissection until high school.)

I can't wait for that.  It might be gross, but they'll remember it.  Trust me.  I have one student who's going to college to be a nurse based on seeing those pig lungs a few years ago.

Now that's engagement.

Monday, March 03, 2014

And the Root of the Word is...

Entertaining is trying to explain the meaning of the word "homozygous" to a class of 22 boys.

Use your imagination.

Can't wait for the body systems unit.

Where is Spring?

Our district only gives us three snow days.  Every other district around has something like ten, but no, we have three.  They always trot out a long-winded explanation about how we use these stockpiled days for in-service and early release (for more in-service) and blah, blah, blah, blah....and how teachers voted on this YEARS ago.  However, no one I know even remembers voting for this, and it seems our winters our getting worse, so we're all a bit miffed.

So here we our, on a snow day (should be called an ice day) and we'll probably have one tomorrow since it's not warming up any, there's no sun, and there's 3 inches of ice pellets frozen everywhere.  Which means, lucky us, they start adding 30 minutes to the school day to make it up.


Not happy.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

If You Don't Do Your Assignment You Will Die!

My sixth period is a really small class.  So small, in fact, that it almost seems as if we are just hanging out, doing science, and relaxing.  They all pretty much get along, which is unusual, and seem to enjoy each other.  The conversations between them can be quite entertaining.  

Yesterday the kids were working on posters about the carbon cycle.  Big Huge Boy, who is about 6'4" tall and who does NOTHING and freely admits he's just lazy and doesn't care, made a comment that he didn't want to do the assignment.  He often chooses to not do assignments, which is why he has grades in the 20's.  Calling home is pointless because the parents, who have a history of drug addiction, can't get it together enough to parent.  Staying clean is their focus.

I made the comment that I didn't want to do my taxes either, but I did them.  There are just some things in life you do, regardless if you want to do them or not.  

"Yeah, but I still don't want to so it," he whined.

That is when Super Boy (funny, cool, popular gifted kid obsessed with super heroes) stepped in.

 "If you don't do your assignment, you will get a zero.  If you get a zero, you fail.  If you fail seventh grade, you go to summer school.  If you go to summer school, you will get depressed because you don't get a summer.  When you get depressed about not having a summer you drop out of school.  When you drop out of school, your parents kick you out.  When your parents kick you out you have to live in a ditch.  When you live in a ditch you get even more depressed.  When you get even more depressed, you cut your wrists.  When you cut your wrists you will die!  So if you don't do your assignment you are going to DIE!"

At this point there is complete and absolute silence in the room and every kid is looking at Super Boy in awe.  Big Huge Boy is looking shocked with his mouth hanging open.  

"Wow," said Auburn Boy.  "That was impressive."

And then we all started laughing.  What I would have given for a video of that moment!