Monday, January 16, 2017

Giving a Kid a Chance

The few weeks before Christmas break was really, really busy in Our Happy Little Portable.  Kids were getting the crazies, teachers were frazzled and I was going from an average of six kids a day to sixteen.  My administrators are pretty amazing and are more than happy to suspend a kid who can't make it in my room.  I have a lot of patience, and do what I can do keep a kid in school, but there are times I have to just pick up the phone and have a kid removed and consequently suspended. 

The Bottomless Pit was one of them.  So, when I get a phone call informing me that the Bottomless Pit was going to be with me for a day, I was curious as to how this would all play out.  He could come in with a chip on his shoulder which would make for a very unpleasant day.  Or not.  It all depended on his attitude.

So, the Bottomless Pit arrived, with three failing grades, and was the only kid I had that day (it's usually pretty slow at the beginning of a grading period).  I told him we were going to focus on his grades and get them back up,  So, instead of parking him in a cubicle, I had him sitting right next to me and we got to work.

But what we really did was talk.  The kid spilled his guts and talked about how he had such a bad sixth and seventh grade year, how badly he missed his dad who passed away last year, how much he adored his little brother, and how his mom worked all the time.  He talked about how he has trouble focusing when he's not on his meds, how he knows he can do better, how he wants to play sports in high school, how he'd like to look at the military as a career, and how he has trouble not being a class clown. 

But what really got me was he said something I rarely, if ever, hear from a kid.  "It's totally my responsibility why I get in trouble."

Wow!  I get so tired of hearing from kids - and adults - how nothing is every their fault, how they are never responsible, and here was a fourteen year old who clearly owned up to screwing up.

So I decided to give this kid a chance.  He asked if he could stay in ISS for the rest of the week, because it was quiet, and he got help, and he liked to be there with me.  That's not an option.  But one option was to take him out of art class and assign him to me for that period as my Aide.  After all, I could use one.  But more importantly, we should be able to get his grades where they  need to be so we can send him off to high school a little bit better prepared.  And hopefully I can work with him a bit more on making better decisions.  He's obviously receptive.

So he's now my Aide and he couldn't be happier.  He's getting his work done, for the most part, although I still have to push and prod a bit.  And we're working on some goals.

As for his name?  Kid is constantly hungry.  Not because there isn't food at home (there is - mom may work a lot but she provides for her kids).  He's hungry because he's 14 and growing like a weed.   He told me he'd already grown three inches since the beginning of the year.  It's a wonder he doesn't eat the furniture.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oh Hey, We're Back

So Christmas break is over and we're back in school. Had a nice time visiting Mother Bird in Colorado where we managed a White Christmas, and enjoyed some quality time with Hubby.

But now we're back.

And truth be told, it's kind of boring.

Our kids start over with referrals whenever we begin a new grading period.  Which  means I'm usually not too busy until the second week or so after a new period has started.  Usually.  This time it seems to be a little too quiet.

So quiet I'm waiting for the onslaught.

Oh, I've had a kid.  Or two.  All of them familiar faces which brings new meaning to the phrase "learn from our mistakes" because these kids just aren't getting it.

But for the most part it means I've been able to get caught up on things like filing, updating my sub book, watching a whole bunch of Khan Academy videos to brush up on my 8th grade math, updating the school wiki, and clean the room.

I'm thinking, however, that this honeymoon period is going to be over very shortly.  Like tomorrow.

We shall see.

Friday, December 16, 2016

When Technology Is Your Friend

So this year, amazingly, I got nine student laptops to use in my Happy Little Portable.   This was shocking because the three desk top computers I had in there last year were more or less "illegal" to our technology department.  I was told not to expect any technology out there (we aren't a "priority") and one of the tech geeks is a good friend of mine on Facebook and he took pity on me.  He went to the computer graveyard, scrounged up three desktops, fixed them up and installed them.

And then during the summer they were removed and I figured I was screwed.  And just when the District was pushing "digital blended learning" and wanting teachers to use Google classroom, and Nearpod, and we were going to all on-line testing in the four academic areas through our own district website.  But the District decided to go all-in and processed, over the summer, 30,000 student and teacher laptops.

I figured since I wasn't supposed to have had those three in the first place, I wasn't getting any new laptops to replace them.  I was wrong.  I was originally assigned three, and then remarkably, we ended up with an additional lab, and I got six more.  Considering how much testing and classwork is now done on line, this was awesome.  (I suspect the powers that be saw me sending out emails requesting paper assignments because I didn't have enough computers. Whatever.)

However.  When you have that many student laptops, it's a bit of a challenge to monitor where the kids are on-line.  They can't all sit by me, and I can't see their screens across the room.  So that was a bit of a dilemma.

Until one of the other ISS teachers at another middle school told us about some software that lets him monitor the kids' laptops from his desk.  I put in a tech request and within two hours was up and running.  (It's called NetSupport, in case you're interested).  The only thing I had to give up was one of the student computers that's now my monitoring station.  I figured that was a small price to pay.

This. Is. Awesome.

I can sit at my desk and view all eight computer screens, see where the kids are at, take over their computers if they are having trouble, lock them out of the computer, making their screen go black, send them meand generally make them nuts because I Am Watching Their Every Move.

Honestly, I use this more to help kids who are having trouble accessing websites. Say what you will about this "tech generation" but their typing skills suck.  Nine times out of ten, they can't get to a website because they misspelled the URL.

But every once in a while I'll get a kid in there who hasn't quite figured out that I Am Watching, and it's fun to make his head explode.  Especially when he's out with us for a tech violation.

I've had the same 8th grader twice this past month, both for tech violations.  The first he was researching to see what size his penis should be (I kid you not).  The second was for being on YouTube and watching music videos and not doing his assignment.  So when Tech Violator decided to go shopping for shoes when he was supposed to be writing an essay in Google Classroom, I decided to blow his mind.

I turned his screen black.

And sat back and watched the fun.

"Hey, what's going on?" he said.  He tapped at the screen.  He tapped at the escape key.  He picked it up and looked under the computer.

"Tech Violator," I said from my desk, to get his attention.

"Yes, Ma'am?" he said.

"Stop shopping for shoes," I said.

"What?"  Panic stricken face.  "What do you mean?"

"She can see everything you're doing on that computer," one of the other kids said.   "She turned your screen black because she saw something you weren't supposed to be doing."

"She can do that?" Tech Violator asked.

At this point, I turned his screen back on and send a message.  "Stay off shopping websites and type your essay," I wrote.

It dinged in on his screen and he read it.  He looked around at me, and then looked at the other kid.

"That's scary," he said.

"Yup," said the other kid.  "So you better not be looking up sizes anymore."

Monday, December 12, 2016

And the Revolving Door Spins and Spins

Another busy Monday in Our Happy Little Portable...We had eleven kids, which is high, but considering how the kids have apparently had a collective come apart everywhere you turn, that wasn't surprising.

What was surprising, however, was they apparently got the memo about "She'll really suspend you!" because they were good as gold.  I did have to use the seat I refer to as the Penalty Box (so shoot me, I love hockey) because it's the one seat where no one can really see if there is a kid there.  And I have a Drama Queen of a Seventh Grader who will stir up drama like no body's business.  But put her in a seat where she can't see anyone, and they can't see her?  Worked like a charm.  She was quiet and she worked.

So they were, for the most part, pretty awesome.

However, the emails just kept coming.  We have so many kids getting assigned to ISS that I'm taking advanced reservations.  So I spent most of the day processing new kids who were getting assigned to ISS on Tuesday and on Wednesday (and one unfortunate fellow will be with me all the way through Thursday).

I really need to time how long it takes me to in process a kid...Set up a folder, print off a schedule and grades, type up an assignment sheet, email the assignment sheet, update my roster, assign a seat, fill out a contract, set up their work folder, blah, blah, blah.

But what I started to notice when I was processing my advanced reservations was that they were all kids I had had before.  And kids I had had very, very recently.  Like last week.

They apparently are NOT learning from their mistakes.

Which is not good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just What Part of "You'll Be Suspended." Do You Not Understand?

Well last week was...well...hell on earth.

Let's face it, it's been a beastly semester.  The sixth graders we had been warned about lived up to their reputation, and then some.  And there are times we look at each other and wonder if we're working in a school or a mental health facility.  Too many incidences of kids having screaming, kicking, crazy melt-downs and having to be removed by the SRO (in handcuffs no less). The kids are off the chain behavior-wise, and we're busy just trying to make it Four And A Half More Days.

And My Happy Little Portable was full to the brim this past week.

Usually, I have 6-8 kids.  That's ideal.  That's perfect.  That gives me a chance to get to know the kids, sit down with them, help them, and generally it makes for an awesome day.

But this week?  Let's see...12 on Monday, 11 on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, 14 on Thursday and 15 on Friday.  I was running out of seats.  And the administrators were running out of patience with these kids.   Most of them, truth be told, were kids I'd had multiple times.  Frequent flyers so to speak.  So they know the drill.  But 15 of them in there is not a good situation. I have to really lay down the law and get a little more bitchy than I like, but if I don't it's chaos.   And some of the kids I had this week were real that were tearing up classrooms with their behavior and kids who think, for some reason, that they can argue with adults.

I don't argue with children.  Period.

I have written a dozen write ups this year.  Five were this week.

And the admins have always been good about backing me up when I have a kid removed.  But this week they decided that they weren't going to waste any time and were going to suspend them immediately.  As Coach Cool said, "You're more than patient with them, if they screw up for you, they deserve to be suspended."

I always warn kids about this every morning when I go through our orientation.  I like to remind them that this is the last stop on the discipline train and that They Do Not Want To Aggravate Mrs. Bluebird.

But two knucklehead apparently didn't get that memo.  Or chose to ignore it.

The worst part of the day is when we move, en masse, from our Happy Little Portable to the building to use the restrooms.  They're pretty good when they're in their seats working, but get them up and moving, and all hell breaks loose (even though they're supposed to be single file and silent, they're still moving.)

So one kid decides to slap another kid in the face after we come back from the bathroom break.  The kid that got slapped, surprisingly, didn't retaliate.  He was just so stunned he sat down and blinked a bit.  I simply told Slap Boy that he needed to get his things together because he was leaving.

I picked up the phone and dialed the office.  "I need an administrator to remove a kid, please," I said.

"No problem," said our ever efficient secretary.

"Thanks," I say, and as I say this, I see another kid stand up, twirl around and throw a wad of paper at another student.

Really?  I'm on the phone asking to have a kid removed, and you stand up, get out of your seat, and throw something at another kid?

"Make that two kids removed," I added.  "Hold on, let me see if there are anymore."

"Hey, while I have the office on the phone," I announced, "Is there anyone else who wants to do anything stupid and get suspended?"

Silence.  They all turned around in their seats and started working (or pretending to work).

The two kids who were removed were stunned.  It's like they don't believe me.

However, the kids that remained?  They got the message.  They were good as gold the rest of the day.

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.


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.