Monday, May 15, 2017

Testing, Testing, and Badly Behaved Kids

To be perfectly honest, the past few weeks have been a challenge.

First we had testing.  And more testing.  And even more testing.  We spread out the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests over a total of nine days and I'm not sure that was the smartest way to go.  Yeah, I can see how they want to make the testing blocks of time shorter - more like a class period which is what the kids were used to - but jeez, two freaking weeks of testing?

The problem being that, due to the fact that Testing is Everything in Education, we couldn't send kids to Alternative School, our in-house version of Alt School was at capacity, and suspending was problematic.  We could suspend kids, but only if the parents agreed to bring their spawn every morning for testing, then take them right back home when the tests were over.  (Remarkably, three parents agreed and did this.  We were shocked.)

So we had to deal with the kids being stuck in the building creating havoc.  Or more precisely, I had to deal with the kids stuck out with me in My Happy Little Portable.

It was not pleasant.  It was like two weeks of the very worst of the worst, kids who were already returned from alternative school, on limited 25 point contracts, and who had already exceeded that number.  I was told, "try to keep them if you can, but if they so much as blink, call us and we'll suspend them."

Oh blink.  Dare ya.  Just blink.

I ended up having to call and have two of them removed.  They made it through almost 3 days of their 4 days with me (four of the longest days of my life) but finally blew it when they couldn't mind their manners and got disrespectful and rude to me and their classmates.

And they were gone.  They are now both in alternative school and that's where they'll start 8th grade.  But then I'm sure I'll see them again.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Beam Me Up Mrs. Bluebird!

The Enforcer once told us in a faculty meeting, when he was an Assistant Principal, that his job pretty much involved sitting behind a desk and having kids lie to him all day.

I feel his pain.

I had this little sixth grade girl, truly a piece of work, who was with me for two days due to her really insulting and rude behavior to her teachers.  (Lovely).  Every morning I do a brief orientation about what it's like in ISS, expectations, etc., Like most sixth graders, Little Rude One didn't really believe me when I said that all work had to be finished before they could be exited from ISS.  I swear I only say this a 100 times a day, but some kids Just Don't Get It.  A lot of kids are Shocked - Shocked! - when I actually do something I say I'm going to do.

In any case, Little Rude One turned in her social studies assignment with Nothing Attached.  Seriously.  Nothing.  I called her up to my desk to find out where her work was.

"So, it says here that you should have the Egypt worksheet you got from your teacher yesterday for homework," I say.  "Where is it?"

"It's at home," she says.  Considering it was given to her to take home by her teacher the day before, that's a possibility, so I didn't pursue it.

"Okay, so below that it says you are supposed to read pages 302 through 320.  Did you do that?" I ask knowing full well she didn't'.

"Yes, I did!" she boldly proclaimed.

"Okay, so on pages 320 and 321, you're supposed to do questions 1-10 on notebook paper.  Where is this?"

"It's at home!" she chirps.

"Really?" I ask.  Because she just got this assignment This Very Morning.

"Yes, it's at home!"  She says again.

"So, I'm wondering how it could be at home, when you didn't even get this assignment until this morning, and as far as I can tell, you have been in this room with me all day."

"It's at home!" she again insisted.

"So, what you're saying, is that you got this assignment this morning, and somehow managed to teleport yourself back to your house where you completed it and left it?" I asked her.

At this point, I was expecting another, "Its at home!" but what I got, finally, was that look in her eyes that said, "Oh crap, she's caught me lying,"  She realized, finally, that she'd been backed into a corner of her own making.  And I sent her back to her seat to hopefully, finally get her work done.

Sh e didn't get it done.  She had to come the next day during her PE and art classes to finish.  And the whining and fussing were amazing...she just didn't seem to get it.  She'd do half the questions, and turn them in.  I'd give them back to have her finish.  Back and forth we went like this on all her assignments, social studies and reading language arts.  When she got 2 out of 20 correct on her vocabulary assignment, I then had her sit with a dictionary to look up the words she got wrong.  At that point she nearly lost her mind because she didn't know how to use a dictionary because the words "don't pop up at you".  

Oh good gracious.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Spring Has Sprung...and so have the Hormones

So Spring Break is over.

Damn.

And it was greatly needed because we Didn't Get A Single Snow Day.  Everyone's nerves are shot - kids and teachers alike - and it was nice to get away from each other.

So some came back with tans, others with great stories about awesome trips, and even others with...hormones.

It's that time of year, the sap is rising, the birds are singing, and sixth graders are turning into hormonal future seventh graders.

I was up in guidance flipping through the stack of write-ups that had been turned in (I like to see what is coming my way) when I noticed a trend.  Lots of sixth graders, boys and girls both, are doing a lot of grabbing, hugging, and groping.  A lot.  .

"Holy moly," I said to the Guidance Goddess.  "These kids have discovered the opposite sex in a big way."

She nodded.  "You have no idea...it's nuts.  I can't believe the write-ups I've been getting.  It's like they've lost their minds."

And discovered sex.

Oh joy

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So You Think You're Stressed?

There are times, truly, where I learn way too much about my kids.

That may seem odd, seeing as I have many of these kids for just a few days at a time, but I almost feel like a bartender...I'm there, it's a quiet environment, it's a perfect place to spill your guts.  A lot of times, it's a good thing.  I can do some counseling, we can talk about why the kids keeps making bad choices, and talk about goals.  Other times, I'd rather not know what they're telling me.

So this week I had a return visitor, except this was his first time this year.  He'd rocked 8th grade after falling apart - he ended up in alternative school - in seventh grade.  Grades were excellent, he was in advanced classes, he'd grown up.  It was nice to see that Brainy Boy was doing well.

Except maybe he'd grown up a bit too much.

It was after lunch and I was going through some of the work that the kids were turning in.  I check it to see if it's complete, spot check for accuracy, and either check it off and put it in the basket to return to the teachers, or give it back to be completed/redone.

One of my kids was not completing his work.  He kept turning in assignments that were either incomplete with blank pages, or completely wrong.  Everything he turned in had to go back to be redone.  So he was stomping, and fussing, and basically having a whining fit and the other kids were getting annoyed.

"Oh get over yourself", said Brainy Boy.  "You think your life is so tough."

"Oh but it isssss!" whined The Whiner  "This stuff is soooo hard!"

"You don't know what stress is," says Brainy Boy.  "Seventh grade work is not stressful."

"You don't understannnnndddd,' whines The Whiner.  "It's haaaard."

At this point, Brainy Boy dropped his bomb.  "Oh stop freaking whining.  You don't know stress.  You want to know what's stressful?  You want to know the kind of stress I've been going through?  I'm in 8th grade and I just got my girlfriend pregnant!  Now that's stress!"

Well then.

You could have heard a pin drop in that room.  (I might add it was all boys that day which may have been why he felt comfortable enough to say what he said.)

Whiney Boy's jaw dropped for a moment, he sucked air, then it his mouth closed, he went back to his seat and we didn't hear a word from him the rest of the day.

Algebra Kid, Brainy Boy's best bud and partner in crime (they had done something in their Algebra class to end up with me), gave him a sympathetic look.

"Man, you really didn't need to tell everyone that," he said.  "But you do have a point."

"Yeah, I know," said Brainy Boy.  "But damn, his whining just pissed me off."

And with that, they went back to their graphing calculators and worked on their Algebra.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When You Just Don't Want to Get Out of the Car

Since January I've seen a lot of sixth graders start to morph into seventh graders.  In other words, perfectly good kids I've never seen before got hit by the hormone hammer and start showing up in my room, and showing up a lot.

Brat Boy is one of them.  Kid never crossed my radar until January and then it was like he was in my room every single week.  It wasn't for the same thing either.  One week it was disrespect.  Another week it was disruption.  And even another was for physical aggression.  In other words he was a hot mess.  But, from what his teachers told me, he was a bit of a spoiled brat.  Mom excused his behavior and pretty much let him run the household.  Dad, on the other hand, wasn't buying it.  And, you guessed it, Dad and Mom are divorced (or divorcing...I never could get a straight answer on that), so Brat Boy lives with mom - and gets his way in everything - but it takes Dad to straighten him out.

This is not a good combination.  Usually when kids have a total reversal of behavior we know something is going on at home, and often it's issues with the parents.  Whatever the reason, he was having a pretty serious meltdown as we headed towards Spring.  I never really had an issue with him - he seemed to like the quiet and would do his work and not cause any trouble for the most part. But the fact that he kept turning up in my room was not a good sign.

So, yet again, he was scheduled to be in my room for a few days, which wasn't much of a surprise.  And I marked him absent because he didn't show up.  Not unusual with the illnesses we've had racing through the schools this year.  But then I got a phone call from the attendance secretary.

"Hi I wanted you to know that Brat Boy is here, but he's not getting out of the car," she said.

"What do you mean he's not getting out of the car?" I asked.

"Well his mom brought him to school and he's refusing to get out of the car.  He actually did this yesterday too, but Coach Cool was able to talk him into getting out and coming to school," she said.

"You're kidding, right?" I said.

"Nope, this is becoming a regular routine with him,"  she said.

Oh my.  One of the funniest stories my mom ever told me about going to school - in a one room school house on the Kansas plains, no less - was about a kid who crawled up in the back window of his mom's car and refused to get out.  That image has stuck with her for over 70 years!  And now it was happening again in our front parking lot!

About an hour later I got another phone call from the front office.  "Brat Boy is going to spend ISS up here in the front office," she said.  "They're afraid that he might make a break for it if he's out in your portable."

"Good thinking," I said - which was true.  Finally - finally! - someone realized that putting kids who threaten to run away out in a portable was not smart.  Since we actually walk outside several times a day to go in for bathroom breaks and lunch, it wouldn't be that difficult to make a run for it.  And I'm not chasing anyone down.

"I'll send his work up front then," I said, and then emailed his teachers letting them know what was up.

From what I was told, this has become nearly a regular routine with Brat Boy.  He does not want to be at school.  What he does want (and oftentimes gets if you look at the attendance report) is to stay home and play video games.  Several times he was able to be talked out of the car by Coach Cool, but apparently this incident was different.  Coach Cool was getting nowhere. Mom was getting nowhere.  So, they  ended up calling in Dad.

And Dad came.  And within two minutes, Brat Boy was out of the car and in the office.

Amazing what Brat Boy could do when properly  motivated.


Sunday, March 05, 2017

There are days...

...I would really rather be home with my cats.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Communication Quandry

The other day I got a phone call from one of the administrators about a kid she was going to put in my room for the following day.  As usual she told me his name, and for how many days she wanted him to stay in ISS.  Then she paused.

"I think you need to know that he doesn't speak English," she said.

Oh. Really.

"He doesn't?" I ask.  "Where is he from?"

"He's from the Dominican Republic.  He speaks Spanish.  The Aide, Mrs. Multi-Lingual, is going to come out with him, sort of get him started and then he should be good the rest of the day," she said.

"Just curious," I said, "but what did he do to get out here?"

"Oh, he cursed out his ESL teacher in Spanish.  Apparently he didn't like his assignment and got a bit irate."

Oh this is just wonderful.

I grew up in Los Angeles, took Spanish in middle and high school, and at one time did okay with it.  But that was a long time ago, and I wasn't going to get very far with what remained of my Spanish skills.  And this kid apparently has quite the colorful vocabulary.

So I asked my husband to tell me all the Spanish curse words he knew and that he thought an 8th grade boy would use if he got mad at me.  Because my husband spent part of his youth (about five years) living in Lima, Peru and is still pretty darn fluent.  He comes in handy at times.

I was ready to go the next morning.

Curse Boy arrived, as promised, with Mrs. Multi-Lingual who translated and got him started after I did my new kid orientation.  He spends a lot of his time working on Rosetta stone on a laptop (which he brought with him) and he has a Kindle that he uses to translate, so aside from a math assignment and some science, he pretty much sat and did his computer work.

At one point he came up to me, handed me the Kindle and I could read "I need glue and scissors," that he had written in Spanish and it translated it into English for my benefit.

Okay, that was pretty cool.

During the afternoon he walked up, handed me the Kindle and I read, "I am finished with my work."

Okay, I thought...the kid isn't a whiz bang with English at this point, but he seems to get numbers.  So I got him on Reflex Math and he happily spent the last hour doing math fluency games.

He was the model student.  Didn't make a peep.  Stayed in his seat and did his work.

I'd take him back anytime.  As long as he has the Kindle. Or I can get my husband to follow me to work one day!