Friday, April 28, 2006

Vino, vino, vino

I don't bother to count the days until school is out. I let Mrs. Eagle do that. Mrs. Eagle has had a rough year with what everyone acknowledges as The Team From Hell. I have one truly hideously awful class, My Fifth Period From The Very Depths of Hell Itself, but she has an entire team of kids like that so it's been a pretty stressful year for her and the other teachers on her team.

Every morning when I arrive, I swing by her room and she lets me know the tally.

"Fourteen and a half days."

Fourteen and a half very long days.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mrs. Language and I survived, barely, one week of combining our classes to do research on their Big Final Language Arts and Science Project. Keep in mind, this means that although there are two teachers in the room with the kids, that also means there's about 50 kids in the room as well.

Fifty kids Who Can't Shut The Hell Up. Well, make that about 45 kids Who Can't Shut The Hell Up. There's usually 5 kids in each period who are actually working and wishing that the rest of them would all drop dead or disappear. You can spot them pretty easily. Noses down, they're scribbling notes away on their index cards, stacking them up in huge organized piles on the desks, and completely ignoring the chaos around them. These kids will have delightful projects that will be a joy to read and share.

Then there are the yahoos who have spent a total of ten hours this week in the reference room and have produced a grand total of four - yes, count 'em four! - cards with barely legible notes. Apparently these kids haven't bothered to pay attention to the daily rant that you need at least five sources and probably 10-20 facts from each source so you can answer the research questions and produce your paper. And get a passing grade in return.

I am, even now, still astounded at how a kid can waste time with such skill.

However, as much fun as it has been to spend the week teaching with Mrs. Language, we are both just out and out worn out from dealing with these kids. I'm the techy geek nerd doing most of the computer trouble shooting and she's answering the stupid questions such as "how many paragraphs do I need?" and "How many sentences do I have to have?" It has been a challenge.

So much so that I am opening up a truly wonderful bottle of red wine this evening, curling up with a good book (I'm reading Simon Winchester's A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906; so help me I'm a science geek) and just doing nothing but enjoying myself and the peace and quiet that is my house. The advantage of having cats is that they are quiet.

And they purr.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lookie Ma! They're Nekkid!

I am a truly conflicted individual.

On one hand, as a refugee from the corporate wars, I'm a total techno-geek as a teacher and firmly believe that my students needs as much time as possible on the computer so they can get out there, get jobs, and pay taxes.

On the other hand, I know that turning a bunch of seventh graders loose on laptops with an internet connection is the sort of activity that makes teachers think that scotch is one of the major food groups and a perfectly adequate thing to have for supper.

With some soda water, of course.

Mrs. Language and I are doing a cross-curriculum Science/Language Arts research and writing project. It's a fantastic idea, really, and the kids seem to be getting into it. The first week they get to spend their time researching, using books, the computers, etc., to find out information on their selected topic which happens to be severe weather. Face it, kids love disasters and the chance to write about tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other violent weather events is right up their alley. However, this also means that we're combining our two classes into one reference room and trying to keep them quiet and on task.

This is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Usually my kids are pretty quiet and focused when they're on a computer, but apparently the end of testing, and with summer just a few short weeks away, warm weather and hormones, it's hard to get their attention focused anywhere it should be. Which is on things like tornadoes.

Case in point.

This morning during our first class, one of our girls, Goth Girl to be specific, let out a whoop that caught our attention. It wasn't the sort of whoop one hears when a kid has stumbled on a website listing the various levels of the Fujita scale. It's the kind of whoop a kid lets out when they've discovered something they problably shouldn't have.

Like the fact that you can go to Google, search for images by typing in the word "playgirl" and you'll get pictures of lots of naked men.

Which get by the district "banned" list because, after all, you're not on the Playgirl site, you're still on Google.

Amazing, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Klepto Mom goes shopping

Klepto Mom is not happy with our school.

Apparently she's so unhappy that we suspended her precious little boy for stealing that she called The Central Office to talk to The Principal's Boss about her dissatisfaction. I don't know what came of that phone call, but knowing The Principal she had her ducks in a row and all is fine and good.

And then Klepto Mom called and made an appointment to see Guidance Guy and The Principal this morning.

On an aside, Guidance Guy, a confirmed Starbucks Junkie, has given up caffeine. We have rewarded him this week, and today in particular, by making sure that all of our crazy students and their crazy parents just had to come see him to cause him stress. And the sad thing is, we really like Guidance Guy. Can you imagine what we'd do if we didn't?

So, Guidance Guy gets the scoop from us, has the files in front of him and talks with mom who is still very upset about the fact that her son keeps getting in trouble for stealing pencils and pens. (She neglects to mention that he doesn't always take things he supposedly needs, like a pencil, but also takes things he simply wants, like candy and staples he can use to shoot people with.) She is under the impression that his problem is simply that he is ADHD and is forgetful and he's too embarrassed to ask his teachers for a pencil or pen.

Huh? Are we talking about the same kid here?

Klepto Boy has never, in the year I've had him, ever seemed even remotely embarrassed by anything he does, including his daily requests for a pencil, paper, tissue, eraser, etc. In fact, the more chances he has to come up to the teacher's desk to yabber at us, the happier he is. He would stand there all day talking nonsense if we didn't shoo him back to his seat.


She does, finally, admit that Klepto Boy does have a problem taking things that don't belong to him. However, she objects to the terms stealing and theft.

Let me see if I have this right. He does take things, without asking, from other people, things that don't belong to him, but it's not stealing and it's not theft?

I can't wait for her to try that one out the first time Klepto Boy is in front of a judge.

The Principal still asserted that, according to the definition in the School Board Rules, it's theft. Guidance Guy then got the fun of smoothing Klepto Mom's feathers down and agreeing to a warm fuzzy educational plan whereby Klepto Boy would get all sorts of special accomodations made to meet his special needs (things most of us are already doing anyway).

And then she brought out the shopping bag chock full of pencils, pens, and paper. The idea is that Klepto Boy will have his very own special stash of school supplies in each classroom (since apparently he's too immature to keep things in his locker and fetch them when needed - I can only imagine how this will go over when he's in high school and she's still babying him.) The Guidance Goddess organized these supplies on a table in guidance and I about fell over when I saw the pile of supplies she put there - there must be 4 dozen pencils along with a cup holding about 2 dozen pens.

For each class.

For 17 and a half days left of school.

That means he can burn through about 4 pencils per period.

However, apparently the idea is that there's so many supplies that Klepto Boy will never run out, and he can even hand out extra pencils and pens to his friends and experience the joy of giving rather than taking. Wonderful idea, if it works.

I hope Klepto Mom has a discount card at Office Depot.

It's soooo Stoooopid

Sometimes you fall in love with a kid in spite of everything.

Stoopid Boy is a prime example of this. I really like Stoopid Boy. True, he can drive anyone completely crazy because he can be loud, hyper, obnoxious, and annoying, but I still like him. Go figure. He's hugely popular with the skater squirt crowd and he can be very smart and sweet when he wants to be. He sort of became a regular fixture in my homeroom in the mornings as his homeroom, with Mr. Social Studies, was right next door and he behaved well for me, so I let him hang out there. It kept Stoopid Boy happy, Mr. Social Studies had a calmer room without Stoopid Boy causing a rukus, and he didn't bother me or my kids.

However, Stoopid Boy can also do the most incredibly stupid things.

Like bringing matches and a hperdermic needle (the better to pierce your lip with, I suppose) to school.

Which is how he ended up getting a one-way tricket to alternative school today.

All I wanted was to get Stoopid Boy to the end of the year. He had been suspended so many times that it was amazing he wasn't there already. However, he lately seemed to have pulled it together a bit. (Pulling it together completely is too much for a 7th grader.) He went from failing every class for the first semester, to getting all C's on the last report card. We were so proud of him for that accomplishment, and I honestly thought we might have seen the last of the really stupid Stoopid Boy. Then of course, his parents were not impressed at all with the huge improvement in grades because it wasn't "good enough."

Excuse me? Getting straight C's after all F's isn't good enough?

Stoopid Parents.

Thankfully Guidance Guy went up to talk to Stoopid Boy as he sat in ISS for the remainder of the day. Guidance Guy emailed Miss Reading, Mrs. Language and myself to let us know that Stoopid Boy was up there and that he said we were the teachers he'd miss the most and if possible, could we go up to give him some words of encouragement? Thankfully Mrs. Language and I are working on a combined science/language arts project with our classes and had both classes in the reference room working on the computers so we were able to sneak up to ISS to give Stoopid Boy a hug and a few words of encouragement.

I'm going to miss that kid. A lot.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Three Strikes and You're Out...or The New Adventures of Klepto Boy!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, he's back, everyone's favorite thief, Klepto Boy!!!

If you all recall, I've busted Klepto Boy twice for stealing things in my room, and had to listen to his nitwit of a mother swear up and down that her 13 year old NEVER EVER LIED to her, as well as rant and rave how he "borrowed" things, he didn't steal them. Don't know about you all, but borrowing, in my book, means you ask before you take.


Today, on the way back from Breakfast, instead of going to his homeroom - LIKE HE'S SUPPOSED TO - he decided to take a detour to Miss Reading's class and steal a pencil from the signout pad that we all keep by our doors. However, one of the kids in Miss Reading's class saw him, followed him into the hallway and confronted him about the pencil he just took. He hemmed, hawed, lied, and finally admitted that he'd simply borrowed it. Yeah. Right.

So Miss Reading wrote him up. After all this is the third time he's been busted stealing and he and mother were told that the next time it would be suspension. The little sneak then proceeded to either borrow someone's cell phone, or get one of his own (and they're SUPPOSED to be off and in their lockers and off-limits during school hours) and called Mommy and whimpered and whined that he was being picked on again for stealing and all he'd done was borrow a pencil.

So Mommy was on the phone ranting and raving before an administator had even worked the referral. She even got on the phone with Miss Reading and kept trying to change the subject, "Why isn't he supervised?" (Hum, he's 13, don't you think he's old enough to walk to and from breakfast on his own?) "What kind of school were we that we didn't let kids have pencils?" (Sure, ask and I'll loan you one, but steal one, that's another story), blah, blah, blah. Miss Reading finally told her that REGARDLESS if he found it on the floor (his story) he still took something he KNEW wasn't his and that's stealing.

He's suspended for tomorrow. From all accounts he entered the administrator's office bawling buckets of tears.

Don't know about you all, but if I had been caught "borrowing" a pencil when I was in middle school, my mother wouldn't have wasted her time calling the principal and insisting I was innocent - she'd have been too busy tanning my hide.

I sincerely hope this lady starts saving money now. She's gonna need to get a good attorney on retainer for when Klepto Boy moves up to bigger and better things. Like cars.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I usually try my best to put a slightly amusing and funny spin on the craziness that is middle school, but sometimes there's something that really isn't so funny about the things we see. Face it, teachers see the underbelly of society a lot of the time, and a lot of what we see is downright tragic and sad.

Case in point.

I've talked about a student I had last year, Meltdown Boy, who was very, very smart but had absolutely no social or coping skills. Meltdown Boy had meltdowns in nearly every class nearly every day and it didn't take us long to realize that Something Is Very Wrong Here. We're talking about a kid who would lay down on the classroom floor and wail because he got teased on the bus. A kid who would stand with his head in his locker to avoid people. A kid who actually scared some of my big bad football players when he'd shriek and wail because you'd put a red "no homework turned in" stamp in his agenda. Not your typical 7th grade behavior.

We all suspected he had Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism because he had so many of the characteristics. His mother, however, simply thought he had some "social problems", was ADD and apparently her physicians (they're military so you get what you get when you go see a doctor on post) didn't disagree with her. And, as teachers, since we aren't physicians, we can't come out and tell a parent that we suspect her kid has Asperger's without opening the door to some potential legal nastiness.

I have, in all honesty, never met a more miserable, depressed, unhappy child in my life. We all wondered how on earth he'd ever make it through high school. This is, after all, a kid who threatened suicide a number of times last year and apparently a few times this year. I have never, ever, in my life seen this child smile.

A few weeks ago the threat was particularly scary and, finally, his well-meaning but completely clueless mother took him to the doctor, he finally saw there was Something Very Wrong, and he was committed to a state mental hospital.

Word has come down that he has - finally - been diagnosed with Asperger's. Finally, finally, finally, there is a diagnosis which means he can get some kind of help with his problems. High school will probably still be hell for him, but perhaps he can get some therapies to help him.

So, as Ms Reading said when I told the team this at lunch, "It's nice to know we were right on this and maybe now he can get some help."

Good luck Meltdown Boy. Bless your sad little heart. I hope you finally find some happiness now that you'll be getting the help you need.

Happy Dancing Feet!

Whoooo-Hooooo! Testing is over!!!!

Truth be told, I can't tell you who's happier, the teachers or the kids. I'm suspecting the teachers because the kids certainly didn't care, nor were they stressed out in the slightest. Heck, mine all fell asleep as soon as they finished their tests so I doubt they were even remotely concerned. I was just worried they'd start drooling on their answer sheets.

Teachers on the other hand have a lot to worry about. Will our scores show improvement? How will my personal teacher value scores come out? Did we hit all the Standards? When will we get the results? And the big question - how in the bloody hell do we keep the hormones on feet busy for three more weeks? They've basically shut down, seeing as how The Very Big Test is finished and as far as they're concerned, it's nearly summer vacation. But we still have grades and report cards, and they still need to focus. Just try convincing them of that.

In the meantime, the kids had their reward parties (each grade level separate) this afternoon. If they showed up for every single test on time and were not absent, they got an entire period to hang out in the gym, listen to music, munch on popcorn, buy pop and candy, and just generally dance and run around like idiots. Mrs. Eagle suggested we videotape them and show the tape at their 10 year high school reunion so they'd see how silly they look.

Amazingly enough, even some of our more oddball characters have managed to hook up with someone, which just goes to show that the old adage is true, there's someone for everyone. I didn't believe it until I finally saw - with my very own eyes - that Poop Boy has a girlfriend. Amazing. They even danced. And she seems somewhat normal (although maybe she has impaired judgement, who's to say?)

I'm so damn glad it's Friday.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Light's Out!

We are in the midst of our government mandated NCLB know, the big, monstrous, high-stakes tests that every single flipping thing revolves around in public education. It all comes down to four days where the kids, you hope, can actually show what they've learned over the year.

Of course, the kids don't necessarily care and still stay up past midnight talking to their friends on-line, don't bother to review, and basically rush through it so they can take a nap. The high point of their day is the fact that the PTO provides them with snacks (muffins were the big hit) every morning before the test. Nothing like free food to get a kid enthused.

That being said, today was the last day of Testing.

Or, it was supposed to be the last day of Testing.

We have had some wicked thunderstorms rumble through the past few days and this morning they started up around 4:00 am, spent a good hour and a half lightning, rumbling, hailing, and raining before they blasted through...but not before they managed to knock out power in most of the school.

The weird thing is that the oldest part of the building had power, which is lucky because we don't have windows. The office, and all three additions (it's a 40 year old building, after all) had no power at all. This was not good. Basically, in order to allow our proctors (the volunteer parents and anyone else we could talk into helping) to leave at 10:30 and not to interfere with the lunch schedule, we would have to have power by 8:30 at the latest in order to start and finish on time within the legal time limits.

No luck. Still no power by 8:30.

My team was pretty lucky, however, because we, at least, had power. And someone was looking over me the night before when I thought that it may not be a bad idea to toss some DVD's into my bag and take them to school to play during the down time we have when the test is over before we head back to normal schedule. So I plopped The Incredibles in and the kids sat and watched in relative quiet for a good hour and a half.

By 9:00 am they'd sent the proctors home (after begging them to come back on Friday) and the classes that were still in darkened rooms had relocated to the theater or the gym so they could keep the kids in some semblance of control.

After all, the last thing you want, is to be left in a darkened room with a bunch of hormonal middle schoolers.

And then it got even more interesting when the water stopped flowing (due to the lack of electricity to the pump system) and the kids were told the bathrooms were off limits.

However, finally we got power back to the entire building around 10:30 or so, and we continued on with our regular schedule. The kids, however, were completely wacked, proving the addage that anything you do to mess up their routine pretty much makes them crazy for the rest of the day. Give them half a chance and they'll be flinging condom-wrapped pickles throughout the hallways.

And so tomorrow, we hope, will be our last day of testing.

Except we have more severe thunderstorms predicted for tonight. Whooo-hooo!

Keep your fingers crossed folks!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pins and Needles

To set the record straight, I really don't have anything against piercings. After all, I have double pieced ears (which in their day were considered quite trendy), and I have a few friends with pierced navels, and what not. Personally, I'm too much of a wimp to pierce anything (I nearly threw up the second time I got my ears pierced), and I'll never be skinny enough to have my belly button pierced.

However, I do think piercings should be reserved for, oh, say, sixteen year olds. Middle schoolers really don't need to be running out getting their tongues, belly buttons and lips pierced. Heck, most of them are lucky they can manage to wash their face once a day, let alone take care of a piercing. Besides, in our student handbook and school code of conduct, it specifically states that the only piercings allowed are those on ears.

But the kids never read the fine print, do they? (And we know the parents don't.)

In any case, we have had a rash of kids on our team, usually our little skater squirts, are have decided that they simply cannot live without a pierced lip or nose.

And, instead of getting parental permission, they're simply taking ice cubes, numbing their chosen body part and jamming needles and safety pins through it.

How they keep from thowing up is beyond me. I nearly throw up thinking about it.

Mr. Social Studies commented that the piercings wouldn't be bad if we could convince them to do, say, four across the lips and safety pin the mouth closed so they couldn't talk. (No luck there.)

In the meantime, we're sending kids up to the office nearly every day with a pin through a body part, where they get checked by the nurse, and a parent called, and a lecture given to. And still, they come to school with bandaides, infected lips, and puffy red noses.


Hey kids, wait until you're sixteen and get a professional to do the job, okay?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dill or gerkin?

I'm fully aware that my charming little seventh grade cherubs receive hormones during the year that they spend with me, usually at Christmas or over Spring Break. This is not something any of us look forward to. However, even I am sometimes stunned at the severity of this hormone attack on what used to be a nice, normal child but is now a raging pile of screaming hormones.

One of the symptoms, aside from the expected obsession about sex, is the fact that any and all common sense (if there was any to start with) simply disappears. There is no thought process along the lines of "would this be a smart thing to do?" In fact, I'm not sure there's any thought process at all outside of any process revolving around sex.

If there were someone thinking along the lines of, "Hey, maybe this isn't the right place to be doing this," then we wouldn't have had a group of boys on our team bringing a condom to lunch, purchasing a pickle, placing the condom over the pickle, and then whopping and hollaring and stretching and swinging the condom (with the captive pickle) all over the lunch table causing the girls to scream, squeal and basically pitch a fit.

And oh yes, I bet you can just guess...just guess...who was involved in this little escapade.

Fabio Boy (who's father has returned to Iraq and as a result Fabio Boy is now back in full form, his mother apparently incapable of managing him) was the ring leader (no surprise there). And along for the fun was one of my advisory kids, Stoner Boy (another skater who can't keep his head off his desk, but who I actually really like), and Stoopid Boy, the critter who declared everything (except perhaps pickles and condoms) is stupid. Stoopid Boy took the cake, however, when it was reported that he had the pickle doing vile things with a pop bottle.

In any case, what really made me mad, just madder than anything, is that sneaking, coniving, amoral Fabio Boy talked one of our special ed kids, Gullible Boy, into taking credit for the entire event. See, Fabio Boy knows he's on the short list for alternative school and apparently he has no self-control and can't help himself, so when he does something as stupid as the pickle stunt, he has to find someone to take the fall. And that someone was Gullible Boy. Fortunately we have witnesses who squealed, and security tapes to view, so I'm sure the truth will come out.

Whether or not Fabio makes it to alternative school (there may not be a slot) remains to be seen. We can always hope.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hell on Earth?

We're having severe weather again down here in the South.

Fortunately, most of the really nasty, dreadful stuff is south of us, but we did hold the busses for a little bit for a thunderstorm to pass, and then the walkers were delayed about twenty minutes.

Which means that Mr. Social Studies and I ended up watching Fabio Boy, Miss So Fine, and some of our other characters for a while as they pinged and ponged all over the locker area because It's Friday Friday Friday Friday!! (What they don't know is that after they leave we all do the same Happy Friday Dance as well.)

We then hear that some other schools south of us were put on lockdown until the threat of severe weather has passed.

Which could be sometime around 8:00 pm tonight.

And Mrs. Language, and Mr. Social Studies, and Mrs. Math and myself all look at each other and ponder a fate that could cause grown men and women to become blithering, weeping, puddles of goo.

Getting stuck.

For hours.

On a Friday.

During Severe Weather.

With an entire class or hormonal seventh graders.

A universal truth

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a middle schooler in possession of a boyfriend or girlfriend must be in want of a drink.

(You get bonus points if you can guess my favorite book.)

Or, in modern parlance, the little buggers got a severe case of hormones and spring fever and are now lurking around the drinking fountain hoping for a quick kiss, a hug, or a chance to just see each other.

So, of course, we're having to do extra patrol duty because it seems that about 20 or so of our kids are constantly getting run off by an administrator for goofing off and lurking around the drinking fountain, which just so happens to be on the other side of our team area, so we're not quite able to watch what's going on there. All of which makes it a wonderful place to do things they aren't supposed to do away from prying teachers' eyes.

So Mrs. Language and I decided to turn this into a game and have spent the past few days doing unannounced raids on this area which has turned out to be more entertaining than you can imagine. It's a simple matter to be standing in the hall, where they are used to seeing us, and then, quick as a flash, cut into the guidance office, and take the short cut through the library so we can come up on them from the opposite direction.

The first time we caught them the panic was palable. Mrs. Language lined them all up against the wall and gave them a what for that nearly had me in stitches I was trying so hard not to laugh. There's something about her Southern Twang that really gets going when she's mad and she can let loose with some of the funniest comments. The best was her rant about no Public Displays of Affection, which had some of the kids turning red, red, red.

"Ya'll just keep your grimey little paws off each other while you're here at school, ya hear? I mean, we KNOW what you're doing when you're not here and you're home alone, and you better not be thinking of doing that while you're here!" And she says this while she's staring daggers at Fabio Boy and his girlfriend (the one who thought she was preggers) who are both so red I thought I was going to get a sunburn from the heat coming off their cheeks.

Of course the fact that I caught him trying to hold her hand on the way to the busses made the entire day even more amusing. Nothing like a bellow "Hey, Fabio, hands off!" across the hallway to make a kid jump about three feet and rapidly remove his hand.

Ain't romance grand?

Monday, April 03, 2006

And it ends....with a bang!

Yes, I enjoyed my spring break (which wasn't nearly long enough) although, to be honest, digging up, dividing, and replanting monkey grass isn't exactly relaxing. I think I now know how my grandmother felt when her arthritis got bad and every thing hurt. It took me three days to get the project done and I didn't even get to the weeds that are taking over my garden. Gardening in The South is a never-ending project.

In any case, spring break ended with a bang, a siren, and thunder beyond belief. In other words, it's severe thunderstorm/tornado season here in "Dixie Alley", and Mother Nature let loose with all her ammo last night.

The pros? All the kids were tired this morning so they couldn't create any mischief.

The cons? All the kids were tired this morning so they couldn't stay awake to pay attention.

However, I was just plain out and out exhausted. I usually get to bed by around 10:00 (I'm usually up at 4:45 am) but storms were rolling through around then and so I decided to be smart and grabbed all four cats, and the two hamsters, and headed down to our basement. Our basement, which Mr. Bluebird refers to as The Bunker, is not a bad place to ride out a storm. The computer is down here, along with something like 3,000 books, and a complete bathroom, as well as an entertainment center. So, as long as we have power, I'm good to go. (The cats, however, beg to differ.)

Things calmed down, somewhat, by 11:00, so I decided to go back upstairs to bed.

I had just fallen asleep when I was rudely awaken by the sounds of the tornado siren that just so happens to be at the end of my street.

Which means it's loud. Very loud.

So...back downstairs we all go for another hour or so, then back upstairs, and then we all try to get back to sleep (Mr. Bluebird, by the way, is out of town so he's not enjoying any of this fun).

I think I might have fallen asleep around 2:30 or so when things finally calmed down.

Tonight? I'm having a glass of wine and going to bed early. Very early.