Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Case of Adolescent Alzheimers

Today was benchmark testing day for those of us in the science department. Benchmark testing is something our district has been implementing over the past several years as a way to assess and monitor how well our students are mastering the required standards. It's a fairly good predictor of how well they'll do on our Big State Mandated Test in the spring. The idea is that we'll see which students need help in what standards and then we'll do remediation with them. The problem is we rarely, if ever, have time to actually do the remediation, outside of the ten days that are penciled into our pacing guide prior to the Big State Mandated Test. But that's a story for another rant.

Anyhow. I walk into the teacher lunch room today and Mrs. Eagle sees me and this huge grin breaks across her face. "Have I got a story for you!" she says.

This morning when we went to pick up our copies of the tests (test security and all that), they were all stacked up in piles and labeled which was nice as we didn't have to count them out. Counting out 135 tests can be a drag. All the science teachers did testing today, so there were piles of sixth grade tests, seventh grade tests, eighth grade tests, and some physical science (advanced eighth grade) tests as well.

Which might explain how Mrs. Eagle ended up with four physical science tests in her pile by mistake.

All her kids sit in rows during testing and she simply counted out the number of tests for each row and the kids passed them back. Consequently she didn't realize that there were some physical science tests in her pile until some ten minutes into the test when she does a walk through the room and spots a page that just doesn't look right. And then another. And another. And finally another.

Here's the amazing thing. The kids didn't say a word. Not one of them noticed "Eighth Grade Physical Science Benchmark #1" emblazoned across the top. None of them noticed that the entire front page was chock-full of formulas for things like velocity, acceleration and the like - things we've NEVER talked about in seventh grade this year. And yet they just started to take the test!

Which makes us wonder...are they so lost on a daily basis that nothing looks familiar? Are they just that clueless that they figured it was just a chapter they blew off and didn't pay attention to? Or are they, as Mrs. Algebra said, suffering from Adolescent Alzheimers???

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tracking Down the Elusive Parent

Have I mentioned that we have some of the wackiest parents - ever - this year?

They are so bad, and so off the wall unpredictable, that even Mr. Social Studies (who's the King of Calling Parents) was saying that there's a number of parents whom he's never calling again. They are just that freaky. (I, however, win the prize for the Wackiest Parent Phone Call of The Year for the parent who answered the phone, said "hold on," put the phone down and proceeded to scream and curse AT THE VERY TOP OF HER LUNGS to someone in the room with her for about two minutes before picking up the phone and then breaking down in hysterical sobs about how she was a Katrina survivor and she had post-tramautic stress syndrome, and she just couldn't deal with anything. And to think that all I wanted to do was introduce myself.)

I digress.

In any case, I've been trying to track down Mr. Ga-Ga for about three weeks since his daughter, Ga-Ga Girl, has hit new lows in her ability to not only take tests (she actually scored a zero on an eight word vocabulary test, and she had the words for over a week; I don't think she's scored over a 40% on anything else) but to actually do anything more than stare at boys, write notes about boys, giggle about boys and generally obsess about boys. She has a whopping 37% in my class and 70% is passing. Too bad we don't study boys. She'd be on the honor roll.

I've emailed the email address on the emergency card requesting a meeting with the team. I've called and left three messages requesting the same thing. I've never heard a single response.

Until today.

Today, Ga-Ga Girl turns in a signed progress report (with that whopping 37% plastered across the bottom) along with a note from her Dad indicating a concern with his daughter's grades and a desire for a conference.

So, on the positive side, at least he's communicating. On the negative, what the heck happened to all the emails (which never bounced back) and the phone messages? Sigh. So I scrawl a note back to Mr. Ga-Ga telling him I would try to contact him later that day to set up a meeting and if, by chance, we don't connect, he can call the office and the Secretaries can set up the meeting. Later this afternoon I called and left a message - yet again.

And then I got really, really lucky.

After school today, I'm up at the copier when I see Ga-Ga Girl rushing back to her locker.

"Don't forget to give your dad my message," I yell at her as she zips by.

"Oh, he's outside waiting for me," she says. "I won't forget."

He's outside, is he?

Copies done, I head up to the office, grab the team calendar from one of The Secretaries, and follow Ga-Ga Girl out to the car where her father is waiting for her (along with an entire collection of what must be more Ga-Ga siblings- all girls).

"Hi there," I say as he rolls down his window. "I'm Mrs. Bluebird. I've left some messages about setting up a team meeting."

"Oh yes," he says, "I just got one today. I'm glad to be able to talk to you."

"How about we schedule it right now?" I say. In two seconds I've got him nailed down to Friday afternoon and he's asking about what I think the problem is (Hum, no studying, no work, writing notes, obsessing about boys, shall we go on?). He's obviously upset, shaking his head, and giving his daughter, who's slunk down in the back seat, That Look. I get his email address again (it's the one I've been using..go figure why he's not getting them unless his daughter has figured out how to get into his email account and is deleting them - not unheard of), and he's off.

Now, we'll see if he shows up on Friday.

But hey, at least I got the meeting set up!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

And just where would I be on a Saturday morning?

It's middle school football season again.

All of which means that Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Drama and myself will be at nearly every game. A couple of other teachers make appearances now and then, but we're the ones that are there at nearly every game.

Which apparently freaks some people out.

This morning, after a night full of really nasty thunderstorms, rain, and tornado sirens, I made it to the game. It was damp, and grey, but still warm, and the few folks in the stands were trying to stay as dry as they could considering there wasn't a dry spot to be found. (This is where my stadium seat comes in handy.) Mrs. Eagle hadn't arrived yet, so I was sitting there, chatting with one of my moms from last year, when one of my current moms, The Queen Mother, came walking by, looking for a place to sit. Now The Queen Mother is a PTA mom with a daughter that redefines the word spoiled. As The Principal has often said, "The Queen Mother never has anything nice to say about anybody, but she's a great volunteer so we'll just suck it up and smile." Her daughter, Spoiled Princess Girl, can be trying but so far she hasn't driven me off the edge. Yet.

The Queen Mother sees me, and her mouth drops open. "What are you doing here?" she asks.
I can't tell if she's surprised or pissed off or what.

"Oh, I come to all the kids' games, " I say.

"You do?" she asks. She seems very surprised. After all, why on earth would a teacher take her free Saturday morning and spend time watching the very same kids she spends all week with play football and cheer?

Why indeed?

"Oh yeah, I try not to miss any, if possible. I like to support the players and the cheerleaders," I say. The Queen Mother, who apparently doesn't know anyone else there outside of her daughter who's cheering, sits down next to me and proceeds to chat. This surprises me. And she was actually quite nice (and stayed far away from the fact that her very smart daughter is lazy and is only getting a C in my class) which surprised me even more.

She kept getting interrupted, however, by the JV boys (who had just finished their game) who kept coming by to say hello (and to show me how muddy they were). And then the cheerleaders who came by to say hello (and complain about how muddy they were). And then some of my former parents who came by to say hello, including Stoner Boy's mom who wanted to tell me how much she appreciated me keeping in touch with her son and how much it meant to him.

And then Mrs. Eagle arrived, and Mrs. Drama arrived, and I was saved from further conversation with The Queen Mother who wandered off to get a bottle of water for her daughter, after bidding me farewell.

I'm not sure, but I think I just surprised The Queen Mother.

Which could prove to be a very interesting thing.

Friday, September 22, 2006

When Middle Schoolers Lose Their Minds

We have had the most interesting few days at school.

The Guidance Goddess sent out an email letting us know that Discipline Referrals are DOUBLE - that's DOUBLE - what they were at this same time last year. Her fingers are getting cramps from entering all the referrals into the computer. (I must buy her more chocolate.)

This is not a good thing. We've pretty much had a focus for the past few years on working with the kids and being proactive and solving problems before they reach the discipline referral stage, but apparently our kids are just going nuts. They suspended something like 14 kids in the past two days. I don't think I've ever seen that many suspended at any one time before.

The sixth grade teachers have reported that the group they got this year apparently have no social skills. All it takes is a bump in the hallway and the next thing they know they've got sixth graders throwing punches and tearing into each other. As one teacher said, "it's like watching a pack of wild dogs."

The eighth graders are throwing punches as well. But they're also getting more creative when it comes to getting into trouble. Apparently a number of boys (interestingly enough, all former students from Mrs. Eagle's Team From Hell last year) were having some fun enticing some of the girls in their Language Arts class to expose their breasts. Mrs. Chicken would turn to the white board and write something on it and the girls would lift their shirts up over their heads, or in the case of one young lady with a bit of a low-cut top (who probably should have been sent home with a dress code violation in the first place), we had one who was leaning over, squeezing her breasts together to make cleavage and then jiggling. Seven kids got suspended for that one, including the ring leader who got five days for "lewd and lacivious" conduct.

And then some of the girls wonder why boys don't respect them? And their parents wonder why they're grandparents and their daughter is only 13. And other parents wonder why their son is a convicted sexual predator at 18.

Apparently no one is raising this kids. Outside of MTV, that is.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Open House

Tonight was the annual middle school open house.

Actually I don't mind open house all that much although by the time it's over, it's been one heck of a long day (over 12 hours) and I'm ready to go home.

I had a PowerPoint ready to go, a sign up sheet for my email newsletters, and did the nice thing for the parents and the kids. Basically, if they want to talk grades, performance, etc., I recommend they come back for conferences, or set up an appointment. There's usually such a crowd of folks (you would think we were giving away free food the way people show up) that there really isn't any privacy to tell anyone that Little Jimmie needs to start doing his homework and stop being a slug.

Actually considering the grades on the tests I gave today, they need to start doing a bit more than just their homework. I'm beginning to wonder what the recreational drug of choice was around here about twelve years ago. For example, out of 26 kids in my third period, 18 are failing. Amazing. I've never seen it so bad and every teacher in the building is singing the same refrain. However, I've often found that the shock of an "F" on that first nine weeks report card will often kick some kids in the butt and get them moving the rest of the year.

Or so we can hope.

The best part about open house, however, is seeing some of the kids who I've had in the past who come back and visit (often because a younger sibling is now with us). That's always a treat, even though they're all taller and look significantly grown up compared to when I had them with their zits, braces, and really ugly hair. They actually look like people now.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just Desserts - or how to have a really bad 24 hours.

This morning Mrs. Eagle and I were discussing our plans for the day when Mrs. Gifted comes in to check on something. I knew that Spoiled Brat Boy drove Mrs. Gifted nuts last year and was most likely doing the same thing this year.

"Hey, you'll love this," I tell Mrs. Gifted, "We kicked Spoiled Brat Boy out of Gameclub last night."

"Why does this not surprise me?" she says, "Here we are, barely six weeks into the year and I'm already calling his mom just about every day about his grades and his behavior. He's driving his mother insane. He thinks about only one person - himself - and never seems to understand that his behavior has consequences and often hurts others."

I made the comment that one of these days, most likely when he hits high school, he's going to pick on the wrong kid and have his clock cleaned. We all agreed that it was simply a matter of time. We all agreed that we wouldn't feel a bit sorry for him, either.

Three hours later I'm walking the kids down to lunch when Mrs. Gifted comes by.

"Hey, remember what you said this morning? Well, it happened during second period. We didn't have to wait for him to get to high school!"

I dropped the kids off at lunch, then went back up to Mr. Enforcer's office where Spoiled Brat Boy was waiting for his mother to come pick him up. I walk by Spoiled Brat Boy who's sniffling and whimpering at me in a feeble attempt to apologize for his behavior the day before. I ignore him and tell Mr. Enforcer about the rubber band, the slapping, the goofing off, the stealing, etc. Mr. Enforcer shakes his head and told me he'd be glad to let Mrs. Spoiled Brat Boy know that her son was unwelcome to participate in the club in the future. (Mrs. Eagle never got anyone to answer the phone last night at Spoiled Brat Boy's house.)

I thank him and leave, only to have Spoiled Brat Boy whimper at me again. "I'm really, really sorry," he mumbles, "I was just teasing."

"You've spent a least a year apologizing to all your teachers for your bad behavior but you never change," I inform him. "If you really were sorry, you'd do something about it. You're nothing but a bully and I don't want bullies ruining our club."

I found out later that the other boy who beat the snot out of Spoiled Brat Boy was none other than his friend (well, maybe not anymore) Fabio Boy. Apparently there really wasn't a clear winner (they both had bloody noses and black eyes), and it looks like there will be at least a ten day suspension for each of them and a trip to alternative school for Spoiled Brat Boy who nearly ended up there last year and who is on a Behavior Contract this year.

And if that wasn't enough...I found out later that when Mrs. Principal went down to the classroom to retrieve Spoiled Brat Boy, she asked him what his name was.

"That's interesting," she said after he told her. "I just got off the phone with a parent who was complaining that you're picking on her son every morning on the bus."

Hum...what's that about three strikes and you're out?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Adventures in Game Club, or why earplugs might be a good thing.

We had our second chess and boardgame meeting today.

Let's just say that the noise level during the first ten minutes was nearly enough to shake the ceiling tiles down from the cafeteria. Picture 60+ kids (mostly boys, but a few girls, including Scooter Girl), walking very fast down to the cafeteria so they can get a table and the game of their choice.

They'd run if they knew they could get away with it, to be honest. As it is, Scooter Girl just about mows us all down with her bright yellow scooter. We need to put a horn on that thing.

We get there and backpacks get slung against the wall, games pulled out of the rolling cart cabinets we bought to keep them in, and it's mass chaos as things get started. It is painfully obvious that this one hour is probably the highlight of many of these kids' week. Fortunately Guidance Goober and Mr. Bluebird are here to help.

And then some little chubby sixth grader with big huge glasses who looks like a poster child for what happens when geeks breed comes up to me and asks, "Can I get a wisk?"

And I go, "A wisk?" I'm thinking a whisk broom of some kind, maybe similar to what umpires use to clean off home plate. What the heck does he need a whisk for?

And he asks again, "Can I get a wisk?"

And I look at him stupidly, and ask, again, for clarification.

And he goes (probably thinking the whole time that adults are such morons) "you know, a wisk. R - I - S - K."

Ahhhh. He wants the game Risk. I get it now. And I give him a Risk. And he is delighted as he plants himself at a table with four other sixth graders and they begin conquering the world.

And then we had our first eviction.

Spoiled Brat Boy was a member last year and was a student in Mrs. Eagle's class and earned a reputation as being a royal pain in the neck. He's gifted, he's a brat, he's lazy and he's a behavior problem. He also is probably one of the few kids who didn't grow over the summer so now he's in eighth grade and he has sixth graders bigger than he is.

You know the story about how mean little dogs are?

Well Spoiled Brat Boy was snapping at kids with a rubber band (I confiscated), was shoving some of his friends around (told to sit down, behave and get a game out), was slapping kids (mostly younger ones) on the back of their necks as he walked by (we never saw him, but it was reported by the sixth graders who have no problem tattling) and stole some game pieces (we spent 20 minutes with people looking all over for them and then he pulled them out of his pocket). He didn't once sit down and play a game and we suspect he was just there to goof off and cause trouble.

The stolen game pieces was the last straw (actually if I had caught him doing the slapping I would have called his mother at that moment). He argued back that he was "only teasing", and "having fun." He wasn't "stealing", "he just borrowed them". His first mistake was being an idiot. His second mistake was in arguing back at us. If his mother had picked him up (she didn't, he rode home with a friend), we'd have told her right then and there he wasn't invited back. As it is, since Mrs. Eagle had him last year and knows the mom, she's calling to inform mom that Spoiled Brat Boy will have to find some other way to occupy his time because he's not allowed back in game club.

Good riddance. I'd rather have a room full of chubby geeks and sixth graders than a bully with an attitude who thinks he's cool.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Year Of the Nut-job Parents?

I hate to say this, but the kids I have this year apparently don't have the stand-out personalities as the ones I had last year. Here we are, nearly 6 weeks into the school year, and I don't really have that many kids who've earned a nickname and their antics have worked their way into this blog. In fact, my kids from last year are still so - ahem - entertaining (Goober Boy and Goth Girl and the Full Monty come to mind) that they're still recurring characters.


That being said, I think the crazies this year aren't the kids. They're the parents. We must have the most bizarre, disfunctional, clearly wacky parents on earth. What's amazing is how normal their kids are...most of the time.

The first wacky parent that comes to mind is the one that is stepping on my very last nerve - and I'm not alone in that assessment. Her daughter, Faraway Girl (because most of the time she looks like she's far, far away), is a quiet, meek, sweet girl with incredible processing problems. She can't seem to get information from her brain, to her hand, and onto a piece of paper. There are days she even has trouble getting her name written on a piece of paper. She's medicated for ADD, but even so it looks like she's zoned out and visiting her own private Idaho most of the time. We had an IEP meeting the second week of school and we have accomodations like you wouldn't believe for this child. She is in the inclusion math, reading and language arts classes and the inclusion teacher, apparently, spends 99% of her time doing everything for this child - taking her notes, opening her book, and so on, while Faraway Girl just twirls her hair and sits there. However, she completes all her homework and studies for tests and usually passes. She's never a behavior problem, outside of the fact that the kids at her table in science tend to do everything for her (since the inclusion teacher doesn't come to science) and I've had to put a stop to that as they were spending so much time doing things for Faraway Girl that they ended up getting behind on their own work. Faraway Girl is capable of doing some things on her own, given the opportunity to do so.

Mrs. Faraway has discovered email and uses it liberally. One day I got four emails from her, including one that demanded to know why I didn't respond to her previous three. I finally grabbed a second and sent her a response telling her that I have students all day until 6th period, and I use the computer for instruction, and she would just have to be patient and wait until I had a time to giver her email my full attention. I had 129 other kids who needed me more, quite honestly. The whole problem, that day, was that she cannot apparently understand that we skip around in our science book (not my choice, I don't put together the scope and sequence) and thought that "Read Chapter 1, section 4, and chapter 18, section 1" meant to read chapters 1-18. She also didn't understand why I didn't assign all the vocabulary words in chapter 18, even after an email explaining that some of the words were duplicates and I didn't see the point in assigning the same word twice. She insisted that I call her and I ended up spending 45 minutes on the phone with her working through the weekly assignments page by page by page and then walking her through how to get to the school's website.

And then I got the note from her about how she didn't understand our study guides. I say "our" because the three of us that teach 7th grade science collaborate and do everything together - we've done this for three years and it works (our scores prove it). However, Mrs. Faraway didn't understand a study guide that wasn't exactly like the test. Ours is in the form of statements because, quite frankly, we're more interested in the fact that the kids know the material rather than parrot back packaged information. I explained to Mrs. Faraway that she could, if she wish, turn the statements into questions if that would help Faraway Girl study.

And then there were the emails where she wanted copies of the tests her daughter took, preferably the exact test she wrote on, because she received a 67 and a 72 and she never ever scored that low because she knew the information cold when she left the house and there must be something wrong with the tests, obviously. In fact, she could go to her files and pull out all the tests her daughter took last year and show me how well she did on them. I explained to her that students do not write on my tests (they are class sets and they respond on an answer sheet), so I couldn't send her the exact copy. I also explained that I was very uncomfortable letting these tests out of my room because of confidentiality, and that if they were sent home, they must be returned as soon as possible. (I agreed to send them, because, quite frankly, I didn't want to be trapped in my room with this woman while she went on and on and on.) I also explained that her daughter had her tests read to her, she had extended time, and they were modified.

To make matters worse...I am not alone. Mrs. Faraway is doing this to all the teachers on the team, as well as the inclusion teacher. She apparently drove the sixth grade teachers insane last year and she's well on her way to driving us all crazy this year. I've already talked with The Principal and told her that if this mother wanted me to change our study guides and change the tests to suit her, I wasn't going to do it - what we do is working for 99% of our kids (look at our scores), and if it isn't broke, don't fix it. Fortunately, The Principal (who knows this parent all too well) agreed. She made the statement that she believes Faraway Girl gets off the bus, Mom attaches her to her breast, and she stays there until she tucks her into bed at night.

I admire the fact that this parent works so hard with her daughter. I admire the fact that her kid comes first with her. But I do not agree with her insistence that we should put her daughter first over our other 129 kids. I also don't agree that we should be holding this kid's hand and doing everything for her.

And I say this from personal experience. I have an uncle with a severe learning disability, and there has always been a schism in the family about how much help Uncle needs to function in life (it's basically the older sister against everyone else). I, like my father, believe that Uncle can live independently, can hold a job, can shop, cook, and take care of himself just fine, if he's given the opportunity to do so. Auntie wanted him to be institutionalized when Grandpa died, and we all put our collective feet down and stopped that cold. And I'm glad we did. Uncle has his own nice apartment, he's involved in his church, he volunteers at the fire department, he has a job, and he has a lot of friends. If he was locked in an institution somewhere, his quality of life wouldn't be what it is today.

We need to give our kids, no matter what their learning level, the opportunity to have some independence.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Occupational Hazards

It has started.

The first bug has started to blaze its way through school and I have it.

Then again, every adult in the building has it from all three administrators, to most of the custodial staff, to the bulk of the teachers, to the PTO moms.

It's a firey sore throat, followed by sinus drainage, then a massive stuffy nose and it just knocks you on your butt. Some folks say they've had it for three weeks now.

I'm on day three.

Thank goodness for my microphone.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sharing a hero

Today we all wore Red, White and Blue today in honor of the anniversary of 9/11. Since I teach in a school that has a population heavy with military dependents, it's pretty easy to get everyone decked out patriotically. And considering that many of my kids have a parent (or parents) who have been deployed several times since 9/11, it's not something too far away from our thoughts.

But I still worry that my 12 year olds may not be old enough to really remember when the world changed.

So today, because I had a few minutes, I wanted to tell them about one of my personal heroes.

His name is Rick Rescorla.

If you happen to have a copy of the fabulous book, We Were Soldiers Once...And Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway, Rick Rescorla's picture is on the front cover. (And yes, Mel Gibson was in the movie based on this book a few years ago). Mr. Rescorla was a native of Cornwall, England, became an American citizen and served in Viet Nam. In 1965, he and 450 members of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley and were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese Soldiers. Nearly 350 U.S. Soldiers died and Rick Rescorla did everything he could to bring as many of his men alive out of that battlefield as he could.

Fast forward 35 years later and Rick Rescorla is a corporate security expert for Morgan Stanley, with offices in the World Trade Center. His knowledge of terrorism and his expertise in security had convinced him to develop very detailed plans in the event of an attack on the towers (he was there during the previous attack in 1993). Many people say that he's the man who predicted 9/11. Regardless, he put his plan into place and immediately began evacuating the employees of Morgan Stanley as soon as the first plane struck.

Rick Rescorla lead 3,494 employees of Morgan Stanley to safety on that day.

Out of 3,500.

Four of the people who didn't make it out were Rick Rescorla himself, along with three of his deputies, Wesley Mercer, Jorge Velazquz, and Goodwin Forde. They went back in to make sure that everyone was out safely.

I admire people who do incredible things and put other people ahead of themselves. That sense of selflessness never ceases to astound me.

That is why Rick Rescorla is one of my hereos.

That's what I told my kids today. And they listened, quietly, and perhaps, just maybe, they understood what a hero really is.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How to make Oobleck...

Ah, Oobleck...probably one of the most popular labs I do. So popular that the kids - gasp! - actually go home and not only talk about it, but end up making a mess in their momma's kitchens by making some. I have the son of one of our 8th grade teachers in my class and that's apparently what he did after he got home from school on Thursday -fortunately Momma thought it was wonderful.

There really isn't a set recipe for Oobleck, outside of equal parts water and cornstarch. I usually have the kids take a typical plastic spoon and put two heaping spoonfuls of cornstarch in a bowl. I then have them add water a spoonful at a time. Depending on how big their heaping spoonfuls were, it will take 2-4 spoonfuls. It's going to be hard to stir for a bit, but don't add more water. Use your fingers if you have to, and keep mixing in the water. Pretty soon you're going to have Oobleck.

Some people like to add food coloring, but I don't as it's messy enough as it is.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A brief field trip...sorta

Today I took my kids to the brand spanking new science lab to do our oobleck lab. I could have just as easily done this lab in my room except for the fact that it's nice to have a sink with running water to use. In years past, before we had a lab, the kids knew it was lab day when they saw old (I prefer recycled) kitty litter buckets and milk jugs full of water in the front of the room. That was my sink.

So, despite the fact that we lose time walking to and from the lab, and they have to be quiet on the way (something desperately difficult to do), I decided to take them there. After all, it's for their use and it does get them jazzed up about science. And it's not messing up my room.

It went....okay.

First and especially second period, had major issues cleaning up. I swear, I'd have them clean up after the lab, and it ended up looking worse than it did before they cleaned up! (I really would have to see their bedrooms.) Fourth period, however, cleaned up so well we could have eaten off the floor. Fifth period did well too, which was nice as it meant I didn't have to clean up again during my planning.

Oobleck, for those of you who don't know, is a wonderful thing to make with your kids. All it is is cornstarch and water. You mix it up and it acts really odd. One minute it's a dry ball in your hand, and the next thing you know it's "melting" and turning into a liquid. The goal was for the kids to figure out if it was a liquid or a solid. (They decided it had characteristics of both and decided to call it a solquid.) At first some of them didn't want to touch it, but after a few seconds you find kids just letting it drip through their fingers (and all over the tables) like goo, then balling it up into balls in their fists. Pretty freaky stuff and every year when they do it, they have a ball. (And usually I get a couple of parents at open house who ask for the directions because their kid won't just up about it.)

Ah....and we survived the lab. Or better yet, the lab survived us.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why belts and underwear can be a good thing.

So I'm looking at the absentee list a few days ago and I notice that Goth Girl, one of my kids from last year, is suspended for three days. Dang it! She'd been doing so well, coming by to tell me how much she liked her classes and her teachers, how she hadn't had a write-up yet, and how she was going to join the yearbook staff. So when Stoopid Boy came by (on his daily visit in the morning) I asked him what was up.

"Oh, she pantsed Goober Boy in Art."

Now Goober Boy was in my homeroom last year, and I also had him in the after school program and the chess and boardgame club. Nice kid, even if he could be a bit of a goober. We're talking skateboarder, long hair with bangs hanging in his eyes, and not exactly a fast mover. Or a quick thinker. But a nice kid whom I always liked. And I knew he was friends with Goth Girl so I figured there must have been some sort of horseplay going on.

I was explaining this to the team at lunch and we were trying to figure out exactly what happened to justify a three day suspension when Mrs. Art walked in. Ah-ha! Perfect timing so we ask Mrs. Art to elaborate. Mrs. Art begins giggling and shaking her head.

"I was really, really happy at how well Goth Girl was doing and hated to do that write up, but I really had to. You know how impulsive she is, and she also has trouble keeping her hands off the boys, but it's usually pretty innocent. Well, she decided to tug on Goober Boy's baggy pants and the problem was that they fell all the way down to the floor."

"And that's it?" we ask. This still doesn't sound like a 3 day suspension.

"Oh no, the real problem was that he didn't have any underwear on," says Mrs. Art. "I was practically blinded by the sight. We're talking the Full Monty."

Apparently it took Goober Boy a few long, slow seconds to realize that he'd apparently neglected to put on underwear, and when it finally dawned on him he proceeded to turn a brilliant shade of purpleish red as he tried to pull up his pants.

"I guess they gave Goth Girl the three days under a sexual harrassment violation," says Mrs. Art."

At this point the entire team is nearly weak-kneeded with laughter. Knowing these two kids as we do, we could only imagine the scene that Mrs. Art described. But she wasn't done.

"The best part is that Goober Boy comes to school today. With his underwear hanging out of the top of his pants. And a very large belt cinched very tight."

Gales of uncontrollable laughter.