Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Carnival Time!

The Education Wonks have done it on over for another excellent compendium of education articles. Don't miss it!

*Sniff* *Wheeze* *Cough*

Allergies suck.

There's just no other way to describe it. They're just absolutely freaking awful.

I've had allergies my whole life. As a kid growing up in California I even went through nearly ten years of allergy shots. I moved to Ohio and noticed that - thankfully - my allergies pretty much lasted from the time they harvested winter wheat until the first hard frost. They were still pretty nasty, however during the summer and I suffered through it.

Now I'm in Tennessee, which, if you believe what people tell you, Is The Absolute Worst Place To Live If You Have Allergies.

I tend to believe it, although I've been to Georgia a time or two when the pine pollen bathed everything with a green-yellow haze. You know the pollen count is high when you can write your name on the hood of your car.

In any case, hubby and I have gobs of yardwork to do and I actually enjoy doing it. The problem is that I suffer for it even with allergy pills and nose sprays and taking a shower after being outside and all that. The yard work isn't going away and neither are my allergies. So I suffer through it.

And I'm cranky. My nose is stuffed up. I sneeze so bad the cats run and hide. And I have a headache.

I've made the decision to start in on allergy shots again, mainly because nothing is helping and I'm sick and tired of snorting around like this. However, I can't get in to see the allergist until the 21st of June. Which figures.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day - Remembering and Thanking

I didn't grow up in a military family, but I grew up in a family that respected the military. I had ancestors who served during the Civil War, some relatives in WWII - including my mother's cousin, Glenn Perkins, who was killed in Germany in March, 1945 - and my father credits the U.S. Army for "getting me the hell out of Dakota". Which is a good thing if you don't like milking cows when it's -40 outside. So in our family, Memorial Day is a day of remembering and thanking and not a day of simply guzzling beer and eating until we're about to burst.

So yesterday Hubby and I went out to Fort Donelson National Battlefield and spent some time out there. Fort Donelson is the first large Civil War Battle of the western theater, and one, as my husband likes to say, that serves as the minor leagues for some of the guys who became "big league" generals later on.

Guys like, say, Ulysses S. Grant.

In any case, last night at the Fort Donelson National Cemetery, the Girl Scouts had placed flags and luminaries by every marker. Hubby and I had volunteered to help light them. So, armed with lighters (the long kind that can reach into a bag of sand), we, along with quite a few other volunteers, went to work. I know I lit at least 130 of them before I lost count. But after each lighting, I lightly touched the marker and said "thank you". It was, after all, the least I could do to honor the military veterans, both men and women, buried in that lovely location.

And after they were all lit, it was magical as you can see, hopefully, from the picture above.

And hubby and I both agreed we're going back next year and will make this a new family tradition. There was just something special about having the honor of lighting those candles for those men and women. I was glad we were able to do it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Carnival time!

Just when you thought school was isn't! Check out this week's Carnival of Education at I Thought I Think...a great blog worth bookmarking!

Send Some Prayers Mr. Eagle's Way

As most of my regular readers know, Mrs. Eagle is not only a teacher I collaborate with a lot, but she's also my very best friend. She makes my job so much easier, but she's also always there when I need her, she's fun to hang out with, and we have so much in common many people call us The Twins.

Without going into all the details, her husband (also a school district employee and an Army veteran) was seriously injured in an accident at his friend's auto body shop where he likes to work on restoring his antique cars. He was life-flighted to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville with burns on 50% of his body. Fortunately they have the best severe burn trauma unit in the southeast there, so he's in good hands. One of their sons, who helped put out the fire, suffered burns on his hands and is also being treated by the burn unit folks, but fortunately on an out-patient basis.

Mr. Eagle is currently more or less in a drug induced coma. He has had one surgery already for skin grafts, and has months and months of recovery and rehabilitation ahead of him. Mrs. Eagle is spending most of her time down at Vanderbilt so she can visit with him the four times a day they let someone come in and sit with him.

She is already bored out of her mind.

Mrs. Eagle is one of the most determined and positive people I know. She's staying as upbeat as possible (considering the circumstances I wonder how well I'd be handling it) and she's doing her best to keep busy. I went down to visit with her today at the hospital and brought her a dozen books, a book on knitting, needles and yarn. As she said, it's a good time for me to get her knitting as she as all this time on her hands. She's trying to keep as busy as possible with something other than worrying about what hell her husband is going through.

I think those of us in the blogosphere are a powerful group of people when we put our minds to it. Which is why I'd appreciate some prayers sent up for Mr. and Mrs. Eagle. These are both people who have dedicated their lives to service to our country through their Army careers, and now service to our children through their work in education and scouting. If anyone deserved some prayers, it's these two.

Remembering Philipp and the others

It's hard to believe, but it's been a year since one of my first students, and certainly one of my favorites, lost his life in a drowning accident. Philipp was a fantastic kid, and there are a lot of us who miss him terribly. This past week I've been thinking a lot about Philipp, as the anniversary of his death was coming up, and many of my memories of him are so silly and fun to reflect on.

Like I said last year, as teachers, we borrow other people's children for a while and often times can't keep from falling in love with them.

It has been a difficult year for the students in our middle school and the high school it feeds into - we have lost nine students this year. Philipp and Vince were the first, then Michael, a 6th grader, died of a previously undiagnosed heart ailment. Richard, an 8th grader, was hit by a car and killed the week before school started. Tomas, who graduated from High School with Mrs. Eagle's daughter, was murdered. Another high school student, Daniel, was killed in a street-racing accident, and several weeks later, three other high school students were killed in a car accident after a baseball game.

It's been tough. Many of our students have learned some life lessons at an age where they should be enjoying being young. I'm proud of how well many of them have handled their grief and sorrow and how they channeled it into doing good.

My roses are blooming, finally, and I think I'll get some gathered together and pay a visit to Philipp this weekend...I'm sure he knows how much he made my first year at The School one to remember, and how much I enjoyed having him in my life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Waving the Buses Goodbye

The last half day of school.

Is the longest day of school.

Keeping the kids busy and out of trouble and somewhat calm is a challenge. My team decided that taking them to the gym to run and scream and throw basketballs around would be a good idea. It worked out pretty well (Mrs. Language and I even shot a few baskets - I made two, amazingly enough). No one got into a fight, we only had one jammed finger, and it kept them busy.

I took my class back around 9:30 to make s'mores (science teachers have cool things like electric burners in their rooms), which the kids loved. We also watched a Jimmy Neutron (I love him) DVD, signed yearbooks, and chatted about what the summer would involve.

And then the highlight of our day....bus riders were dismissed.

There is a tradition in our district that the teachers, staff, and the walkers all go out of the building and wave the buses goodbye. The bus drivers make it even more fun by laying on the horns and making a total racket. Kids wave from the bus windows, kids and teachers and secretaries and janitors and everyone else jump and wave and scream as the buses roll out. Considering we probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 buses, it's quite a sight. Bringing up the rear of the bus parade is our SRO in his patrol car with lights flashing.

I don't know why, but I just love this tradition. There's something about the pure joy of it, and everyone involved in educating our children involved - from the support staff to the teachers to the bus drivers to the kids - that makes it a wonderful culminating event of the year.

And it's freaking loud!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

All Sunshiney Carnival Time!

I love the Education Wonks, and they've put together yet another great Carnival of Education. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Of Dances, Broken Chairs, Victory for the Non-Losers, and a Walk In the Sunshine

Daddy is visiting and that means I've been busy helping him with house and garden projects. We've painted the deck, deck swings, the shutters, planted tomatoes and marigolds, washed the house, and stuff I can't even remember. At least we're getting stuff done and I'm not cooking. He loves to eat out!

As you can tell from my ticker, there's not many days left so it's a crazy time at school. However, I'm so tired by the time the day is over, I haven't had much of a chance to blog, so here are some tidbits, here and there...or, as it says in the title, this, that and the other thing.

1. As usual, I chaperoned the 8th grade dance. I never heard of such a thing until I moved down here, but it's like a younger version of the prom. Well, sort of. We try to discourage the big elaborate spending of money for dresses, and all that and basically said, "wear your Sunday go to meeting clothes", and most of them did. I'm not sure if the clothing manufacturers are not pushing the Britney Spears Slutwear or what, but the girls looked a lot less trashy this year than in previous years. They looked, quite honestly, like cute 8th grade girls should look. Then again, the girls who'd be dressing slutty were the ones who couldn't come to the dance anyway because of the number of discipline points they'd earned this year.

2. Stoopid Boy made it to the dance (with a little help from Mrs. Partridge who decided that 35 points was a HUGE improvement and he'd earned the right to go). I'm glad he was there. We had our picture taken together and you can bet that one will be a keeper. I'll miss that kid.

3. Remember how Rude Boy and Cast Boy had a run in earlier in the year? Well, Rude Boy was in ISS most of last week when the kids were doing their Severe Weather PowerPoint Project. He lied to me (what a shock) and said he wasn't allowed to do his work up there, and then when I said that I'd talked with the ISS teachers, and yes he was, he informed me that the computer broke every time he got on it. Amazing. In any case, he turned in a project last week. Turned out it was Cast Boy's project which he copied and did nothing more than change his name. I about died laughing when I saw that because I'd actually helped Cast Boy with some of the graphics so I knew his project pretty well. (This is what happens at the end of the year when the server folders are a mess and the best I could do is have the kids store their projects on the desktop and hope they didn't mess with each other's work and or do something stupid - like copy). I sent Rude Boy's dad an email, along with the assignment attached which specifically spells out that any student who passed off someone's work as his or her own would earn a zero and a behavior note. Which is what he got. So he earned a whopping 48% for the year in my class. His Dad signed the note and was very apologetic in the email. He'd be better off putting his kid in therapy.

4. I mentioned to The Enforcer about Rude Boy's cheating incident in my room. His response? "Whatever you do, don't write a referral. I'm running out of furniture." Apparently the last time Rude Boy was called to the Enforcer's office for his latest incident, he flopped all of his 400 pounds down into one of Mr. Enforcer's chairs and it went crashing to the floor, along with Rude Boy. It's amazing that Rude Boy was actually able to get up off the floor after that one.

5. We cleaned out lockers which, in itself, is a scary thing. I don't ever want to see these kids bedrooms. One kids had eight - yes eight! - jackets in his locker. One wonders if his mother noticed that he was missing that many articles of clothing.

6. Due to the lockers being cleaned out, they've shortened the time between classes from five minutes to three. Hey, the kids don't need to go to the lockers, so why do they need five minuted? It gives them two fewer minutes to cause drama in the hallways and get into fights and trouble. Of course Brick Boy, who's never moved faster than a very slow stroll, is incensed as it is impossible for him to get to the bathroom and to class on time. Considering that he claims he needs to go to the bathroom during every class and between every class (his ploy to get out of the room and wander aimlessly), this was no shock. What will surprise him is that next year the kids will only have four minutes, not five.

7. We raised over $2,000 for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Someone got the brilliant idea that we could charge the kids a dollar for the chance to wear a hat, flip flops, and sunglasses and they could go outside and walk around a makeshift track for a designated hour. I know middle schoolers will pay a dollar to do almost anything, but we were amazed at the turn out for Relay. Of course, they got to walk with their friends, buy snow cones and water, and wear hats and sunglasses - anything beats being in class. The weather was perfect, and Mrs. Math and I walked the route several times and enjoyed the break.

8. Cast Boy is in ISS for the rest of the year - and it was for something he did in another team area that got him written up. Of course, he found a cell phone and called mom/grandmother (Biological mom apparently has a drug problem so Grandma adopted him a birth and is raising him) who came down and pitched a fit because it's obvious that everyone in the whole school is picking on him. She demanded that every piece of paper in his discipline file be copied for her, which the Guidance Goddess did. Of course, considering the amount of paper in that folder, it took some time. Hope she has fun at the school board - she's lucky he didn't earn a ticket to alternative school.

9. The Non-Losers in the Third Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself noticed the other day that all the Losers were - gasp! - pretty much gone from the class. They had managed to earn themselves stints in ISS or were suspended (one moved, we celebrated). I told them that their wish had come true but now they had to prove it was just the Losers causing all the problems in their class. They were a delight. We're making kites and they accomplished more than any other class. I think they've learned a pretty valuable lesson this year.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Get Off Our Island!

It's that time of year...six and a half days to go...when the kids start losing their minds.

We teachers already have.

In any case, between the warm weather, hormones, eagerness for freedom, or just the way the stars have aligned, the behavior issues abound. This is the time of year when even the good kids get a little nuts and do the most incredibly stupid things.

It's also the time of year where Mr. Enforcer votes kids off our island...that's his way of suspending someone for the rest of the year. We have a list of kids we'd love to see voted off our island, and quite honestly, given time most of them will manage to get caught doing something incredibly stupid and solve the problem.

My Third Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself is rapidly losing numbers as kids are voted off the island. If the Non-Losers have their way, most of the Losers will be gone by the end of the week and they'll be able to enjoy their kite-building project and get to go outside. If nothing else, they have learned that kids who can't control themselves (and whom I can't trust to behave outside of the classroom) ruin it for them quite a lot of the time. Considering I'd like to take my classes outside for some kite flying and general running around to blow off steam next week, I'm hoping a few of them get voted off rather early in the week.

We lost one of the Losers during our testing week when he decided to bring a water bottle filled with vodka to school. Another one, Foul Mouthed Girl got voted off last week due to - you guessed it - her foul mouth. It probably wouldn't have been such a big deal if she hadn't screamed and shouted "Eff You! You Effing B..." at the top of her lungs, outside of Mr. Enforcer's office, when her math teacher asked her to hand over her MP3 player.

Not a good move on her part.

In any case, tomorrow is Monday, a new day and the last full week. We'll have to wait and see who, if anyone, gets voted off the island tomorrow!

Go Ahead, Make My Day

Stoopid Boy dropped by for a visit Friday morning during homeroom. This isn't all that surprising as this time of year I tend to see quite a few of the kids I taught last year. They're 8th graders now, and rapidly nearing the end of their time here in Middle School. It's a scary time of year for them. On one hand, they're excited about leaving and going on to High School, but at the same time, it's kind of scary leaving the school they've called home for the past three years.

Stoopid Boy and I chatted a bit about this and that, what he was going to do this summer, what he thought about going on to high school, marveling at the fact that this same time last year found him in alternative school and this year he only has 35 discipline points. This, by the way, is fantastic. Last year I think he had well over 200. I asked him what the difference was this year.

"Oh, I dunno," he said. "I think I'm just thinking about stuff before I do it. And I'm not hanging around with people that can get me in trouble, like Fabio Boy, he's messing with drugs and doing stupid shit." Sad to say, this wasn't the first time I'd heard this news about Fabio Boy, but it was refreshing to know that Stoopid Boy realized that he didn't need to be hanging around with this character anymore.

"Well, I'm really, really proud of you. I always knew you could do it," I tell him.

Stoopid Boy smiles, looks at me and asks, "When did you get short?"

"When you got tall!" I tell him, and we both laugh. He gives me a hug and as he turns to leave, yells over his shoulder, "You're getting a surprise today."

This could mean anything, knowing Stoopid Boy.

However, just like he did last year, he remembered (via mom who works at a florist) that it was Teacher Appreciation Day, and four of us, including Ms. Reading, Mrs. Language, and Mrs. Partridge (his 8th grade social studies teacher) got flowers.

Nothing like having a kid you taught last year thank you for being the "best teacher ever!"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Stressed? Go Visit the Carnival!

Are you feeling just a tad stressed lately? Counting the days (and minutes) until school is over? Sick of those retention meetings? Getting fed up with kids who've checked out? Well, NYC Educator has the answer for you! Spend some time at this Week's Carnival of Education and chill for a bit! After all, you're not alone...we're all counting....counting....counting....

More Stupid Parent Tricks - Or When Booze is More Important than a Yearbook

Our school yearbook came out this week. And, as usual, Mrs. Art did the most fantastic job on it. It's lovely with full color pictures, quotations from the students "walk' across the pages, the dedication pages to two of the students who passed away this past year were heartwarming- it was just a delightful presentation.

For those kids who did not pre-purchase a yearbook, they went on sale this week as well. Eighth graders got to buy their's yesterday, seventh graders today, and sixth graders tomorrow. If there are any left by Friday, they'll go on sale to everyone.

They are not, however, cheap. At $28, it's a big chunk of change for some of our kids to shell out, but many of them do. It's important to them. We even schedule a period where we take the whole team down to the cafeteria and let them run around and sign each other's yearbooks.

So today a few of my homeroom kids were in line, cash in hand, and they bought their yearbooks. The excitement was intense as they opened them up, looked at the pictures, giggled over how silly they looked, and had their friends sign.

However, one of my girls, Twiggy Girl, didn't get a yearbook.

"I wanted a yearbook," she said to me as she came back from her locker. "But my mom said we couldn't afford one."

"I can understand that," I answered. I really could. I have property taxes due this month.

"Yeah, but she went out last night and bought beer and cigarettes," she replied bitterly. Then she turned and went to her seat.

Folks, kids aren't stupid. You may think they don't notice what you do, but they do. So when you tell them that you can't afford something, don't turn around and go buy something for yourself, especially something that isn't a vital necessity. What you're telling that kid is that your habits and addictions are more important than he or she is.

And unfortunately, for a lot of kids, that's more than true.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why Field Day Was the Pits.

I usually enjoy Field Day. I like getting outside. I like watching the kids play kickball and volleyball and do tug-of-war and all that. It's fun. It's somewhat relaxing. And the kids have a ball.

This year it was awful.

That morning as I drove to school I stopped to get some sunblock since I'd lost mine on the camping trip. It was a beautiful morning, with a few clouds in the sky, a lovely sun rising in the east - a perfect day for Field Day.

Except, of course, by the time we took the kids outside a brisk wind was blowing, dark clouds covered the sky and it looked like the heavens were going to open up on us. They didn't, thank goodness, but that was the only positive point of the whole day.

Due to the cold weather the kids, who are usually baking in the sun and whining about the heat and slowing down somewhat (due to the sun and heat), were wild. Absolutely wild. My mom once said that her horses played more and ran faster in cold weather, and the kids were no exception. Instead of spending field day enjoying the sports and the kids, we spent it on discipline issues and crises management.

We started off with about eight of our special ed kids who were passing around condoms, which had apparently been shoplifted earlier that week. Mrs. Language, Mr. Social Studies and I spent thirty minutes trying to sort that one out. Especially since we weren't really all that sure they even knew what the condoms were supposed to be used for. Let's just say these were the last kids we would have suspected in a condom-passing incident. Amusing moment was watching Mrs. Language interrogate the boy who finally admitted bringing them to school and asking him, "Do you know what these are used for?" and having him hem and haw and stammer and finally squeak out a "Yes, ma'am." Her response? "You certainly weren't planning to do that here at school were you?" I thought he was going to faint from embarrassment.

Then we had some of boys huffing and puffing and talking trash and trying to get involved in a fight.

Then Faraway Girl complained that a boy from Mrs. Eagle's team was touching her inappropriately. Mr. Social Studies got a hold of him and not only did he admit to the touching, but he admitted that he was touching two other girls as well. (He got seven days suspension.)

Then one of our kids got smacked by a kickball in the jaw so I had to walk her up to the nurse, and discovered three other kids trailing us so they could get in the building and get their coats.

Then the workers at the city pool, which sits next to the school, decided to work on the pool which caused the field between the kickball field and the school to FLOOD with up to 4" of quickly moving water. One minute there's a dry field...the next minute we're trying to figure how to move 450 kids through it without getting them soaked.

Then we realized that we had no way to get Scooter Girl through the field as the path she motored down on was flooded and her scooter can't get wet. Thank goodness two PTO moms were there (selling concessions) and were able to take her back to the building in a van, with her scooter (which is amazingly heavy) in a trailer behind another car. We got her in for lunch, but due to the flood and the cold, she decided (unhappily) that it would be better if she stayed in the building for the rest of the day. I felt awful for her, but she's a computer nut and was able to go play to her heart's content on a computer in the library.

And we lost, for the first time that I can remember, Field Day. Out of 30 possible points, we scored...are you ready....three.

That's three.

For coming in third place in Volleyball.

Out of three teams.

It was awful.

It's Carnival Time!

Dr. Homeslice is hosting the midway this week, so be sure to stop by his place and check out what's being discussed in the crazy world of education!