Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birthday Girl

Mr. T, my student teacher, is still here so I'm spending the bulk of my time either in guidance or in the speech therapists office (she's not here all the time), acting like an administrator. Between Mr. Enforcer and I, we're able to keep on top of the discipline referrals and keep things running a bit more smoothly than they were when everything went nuts before Thanksgiving.

I was walking to Guidance to drop off a file on the Guidance Goddess' desk when I got invited to a birthday party for Mamma's Girl, a little sixth grader we have in the building. At the party were all of Mamma's Girl's sixth grade teachers, The Principal, the entire Guidance department, and the honored sixth grader. On the table was a big cake with gobs of frosting, just the thing we all need at 7:45 in the morning.

It was Mamma's Girl's twelfth birthday. I mentioned Mamma's Girl in a previous post on the Military Support Group, a club we have at school for kids who have deployed parents. She was the little girl who was beaming because she managed to forget - for five whole minutes - that her mom was in Iraq. Well, with her mother in Iraq, no father in the picture, and staying with a family friend, this wasn't looking to get a great birthday for Mamma's Girl. Her teachers have been doing a great job in looking out for her, but it's still been a rough transition for her. Nothing like moving to middle school - tough for even the most secure kid - but to have to deal with the stresses our military kids deal is just an added burden.

So, her teachers, and guidance, decided to throw her a party. Because, after all, every twelve year old needs a cake with frosting, and just a minute in the spotlight. The look on her face was priceless and she just smiled from ear to ear. If we gave her just five more minutes free from worry and missing her mom, that was truly a wonderful gift.

It's times like these, the ones that don't make the headlines and never get reported, that I wish all the critics could see.

Carnival Time!

The midway is open so check it out over at Matt-a-Matical Thinking!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Anti-Shopper

I was born, apparently, without the shopping gene.

My mother loves to shop. Part of my annual Mother Visit to California is at least one day of shopping which I tolerate because it is, after all, only one day and Mom has much better taste than I do and I usually end up looking much better dressed after these visits. However, it still nearly gives me hives. Mother, however, is very good and always make sure we get to one yarn shop so I can get my patience back.

My cousins love to shop. They're the ones who plan and organize and scheme and get up at oh-dark-thirty to get out there and be VERY FIRST IN LINE on Black Friday. They love it. They love the excitement. They love the crowds. They love the fact that they may have actually found a deal. I would rather put a knitting needle in my eye.

I think of Black Friday as looking into the very depths of hell itself.

Which is why I about swerved off the road yesterday afternoon as we drove by the local Best Buy store and saw people pitching tents on the sidewalk outside the store.

Pitching Tents!

I can think of about a million and one things I'd rather do than sleep outside on a sidewalk in front of a store just so I can get up and be first in line to buy something. There are only two types of stores I even enjoy shopping in, book stores and yarn shops, and even then I wouldn't be camping out just to get a crack at catching alpaca yarn on sale.

My idea of shopping is to sit in bed, in my jammies, and flip through catalogs, make my choices, and then go online and buy it. I was catalog shopping before the internet, and so it was a natural progression for me to move to online shopping. It's perfect for me. No crowds. I can do it with a cat on my lap. I can take my time, enjoy a class of wine, and look for deals, all the while snuggled in my jammies. It is perfect. And I love the idea of coming home from work and finding a box on my porch.

So today I'm not going anywhere near a mall. I'm going to sit in my chair, knit, snuggle with my cats. The rest of you can do the shopping for me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Education Carnival Time

And it's also time for the Education Carnival over at NYC Educator (truly a patient soul if there ever was one)....There's tons of good stuff to read, as usual, so go check it out. I just wish that I wasn't getting home so late lately as I keep missing the submission deadlines!

Teacher Potluck Carnival

Ms. Whatsit hosts this unique carnival that combines cooking and education! Check it out!

A Very Quiet Surprise

The worst part about having a student teacher in the room is that I miss my kids. I'm not there every period to find out what's going on with their lives, to listen to them chatter, to just be there and enjoy the silliness (and oftentimes frustration) that comes with your average seventh grader.

I am getting a bit of a kid fix by working the discipline referrals. Often times these kids just want someone to listen to their side of the story (which is sometimes highly amusing and creative). The fact that they have your undivided attention is not lost on these kids. The sixth graders, in particular, will spill their guts and go on and on and on their lives, inside and outside of school. The counseling part I truly enjoy. Sadly, there are some teachers in The Building who aren't particularly patient and who write referrals for things that I'd never even consider writing a referral for, so a lot of what I've done is counsel and warn the kids not to do it again. (I'm sure I'm going to hear about it too, but hey, In School Suspension is full and detention isn't far behind..what's a girl to do? Toss them under a bus?)

Yesterday, our "Friday" since we have the rest of the week off for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I was out in the hallway by my room when they dismissed kids for the buses. Truth be told, I kind of just wanted to wish a lot of them a nice few days off from school.

I was standing there when Studious Girl walked up to me and give me a big hug and put her head on my shoulder. This surprised me a great deal because Studious Girl has maybe said all of a dozen words all year and is one of the most silent kids I've ever known. She's in my homeroom, and although she's a pretty good student, it's because she works so hard at it. She doesn't talk - to anyone - and if she has any friends, I couldn't tell you who they are. I always make a point of trying to draw her out in the mornings when she comes into homeroom, by asking her how her morning is, but the most I usually get is a smile.

And today I got a hug.

"What's this for?" I asked her, although I suspected I knew. A lot of my kids have been whining about "when are you coming back?". They like Mr. T, but they want "School Mom" back in the room.

Studious Girl just looked up at me and smiled.

"Is it because you miss me?" I asked her and she nodded her head and smiled again.

"Well I miss you too," I told her, "and I'll be back soon."

She beamed, hugged me again, grabbed her bookbag and headed for the buses.

Wow. Not a word, but volumes were in that smile and her big brown eyes.

Good Lord, I'm thankful for kids like her. It makes it worth it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Playing Principal

So, I'm standing in guidance the other day, having just finished putting the science lab together, when Mr. Enforcer comes by.

"You've got your Master's Degree, right?" he asks.

"Yeah, sure do," I reply, wondering where this was going. After all, I have the student loans to prove it.

"We're really backed up on discipline referrals, so do you think you could help out since you have a student teacher in your class?"

I took a look at the mountain of discipline referrals. He wasn't kidding. It was huge. Massive. Tottering.

"Sure, I could help out as long as someone tells me what to do. I've never done admin before."

"Meet me in my office in the morning and I'll show you the ropes. You'll be great."

So this morning I met up with Mr. Enforcer, who gave me a 5 minute lesson on how to do a referral, turned his office over to me (newly decorated and painted by his wife and The Principal as a surprise), and he took off for a meeting downtown. I had a pile of about 15 discipline files, all for tardies. Basically in The Building, three tardies earns a kid a discipline referral. It's pretty easy to work. They get 5 points in their discipline record and it's up to the administrator (which was me today) to decide what to do with them. This involves looking in their discipline file to see what they've been written up for, counseling the kid and finding out what they think the problem is, and coming to a decision. Most of the kids get your basic after school detention which really isn't a big deal at all.

I had worked one referral when all hell broke lose and the sixth graders lost their minds.

First I had a little sixth grader walk into The Enforcer's office and inform me that a girl he knew had a razor blade and was going to hurt someone.

This was not what I bargained for when I said I'd work the tardy referrals.

I told the kid that he did the right thing by reporting this and walked him across the hall to the Guidance Goddess who had him write his statement. A few minutes later she shows up at the door.

"We need to go get the kid with the razor blade out of gym and you're the only administrator I have," she says. "Mr. Enforcer is out of The Building as is Deputy Dude. The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel are in an IEP meeting with a parent. You're it kiddo." Great. So we walk to the gym, get the girl, and plop her down in guidance to cool her jets until a real administrator was free. In guidance we find three little sixth grade boys furiously writing statements. Apparently there was a fight in the boys locker room.

Oh boy.

They turned in their statements and we sent one of them, Miracle Boy (he's tiny and according to his mother, it's a miracle he's alive) to the nurse. He apparently was choked and slammed into a locker by another kid in the locker room. It fell to me to interview the victim and the two witnesses to see what happened and to get to the bottom of the incident.

The first I talked to was Miracle Boy who was, quite honestly, a laugh riot. We're talking the cutest little sixth grader on earth with freckles, curly hair, big eyes, you name it. You want to take him and hang him on a charm bracelet. It was all I could do not to laugh at some of the things that came out of his mouth. He held nothing back. He informed me that he was ADHD and did pretty good in school but by the time he gets home his meds have worn off and it was all he could do to get homework done what with the cats distracting him and all. His binder was a disaster and he loses everything, and well, that probably has to do with the missing assignments. He's disappointed that he went from being an AB honor roll kid in 5th grade to "just not doing well academically" in the sixth grade, and well, sixth grade is "just not being a good year this year." He admitted to an anger management problem, a bit of a temper, and yeah, well, he does have issues with behavior on the bus. In short, a good kid with a lot of issues, who still didn't deserve to have someone choke him and slam him into a locker.

I talked to the witnesses, neither of whom saw Miracle Boy defend himself, nor saw any reason why the perp would want to hurt him. They did mention that Perp Boy was a bit of a snot who was "always talking trash", and saying mean stuff to everyone.

By the time I finished with that little drama, Mr. Enforcer was back and I gave him a briefing and he took care of dealing with the Perp (who was, I believe, suspended). By this time The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel were dealing with Razor Blade Girl (who tossed her razor blade in the faculty bathroom trashcan where we found it) and her accomplice who sat and cried for two solid hours and finally admitted she'd brought the razor blade from home and gave it to Razor Blade Girl.

Finally. Back to tardies.

Actually the tardies were a bit amusing to work. You get the kids who oversleep ("How about setting two alarms? You have a cell phone, right? Use the alarm on that as your backup."), to the chronically social, ("How about carrying books for more than one class at a time so you don't have to go to the locker and get caught up in the drama?"), to the kids who just can't seem to get life together ("You really need to let Mr. Math know that you are having trouble with your locker.") I'd talk to them, get their side of the story (which was often highly creative), and we'd look at the problem of tardies and find a solution. Most of them either were counseled and warned, a few got two days of after school detention ("You do realize, you have been tardy 15 times this year?"), and most got one day of detention.

It was actually kind of amusing in it's own little weird way.

The part I liked the best was counseling these kids on goals and ways to solve their behavior problems. I discovered that one eighth grader was working towards going to the 8th grade dance this spring and was concerned his discipline points would prevent him from doing this. Considering that this kid had 175 points last year, and only had, as of today, 30, I'd say there was some major growth and maturity. It was nice being able to point this out to him and find out if there was a teacher who could work with him on this goal and maybe find a way to get him to the dance. The teacher he said he felt the most comfortable with was one of our new ones, a science teacher, so I emailed him and told him the story. It's nice seeing these newer teachers connect with these kids.

I had the pleasure of working a referral for one of my most troublesome kids from last year - a kid who nearly drove me, and all of us on the team, insane. You name it, he did it. His referral was for tardies, and there was another one there for talking back at Mrs. Respect. Now Mrs. Respect is just one of those people you don't talk back to. She loves the kids and does everything in the world for them, and she rarely, if ever, writes a kid a referral. If there's a referral written by her, you know it's serious. So I sat Mouthy Boy down and we talked about the tardies (which he readily admitted) and then talked about the disrespectful attitude he had towards Mrs. Respect.

"I honestly can't believe that you'd talk this rudely to her and disobey her," I told him. "She never, ever writes referrals so you really must have crossed the line."

He hung his head (something he never did last year). "Yeah, and she's my favorite teacher this year."

"You owe her an apology," I said, "And although I hate to do it, this really does warrant a day in ISS. "

"That's fair," he said.

What? Did I hear right? He said that a day in in school suspension was Fair???? Last year this kid would have gone on and on about how it wasn't his fault, he didn't deserve to get in trouble, and so forth and so on. And now he's agreeing with me and saying that his consequence is fair?

Wow. It's wonderful to watch them mature and grow up.

And I'm drinking wine tonight.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Baking Cookies for a Cause

A few months ago, when we saw that we would, yet again, have a huge number of our students with a deployed parent, the Guidance Goober asked for volunteer teachers to help run a Military Support Group. The idea was to give these kids an after school activity where they could be with other kids who were going through the same sort of thing, give them some fun things to do, and also provide a safe place to vent their fears and frustrations.

So of course Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Language and I signed up to help.

We had our first club meeting on Wednesday. It was a rainy, windy, and dreary day, but a perfect day to bake cookies. We thought it would be fun to bake Christmas cookies for the parents and also for the military unit that has adopted our school. We made gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies, and Mrs. Language brought her box of 100 different cookie cutters. I never realized that there was such a thing as a box of a 100 cookie cutters...which shows you how often I bake.

We had a pretty varied group of kids. We had quite a few sixth graders, plus some seventh graders, and one eighth grader who is also autistic. Our roster will probably expand a bit once we get the bus transportation set up with the transportation department and the kids don't have to be picked up after the club meeting.

One of the seventh graders was Too Kool, a kid who thinks he's too cool for school and who just doesn't want to do anything unless it's his idea. He was on our team originally, but was removed due to conflicts with some other kids on the team. In any case, he definitely didn't want to be there and sat away from the other kids, with his back turned. He decided that making cookies was "lame".

Fifteen minutes later after realizing that (a) there was no one in the room whom he needed to impress with his coolness and (b) that the other kids were having fun while he was sulking, he decided to join in. By the end of the afternoon he was cutting out cookies, cleaning up the pans, and putting on frosting decorations. He smiled, and giggled, and acted like a normal kid (and not a thug) for once.

The kids had a ball. They worked as a team to mix up the gingerbread cookie dough, they made beautiful art with mini M&M's, sprinkles and frosting and they didn't whine and beg to eat most of the cookies. They were awesome.

The best part of the whole afternoon for me was when one of the little sixth grade girls, after decorating a heart-shaped cookie, looked up at me and said, "Wow! I just realized that I've had fun for five whole minutes and forgot that Mom was in Iraq." She beamed.

Just giving those kids a moment of relief and peace is worth its weight in gold.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Saga of the Science Lab

When we got the new wing added to our building we ended up with a brand new science lab. This is a good thing since most of us were doing labs in our rooms, without sinks, which lead to some interesting situations. My students informed me they always knew we were having a lab day when they saw the kitty litter buckets out in my room (those buckets are awesome!).

The problem with the new science lab, aside from the fact that it's on the far side of the building and can take a lot of time to get to (which cuts into lab time), is the fact that no one has ever had time to put it together and organize it.

No one, that is, until I took it upon myself to do it while Mr. T was teaching my classes.

What prompted this seemingly altruistic act of mine was the fact that Mrs. Eagle and I got royally pissed off the other day when we went in to get our microscope lab set up. The lab was, quite simply, a disaster. Apparently a number of former eighth grade teachers simply chose to empty their cupboards and dump what they didn't want in the lab. The student council dumped things they didn't have storage for in the lab. Whomever used the lab last didn't bother to wash any of the lab equipment which is why I found two beakers solidly glued to a counter and it took over half an hour to get them pried free. (The glue was, I believe, corn syrup of an uncertain age.) The sink was full of dirty graduated cylinders, beakers, and flasks.

This was not going to fly. No one is going to use a the lab if it's a disaster, and no one is going to use a lab if they don't even know what's in there.

So I've spent, so far, three days or so getting it cleaned up and organized. Every drawer has been inventoried. Every drawer and cupboard has been labeled. Obsolete equipment is stacked where it can be disposed of by The District. I have a list of twelve items that need to be done that were never finished when the original construction took place, simple things like making sure there is hot water to one of the sinks, we have paper towel dispensers installed, that the eye flush sign be posted, and so forth and so on.

I have found some interesting things in the lab. There are two stainless steel sinks that belong...somewhere. However, all the sinks in the lab are complete, so who knows where these go (another school?). I found two computer tables that someone dumped in there, along with a dozen rolling chairs that someone also apparently didn't want. I found a tub of frogs that have been there since who knows when. There are also two portable sinks and work stations in the lab that really need to be out in the classrooms. Well, since none of the 6th grade teachers want them (I asked) and the 8th grade teachers have water and sinks as they're in the new part of the building, it looks like Mrs. Robin and I will be moving these to our rooms; Mrs. Eagle's room is in the old science lab from 40 years ago so she has sinks and water.

For the record, rolling chairs and middle schoolers are two things that don't need to be anywhere near each other. Whomever decided that we needed rolling chairs has obviously never taught middle school before.

I am also writing a procedures page for our teacher manual on how to use the lab. Simple, common sense things like CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. I am just astounded at how filthy some of the equipment was, especially the stuff tossed into the sink. However, the two science teachers that left last year were not known for cleaning up the lab, so I suspect they were the culprits when it came to the dirty, sticky equipment. Thankfully we have two new teachers who will be getting with me later this week so I can show them all the cool goodies we have ("Look, bunsen burners!") and go over the proper procedures to use the lab.

Hopefully this means that the lab will, finally, get used like it should be. And if I catch anyone being a slovenly pig in there I'm going to go a little but nuts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

They also serve

I teach in a military town, so Veteran's Day is a big deal here. Many members of the community are veterans (many come here to retire), and we always have a big Veteran's Day parade downtown. The School also has a ceremony every year to mark the occasion.

And we do it up right.

The band plays patriotic medleys. The chorus sings some wonderful patriotic songs and our music teacher sings the National Anthem (she's amazing). We have the school winner of the Veteran's Day essay contest read his or her essay, we have some honored guests from our local military post, and we have a veteran guest speaker. One of our own teachers, also a veteran, acts as emcee because when he retires he better go into preachin', he's that good. Talk about motivational. We also honor all the faculty and staff (and there's quite a few including Mrs. Eagle, Mr. Enforcer, and Mr. Social Studies) who are veterans.

This year, however, we added a little twist. Those of us on the committee wanted all the students who currently have a parent deployed to have a bit of recognition as well. They all got American flags when they got to sixth period, and they brought them to the ceremony.

First, we had faculty and staff who had a child or spouse deployed stand up to be recognized. Again, quite a few. The kids screamed and cheered.

Then Mrs. Numbers, the sixth grade math teacher who puts this together every year, asked the kids if they knew why they got flags. "Because my Dad is in Afghanistan!" came one voice, followed by "My mom is in Iraq!", and pretty soon a chorus of "Mine too!" followed . And then, her voice breaking, she had the kids with the flags, the ones who currently have a parent serving overseas, stand up and wave their flags. Approximately 200 kids stood up and many of us who teach this kids got a tear in our eye.

And the place erupted into clapping and cheering and stamping and hollering as their classmates acknowledged that these kids, in their own way, serve as well.

Because it sucks to be a middle schooler in the first place. But to be a middle schooler, with the added weight of having a parent serving overseas, and missing them and worrying about them, sucks even more.

And I was so proud of both groups of kids - my stoic little military "brats", and their classmates who showed they cared. It was the perfect way to end the week.

To all my veteran readers out there - thank you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Flying Solo

Mr. T, my student teacher, is flying solo this week.

Which means I'm just about bored out of my mind.

He's doing fine. His content knowledge is excellent. He has good rapport with the kids. He listens well and takes advice to heart. He acknowledges that he has issues with planning and organization but he's already improved in that area. He's also learning that a 45 minute period flies by faster than lightning.

I turned him lose yesterday, although I was in the room most of the day - just in case - but today, after first period, I left him alone. He did pretty well. He did say that 5th period was a bit noisy and ill-mannered (and amazingly enough, I guessed which table was the culprit), so he's going to move some seats and write some behavior notes tomorrow. He's very good at getting the kids quiet for the most part, and commands respect.

The hardest thing for me is finding something to do while I'm exiled, so to speak, from my room. I spent time today in guidance getting some paperwork done for some new kids I need to s-team, plus some follow-ups. I read my new issue of Science Scope, graded some papers, and stayed awake. I'm going to spend tomorrow and possibly Friday cleaning up and organizing our science lab, and writing a page for the teacher handbook on how to use the lab. Nothing elaborate, just simple things like making sure you clean up after yourself. (That's another rant for another time). Guidance asked if I could help administer some skills inventory tests next week to the eighth graders. I've also brought some reading along and, tucked into my bag, some knitting. I may work on a Wiki we have here on our school site, and maybe work on a grant to get some new books for our science library and maybe some iPods for a podcasting idea Mrs. Eagle and I are tossing around.

But I do miss seeing the kids every day. So I tend to be in the hallway when classes switch, because I need my fix. I need to know how they're doing, if things are going okay, if they're having a good day or a bad day, or if they just need a smile.

I guess I'm too much of a mother hen at times.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Carnival Time!

And speaking of festivals...head over to the Science Goddess and check out the Haunted Education Carnival.


I'd Like Some Green Hair Please

We had our Fall Festival last night.

I am so freaking tired I can hardly see straight. Still.

Talk about a long day...I arrived at 6:30 am, left at 8:30 pm...and was on my feet most of that time. One thing they don't teach you in Teacher School is that you'll be on your feet a lot and the value of Very Good Shoes.


Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Language, and I, as sponsors of the Chess and Board Game Club, decided we'd run a booth at the Festival which was, amazingly, put together in about two weeks when we found out that the PTO decided they didn't have the manpower or support to do it on their own this year. The Jr. Civitan club and Student Council stepped up as did a few of the other clubs and even some teachers who aren't club sponsors. (For example, our new Miss Reading bravely hosted the karaoke booth.) We decided we were going to do the "hair and nail salon" which involved spraying colored spray into kids' hair, using colored gel to make spikes and mohawks, and do weird colored manicures. Kids could buy tickets for fifty cents a piece and go to all sorts of events - cake walk, 2 liter soda pop ring toss (hugely popular), bean bag toss, and more. We also had a craft show and a silent auction for the adults.

The three of us were busy for two solid hours making our students look even stranger than they normally are. Even at one dollar per "beauty treatment" we had lines 2-3 kids deep waiting to sit down and get beautified. We had boys come and get their nails painted metallic blue and black and then ask for red and blue mohawk spikes. Girls got red, white and blue stripes in their hair, with orange nails and black tips. Want glitter gel in your hair? We got you covered. Green stripes? No problem. Want an all over bright pink spray? Sit down and we'll take care of you.

Amazing what middle schoolers like, isn't it?

Maybe that's what makes them so much fun.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's My Party, I'll Buy Cookies if I Want to!

Our big fall festival is tomorrow, with the traditional Medieval theme, so we've been doing fun Medieval history stuff with our third period class, which happens to also be our Skills Class. (Skills Class is a 25 minute block of time, where we work with these kids on checking agendas, organizing binders, and character education stuff.) One of the things we did was to make a class banner or coat of arms.

Since I've taught a class on heraldry at summer camp, I pulled my collection of books out (with lots of gorgeous pictures) and using my document reader showed the kids different patterns and designs. They decided they wanted to do one in school colors (red, white, blue) and make a pinwheel design. It was also decided that each of the seven lab groups would come up with symbols that represented their group and we'd put a symbol on each of the eight pinwheels. There was an extra pinwheel and they insisted that since it was my class, I needed to do a symbol too (I did an apple). We also thought it would be neat to make the symbols out of craft foam (which I bought for them) so it would have a neat 3-D look. We also got smart and printed off graphics of some of the designs (like my apple because I can't draw) and used those as templates.

The kids spent quite a bit of time on this, discussing their symbols, choosing the colors, making the pinwheel part of the banner. They worked great together and really got into the spirit of the thing. Even my severely ADHD kid, Scrawny Boy, worked diligently and was a huge reason the shield got done in time as he was one of the kids who worked on the pinwheel (which seemed to have been the most difficult part). The kids took the choice of their symbols very seriously, discussing and coming to agreements over what they wanted. We had one that was had a basketball hoop, a softball and a gymnast, for my table of athletic girls. We had a dragon for the table that has the kids that are into fantasy and comics. Another table chose a stylized cross (these kids loved hearing about the Crusades) and a heart. It was just so cool to see them work on this so hard.

And we were so sure we would win the prize for the best banner. The kids were pumped! Being a science teacher, I have all sorts of weird odds and ends in my cupboards, so we found some things to add to the banner. We added some silvery cloth to drape over the top, and a bit of cord (made out of kite string), and hung it up along with an explanation about how we arrived at the design and what it meant.

We didn't win.

There was a tie between two other seventh grade classes (Mrs. Reading and Mrs. Robin). When the kids came to their lockers they were downcast and disappointed. They had worked so hard and weren't going to get the donut party the winners were going to get. I felt so bad for them because they really put their hearts into this. Every kid participated, every kid put forth a lot of themselves in choosing their symbols, and I had never been as proud of them as I was this past week. What I saw in my room is what we want to see when kids cooperate and come up with a creative solution to a problem. It was magic.

So, I was at Sam's Club this afternoon, picking up a prescription, and I saw these plastic boxes of cookies just sitting there. And I thought, "you know what, these kids deserve a party even if they didn't win."

So I bought two boxes of cookies and we're going to have our own reward party tomorrow, just because they deserve it and because they are such great kids!