Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up.

We have a student I'll call Scatter Boy. Scatter Boy is, quite honestly, the most scatter brained human I have ever met. Ever. The bell will ring and he will get out of his seat and walk out of the room, leaving all his possessions - his books, his binder, his pencil, everything - sitting on his desk. He loses things constantly. He has already lost (and paid for out of his allowance) one science book. I've given him a binder, a pencil pouch and dozens of pencils. He lost the binder in two days.

Scatter Boy, although he has a quirky, sometimes sweet personality, is pitiful. He is the oldest of seven, and his father is quite the disciplinarian. Apparently the other six are all straight A honor students and are perfect little angels, but Scatter Boy can't even manage to get on his bus to get home most days. He has an awful time in his classes because, even with Mr. Title in most his classes to help him and the others that need more individual attention, he just doesn't get what's going on. A lot of it might have to do with the fact that he's playing with pencils, shooting rubber bands, or generally doing anything other than what he's supposed to be doing instead of paying attention. I've made him my classroom helper, in the hopes that giving him some responsibility might be a way to get him some self-confidence and I did manage to get him into our after school tutoring program, but he hasn't gone long enough for us to see results.

Last week he got left, again, at school as he missed his bus. In one of his elective classes he apparently got a hold of a marker and tried to give himself a beard. He ended up with marker all over his face and hands. I suspect that he didn't so much as miss his bus as he didn't want to go home with marker all over his face. Dad wouldn't be happy.

That was mild compared to what he did today. Dad's going to be really, really unhappy.

One of my fourth period kiddos, Clingy Boy had to tell me why he was late to class. Clingy Boy has his own issues. He decided earlier in the year that he wanted to sit as close to me as possible, so he's at the desk right next to my teacher station - his choice. He often tells me how I am a lot like his mom, and he often spills his guts about things that are bothering him. He's a nice kid, but has some problems, especially as his grandfather was an innocent bystander during a gang shooting and got killed.

Anyway, Clingy Boy said that he witnessed Scatter Boy doing some inappropriate things in class so he went to guidance to file a statement because "what he was doing just wasn't right." Apparently Scatter Boy had a rip in his jeans, which extended from his crotch to his knee, and left an opening that was a little too tempting for Scatter Boy. Aside from pretending to "have sex with Mrs. Math's electric pencil sharpener," Scatter Boy also spent some time
with his hand inside his jeans, doing things that he probably should not be doing in class. Or at least pretending to.

Oh good gracious.

I never saw Scatter Boy because Mr. Social Studies saw him in the hallway, saw the rip, and decided that one wrong move would give everyone a lesson in anatomy, and sent him to guidance to get a new pair of pants. Apparently they didn't have anything that fit him, so he ended up in In School Suspension.

Mr. Social Studies hadn't heard about Clingy Boy's statement, so I filled him in. We then proceeded to head over to Mrs. Math to fill her in, especially because Clingy Boy said the incident happened in her class.

Mrs. Math was aghast. "He did what?" she asked. "When?"

I filled her in and her eyes got big. "He sits in the back there as he seems to focus better when he's by himself. I thought he was sick and sneezed or something as he came rushing up to get some tissues and then he used a whole bunch of hand sanitizer."

Mr. Social Studies and I were convulsed in laughter at this point.

"Oh my gosh," said Mrs. Math. "You don't think...he...oh that's disgusting!"

Yes, folks, welcome to Middle School.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Thankfully, my bout with the flu lasted about a week and I was back in school on the Tuesday after our President's Day holiday. I didn't feel 100% until about Thursday, but I certainly wasn't bad enough to stay home. Besides, I was getting cabin fever.

It turns out that I had the Very Best Sub Ever while I was gone. This gal is going on my speed dial. Not only is she highly qualified in science but she graded all my tests. Did you get that? She graded all my tests. There was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and I can't thank her enough for that. This means progress reports were only one day late, which was pretty amazing considering I'd been out, between snow day, sick days and a holiday, for a week.

However, we're hearing on the news and reading in the paper about the flu here in our area and how the epidemic is, perhaps, hitting its peak and things are improving. Every county around us has been closed for at least two days due to the flu. We have not. Quite frankly, we haven't seen a huge increase in absences.

I remember when I was teaching up in Ohio watching the flu sweep through our district and our building. It usually started with the elementary schools, then middle, and finally high schools. You could see it go through a classroom simply by looking out at the rows of desks...one section of the class would be absent, then another, then another, until it finally made its way through the whole class. We had days where the kids were literally lined up along the hallway by the office, heads resting on their backbacks, waiting for a parent to come pick them up. We had run out of room in the nurse's room, and the office, and they were spilling out into the hallway. Absent lists were running to three pages.

But this past week, at The School, our absence list was no bigger than normal. We did have a bit of a spike on Thursday but that was probably due more to the one hour delay due to sleet and ice than it was due to the flu. On Friday, we were back to one full page of absences, plus a few on a second page. Still, nothing really alarming. When it gets to a full two pages we start to be a bit concerned.

So..it's curious. Either we have a pretty healthy population of kids (doubtful), the kids are coming in sick and just gutting it out (doubtful again), or it just hasn't hit our area as hard as others (more probable). In the meantime I did the "If you sneeze or cough you better cover your mouth and nose with a tissue!" talk to all my classes. Last year I ran out of tissues during the second semester and offered extra credit for everyone who brought in a box. I had so many boxes brought in that I'm still using these boxes a year later. Good thing, too. I put a box on each lab table and the kids are using them. In fact, when someone sneezes you hear kids yelling "Get a tissue!", "Throw the tissue away!" and "Put gel on your hands!" At least they're learning some healthier habits. For now.

We'll see what this week holds.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Down for the Count

On Wednesday night Mr. Bluebird and I had tickets to a show and made it our Valentines Date Night. All went well until about 10:30, on our way home, when it became quite apparent to both of us that I was the victim of the stomach flu that has been going around.

By 11:00 pm I could barely lift my head up off the bathroom floor long enough to get on line to request a sub and to send Mrs. Eagle a note asking her to help the sub with lesson plans.

I'll save you all the gory details, but suffice it to say that I couldn't even keep Sprite down. Mr. Bluebird was about ready to toss me back in the car and take me to the ER, but I talked him out of it. Instead, I went to bed in the guest room with a bowl of ice chips to suck on as I was so dehydrated and I could actually keep those down.

This bug has knocked me flat. So flat that I ended up getting a sub for today as well, especially as I still was running a temp last night. I feel like death warmed over, have a headache, and seem to fall asleep every two hours or so. I feel so bad I don't even feel like knitting (and that's rare).

However, one of the joys of one, getting all your copies done the week before, and two, collaborating with other teachers, is that I don't need to worry too much about having lessons for my sub. Mrs. Eagle was able to show her all the materials and explain the lessons to her so all, from what I've heard, went well. Bless her heart. Where would we be without friends.

In the meantime, I'm going back to bed.

Carnival Time!

Instructify is hosting this week's Carnival of Education. Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here, There and Everywhere

Last week we had an in-service where we learned, very, very briefly, that The State has made some new changes in the law regarding special education. The information is still filtering down to The District, and it looks like our administrators will be going to a number of workshops in the near future to help roll out the new system. So right now, no one really knows a whole lot. What we were told was that in the future, it isn't going to be as easy to designate a kid as special ed, or even qualify a kid for a 504. The Principal said that the it appears that this will affect the elementary school teachers more than us because, in theory, if a kid is a candidate for special education it should be caught during the elementary years.


In any case, we were asked to get with our teams and pick 3-4 kids that we considered to be at risk and do an "Academic 360" form on them. Basically we were to pull their academic records, their discipline file, and go through them in detail to see if we could pull together a better picture of the student. It's interesting what you find out about kids when you actually sit down as a team and do this.

Our team chose four students that were pretty much failing every single class this year. One thing that we noticed as we were filling out the forms on these kids is that every single one of them had been to at least five different schools before they'd landed in our classrooms in seventh grade. Three of these students had lived in at least three different states. One, although he was born and had lived in our county for his entire life, had managed to make it through seven different elementary schools, oftentimes changing schools in mid-year. One student had no biological parent in the picture and had lived with grandparents, and a parade of other relatives throughout her life.

All of this brings up the question...how on earth are these kids going to learn anything, let along be identified as a possible candidate for special education testing, if they don't stay in any one place longer than a year, or in some cases, a few months?

Our district has a serious problem with what we call "rent-jumpers", parents who are one step ahead of the landlord and the bill collector and who bounce around from school zone to school zone. We get kids that start out the year in our school, move, go to another school, move again, and end up back with us. This is one of the reasons that the core subject areas tried to go with a pacing guide that basically tells us what standard to teach when - the idea was that a kid could bounce from school to school - within the district - and not miss out on any instruction.

However, if a kid is moving in and out of The District and in and out of The State, this doesn't do a bit of good. The kid gets, at best, a spotty education. At worst, the kid lands in seventh grade, reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, without any grasp of math basics, and, usually, without any desire to connect with classmates or teachers because, after all, it won't be long until the next move.

And these kids are just dropping through the cracks.

A good example is California Girl. She arrived before Thanksgiving from California. She left on Monday to go back to California. While she was with us, she'd managed to fail every class, mainly because she didn't do homework and was too busy, by her own admission, with keeping up with her friends on myspace. Her mother, although good at responding to emails, had her hands full with her own life (she was all of 26 years old herself), and quite honestly had given up on dealing with her daughter's lack of academic success. So now she's on her way back out West to yet another school, another set of standards, another set of teachers and friends.

Makes me want to scream.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hack! Hack! Harumph!

I haven't posted much because, quite frankly, I haven't felt like doing much of anything outside of crawling into bed and sleeping.

I have a cold.

It's that dreary, wet, cold, gray time of year when everyone seems to be run down and cranky and the germs and viruses have a field day. Most of my students have either had a cold, strep, or a stomach thing, and I suppose it was just a matter of time before I'd get something. You try to keep healthy by eating right, sucking down Airborne, and getting enough sleep but honestly, some of these nasty little viruses have mutated to the point that even teachers - with that marvelous trait of semi-immunity that we've earned by living with sick kids all winter long - get sick.

The problem is, it isn't one of those colds that's bad enough to really justify staying home, let alone the work it takes to get ready for a sub. And it's weird in that it hasn't really developed into a head cold with the stuffy nose and all that, but promptly went right to my chest where I developed a resounding cough. So, although my voice sounded like I should be working for a 900 number, and my throat hurt, and I sounded like I was going to yack up a hair ball, I managed to make it through the week. I even made it through the Friday dance where Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I charged kids a dollar for the pleasure of having us put gel or weird colored hair spray in their hair (and we made $175 for our seventh grade science reward party, thankyouverymuch).

But by Saturday I was out for the count and spent the bulk of the weekend in my sweats, watching A&E television, knitting, reading, and taking lots of naps.

It was lovely.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why I Love My Basement

If you haven't been living under a rock, you may have heard that we've had some pretty nasty weather down here in my beloved South. It has been, in a word, wild.

Due to Super Tuesday, the schools in our district were closed for students, but faculty and staff reported for an in-service. As far as in-service days go, this one was actually quite worthwhile as we had a very detailed presentation on gang awareness as well as some information on new special education laws. However, many of us were heard to mutter "Glad the kids aren't here as the weather will probably get nasty." We will remember our earlier run-in with bad weather in January, and I don't think any of us wanted to get stuck at school with our kids during a tornado. The fact of the matter was that it's just been too warm for February. We hit a record high of 72 degrees on Tuesday, and when it's that high this time of year, you know that cold weather is just around the corner. And when cold fronts and warm air hit, you get bad weather.

And man, did we get bad weather.

I was trying to watch the hockey game that evening when it started up. First, lots of wind. Lots and lots of wind. Then lightning, thunder, and heavy, heavy rain. I have a NOAA weather radio and it was beeping alerts every few minutes. The hockey game I was trying to watch had lost the audio and was intoning that computerized voice that told all of us that bad weather was on the way. (By the way, watching a hockey game without audio is a bit weird.) Around 8:30 I started moving some valuables down to the basement because it was making even me nervous. A few minutes later the sirens went off, so I tucked two cats under my arms and took them downstairs, ran up and got another cat, and then headed down there myself, closing the door behind me.

As an aside, when I had to buy a house down here Mr. Bluebird wasn't able to come down and help. His only request was I get a house with a finished basement because he thought this area had too many tornadoes. That I did, thank goodness.

I spent about 45 minutes down there before the warning expired and I was able to let the cats, who were really annoyed, back upstairs. I didn't, however, move anything else up as I had a feeling we weren't done.

We weren't.

Around midnight the second wave of storms woke me up. It was pounding and the lightning was flashing like a strobe light. I looked out the window and thought, for a moment, that it was foggy outside as I couldn't see the houses across the street clearly. It took me a minute to realize that it wasn't fog, it was just really heavy, heavy rain. I went out to the living room to turn on the news to see if we were under a warning when the sirens went off again. (I also managed to buy a house that has a tornado siren at the end of the street - when these things go off, we hear them.)
Grabbed cats and hustled everyone downstairs where I stayed until about one in the morning.

This last round was really bad. The hail was bouncing all over my deck before I headed to the basement and the sirens went on and on and on. Usually they'll sound off about 4 times before they stop, but this time I could hear them going on for a significantly longer time.

Of course, by the time it had all passed I was wide awake. I tried to go back to sleep but I was still awake an hour later when Mr. Bluebird arrived home from his trip back from Ohio. He'd dodged supercells the whole way home, hunkering down in gas stations and truck stops when it got so bad he couldn't drive.

The next day at school the kids were dragging. Many of them told me they'd spent the night sleeping in basements, their closets, or bathrooms. Shreck Boy was exhausted. He'd spent the night in the basement after the roof of their house began to lose shingles and the rain started to come in. Some kids told me about huge trees coming down in their yards, trampolines slinging through the neighborhood and ending up blocks away, and barns crashing down. The western edge of our county got hit really hard by a thunderstorm that destroyed one house and damaged at least 13 more. The tornadoes that ripped through the state, amazingly, rose back up in the air before they got very far within the county and we were spared a lot of the damage other counties are facing.

Last year, during the height of the drought, we didn't have one single tornado warning. This year, so far, we've had the sirens go off three times.

And it's February. Tornado season doesn't really begin until March.

Kind of makes me appreciate the basement.

Monday, February 04, 2008

So close, yet so very far

The annual county middle school basketball tournament began tonight. Since the only official sport we have for the middle schools happens to be basketball, this is a pretty big deal and it's the final send off for the year.

So, after treating ourselves to supper at Ruby Tuesday's, Mrs. Eagle and I headed over to the tournament which was held at the newly opened middle school here in town (right down the road from my subdivision). It was neat getting a chance to see what a new school looks like, as opposed to our 41 year old building. Plus, the boys were playing at 6:00 and we figured we could catch the game and still be home at a decent time, to say, record the Sarah Connor Chronicles for Hubby. (No, we don't have TIVO or any of that.)


We haven't had the greatest year this year in terms of basketball. We have, truth be told, a really little team. I remember the first game that we went to this year, and the boys thundered onto the court, and Mrs. Eagle and I both looked at each other and shook our heads. Our team looks like they came from an elementary school. I stand a whopping 5'3" and I know for a fact (because I'm teaching most of these kids) that I'm as tall as they are...or taller. And believe me, being taller than someone takes some doing for me. These kids are little. (They are, however, smart....of the three players I currently teach, all are A/B students and were before basketball started and most likely will continue to be good with the academics.)

So, we begin the game and amazingly enough, they do okay. It's not a major blow out like we've seen in the past, and by the half time we're only down about 8 points. That's pretty good. I was impressed. They were playing their hearts out, and although they didn't always make the shots, they kept at it and were being really scrappy and tough.

And then as we got to the final minutes they started to get closer and closer and closer to the other team. The other team had players who all stood at about six feet tall. They had two kids who were so tall and skinny that I thought they'd disappear if they'd turn sideways. (And these two could also hit three pointers like nobody's business.)

At the last possible second, they tie the game.

We go into a three minute over time. The parents and fans are screaming their lungs out.

It goes down to the very last second.

We lost by two points.

But man, they played their hearts out and acted like gentlemen. And that makes them winners in my book.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Carnival Time!

Mathew over at Creating Lifelong Learners is hosting another great Carnival, so be sure to check it out (beats grading papers after all!). Be sure to see how Mr. Teacher spends his lunch, even when he's out of ice cream, check out Carol's crazy day and what the kids say, and Mark's take on recess.