Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Road Trip to the Carnival!

The Science Goddess is at it again - it's a road trip to the Education Carnival! Hope on to the big yellow bus (it better be big what with all of us riding it!) and let's go!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pout Boy Gets His Comeuppance

Pout Boy has been, quite honestly, a royal pain in the butt all year. Pout Boy hasn't had a locker since November since he refuses to bring his books to class. He'll come in, tardy, make a big production of it, and throw himself in his seat. He's earned himself a visit to "isolation island" in every class because he can't shut up. He thinks he's amusing cracking jokes and making comments and yelling at his friends across the room. When I moved him to an even more isolated corner so he couldn't be a pest to everyone else in the room, his comment was that "I'm funny and I'm keeping them entertained.".


Forget calling/emailing the parents. They don't want to hear it, won't answer phone calls, and most likely delete all the emails. He's been banned from the nurse's office as he found a reason to go there nearly once a day and did nothing but sit around and crack jokes and use it as an excuse to get out of class. He's spent quite a bit of time in In-School-Suspension and he's been suspended a few times as well. He begged and begged and begged to get into after-school tutoring. We found him a slot, put him in, and his behavior got him kicked out within weeks. The tragedy of it is that he can be, when he puts his mind to it (which is rare) a good student. He can do the work. However, if something irritates him, if he gets yelled at by a teacher or other adult (which is frequent), he'll put his head down and pout and stomp around like a baby.

He really does think he's too cool for school. He's hip, he's happening, he's the coolest guy on the team.

Or so he thought.

Mrs. Language this week has started the kids in on a mythology project and they're having to work in groups. And for the final project of the year she decided to let the kids chose their own groups. On Monday she let her students roam around the room a bit and get their groups organized.

Pout Boy went to one group and they said no.

He went to another and they turned him down.

A third said "no way!"

A fourth shook their heads no before he got to their desks.

A fifth said they didn't want him because they knew they'd end up doing the work themselves.

A sixth and final group said they'd rather not because he's just too difficult to work with.

Crash and burn, baby!

Pout Boy, after hitting up each and every single group in the class, hoping for someone, anyone, to work with, came up empty.

He stomped over to his desk, whined at Mrs. Language that everyone was being mean, and put his head down and pouted the rest of the period.

There's a life lesson in there for Pout Boy, should he chose to see it. Will he? Who knows?

However, I'm a bit tickled to see that the other kids in the class have at least learned that having someone on your team who won't work is not a good thing. It's not all about having your pals with you and having a good time. It's about picking a group that can work together and get the job done with everyone doing their job. They just figured out that Pout Boy wasn't going to be an asset to their group and turned him down. They've been in class with him all year. They know what he's like. And they aren't laughing now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tag! I'm it! (According to Mr. Teacher)

Mr. Teacher, a math teacher in Texas who teaches - shudder - elementary math, tagged me for a meme...and since I happen to have the utmost respect for anyone who deals with elementary students (namely because my few years of subbing convinced me that I can't), I'll be a good sport and play the game.

Here's the rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

So let the fun begin!!

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was living in Ohio, working in a dead-in job in a manufacturing company where the only way you got promoted was if members of your family were on the payroll a hundred years ago when the company was founded. I saw the writing on the wall (and could spot poor management a mile away and knew trouble when I saw it) so I chucked it all, took out a fortune in student loans and went back to school to become a teacher. I already had my BS in business so it only took another two and a half years to get that taken care of.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Help hubby with a PowerPoint presentation he needs to present this week. Please note he has never made a PowerPoint before in his life. What's that about old dogs and new tricks?

2. Knit a bit on the lace sock I'm working on. Or the sweater. Or the lace wrap. Or something.

3. Watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. I love this time of year.

4.Make lunches for both Mr. Bluebird and I.

5.Read a bit more in Sense and Sensibility and Stiff. I never read just one book at a time.

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Ice cream, almost any type of nut, dark chocolate, chips and salsa. However, since I've managed to lose about 25 lbs this year I'll have to stick with a small amount of nuts and fat free popcorn.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Stop worrying about money forever.

2.Build a hockey rink so kids in my town have one to skate on and don't have to drive over an hour.

3.Buy a winery.

4. Give a lot of money to historical preservation organizations and the State Museum.

5) Three of my bad habits:

1. Snacking when I'm not really hungry.

2. Being really, really sarcastic.

3. Being very impatient with adults (but for some reason, not with kids).

6) 5 places I have lived:

1. Denver, Colorado

2. Torrance, California

3. Diamond Bar, California

4. Celina, Ohio

5. Clarksville, TN

7) 5 jobs I have had:

1.Worked in a donut shop.

2.Executive secretary for a national car rental agency.

3.Property manager for a marina and apartment complex.

4.Substitute teacher.

5.Middle School science teacher.

8) 6 peeps I wanna know more about:

1. Mrs. Cornelius - she's written some posts that left me in tears and others that absolutely left me laughing so hard I could scarcely breathe. There was one a few years ago where she mentioned parents enrolling their kids and using the UPS store as an address that nearly killed me. She also has good taste in music.

2. Leesa has some of the most interesting things to write about and I love her dogs. I also like her use of technology. I think she and I could drink margaritas and have a great time together.

3. Missteacha is another teacher I enjoy (egads, her cheer saga nearly gave me hives) and I'm fascinated with folks that teach in urban schools. It's a different world.

4. Mrs. T. just rocks. I get antsy when she doesn't post for a while and love hearing about what it's like teaching a foreign language. I can't wait to hear about Spain.

5. NYCeducator just amazes me. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to teach not only in an urban area, but in THE urban area of NYC. Again, it's a different world, and he always opens my eyes to things I've never encountered or thought of.

6. Darren is the sort of guy I'd love to have over for a beer and a BBQ, knowing full well that he, Mr. Bluebird and I would just have a ball talking politics and education and who knows what else. He rocks.

That's it folks! Enjoy

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Screamingly Good Time, Or How To Survive Field Day

As a rule, the teachers in the 7th grade look upon field day with dread. If it can go wrong, it most likely will.

Rain delays, for example, are torture. There is nothing quite like having 300 plus kids all ready for field day, hyped up and wound tight, only to have it postponed due to rain. No matter how fun and exciting your lessons are that day, they don't measure up to any potential field day, and the disappointment is palpable.

Field day is also a day where even the good kids can lose total control, start fights, or do something equally stupid. Last year's was one of the worst in recent memory, and any memories of good field days we had in previous years were nearly obliterated by this one. Nothing like freezing weather, injuries, flood and fights to make a miserable day.

So it was with apprehension that we approached this day.

And the volleyball tournament went off great. The kids screamed, yelled, but never got rowdy or out of control.

We went out to the kickball field and discovered that it was a picture perfect day. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, a nice breeze and temperatures, by the end of the day, in the low 80's. The kids ran around, bought snow cones, played kickball and had a ton of fun. Mr. Social Studies and I kept an eye on Angry Boy who has returned to us from a three month stint in a residential mental health facility and was a bit of a concern. He does not do well in unstructured environments (gym class was a nightmare with this kid), and we were waiting for his melt-down and subsequent visit to guidance. Amazingly enough, he survived the entire day without having a single melt-down or issue, truly something to be proud of.

Lunch went off without a hitch, and even going back to the homerooms to cool down and relax while one of the other 7th grade teams had their turn at lunch went well. We did have one issue with Angry Girl (is it me, or did we get every kid in the school diagnosed as bipolar this year?) when she went off on some girl from another team in the bathroom. Two of our girls came and got me, I had Mr. Social Studies watch my room, and caught Angry Girl as she was being escorted out of the bathroom by Mrs. Chicken. We had the kids do statements, I plopped her in guidance, and that was it.

By this time we're all looking at each other going, "This is weird but we've only had the one blow-up with Angry Girl and that's it? When is the other show going to drop?"

We finished kickball, and got the kids out to the playing field for the other events, things like sack races, tug of war, three legged race, and so forth. This is usually the part of the day that drives us crazy because trying to get the kids organized into the events they signed up for earlier in the week is like herding cats. They wander around, go get free hot dogs from the PTO, buy more candy bars, and generally are as elusive as mist when you really need them. We worked out a system where we started herding the teams together an event ahead of time. If someone couldn't be found, we grabbed a kid and stuck him or her on the team.

It worked great. In fact, it was so great that the P. E. Department was looking at us with their jaws hanging open. We finished field day a good 45 minutes early, mainly because we got the kids where they needed to be when they needed to be. They kept gushing over how cool it was that they didn't have to waste time rounding up kids. We broke the record for the fastest field day ever. (Maybe the fact we didn't have to waste time with fights helped as well.)

However, we didn't want to take them into the building and have them sit 45 minutes in our classrooms. That would have been nightmarish.

So we got 100 kids up on their feet and Mrs. Language lead them all in a rousing game of Simon Says.

And we all had a very good, very nice day.

Oh, we didn't win this year again. But we did come in second with 15 points. That was nice.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Formula for Insanity

What do you get when you take four Days of High Stakes Testing, add in a bunch of 11, 12 and 13 year olds, plus a very unusual Earthquake, lots of sugar, and the first really nice, sunny day for months?


Friday morning at breakfast with Mrs. Eagle we discussed tossing our lesson plans out the window. First off, we wanted to discuss the morning's earthquake with the kids because they'll be learning about them next year and it never hurt to give them a leg up. Besides, it could lead to a great class discussion and I could toss in some of my experiences growing up in Los Angeles. It's my belief that we don't talk enough about earthquakes and earthquake prepardness here in The South, and we've got the New Madrid Fault just a few hours away.

Secondly, we took one look at the weather report and decided to take the kids outside. They did great keeping quiet and still during our Very Big Deal State Mandated Tests, which is a lot to ask of a 7th grader. Heck, it's a lot to ask of anyone, quite frankly. These kids are used to getting up and moving every 45 minutes when classes change (more often in my room as I tend to have them move around a bit), and this week they pretty much had to stay quiet and still from 7:30 to 10:00 am. Mrs. Eagle and I are both huge believers that middle schoolers need to be outside more and need to blow off some steam. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and take them outside.

This worked great for three periods. Our two classes combined, played frisbee, tossed around some footballs, kicked a soccer ball, and drew with colored chalk all over the road. (I may add that we don't really have a playground or anything to put the kids on - we take them outside of Mrs. Eagles room which consists of some grassy areas, but mainly parking lot and a driveway going around the school to another parking lot area.) It was great. The kids loved it, we loved it, it was wonderful.

Until some morons in fourth period decided to have a fight. Mrs. Eagle and I spotted it starting and ran over and broke it up fairly quickly. It was between two of her kids, and four of mine helped break it up by pulling the boys off of each other. She marched them off to the office, while I marched all of the rest into her room and made them cool their jets and write witness statements if they saw anything. Great.

Fifth period rolls around and we decide to take them out again because they shouldn't pay a penalty because fourth period had some idiots in it. No problem with this group (of course, I think we both scared the hell out of them regarding behavior requirements before we left the classroom). Later Mrs. Eagle and I both had to talk with Mrs. Squirrel who was working the referrals as the two boys who were tangling said that when my kids pulled them apart they started beating them up - something, quite honestly, neither of us saw.

What bothered Mrs. Squirrel, Mrs. Eagle, and myself was that we all firmly believe that these kids need to get outside, need to blow off steam, need to breathe fresh air, run across grass, and stare at clouds if that's what floats their boat. However, these kids may have ruined it for everyone due to their behavior. I certainly hope not.

In the meantime, The School had a huge reward for all the students who were on time and present for every day of testing. They had a choice of a concert by a local country artist in the gym, a movie (Alvin and the Chipmunks) in the theater, and concessions in the cafeteria. All teachers were expected to help monitor and keep the kids in line, which meant no planning for the seventh grade. It also meant trying to maintain chaos with over 1000 kids who had been cooped up all week. I'm surprised we didn't have a fight or two in the concession line.

The best part was that we got the kids all hyped up on cotton candy, soft drinks, and other junk food and then put them on the buses to go home. Oh yeah, the other best part was the rumor going through school all morning that the movie was going to be The 300. Yeah, like that's going to happen. Middle Schoolers can be so gulible

The worst part was that the time dragged on and on and on. You can bet that when the last bus rolled down the street, and the last walker had left the building, we were ready to go home.

It was definitely a two-glass of wine night.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shake, Rattle and Roll!

Holy Crap.

4:36 am and I am awakened, as usual, by the feline alarm clocks known as Morgan and Duke. A couple of seconds later we have an earthquake.

An earthquake! In Tennessee!!

I grew up and spent 30 years in Los Angeles, so believe me, I know earthquakes. And this was definitely an earthquake.

And although I know the New Madrid fault is nearby, the last thing I was expecting this morning was a quake.

There's a teachable moment in here somewhere. Time to whip out one of my favorite books, "A Crack In the Edge of the World" by Simon Winchester, and toss today's lesson out the door and pull one together on quakes.

Gosh, I hate earthquakes, but I love teachable moments.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Fat Lady Isn't Singin' kiddos!

Today we finished the last, the very last, part of the Really Big Deal State Mandated Tests.

It has been a long, dreadfully dull, week. The kids, for the most part, did great when it came to being quiet, bringing in their #2 pencils, and remembering their calculators for the math section. Granted, the last five minutes you could see them start twitching and wiggling a bit, but honestly, I'd be doing the same if I was in their shoes. Asking a bunch of 13 year olds to sit quietly for nearly three hours is asking a lot.

Of course, Pout Boy had to act like an idiot in Mr. Social Studies' class which I suppose is to be expected. He decided when he finished his test that he was going to lay down on the floor and take a nap. Not a smart move on his part. Mr. Social Studies got him back in his seat without a major disruption (thank goodness since he was one of the first done, having simply breezed through the reading and language arts test without doing any reading and simply coloring in bubbles). However, Mr. Social Studies was worried as he could be disruptive to the point where we'd have a serious "test irregularity" to report to the State. Mr. Enforcer was told and he yanked Pout Boy in, rattled his cage, and today he was forced to cool his jets in guidance all morning then take the test in a small group setting with the kids who had been absent, along with his own personal baby sitter to make sure he didn't act like an idiot again. He won't be attending the reward party either which will also make him angry and cause, yet again, one of his pouting scenes.

One of the unfortunate side effects of taking the Really Big Deal State Mandated Test so freaking' early in the year (hello, would May have killed anyone?) is that the kids think they are done with school and that the remainder of the year is play time.

Think again.

I spent most of today reminding them of this fact, and reinforcing it with three behavior notes for students who could not stop talking to save their lives. Of course, these three were from my Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself (remember, the class with a 69% average). I requested another student desk as I have run out of "isolation island" desks for this crew (including Pout Boy who is incapable of sitting anywhere near anyone else).

We still have five weeks left, and those five weeks can be make or break for some of these kids. Hopefully they'll figure this out.

But I won't bet on it.

Carnival Time!

Is all that high stakes testing getting you down? Have you been watching kids take tests so long that you're using toothpicks to hold up your eyelids? If so, take a gander at this week's Carnival Education, hosted by the CEA Blog. There's plenty of good stuff to chew on, and it will definitely keep you awake!!!

And better doesn't require a #2 pencil!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Big Question...

Is there anything more boring than watching a classroom full of kids taking a test?


Hum. That's what I thought.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ready, Set, Go?

On Friday, I covered up or took down any poster, sign, model, knickknack or whatnot that might influence my students on the Really Big Deal Government Mandated Test.

I sharpened 24 Dixon Ticonderoga pencils to a stiletto point.

I have my box of extra erasers ready.

Everything is a go for the Really Big Deal Government Mandated Test. I even went and bought a huge box of granola bars for my kiddos who don't eat breakfast, just in case they were hungry


The last frost date, supposedly, in this part of the country (so say the folks at the Master Gardening class I took last month), is April 15th. It reached eighty degrees on Friday.

The weather people are calling for rain and snow tonight and tomorrow.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the very first day of our four days of Really Big Deal Government Mandated Testing.

In this part of the country, they cancel school at the mere mention of the words "ice" and "snow". But will they cancel, knowing that tomorrow is a Really Big Deal Government Mandated Testing day???

Only time, and the weather, will tell.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Give That Mom an A!

We have a student this year who belongs to a competitive cheerleading team. Cheer Girl is one of my favorite students although she's one of my lowest academically. She's a sweet kid, always wants to show me pictures of her cheer events, her dog, her mom, anything she can take a picture of. Every Monday I get a complete run-down on her weekend. She's also the sort of kid who'll walk in the room and give me a hug just because. She's also about the only kid who's shorter than me which may be one reason I like her! She's probably, at best, maybe about 4'10" tall.

However, as short as she is, she has a really well-developed bustline. And, as girls these days seem to do, she sometimes wears clothing that's a bit too revealing than she should be wearing.

Today, after first period, Mr. Social Studies pulled me aside while the kids were at their lockers.

"Do me a favor and talk with Cheer Girl. She's in my front row and I spent most of the period staring at the ceiling," he whispers.

I walk over to where Cheer Girl is at her locker. Mr. Social Studies isn't kidding. She's showing off her assets in a manner that would make Britney Spears proud.

I lean over and whisper in her ear. "Hey honey, your hooties are showing a bit much, you need to go to guidance and get something else to wear."

She lets out a big heavy sigh, crosses arms over her chest and trudges off to guidance.

Fast Forward to fourth period. Cheer Girl isn't there when I take attendance so I figured that she either was in ISS (where we put kids who have parents who won't bring them a change of clothes when we have a dress code violation), or her mother had checked her out for some reason. A few minutes later, she comes in, gives me an admittance pass, and a hug, and quietly goes to her seat. She is wearing a different, much more appropriate shirt by now.

The kids are on computers working on a Big Deal State Mandated Test review game called Study Island, and are chatting quietly while they work. I'm cruising around the room, helping kids hear and there when I overhear Cheer Girl talking to her lab partner.

"What happened to you?" her partner asks.

"They said my shirt wasn't up to dress code so I had to go to guidance. They made me call my mom to bring me some new clothes."

"But you missed lunch!" her friend says. (God forbid anyone misses lunch.)

"Yeah, because my mom was mad. She wouldn't bring me any clothes. She took me to Walmart and made me buy a new shirt. With my allowance money. She wouldn't pay for any of it!"

That's one mom who made her point, I think! Way to go Mom!!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm Not Gonna Complain...Yet

Remember the great big nasty record-breaking drought I whined about last year?

It's almost gone.

And, if you take into account the nearly five inches of rain we had over Thursday and Friday, then it really feels like it's nearly over.

The creeks and rivers that I have to cross to get anywhere around town are out of their banks, many city parks are near flooding, and the River Walk down along the river has water up over the sidewalk.

And my lawn, that hasn't been green in a year, is at least 6" high.

By the way, if I could find a way to make money out of chickweed and henbit, I'd be rich.

The big riding mower is out of commission. That stupid thing never seems to start up well after the winter and I have trouble with it on a good day. It really needs a tune up and Hubby really needs to look into it, but he's so swamped with his book project right now that I gave up on the mower getting in running condition. However, they're calling for more rain on Tuesday, and I don't see anyone giving me a herd of sheep to mow my lawn the easy way, so I got out the push-mower and went to work.

The push-mower, by the way, was used twice at the end of the year and we bought it when Sears was trying to get rid of mowers. It's wonderful. I love the fact that it starts right up and roars to life without me having to dislocate a shoulder yanking on the starter.


My yard is big, and my house sits on a hill. And it took two hours to mow the entire front yard.

I am trashed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

And Now We Know...The Rest of the Story

Scatter Boy is gone. During Spring Break his father and step-mother apparently decided that he would be better off living with his biological mother in North Carolina. I'm not sure exactly why they came to this decision. It could have to do with finances, as there are a lot of mouths to feed at home and I know money is tight. Or, Dad, who is quite a disciplinarian, decided he'd had one phone call too many about Scatter Boy discipline issues. Who knows?

Scatter Boy came to The District as a sixth grader, when he came to live with his father. His sixth grade teachers had horrible problems with him, both with academics and behavior. He nearly lived in the guidance office and spent a lot of time getting emotionally worked up over just about everything. The sixth grade teachers had several meetings with his father who insisted that there was nothing wrong with Scatter Boy. He just needed structure and discipline. The records we got from North Carolina gave no indication whatsoever that he was a special education, nor if he was ever tested. Dad said he didn't need testing, so no testing ever happened. He was support-teamed, put into after school tutoring, and non-academically promoted to the seventh grade.

The Team got him this year and went through the same routine that the sixth grade teachers went through. It was obvious that something was wrong with this kid. He couldn't focus. He couldn't keep track of things. He was horribly immature one minute and the next minute he was acting like an adult (he's also a rather tall, lanky kid who looks a bit older than your typical seventh grader). Often times I'd glance over at him and he would be twitching ever so slightly and would have a look in his eyes as if fireworks were going on in his head. We got him into study skills with Mr. Title, and got him into after school tutoring. However, he was still failing every class and struggling. Dad, still, believed that there was nothing wrong with him that a little discipline couldn't fix. After all, it's his kid, so he should know, right?

It was frustrating. We knew there was something going on, but his cumulative file and his father never let on what it was, even when asked.

So, I'm cruising through guidance this afternoon during planning and the Guidance Goddess stops me.

"You are not, not, not, going to believe the phone call I just got."

"Scatter Boy is coming back?" I guessed. There had been an issue with custody papers and we were betting he'd be back. It has, after all, been known to happen.

"Remember when I told you that I got a call from the school he went to and they were asking where his special education file was and I told him that he wasn't special ed?"

"Yeah," I said, wondering where this was going.

"Well, they called back to let me know that they found his special ed file. His fifth grade teacher had it."

I was speechless. "You mean to tell me that he was a special ed student?" I asked.

"Yup," she said.

"And his father never told us, he never told us, and the school never sent us the records because his teacher had it in her room?" I was incredulous.

"That about sums it up," she said.

Mrs. Squirrel walks by around this time and we fill her in on the conversation. As a former special education teacher before she went into administration, Mrs. Squirrel has a soft place in her heart for these kids and is our special ed expert. She was stunned.

"All this time," she said shaking her head, "this kid was in regular classes, and he should have been in special ed classes. All because we never got the file."


Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Carnival Time!

Got the Testing Blues? Hike on over to I Want to Teach Forever and spend some time at this week's excellent carnival!