Friday, October 31, 2008

Harumph. It's Halloween

Whomever decided it was a good idea to give our students candy during their 1st and 2nd period related arts classes deserves to be strung up by their toes.

Bouncing off the walls doesn't begin to describe it.

If you're going to give the little cherubs candy, give it to them 5 minutes before they leave so they can bounce off their own walls and drive their parents to drink.

Reason Number One why I hate Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Speed Conferencing

I just got home from parent teacher conference night.

I'm whupped. It's a long day - thirteen hours for me, since I show up at 6:30am and left at 7:30 pm. The PTO, bless their hearts, did feed us a nice BBQ supper, with all the trimmings - potato salad, baked beans, mac and cheese, and plenty of veggies and desserts. This is The South, after all, where we consider mac and cheese to be a vegetable.

In any case, parent teacher conference night is sort of like speed dating. We sent out a form with the reports cards on Friday, where all the parent had to do was circle the name of the teacher or teachers on the child's team and send it back. Once we got them all in by the cut-off time of Tuesday, we scheduled the parents in to see us in 10 minute blocks. So it goes something like this...

Meet with Mr. Math for ten minutes.


On to Miss Reading for ten minutes.


Down the hall to Ms. Language for ten more minutes.


Around the corner to Mrs. Social Studies for ten minutes!


And lastly, next door to Mrs., Bluebird for ten minutes!



We had more forms turned in than we had time slots so we sort of had to pick and choose, and we chose the ones from parents we really needed to talk to. The others got a nice note reminding them that they can simply call the office to make an appointment any day during our planning.

Pinball Boy's mother, obviously, was scheduled in first. We needed to talk to her, and badly! He's still bouncing off the walls, and this week he and I are focusing on him staying in his seat when it is appropriate - he gets to move around my room a lot more than the other kids as he's passing out papers, turning the lights on and off, answering the door, and so forth, but he still needs to learn that there's a time to be up and around and a time to sit down. Mom seems frazzled (there are 4 more, after all) and she did say that she was trying to find a new doctor as their old doctor retired. She realizes there's a problem, so we can only hope that she will work with us to fix it.

Most of my students are going through the typical seventh grader DUH phase - they don't do work, don't study, can't seem to get it together and are in a perpetual fog. Every year we get parents who wonder what happened to that adorable little sixth grader who never caused a fuss and now is moody and doing badly in school.

We call it getting hit with the hormone hammer.

In any case, I did have a couple of cool moments, both dealing with two of my special ed kids. I got lucky this year because my special ed kids are awesome. They nearly all have incredible work ethics, they try hard, they're polite, sweet, and never a behavior problem. This is a huge change from years gone by. One of them, Big-Eyed Boy, loves science and is my top student in my Fifth Period Class From the Depths of Hell Itself.

Okay, tangent coming here...I may have to rename this class. I put in a new discipline program last week (Thanks to Leesepea), and they have straightened up like nobody's business. Of course, a lot of them have been absent lately, but they still are turning it around.

Anyhow, Big-Eyed Boy may be special ed, but this is one smart kid. He just has trouble processing, but once he gets it, he gets it. His benchmark rocked. He's wonderful. Mom was nearly in tears.

"Would you mind if I got my husband on the phone and you could tell him this? He'll never believe me."

No problem there. She calls up hubby and I tell him what I told her. Great job, hard worker, good benchmark, I'd take a classroom full of him if I could. Dad is going, "Really?" and I'm saying, 'Yup, he's going places if he stays this focused."

Mom thanks me. And thanks me again. And can hardly get out of the room. But really, I should be thanking her because that kid is a ray of sunshine in my life.

Sweet Boy's Mom and Dad show up. Sweet Boy is home studying for his science test. I told mom last time I saw her that I was going to do something different for this test. Sweet Boy reads, at best, at a second grade level. He has not been able to pass a modified test, even though it's read to him. However, I know, from listening to him, that he knows the stuff. So we're going to do an oral test. I'm going to get with him and talk about science. And hopefully this will help his grade, and his self-confidence. Mom and Dad are just delighted that I'm willing to try this. They can't believe how lucky they are that Sweet Boy is on a great team (and honestly, all our teams in the 7th grade are pretty darn good). They are so pleased to see that he's doing better and focusing a lot more.

Parents like that make it worth while.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What's that Crazy Noise in My Brain?

So I made it back from Fall Break in one piece, surviving the Great Colorado Yarn Tour (where Mom, Aunt, and Cousin Penguin and I hit 5 yarn shops in 3 days, which is pretty good for a crazy bunch of knitters), helping Aunt move irrigation pipe and feed calves, yukking it up with Cousin Penguin (made me feel 20 again), and generally having a great fantastic wonderful time.

And on Sunday, hubster and I topped it off by adopting another rescue cat, a 4-month old kitten we named Red Jackson. We had to put our beloved Morgan to sleep in late September (cancer finally caught up with her) and we decided to add another to our family. However. You know how cats sleep something like 18 hours a day? This one does not.

So, I'm not getting a great deal of sleep, and we're doing benchmarks all this week and next, and we had a dance today after school and it's just nuts.

Which is why I didn't completely freak out when, yesterday, this weird noise was lurking around my 6th period class. It was one of those sounds that you aren't really quite sure you're hearing...a very high pitched squeal or whine that would fade in and out, and then you'd think it was gone and then it would be back.

At first, I wasn't even sure I was hearing right. After all, you get 28 7th graders in a room and you hear all sorts of weird noises. Then I was wondering if maybe someone had a cell phone and it was making a noise. Then one of the kids mentioned that they were hearing this really strange noise.

"You too?" I asked. Most of the kids on that side of the room nodded. The rest looked perplexed. "I think it might be coming from outside," one of them volunteered.

So, I pop my head out the door and discover nothing but scattered rain clouds and an empty courtyard. Nothing there. I then check my sound system and fiddle with the buttons thinking some kid had been messing with it or something. The sound seemed to stop for a while and then it came back.


I couldn't figure it out and the sound was somewhat intermittent, so I decided to plow right on ahead and get through our foldable notes on body systems. I figured I could check around later after the room was empty and see if I could figure it out.

About three minutes before class ends, however, one of my students, Curly Haired Girl, frantically starts waving her hand in the air.

"I know what the sound is!" she said, her face beaming as if she's solved some great riddle - which she had.

"You do?" I ask, and all the kids turn and look. How on earth could this quiet, unassuming girl figured out the Mystery of the Squealing Noise?

"Yes!" she giggled. "It's my hearing aides! This means they need to get serviced!"

At that point I lost it along with Curly Haired Girl and the rest of the class. Who would have thought? Curly Haired Girl is hearing impaired but you'd hardly know - you never see her hearing aides (all that curly hair), and she doesn't seem to be any different from any other kid. In fact, she pays attention better than most, so you don't even remember that she has an IEP.

We all enjoyed a good giggle, she promised she'd tell mom about the noise, and we ended the day on a high note. Isn't it cool when kids like Curly Haired Girl have no problem being different? And the kids in her class don't find it weird at all?

Sometimes they surprise me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Break!

One nine week grading period done, three to go.

I need this break. I'm heading out to Colorado to meet up with Mother and visit the old Homeplace, shop for yarn, knit, walk, and relax.

Where I'm going, there is no wifi, so I'm leaving the computer. Heck, I'll be lucky to get a good cell phone signal.

See you when I get back!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

When Reality Smacks You Upside the Head

Friday will be the last day of our first nine-week grading period.

(It will also be the last day before our week-long fall break and those of us teaching seventh grade this year are nearly besides ourselves with glee, but I digress.)

This is the time of the grading period where we'll see some of the little cherubs who have done absolutely freaking nothing but suck in oxygen all quarter become a bit concerned.

One girl in my notorious Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, Softball Girl, who has a a whopping 50% in my class, came up to me on Tuesday with a printout from our PowerSchool grade program. Someone (Mom perhaps?) had gone over all the missing assignments with a highlighter. (On an aside, one reason I like this program is that when you give a kid a zero for an assignment, you can also code it as missing if it wasn't turned in.) There were about 15 missing assignments. "Can I make these up?" she asked. Normally I don't accept late work, but hey if she wants to spend all night making up fifteen assignments, I'll give her partial credit.

"Sure," I said. "Do you have them all written down in your agenda?"

She nods her head in the affirmative.

"Then go for it," I say. Any bets on if I'll see any of it.

Anyone? Someone?

They have been crawling out of the woodwork, asking for extra credit, wanting to turn in late work, wondering if there was a way to turn that 43% into a passing 70% (ah, no, there really isn't).

This absolutely slays me. Every three weeks we send out progress reports. Kids have their own PowerSchool passwords and can get on line and monitor their own progress daily if they so desire. If they don't have internet at home, I'll print out a progress report (and my new favorite report, the missing assignment report - that scares them a bit when they see it all listed there in black and white). In short, there's no way on this earth they don't realize that they're digging, digging, digging a hole. They're just busy finding ways to stay off task.

Until, of course, it finally dawns on them (after hearing us go on and on and on and on about it) that Report Cards Are Coming Out Soon and I'm Going to Get Grounded!

The good news is that, usually, a lot of these kids wake up from their seventh grade beginning of the year coma and actually kick it up a notch.

Usually. With this group, however, I'm not placing any bets.

I'm just hoping they mature a bit over fall break.

Yeah, right...

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Tale of Two Mothers

Tiny Tim's mom is at it again.

If you recall, this is one of my mothers who does her son's work, questions every thing we do, and really, really, needs to get out more. We suspect all she does is chain smoke her cigarettes, play on the internet, wait for her public assistance, and email people just to complain about life. She is not a happy woman to be blunt about it. What's sad is she has a neat kid who's learned that he doesn't need to do a thing as his mom will do it for him. He won't ask a single question in class, and instead waits to go home, tells his mom his question, she fires off a snotty email along the lines of "why didn't you help Tiny Tim with this", and we're once again blind-sided.


She'd left me alone for a few weeks as she was busy tormenting the other teachers on the team (it's almost as if she decides which teacher she's going to pick on each week). However, I made the fatal mistake of having the kids clean out their binders and took a binder grade last week.

Let me explain a bit about the is a district-wide mandate that the students in middle school follow a program called GPA (Greater Potential for Achievement) which is modeled, somewhat, on the AVID programs our high schools offer. Each kid has a binder that is organized for each subject, and each subject has three sections - homework, classwork and notes, and returned work. We helped the kids set up their binders, and explained (over and over and over) how they work. We also explained (over and over and over) that they needed to keep all their returned work in the - surprise! - returned work section of their binders until we clean them out.

So, since we are starting in on biology, and it's near the end of the grading period, I had the kids clean out their classwork (except for foldables) and their returned work sections. I had them turn in their Unit 2 test which I'd graded and returned. After all, if the kids are keeping up with their binders, they should have this test. Pretty simple, really, and most kids (including my bunch in ISS) had this in their binders.

Tiny Tim did not have his. Therefore I got hate mail. Vicious, nasty, ugly hate mail.

She thinks the binders are STUPID. She doesn 't agree with them and therefore refuses to use them they way they are to be used. Her son shouldn't have to do what everyone else does. She cleans out his binder every night and throws every thing away because it's STUPID that we have to keep any returned work. She never kept any work from when she was in college (this surprised me because if you meet her, she talks and acts like she barely got out of high school) because it was STUPID to do so. How dare I didn't tell her when I was going to do a binder clean up and how dare I not tell her what I was going to collect, and how dare I not email her every single detail of every single decision I make each and every day. And while she was at it, she didn't agree with our Very Big Deal State Mandated Test and NCLB either. (Like I have any control over that).

I didn't respond. I simply sent it to The Principal.

The Principal ended up in a 45 minute phone conversation with Mean Nasty Mom who proceeded to berate her for every little thing she could think of, including the lunch menu and the color of the floor tiles. The Principal basically told her that instead of always looking at the negative, perhaps she should celebrate the fact that her son has the best team of teachers in the seventh grade and that he's doing well.

And that probably went over like a lead balloon.

So while The Principal is wasting her time listening to this woman vent, her phone calls are going to voicemail. After she gets rid of Mean Nasty Mom, she starts to go through them which, by all accounts is usually a depressing experience because it's usually nothing but people complaining about one thing or another.

And then she gets the call from Sweet Boy's Mom.

"Mrs. Principal, I know the only reason anyone ever calls you is to complain so I thought I'd call and tell you what a fantastic job Mrs. Bluebird and her team is doing to help Sweet Boy this year. I can't believe how they're willing to go the extra mile for him, are helping him so much with some one on one tutoring, and how they always have his best interests at heart."


Funny. One Team of Teachers. Two Moms. Two completely different viewpoints.

Maybe it's how you look at the world - you can hate everything and always see the negative, or you can believe in always seeing the positive.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time for the Education Carnival!

I don't know about ya'll, but if your week has been like mine, it's time to take some R&R and visit this week's Carnival of Education hosted by Creating Lifelong Learners - hop on over for some Fall Fun!