Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Break

I don't know when I've looked forward to spring break with such anticipation.

I'm not doing anything exciting, really. Hubby and I went to a conference in Nashville on Saturday, then went to Louisville on Sunday and pretty much the rest of the week I'll be home doing yard work, knitting, reading, cleaning house, maybe some painting, and possibly cleaning out the garage (that depends on the weather). We may catch a movie or two, or just sit and get caught up on the DVD's. I'm also grading homework packets, but that's just what teachers do, I suppose.

But I'm so glad it's here.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the kids, who, as you well know, haven't been the best crop of seventh graders to come down the line are insane.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that the kids all lost their minds - even the normally good classes were horrid - after lunch on Friday. Since we eat lunch relatively early, it made for a rough day. A really rough day. Even Coach Math was at his wit's end.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that we had a fight in the hall fifteen minutes before the end of the day when kids were moving to their afternoon homerooms, and it involved a split lip, blood, and two morons who quite honestly need to learn to shut the hell up and stop calling people names, especially each other.

Maybe we all just need a break from each other.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old Habits are Hard to Break

Yesterday I took a quick glance at my email and saw one from the Guidance Goddess with the subject line of "Bully Boy".


I opened it up. All it said was "He's back!"

Oh crap.

I quickly forwarded it to The Team and they pretty much had the same response. Bully Boy was, to be honest, responsible for about 25% of the discipline referrals on our team, and with him gone, things were a lot calmer. Amazing how one kid can really stir the pot.

But he was back. And usually when a kid returns, he's put back on the same team with the same schedule. Figures. Just when my Fifth Period was actually getting somewhat sane and they were able to sit through an entire class period without a ruckus.

So, during lunch, Mrs. Social Studies, Ms. Language and I went to find out what was going on and to beg, if need be, that he be put on another team. He was back, with mom, and they were both living with grandma. Apparently they had been tossed out of their apartment in the nearby city (I'm not sure where the information came from but the words "meth use" or "meth manufacture" were mentioned and neither would surprise me considering his parents' history). And, surprisingly, Mr. Enforcer actually did put him on another team. His idea was that Bully Boy had pretty much tormented every kid in our area of the school and putting him on a team that was in a more enclosed area, like Mr. Social Studies and Mrs. Bunny's team, would be ideal. It could be watched more closely.

We groveled at Mr. Enforcer's feet and praised him to the heavens for this wise act.

We then informed his new team not to worry, it would only be a matter of time before he'd be in ISS or suspended. We did warn them to keep their eyes on him at all times (remember, he's a thrower) and to make sure he is nowhere near smaller kids or sped kids. We also warned them that lunch could be an issue as he likes to mess with kids then, as well, especially with slaps to the back of the head. Obviously, this team was less than thrilled. However, considering that our team is leading the entire school with discipline referrals and seats in alternative school, it's time to spread the wealth around.

So today, twenty-four hours later, we are walking our kids back from lunch and as we go by Mr. Enforcer's office (which is right smack in the middle of our team area), we see, of all people, Bully Boy sitting in his office.

Amazing! It only took a day and a half before he'd landed in trouble.

He apparently decided to pick on one of their smaller, and I mean small kids, a little thing who may weigh sixty pounds if he's lucky. It happened at lunch and the end result is he got mad at the Little Tyke, and smashed his hand on the table. Mr. Duck and I saw the videotape (amazing how Bully Boy always gets into trouble right in front of a camera) and it's the same mean kid I knew from before. He even has the same mannerisms of looking all around him for an authority figure to make sure they aren't watching before he launches his attacks. Apparently he keeps forgetting about the cameras that keep filming his misdeeds.

Of course Mr. Enforcer couldn't get a hold of a parent or adult at any of the phone numbers listed on the emergency card to inform them that he'd be in ISS for five days.

Some things never change.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Target Acquisition Problem

Yet another one for the file entitled "You Can't Make This Stuff Up."

So this afternoon I'm down at the local elementary with Mrs. Duck, Mrs. Eagle, and Mrs. Angora (who actually raises angora goats) among a few others as we've been asked to help judge the elementary science fair. That in itself was quite fun. We didn't see a lot of silly projects along the lines of "how many marbles will each brand of paper towel hold?", but instead saw some really creative projects with good science behind them. It's obvious that the elementary teachers were setting the bar a bit higher and that was good to see. We judged the fourth grade kids and our winner did a project on decomposition (no, not bodies, although I see a future at the UT Knoxville Body Farm for this kid), plus another great one on what type of clothing motorcycle riders should wear (he used fabric, chicken legs, and parents driving a truck to help test - very clever).

In any case, we're chatting a bit afterward and Mrs. Angora starts telling us a story about giving the social studies benchmark to her homeroom kids yesterday. Apparently she has a Stoner Kid in her class (it seems like we all do this year) who's a sweet kid, but, well, stoned nearly all the time. In any case, as she walked through the room, all the kids had their heads down and were working, including Stoner Kid who was busy bubbling in his sheet and working diligently on his test. Warm fuzzies all around.

After the test, she's going through the answer sheets and notices that, weirdly, there are no bubbles bubbled in on Stoner Kid's answer sheet. What the hell?? She saw him working. She knew he was bubbling in bubbles on something. How come his sheet is blank?

So she starts to investigate and walks over to Stoner Kid's desk.

And there on that desk are 30 little circles all bubbled in as nice as could be!

Stoner Kid apparently had a bit of trouble figuring out where, exactly the answer sheet ended and his desk began.

Wanna guess who had to take the test again today???

And you know We Aren't Leaving This Child Behind, even though he's hitting the weed every morning before he stumbles through our door.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Carnival Time!

It's the spring break edition hosted by An Aspiring Educator! Hurry over and check it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Southern Spring

This past Friday we had a snow day due to the two inches of white stuff that fell the night before.

Today it's 78 and gorgeous.

Trees are budding out, the forsythia are doing their thing and it's spring here in the South.

However, I'm not naive. Mother Nature isn't finished with winter yet. I still remember the spring break a few years ago when it went from 85 to 18 in one day.

I won't believe it's truly spring until about, oh, the 20th of April.

But I'm going to enjoy the day or two we get here and there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Rant - Casting Off Accessories, Teacher Accountability and the Reality of Our World

A few years ago, I did a post on how I think most parents consider their children to be accessories. Unfortunately, I still think that way. However, now these parents are apparently casting off their accessories because they're too much work.

Case in point. I had a student last year who had a lot of severe mental problems, bi-polar being the least of them. Biological dad was in jail somewhere in another state, he lived with mom and sister. He spent time during his sixth grade year in a mental institution, and did a return visit during the year I had him. He was spending most of his eighth grade year in our Behavior Adjustment unit but I noticed recently that I hadn't seen him around which was unusual. I mentioned this to the BA teacher the other day and she informed me that his mother had washed her hands of him and turned him over to the state and he was now in foster care and attending another school. The BA teacher was in court (called as a witness) when this happened and basically said that his mother told the court that she didn't want anything to do with him any more. I'm sure hearing that must have made this kid's day.

Another teacher, Mrs. Strawberry, was summoned to court last week to appear as a witness in a custody case involving a student. She mentioned that while she sat in the court waiting for her case to come up not one, not two, but three parents were there turning their kids over to the state! And that's just one day in one court in one city.

And of course last week we had the President trot out his first education policy speech laced with buzzwords like accountability. Of course, he means, like every other politician out there, teacher accountability.

What I want to know is when in the bloody hell are parents going to start to be held accountable?

I get a number of education-related email newsletters every day and one this week had an interesting blurb about a study done by Henry C. Berliner and published jointly by the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University's Education Policy Research Unit that described seven out-of-school factors that play a role in a child's educational success. (For those of us in the classroom this is a big "duh" moment as we already know this - apparently most policy makers either don't or they don't care.) The factors include prenatal care, health care, food insecurity, environmental pollutants, family stress, neighborhood characteristics and extended learning systems.

I firmly believe that before any legislator, and that includes the President, makes any sort of law or policy in education, they need to walk in our shoes. This does not mean going to a high achieving elementary school with freshly scrubbed, well dressed, well fed cherubs who sit at your feet while you read a picture book to them and you get your photo op for the networks. How about working as a substitute teacher for a few weeks? Spend some time in the behavior adjustment unit with the kids with mental issues. How about some time working as the in school suspension teacher? Try to set up a parent meeting with a parent that not only didn't provide us with a working phone number, but all the other emergency contact numbers are bad as well. And then when you get that meeting set up (should that miracle occur) how about standing in the office for fifteen minutes waiting for the parent to not show up? How about enjoying that parent phone call where they tell you that "what happens in school is not my problem, you deal with it!". Sit in on an s-team meeting, a 504 meeting and an IEP meeting. Get all your paperwork done, your lessons planned, and then teach, teach, teach kids who aren't fed, washed, or cared for.

It's a tough thing to Not Leave A Child Behind when parents, such as they are, don't parent and are doing their best to drag their children down.

P.S. I haven't read the report cited above. I'd like to, but as of yet I haven't found it, just articles about it (and I'm not paying for any article, thankyewverymuch.) If anyone finds it, let us know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ah the Drama!

I. Am. So. Sick. Of. The. Girl. Drama.

To the point where if one more whiny seventh grade girl comes up to me and says she needs to have a schedule change because so and so is talking mean about her, I'm going to completely lose it and it won't be pretty. I am not alone. The whole team is fed up with the drama and the whining and the fussing and the "she said, she said, she said," crap. Even Coach Math has had enough. We're about ready to pull a team Come to Jesus meeting and basically slap them upside with reality.

As someone who came to education after 15 years in the corporate world - 15 years spent working, at times, with complete idiots that I didn't particularly like or enjoy working with but I sucked it up because it was my JOB - it drives me nuts when a kid comes up and asks for a seat change or a schedule change because "I don't get along with so and so."

Suck it up and deal with it kiddo. You're going to go through life having to deal with people you don't like so get used to it now.

(Disclaimer: When it's a real case of bullying, we take care of it and take care of it fast. What we have here is just a simple case of a bunch of kids sniping and whining and being snotty to each other. I will not write a kid up for bullying who simply tells another girl that she doesn't like her outfit.)

They hate my answer by the way. The expect their teachers to simply rearrange the seating chart to accommodate their wishes. It kills them when they realize that my world doesn't revolve around them.

So, this past week, we've had the Girl Drama thing going on, which includes a formerly sweet girl who's now become the Mean Girl, who talked trash about Hyperventilating Girl who, apparently broke up with her boyfriend (good riddance I say) and when Mean Girl started being a bitch to her at lunch, hyperventilated and almost fainted at lunch. So of course, now Hyperventilating Girl doesn't want to come to fifth period even though Mean Girl is All The Way Across The Freaking Classroom from her. (I got an email from Guidance Mom asking to move Mean Girl away from Hyperventilating Girl. I responded that if I moved them any further away, one of them would be in her office and the other outside. Apparently the two girls made it sound like they were lab partners - NOT!)

And then Quiet Girl's Mother came down and requested a class change because - Guess Who?!?!? - was being mean to her and she didn't want to come to school because she was sick of dealing with it all. The fact that we've never even seen these two talk, they don't sit near each other, and Quiet Girl never said boo to us was par for the course. Hell, we didn't even know they even really knew who each other was. The class change happened and now the floodgates have opened. Every whiner on the team is now wanting to rush to guidance to get their schedule changed because after all, Quiet Girl did.

Mean Girl, in the meantime, is batting her eyelashes, proclaiming her innocence, and then running up to Ms. Language and Miss Reading (she knows better than to suck up to Mrs. Social Studies and me) tattling about Hyperventilating Girl and everyone else she can think of. I might add that Mean Girl, like most students, think of teachers as furniture so she doesn't realize how often I, and her other teachers, actually hear her snotty comments. I circulate through the room all the time (which is why my chair looks new - I rarely sit in it) and they'll all just carry on like I'm not there at times. Amazing what gossip you can pick up.

And then there's the whole lunchroom drama about someone taking a Capri Sun drink and squeezing it, and getting a few other someones wet with it and Now We All Want Class Changes Because We Don't Want To Be With Those People.

Oh dear Lord, if I don't go postal on these kids before the week is out, it will be a miracle.

Carnival Time!

Do you need a break like I do? If so, chill for a bit and head over to Right Wing Nation for this week's carnival!!! And bring some ice cream!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dairy Product Disbelief

I swear to goodness, you can't make this stuff up.

I am back to teaching my classes and we're doing our unit on flowers and plants. This isn't a difficult unit. We've already done the whole photosynthesis thing and now we're moving on to plant and flower parts, reproduction, and the importance of plants in our world. The kids actually do pretty well on this, probably because we're talking about sex. Yeah, it's plant reproduction, but it's still sex in their minds.

So, it's my Fourth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, and we're finishing up the interactive reader packet that we're working on and I begin wrapping up the lesson by reinforcing, yet again, how important that plants are to our survival. I mention that nearly everything we eat comes from a plant product or it ate a plant product before we ate it. For example, I mention that the cow that produces the hamburger, the cheese, and the ice cream they all like ate grass, which is a plant.

And then I hear this voice..."You mean ice cream comes from a cow?"

And another, "A cow? Really? It comes from a cow?"

And pretty soon there's about dozen astonished faces looking at me in various stages of shock, disbelief, and amazement and they're all going on about the utterly amazing fact that ice cream - ice cream! - comes from, of all things, a cow.

I look across at Mrs. Jayhawker and she looks at me and we're both exchanging looks that say, "Oh. My. God. They have no clue that ice cream is a dairy product and it comes from a cow."

I was momentarily stunned (and after six years of seventh grade, that takes some work to stun me.)

"You guys seriously didn't know that cream, that makes ice cream, comes from a cow?" I ask.

They all respond in the affirmative. They had no idea. Two kids are grossed out about it (oh get real) and they're all just amazed. One wanted to know how it got flavored. It didn't occur to them that you could mix stuff up in ice cream to make it flavored.

I'll have to admit that this is the first time that I've encountered nearly an entire classroom of twelve and thirteen year olds that had no clue about the origins of most dairy products. Amazing. I'm guessing they all thing it just comes to Walmart.

Still, it's rather sad in a way that these kids live a life in such a vacuum that they don't even know where the food they eat actually, originally, comes from. And kind of scary as well.

A Parent Crawls Out of the Woodwork

It is amazing what can get a parent to sit up and actually pay attention.

As a team, we have been trying to get Sassy Girl's mother in for a meeting since September. We have scheduled two meetings, where she was a no-show. She received a personal invitation to our second night of conferences and was again a no-show. She has never returned a phone call, and it's a miracle of nature if she actually picks up the phone when you call. She's received three copies of the letter that went out at the end of the first semester indicating that Sassy Girl was - surprise, surprise - failing all five of her academic classes. She never signed and returned the letter. In short, when it comes to parenting, she's missing in action.

So, the other day, when Sassy Girl got mouthy in Mrs. Language's class it was apparently having to do with a disagreement over a dress code violation. Sassy Girl was showing a bit too much cleavage and Ms. Language told her to go to guidance and get something else to wear. At this point Ms. Language was being nice and giving Sassy Girl a chance to avoid a discipline referral by changing her top. Sassy Girl didn't see it that way and she got really sassy and the long and short of it was she ended up in In School Suspension (insert Happy Dance here) for three days.


We finally heard from Sassy Girl's Mom. She took offense at the fact that her daughter who "was not dressed bad", got in trouble because of a dress code violation. (Well, actually it was her reaction to the dress code violation and her mouth that got her in trouble, but I digress.) She wrote a note on the back of the referral that basically said that we had no business telling her daughter that she was violating dress code.

Eight months we've been trying to get this parent engaged. Eight months. We've been trying to get her to communicate with us about failing grades (and I mean free-fall failing grades) and her daughter's horrid behavior (which is why she has the failing grades - she's perfectly capable should be be so moved to actually try). Not a word. She's ignored us, stood us up, basically disappeared. God forbid she actually talks to us about something that will impact her daughter's life forever.

But oh, Lordy, how dare we say her daughter is flashing her boobs!!! Now that's cause to get pissed.

Good gracious. I hope I have halfway normal parents next year.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Perfect Gift for a Student Teacher

This is Mrs. Jayhawker's last week. She's phasing out of teaching and is spending more time observing me and some other teachers at work. It's been a really good experience for both of us - she's awesome and if she wasn't moving Up North after graduation, I'd love to have her on board here at The School. Too bad Mr. Jayhawker is getting transferred.

Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Duck and I are taking her out to dinner on Thursday to celebrate, and I've knit her a lovely lace wool scarf that she will need when she relocates Up North. However, that may not be the gift she appreciates the most. That gift she got today.

Sassy Girl is back - yes! - in ISS for the rest of the week.

Sassy Girl is probably one of the most annoying kids we have this year. I wouldn't mind her being annoying if she was quiet, but unfortunately, she's one of the loudest girls I've ever seen. She shouts out constantly. Walking in a room is a production for her. She has a little group of friends who think she's funnier than all get out when she sashays into the room, but for the most part the kids roll their eyes and just wish she would Shut The Hell Up. She is, of course, in My Fourth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, along with her little group of friends, and if you can get through the period without wanting to kill her, it's a good day. For her, it's all about the seventh grade social scene.

Mom, of course, has stood us up for two parent meetings that we called and scheduled. Now, she won't answer the phone or return messages. She doesn't want to hear it.

Anyway, Sassy Girl apparently really got mouthy during Mrs. Language's class and so Mrs. Language wrote her up. Mrs. Squirrel, worked the referral and of course Sassy Girl pulled her stunt that Mrs. Language was - gasp! - lying about the whole thing.

Now, granted, Sassy Girl isn't that bright to start with, but this goes beyond stupid. For one thing, she tried this stunt just a few weeks ago when she said Mrs. Jayhawker was lying, so Mrs. Squirrel had Mrs. Jayhawker come in and basically tell her side of the story, and the long and short of it was that Mrs. Squirrel gave Sassy Girl absolute grief about lying and put her up in ISS for three days (of peace and quiet). Every time a kid says that a teacher is lying, Mrs. Squirrel will find someone to cover our class, and we'll go in her office and tell our side of the story. As Mrs. Squirrel says, "it never works out good for the kid, and they end up with lying to compound their sins."

Please note that we are blessed - blessed - with administrators who have our back and who believe us.

So, Mrs. Language goes in, tells the story and in a matter of minutes, Sassy Girl is a wailing, sniveling mass of tears, snot and what not in front of Mrs. Squirrel's desk. Mrs. Squirrel is looking disgusted at the scene, tells Sassy Girl to "Dry it up!" and get her books and bounces her out to ISS.

And these three days of peace away from Sassy Girl are probably the best present Mrs. Jayhawker could wish for.