Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm thankful for my parents and my husband, all of whom are in good health.  Thankfully Daddy Bird has recovered completely from his mini-stroke of a few months ago.

I'm thankful that I have, for the most part, really good kids this year.

I'm thankful I have a job I love, in a building I love, with a staff I love.

I'm thankful that Goth Girl came back to visit and although she took time off to have a baby (at 16), she is finishing up high school, plans to graduate, and is applying to college to study nursing.

I'm thankful that Stoopid Boy, who I have always adored, will be going to college to major in music and plans to be a youth minister.  For those of you who followed Stoopid Boy's antics over his middle school years, you'll realize that he'll make one amazing youth minister because he's "been there, done that."

I'm thankful for great friends like Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Bunny, and Mrs. Social Studies.

I'm thankful that I get lots of snuggles, headbutts, purrs, and loving from my feline children.

And I'm thankful for my readers.  You guys rock.

And that's just a start....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Was This The Week that the Seventh Grade Went Insane?

According to The Enforcer, the bottom has dropped out of the Seventh Grade.

It started on Wednesday.  

It didn't get much better on Thursday.  Mrs. Eagle had two boys get in a fight in front of school (busted up by a parent who brought the two offenders into the front office while we were at a faculty meeting).  A few more seventh graders were suspended and put into in-school-suspension as a continuation of the "pulling down the pants" incident in the locker room.  Stroll Boy got in trouble at lunch and was still raging mad by the time he landed in my room, threw his books across the room, slammed his chair into the table, pouted and refused to take his test.  I bounced him to The Enforcer's Office for that stunt.  (Need to make another call to The Hood to get The Big Dude From the Hood back down for a visit, I believe.)

Today wasn't much better.  Again, we had boys messing around throwing binders at each other (and then getting mad at each other because it's not funny when it's YOUR binder) so that got some action.  Another gets called up to the front office for a chewing out by his mother because he hasn't turned in a single assignment this year, comes back to class - mad - and slams his chair into the table, throws his books around,  pouts, sulks, refuses to take his test (does this sound familiar?) and off to Guidance he goes.  

But my favorite was the kid who decided to take off his pants in the middle of class.

Seriously.  At least I hope that's what he was doing.

To backtrack, Pants Boy is a big kid.  In fact, he could pass for a high schooler, but he's really not all that mature.  (We have a large collection of boys who just melt down and act like 8-year-olds when they get in trouble - this is one of them.)  In any case, before class he asks to go see the Guidance Dude.  I tell him that's fine, I'll put in a guidance referral and when the Guidance Dude is free, he'll call for him.  (This is an in-house program one of our more techy teachers developed for us to track guidance issues - it's wonderful.)  Pants Boy takes his test and then asks if he can go see Guidance Dude.  I explain - again - that we don't know if Guidance Dude is free, so he'll have to wait until he calls for him.  He doesn't look happy, and goes back to his seat to read his book.

Now, I have a clear view of him from where my teacher station is, and a few minutes later, after walking around the room, checking on the kids as they're taking their tests, I come back to my computer to check something, look up and see Pants Boy trying to wiggle out of his pants!

His belt is undone and hanging down, his shirt is untucked, his pants are unzipped, and his hands are moving and he's squirming a bit.  At this point, I'm hoping that all he's doing is trying to get out of his pants and he's not working on getting in some private entertainment before the bell rings!  

"What on earth are you doing?" I snap at him, loudly, and he stops and looks up

"I have shorts on!" he responds.

Shorts?  Undershorts?  Basketball shorts?  I don't care what freaking shorts he has on, YOU DO NOT TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF IN SCIENCE CLASS!

By now, the kids are all looking at him, their mouths agape, and some of them are so embarrassed that they're ducking down behind their privacy folders, rapidly working on their tests.  I go over to Pants Boy who is still sitting there with his pants all undone and hiss at him that he better get himself arranged, pull his pants up and get himself put together or I'd make things even worse for him.  

Of course that got a write-up, although it took me a few minutes to figure out how to categorize it on the Administrative Referral form.  Dress Code?  (We must wear pants to school.)  Disobedience?  Well, I never had a class rule that said "must wear pants".  I finally decided on lewd and lascivious conduct, because, after all, YOU DO NOT TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF IN SCIENCE CLASS!

I swear, I need a sign for my class room that has these four words:  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up...Really

This was one of those days that you sit back and realize that you could tell people about your day and they wouldn't believe you.

Today was the day that the seventh grade apparently decided to lose their minds.

It started at bright and early when some of the boys in the locker room decided that pulling down gym shorts (and exposing the Full Monty) was a laugh riot, until one of the victims didn't find it so funny, and a brawl ensued.  

Then there was the girl fight down in Mrs. Eagle's area.

And then we had some of Mrs. Eagle's boys harassing one of her girls, taking her books, taking these books into the boy's bathroom and laughing hysterically as they pretended to have, shall we say, carnal knowledge of the text book?

See?  People just don't believe me!  Really!  This is the brain of the seventh grader!!

My favorite, however, was one of my darlings who didn't like the fact he was getting suspended.  Let me backtrack a bit.  This kid, who we will call Dennis the Menace because he's the cutest little freckle-faced darling ever, but don't let that fool you, was a horror last year in sixth grade.  You mention his name to some of the sweetest, most patient sixth grade teachers we have and their eyes narrow and steam comes out of their ears.  He spent most of last year in alternative school, being homeschooled, back to public school, back to alternative school, off to live with relatives in another state, expelled, sent back to us, and he lands back in our building with a record that would scare the most hardened administrator.  He spent thirty days in alternative school, and arrived back with us.  I actually haven't had him in class much because he managed to get in a fight, got sent to ISS, lost his mind in ISS (standing on tables, cursing, spitwads, you name it), got suspended for two days, came back, had to finish up his time in ISS, and today was back to his old habits of causing a rukus, throwing things, etc, and he got suspended again.


This time when he was brought in to guidance so they could do the suspension paperwork, he lost it, threw his books across the office, then took off running and screaming at the top of his lungs throughout the building.


You seriously can't make this stuff up.

Oh, and I'm held responsible for their test scores...just thought I'd remind ya'll.

(And to all the folks that will post comments about why this kid is still in the classroom and not identified as emotionally disturbed...I wish I could tell you.  From what I can tell in his file, there's not a thing wrong with this kid except he just doesn't like to behave.  He can, when he wants to, be an angel.   Hard to say - and like I said, I haven't had him long enough to even get to know much about him.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank a Veteran

As a school, we probably have one of the absolutely best Veteran's Day Assemblies I've ever seen.   Different teachers over the years have taken upon the role of putting this together, because it's something that we all value and look forward to.  When someone gets burned out there is always someone to take his or her place.  Perhaps it's because so many of our teachers and staff are veterans, or so many of our kids are military dependents, or the fact that many of us were just raised respecting veterans.   But we do it up right.

And this years assembly was the absolute best I've seen in eight years at The School.


It.  Was.  Amazing.

We had the band play.  We had the color guard from the High School Down the Road.  We honored our teachers, staff and bus drivers who are veterans.  We had the appropriate dignitaries (including some of the mucky-mucks from Downtown).  However, the most popular dignitaries were the six soldiers from our local military post (all combat veterans by now, and one walking with a cane) who recited the Soldier's Creed in unison.  Many of my homeroom kids were able to shake hands with them afterwards and were really delighted to report back that they had done so.

But the kicker was the kids themselves.

Over the past month or so some of our English teachers in both 7th and 8th grade have been working on a patriotism unit.   Considering how many of our kids have family members who have served overseas, or are currently serving, and the fact that we have two who have lost a close family member to combat (father and uncle), this is a really emotional subject for our kids.  One of the things that the kids brought up was that many of their peers didn't stand and honor the flag the way they thought they should during our morning Pledge of Allegiance.

That has now changed.  Because our kids asked everyone who they stood for when they stood for the Flag.

As part of the ceremony, the thirty plus kids from the 8th grade advanced English class came down from the stands with American flags and one by one they came across the stage with their flag.  And each one stopped, and spoke into the microphone.

"I stand for my grandfather."

"I stand for my uncle."

"I stand for my brother."

"I stand for my sister."

"I stand for my mom."

"I stand for my step-dad."

"I stand for my dad."

And the last kid for each grouping would add, "If you have a grandfather/father/mom, etc. who served in the military please stand with me and remain standing."

It didn't take long before the entire gym was on their feet.

And then the local Marine Corps representative played Taps.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house.  And that includes the kids.  

The kids are still talking about what an awesome assembly it was.  And parents who came have emailed expressing how moved and astonished they were at the assembly.  And today, when we said the Pledge, I looked around my room and noticed that they were standing straighter, they were focused on the Flag, and they were a bit louder when it came to the pledge.

The Principal, however, topped it off with her email. "The policy makers probably don't realize that we can't test or make a standard about some of the things we teach our kids.  Today, we've taught them alot about respect, and honor, and patriotism.  And that's what makes them good citizens.  And no one can measure that on a bubble test.  Keep that in mind when you're feeling pressured about standards and testing and high stakes.  You all teach them so much more than what's on your curriculum.  You teach them how to be good people."

Thank you to all my veteran readers.  God Bless.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Priceless or Pathetic?

120 Students

69 F grades on Friday's Progress Reports.

Number of parent calls, emails, or conferences?



On an aside, we've had the past two Thursday evenings set aside for parent conferences.  My team had quite a few openings in our schedule.  We did get a few walk in's - including a mom who passed the school on the way home from work, saw the marquee, and pulled in, thank goodness, as we were going to call her to set up a meeting anyway.  However, it never was busy.


Why do I care more about these kids' future than their parents do?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Putting the Hood to Work for You

I have a student in one of my classes we'll call a Stroll Boy.  Stroll Boy never moves faster than a stroll, and that pretty much plays out in all aspects of his life.  He's famous for doing nothing.  At all.  He's turned in maybe 2 assignments (classwork) this grading period.  He fails every test.  He won't bring his book, a pencil, a binder, a work ethic.  If you pull his records you'll find that he's being raised by grandparents and biological parents are non-existent in this kid's life.   His grandparents are feeding him, giving him a place to live, but don't seem to be all that interested in seeing that he's a success academically.  They probably are overwhelmed at having to deal with a 13-year-old when they'd rather be retired.

So, Stroll Boy is mad at me because I took his locker away - again - because he won't bring his book to class.  (This is a pretty much standard practice in the seventh grade - no book, no locker.)  He's also mad at me because I have higher expectations for him than he has and doesn't want to hear the cold hard truth that he's not going to be playing in the NFL if he doesn't make the grades to play on his high school team in a year or two.    Last I looked, he's not such a phenom that the scouts are already lining up to sign him.  In fact, considering his work ethic and lack of speed, I doubt he'll even make it to the high school team.

His method of "punishing" me, is to be tardy to class.  Now, we're not talking tardy by a second or two.  We're talking a kid who comes in, puts his books on his desk, and then "goes to the bathroom", and shows up five or more minutes late to class.  He just strolls in, ambles to his seat, and spends the rest of the period trying to look somewhat busy (without moving too much or making much of an effort).  I actually find this kind of funny because all I do is write up a classroom referral for a tardy, tell him to get his pencil out (usually doesn't have one) and off we go with class.  If he thinks he's punishing me, he's far off target.  Rather, he's just showing me how sad and lost he is.  This kid has been through every intervention program we have at school for at risk kids and he's one we just haven't been able to reach.

Anyhow, after the second tardy in a row, I managed, amazingly, to contact his grandparents and told them about the tardy issue, the missing book issue, and how I was worried about how he was probably not going to pass science if he didn't turn on the jets here shortly.  I got a very non committal "Okay," from both, and tried to get them to schedule an appointment for a conference with no luck.  (At this time I was lucky to even get to speak to someone considering our lack of success in the past).  I figured, well, I made parent contact, they know what's going on, and we'll just keep doing the referrals and he'll end up in detention or something.  No big deal.

So imagine my surprise when I get an email from one of the front office secretaries telling me that Stroll Boy's grandparents had sent down his uncle and he'd like to sort of spy on him and see how he's behaving in class.   No Problem!  I love it when I get parent/uncle/significant adult observers.  I email back that that would be great, and to let her know what time to send him down.

Classes change and Stroll Boy walks in, drops his books, and takes off.  I'm doing hall duty and don't see The Uncle, but figure he's found a place to observe (most likely guidance where they can watch all the cameras).  The kids run to class, the bell rings, and I start class.

No Stroll Boy.

He walks in five minutes later.

And three minutes behind him there's a knock on the door.  The Uncle.  (Who saw that Stroll Boy was late, I found out later.)

I open the door and there stands The Uncle...and this guy is HUGE.  He's nicely dressed, his braids are pulled back, but he's HUGE.  I introduce myself, he introduces himself and I wave him over to a spare chair which happens to be by the lab group that Stroll Boy is in.  And then I wonder if the chair will support him. Because he's almost twice as tall as most of my students and quite a bit heftier.

Stroll Boy's jaw drops and he looks like a deer in the headlights.  He obviously wasn't expecting his Uncle, especially his Big Huge Uncle from the Hood (as we often call the neighborhood The School is in because, well, that's what everyone calls it).  It was amazing  (and really kind of funny) what a model student he was during this period...he had his pencil, he snapped to whenever I gave directions, he participated, he did a great job.  He looked like a candidate for National Jr. Honor Society.

And then I noticed something.

This is my sixth period class, my largest class, and a class with a lot of unruly kids (every isolation seat is occupied) who have a lot of issues with self-control.  They are loud, they tend to talk all the time, and they aren't the most academically inspired kids I've ever seen.

But on this day they were perfect.

Absolutely perfect.  They didn't talk out.  They raised their hands.  They were polite.  They participated.  And we had a great time.

And then I realized why.  Sitting in the corner of the room, was a Big Huge Dude from the Hood.  A Real Big Dude from the Hood.  And they weren't about to do anything out of line with the Dude from the Hood sitting Right Over There.

After class I talked with the Uncle from the Hood and had a nice conversation with him.  He knows his nephew needs to get motivated and with the program, and he says he's going to work on that.  Good for him. I hope he does.  But in the meantime I invited him to sit in my class whenever he wanted.  Seriously.  I'd take a Big Huge Dude from the Hood in my corner any day.